Saving Rainforests with a Stethoscope

In 2018, 4,894 individual patients accessed healthcare at ASRI including general medical treatment, dental care, maternal and child care, and more. During the year, patients paid for healthcare with over 18,000 rain forest seedlings of 59 species.

Photo: Chelsea Call

Patients also paid for healthcare with handicrafts, livestock manure, and rice hulls which are used to amend the soil as organic compost, adding up to a total of $6,866 worth of high-quality healthcare afforded with non-cash payments. This program makes healthcare accessible to all, meaning people no longer need to log illegally to pay for their families’ health needs.

Here are three stories from 2018, in which the new X-ray and IV capacity saved lives.

An elderly woman came in with her third case of meningitis (inflammation of the brain membrane) within a few months — a very strange thing. The doctors suspected something else must be going on to cause this recurring meningitis. With the new X-ray capacity, they were able to take a chest X-ray. On the film, the doctors saw small spots in the blood vessels of the lungs, and they diagnosed milliary tuberculosis, a condition in which the tuberculosis is in the bloodstream. They realized the recurring meningitis was caused by tuberculosis in the lining of the patient’s brain! With this diagnosis, the women will be will be able to be treated with our community tuberculosis health workers, and she will be able to be completely cured. This diagnosis would not have been possible without the X-ray machine.

A small child came in, 6 months old, with bowel obstruction. The doctors were uncertain if the baby had a partial or full bowel obstruction. A full obstruction would require surgery, but the family was very poor and could not afford a referral to the hospital in Ketapang, a two-hours’ drive from ASRI. Luckily, with the new X-ray machine, the doctors determined it was a partial block. The child was admitted to ASRI, a tube was put into their stomach, and the bowel obstruction resolved over the course of three days. Given that the family had very little money, they would be able to pay for this healthcare with non-cash payment options.

There was another little baby who came in at 32 days of life. To see such a young baby is unusual here because the cultural rule is that a child does not leave the house for 40 days after birth. This baby was extremely sick. They were likely suffering from sepsis, a bacterial infection of the blood. In other circumstances, this baby would have needed to be admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit, but because of this family’s poverty, they would not have been able to pay those costs. Thanks to ASRI’s increased hospital-level capacity, they were able to receive the care they needed here. The doctors admitted the child, treated them with IV antibiotics, and over the course of a week were able to save the baby’s life.

When patients visit ASRI, they have many payment options – one being handmade crafts. Below, is a mat woven entirely from plastic straws that one patient used to pay for their care.

Photo: Nina Finley

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