Sharing Stories

Anyone who reads this blog should have figured out that I love stories. I love telling stories, I love listening to stories, and I have learned to practice medicine by figuring out what a patient's story is and how we can move that story closer to health and wholeness.

I never thought that majoring in English literature would be such a great preparation for being a doctor, but it turns out that the basic English major skills - looking closely at a story and figuring out what is really going on - are exactly the kinds of things that a doctor needs to do. And if I can share the stories of my families living in impoverished, rural Kenya with a broader audience, then all the better.

 

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My newest research project is focused around stories - how we help HIV-infected children understand that HIV is part of their personal story.  In fact, we have named the study "HADITHI", which means "story" in Swahili.  HADITHI also stands for Helping AMPATH Disclose Information and Talk about HIV Infections.

 

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We want to use stories to help families through the complicated process of telling their children that they have HIV and to help children grapple with this new piece of their own stories.  We have been collecting stories from parents, grandparents, and children that illustrate this process.  Stories about how the children started HIV treatment, stories about how parents worry about telling their child that they have HIV, stories about what it means for a child to wrestle with this weighty diagnosis.

 

This week, we've begun the very exciting process of capturing these stories on video so that they can be shared with families in Kenya over and over. We are filming actors telling the stories of our children and parents, and then we will be creating a series of videos that can be used as part of the counseling sessions and support groups in our clinics here in Kenya. A counselor can show a family the video of a mother telling her story about how afraid she was to disclose to her daughter, and then that story can become the starting point for discussing the other family's own story and challenges. I think this will be an incredibly useful tool for guiding families through the process of talking with children about HIV. I think stories will help us do that.

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I am very thankful that we were able to bring in someone with the expertise to make this vision possible (this kind of story-telling is not in my skill set!) I was able to collaborate with a filmmaker on faculty at Indiana University who is now here in Kenya with us to shoot these films for the HADITHI project. Hiring actors and preparing the scripts has been a lot of work in between everything else to launch this project, but I am incredibly excited seeing this part of the project get off the ground.

 

Even as we wrestle with power outages, equipment failures, reading lines, and all the usual challenges of getting something done in Kenya, it is so exciting seeing these stories transformed into this new form of art, into videos that can be shared with and helpful for our families in Kenya.

 

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Posted at 03:28

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