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Saturday, November 14, 2009

More witness on Friday

Tears were shed Friday, at the health center. As soon as we arrived in the early morning we found a child with severe malaria, who nearly died on us. Heidi and I were just trying to do weights on all the kids before our staff meeting, but when this child was laid on the scale we saw she was limp and barely conscious. We sent them into the treatment room where within a minute the mom began a death wail. But she was not really quite dead, yet, and when Heidi injected her with medicine she cried a bit. Six of us (half the staff eventually passed through the treatment room, though Heidi and I struggled alone at first) tried about a dozen different places to get IV access on this child, before one of the way-more-competent-than-I Ugandan nurses managed a line. Her hemoglobin came back: 3 gm/dl, and many malaria parasites. No wonder she was barely alive. With immediate transfusion and treatment I'm hoping she pulls through, an otherwise beautiful and normal little two-year-old whose family mobilized as soon as they realized the dose of medicine they had given her from home the day before was not enough.

Later more tears, quiet ones, not the dramatic "help me right now" wail from the first case, but the seeping of tears from a broken heart. This time we were trying to understand why the 3 month old baby in front of us was so malnourished (breastfed infants tend to thrive the first few months). The woman I took to be her mother was, it turns out, her 35-year-old grandmother. The 14-year-old mother of the baby had died last week, after a 2 month hospitalization elsewhere. The story does not hang together very well, but we were told that the 14-year-old mom had an "intestinal problem" a month after delivery, required surgery, and that her surgical wound became infected. Tragic in every way. More tragic as her mother, sitting with the malnourished grandchild, related that the dead daughter was her only child. This is what our motherless-baby program is all about: helping this grandmother save this baby.

Meanwhile the 785-gram preemie doubled in the last month to reach 1.5 kg (!). A child whose desperate parents had taken him out to a "witch- doctor" when he did not immediately improve and then come back when he became even worse, whom we prayed over in Jesus' name with only a grain of faith on Monday . . went home, cured. Three children in three consecutive beds each had 5 units of blood last week: one with sickle cell and two with unexplained hemolytic anemias. After losing two children with similar symptoms the week before, we rejoiced to reach Friday with all alive and improving. The women whose stories I told a few days ago are hanging in there, no dramatic resolutions, but at least stabilizing. Caught another mom playing a singing a game with her baby who has begun to round out on UNICEF milk.

The week ends, with some tears, and some signs of tears redeemed, of effort and prayer and struggle resulting in healing.

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