In 1997when Paul and Mary Boatman and Barb O'Donohue went to Pokot one thing became apparent - when people got sick there were very few choices for them. One litle boy laid down in the sand and went to sleep. He had a high fever and was laying in the hot sand in the sun. No one seemed too concerned about him. When asked they said he had malaria.
When Barb started going back to Pokot, she stayed in a mud hut with a Pokot family. Slowly by slowly people started coming to her when they were sick or injured or had a wound. She used what medicine she had brought with her from the USA. Each trip she brought more and more medicine and the numbers of sick people increased. There were some days when she treated patients for several hours. She bought the book "Where There is No Doctor" and, with her Merck Manual, did her best to take care of the people who came for help. At that time, there was no doctor in the area where over 100,000 people lived. There were one or two registered nurses and several community nurses (LPN) trying to take care of the sick/injured. If someone needed more care, the family was told to take them up to the government hospital in Kapenguria.
The friends of the Pokot in the USA kept supplying medical supplies for Barb to take. When Barb was in America many Pokot went without treatment. There was a dispensary operated by the Catholic sisters but most people could not afford the small fee they charged.
A challenge related to medical treatment involved the tendency of the Pokot to attribute illness to being cursed. The other challenge involved the use of traditional medicine.On too many occasions a parent would use traditional medicine and/or consult someone to remove a curse before bringing the patient for Western medicine.It became imperitive to question the patient or parent about what else had been done before giving Western medicine. The chance of overmedicating was too real.
Since that time, the COPE Dispensary has treated thousands of people. Malaria and upper pulmonary infections are the two most common diseases. Brucellosis, typhoid, dysentery and tuberculosis are also relatively common. HIV/Aids has taken too many Pokot lives. The COPE Dispensary nurse spends time each week providing health education. An integral part of that education is prevention. Each student in our schools has an annual physical. These records are kept so that there is a point of comparison from year-to-year.
“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. Matthew 10:8
In 2001, the COPE Board approved hiring a community nurse to care for the school children, employees and those who were sick. A small room was made in the building where the food was stored and that became the COPE Dispensary.