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Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The Two Queens of Heaven

The world is watching Kenya tonight.  Monday was election day, the first under the new constitution, and the first since post-election violence five years ago claimed 1200 lives and displaced 60,000 people.  Scott and I both covered call all day so our Kenyan colleagues could vote.  And they did.  The entire atmosphere was eerily hushed, few vehicles, few patients, everyone in long lines at polling stations, queuing for hours in the heat and dust of the dry season sun.  After voting, our friends were calm, proud, determined, prayerful.  Today we've been watching the long slow process of tallying the votes.
County by county, the results trickle in.  In spite of numerous predictions that the race would be un-win-able in the first round, Uhuru Kenyatta, son of the country's first president, leads with 53%.  He must win not only a simple majority but also at least 25% of the vote in at least half the counties (24/47).  This is no small task as the country is divided starkly, with West and Coast voting for Odinga his historical rival, and Central ignoring the ICC criminal war-crime indictment and falling solidly behind Kenyatta.  Still we have over half the votes still to be counted.  So we all wait a bit nervously.

Yet as I watch the tally tonight, my mind is on the politics of eternity.  At that feast, Uhuru Kenyatta and Rail Odinga will be mere footnotes.  Seated in the places of honour will be the least-of-these heroines, my nominations for queens of Heaven.

PS came to us in casualty one day, where her father signed her in then disappeared.  Abandoned.  Before he left we gathered that this child had once been normal but had a catastrophic illness, perhaps meningitis.  It seems the father works in the capital, and went to check on the family, found her in a condition of starvation and sores, felt horrified enough to load her in the car but desperate enough to panic and run.  We weren't sure if she could see or hear; she could not certainly not walk or talk or sit or communicate.  We think she is about 9 years old.  In Kenya the options for an abandoned neurologically devastated malnourished child are not good.  Various otherwise-caring people suggested to me that we put her in an ambulance and send her to the national hospital where we would also have to abandon her (they would not agree to accept her as a transfer).  Or that there was nothing we could do other than find the same family that got her into this condition, and send her back.  Or that we stop giving her any feeding or even fluids and let her die.  Thankfully with the Needy Children Fund we worked out a plan to admit her for a week or so, hiring an attendant to help the nurses with her care, dressing her wounds and staving off her hunger.  In that week we worked with the police (who did nothing), but were finally able to get in touch with a Sisters of Charity organization who agreed to take her.  Thank God for Mother Theresa, for someone who stood for the value of touching the untouchables, caring for the most hopeless, as a ministry to Jesus himself.

MM is also nine.  She was also a normal kid, until a "mad man" held her down and raped her when she was six, strangling her and damaging her trachea so badly she had to have a tracheostomy to breathe.  By some miracle of childhood resilience she revived and was going to school with her trach (a small plastic tube in the front of her neck to keep her airway open) until a few months ago, when a classmate decided to pull it out.  In the ensuing chaos of suffocation, she suffered severe brain damage before her airway was restored.  Since then she has wasted away to skin and bones as her single mother struggles to cope.  She convulses and moans, and I'm not sure how much awareness she has of what is happening around her now either.  We're treating her infections and boosting up her nutrition too, on the no-child-should-feel-hungry principle even though a cure is not medically possible. Just trying to bring a measure of comfort and dignity in a life that has known too much suffering.

PS and MM, queens of Heaven.  That's how I think of them as I round and prescribe and problem-solve.  The glorious women that will someday emerge like butterflies from the chrysalis, the unimaginable way all this suffering will be redeemed.  We see a shell of spasticity and weeping sores and raspy breath and uncomprehending eyes.  God sees two women whom He will feel honored to seat on Jesus' right and left.

And when that happens, I hope Kenyatta and Odinga are at the table, but I suspect they'll be way down the line in the economy section with me.


Saintly Nurse said...

This is quite possibly one of the ,pat beautiful things I've read in my entire life. Thank you. I shared it on my Facebook page as well. Signed, a longtime lurker

Saintly Nurse said...

Should read MOST beautiful things....sorry. Fat fingers.

Rosita said...

Your writing has once again touched my soul. Thank you for continuing to share.