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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Grief and victory

Mugume went home today:  the child who arrived on the 22nd of May, as severely malnourished as it is possible to be without being dead.  He had this incongruous body shape with grossly swollen limbs below the knees and elbows, but skeletal ribs and skull, he was listless, cool, moaning, hardly responsive, with a pregnant mother and distracted father who had traveled from Congo on foot and seemed confused about his name and age let alone anything concrete about his history.  Initial feeding only made his Kwashiorkor swelling worse, and  I felt there was very little chance he would survive, expecting every morning to find he had passed away during the night.  But somehow, he held on, through weeks of milk and antibiotics and searching for the cause of his illness.  At the end of the first month he had made no progress other than survival, and we decided he might have TB.  We started the TB drugs the day before my birthday in late June, and the response was immediate and dramatic.  For the last three weeks he has made steady, daily improvement, his face rounding out, reconnecting with the world, standing on his spindly weak legs, reaching for my pen, even beginning to talk and smile.  I love seeing this time-lapse resurrection, this flowering of life in a body that was nearly dead.  And I love seeing hope emerge in a mother.  After nearly two months, it was time to send him home.

But directly across the aisle, Masika died.  This little girl was severely brain damaged, developmentally delayed, abandoned to her grandmother, and found during her admission to have sickle cell disease as well.  No child should die of hunger, and though her overall life prognosis was poor we struggled to feed her and bring some measure of health into her life.  But over the last 24 hours she deteriorated, and in spite of a blood transfusion and IV antibiotics, become worse and worse.  By this morning her long-gone mother had returned only to wail and mourn as she breathed her last.  That was brutal, the screaming despair of this mother went on and on, perhaps compounded by her guilt in having been absent for most of the last year of her daughter's life as she had moved on to another marriage.  

There is no simple way to make sense of these two stories, two stories repeated over and over bed after bed throughout the ward.  For every few kids that are rescued, that respond, that revive . . .. there is another that dies.  In fact as soon as Masika's bed was cleaned up, another severely handicapped child with a similar story (mom gone, grandmother the caretaker, spastic cerebral palsy with a tiny head and terrified eyes and peeling skin . . .) moved into her place.  Why does Mugume get another life, But Masika does not?  

I can't answer that, and it is not my job.  I can only hope that through the lens of eternity, God's goodness will triumph over the sorrow in both of their lives, and we will see the mercy of extended days on earth and the mercy of an end of the suffering in Heaven, both in perspective.  


Tricia said...

My heart is heavy after reading this. All I can say is I will keep praying for you and all you do. May God continue to bless you~ with more life than death in your clinic ~ with continued and increased favor of government officials ~ with time to rest in His loving arms... And so many things I cannot adequately articulate.

Cindy Nore said...

Jennifer,you and the team there continue to be for me modern day heroes, "Jesus with skin on" examples of bravery, tenacity, and compassion. I was so encouraged to read your next post about the hope of more funding and pray that God will move mightily in the hearts and minds of those who can effect more financial support for your work there. Every day when I read your posts, I am reminded again that our goal is Kingdom work, and it spurs me on to love and good deeds. With much love and daily prayers, Cindy