Gertrude* remembers clearly how confused she was when her teenage son Peter started having epileptic seizures. Selling wares at the market, she was shocked to be rung by the school one day with the news that Peter had been taken to hospital.
“Usually when he was sick he would tell me, for example, ‘Mama, I have a headache.’ But he wasn’t sick, and his skin was not hot. So, how could they be telling me Peter fell down that morning?”
For Peter, it was equally hard to make sense of. “When they finished ringing the bell, that’s when everyone was going inside, I fell down all by myself. But I didn’t know I had fallen, and then they took me to the hospital. Then I came to, and I saw an IV drip on me.”
One option was traditional medicine, often sought out in the countryside, at considerable cost. The family baulked at first paying USD150, then another 300, to treat their son. By this stage Peter was having seizures weekly. Peter and his family felt embarrassed. Gertrude’s concern that he wouldn’t be allowed to continue at his school was exacerbated, as Peter was increasingly unable to attend due to the frequency of the seizures and the time he needed to recover from each one.