It’s only Tuesday . . . But Monday was a week in itself. I walked in the ward, early, alone (well, no staff, but not really alone). As I read through the nurse reports I realized that baby Precious had died during the night. I heard people referring to her as “Precious” so I’m glad her name defined her in her very short life. I was then almost finished with weighing all the patients when a father rushed up at the end of the line to put his 3-ish year old daughter on the scale. He was sweating, having carried her from a village quite a few miles of steep paths away. As soon as he unwrapped her still form for weighing, Larissa and I whisked her into the treatment room. In his hurry and distress he had not realized that she died somewhere along the way. She had no heartbeat, not even a flutter of breath, fixed glassy eyes, cold skin. Women wail in a very scripted way, and their mourning I have come to expect and predict. But this young dad had rushed so earnestly that he arrived a good 20 minutes ahead of the rest of the clan, so when I told him his daughter was dead he was stunned and alone, and his spontaneous tears really got to my heart. By this morning three more kids had died, all with a final pathway of anemia. We are still struggling to keep up with the blood supply (which is why I welcomed the recent blood drive at Christ School!). I find myself sometimes hesitating, not wanting to care too deeply about yet another frail fragment of humanity that is so easily lost.
And that’s why today’s nutrition clinic was particularly encouraging. When I finished inpatient rounds I went around the corner of the ward to the porch where we distribute outpatient food to help Pat, who is filling in for Heidi while still doing most of what she usually does. Pat was there, but all eyes were on the cooking demonstration being led by a young man we just hired to help with BundiNutrition. Charles Baguma just completed a degree in social work at Makerere, which makes him part of an elite cadre of University-graduate Babwisi. But there he was with his pans and spoons and the riveted attention of 20-some grandmothers and caretakers. Thanks to his interning with Scotticus, he was ready to teach them. He showed them how to mix the gnut/soy paste with cooked matoke to form a nutritious mash. Then he made everyone go wash their hands and took spoonfuls around the crowd, for each kid. What fun to see little Mariam munching away on the protein! And my morning was complete when one of the two great-grandmothers who are breastfeeding their orphaned great-grandsons returned. Baluku was barely over 2 kilograms a few weeks ago, and is now close to 4. But what really made me smile was the fact that he was wearing the most glaring purple and green striped pom-pommed socks which came up to his thighs, an accessory straight out of a Dr. Seuss book, and NOTHING ELSE.