Saturday, October 31, 2009
An evening greeting
I was disturbed by several things, watching. First, that the blame was put solely on the girls. It was their fault that they ended up pregnant, and then dead. OK there is value in emphasizing that we are human actors with responsibility, that our actions have consequences, that we have choices. But the unilateral nature of the blame was unfair, particularly since girls this age are almost exclusively preyed upon by older men. Secondly, the young girl playing the mother who gave the abortive drugs . . . is my neighbor, whom I help with fees, whose older sister was abused by a teacher two years ago, was pregnant, had an abortion, and then went through severe depression. It is heart-breaking to watch kids act out a drama that is so close to their real life, while the audience hoots and laughs (which I know is nervous laughter, but still). Lastly, that the drama ended without hope, in tragedy.
The next day, I was looking through the records of a 2 year old boy on the ward. The teenage young woman caring for him was wearing the very same type of scarf that the girls in the play had worn. Which caught my attention, a symbol or pattern that may indicate God trying to communicate something. I thumbed back through his book and noted that he had been in our nutrition program as a motherless baby, and I had even noted how distraught his young "aunt" was when begging for help and claiming she could not breast feed him because she had her own baby at home. Without saying anything, I just started talking to the caretaker. She made no attempt to hide the fact that she was his real, biological mother. So this girl had totally lied to us two years ago, passing off her own child as her nephew (with a letter from her LC1 to prove it). Something about the scarf though reminded me: if I don't want others to blame the victim, then I shouldn't either. So we talked some more. Two years ago she had been a primary grade 6 student at Bundimulinga, our local school. The father of the baby never married her, he is a trader of some sort in Nyahuka (if we can believe her now . . . ). She dropped out of school, but still lives with her parents. Her child looks great, but here she is, unmarried, raising a child, never finished primary school. Yes, she made poor choices and later she lied to get the help she thought she needed. But she's a victim, too, of some man's desire, of poor parental supervision, of irresponsible adults, of an interrupted childhood, of grasping for a life she though would be good but turned out to be a lie.
In the garden God calls Adam, Eve, and Satan all to account. There are consequences, banishment, struggle, sorrow. But ultimately only Satan will be crushed, and the cost will be borne on the wounded heel of the awaited One, so that Eve can re-enter Paradise. What wounds are we called to bear to pull the teenage girls of Bundibugyo back to life?
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I've noticed recently, though, that there is an alternative top-up going on. By my patients' beds I've started seeing bottles of Top Up ketchup. This is NOT HEINZ, shall we say. I'm not sure any real tomatoes are involved. It is a gelatinous goo, a cancer-causing red color, and sweet. But to the very concrete-reasoning patient population, what looks like blood should be good for making blood, so I see moms spooning it into their kids. As if they needed another reason to vomit . .
One of our favorite patients, Aligonilla, has been topped up three times in the last three days, and yet today is still at only a hemoglobin of 4.4. He was barely alive at 3, but once he's over 4 he sits and colors, smiles, talks, plays. This is the child I alluded to in the gap in blood supply this weekend, when he looked like he could have died, and if he had done so he would have been the 6th or 7th child of his father to die, and the 2nd one in three weeks. We've been struggling for his life since he was born, he's been admitted numerous times, he can't possibly live a normal lifespan, but for now he's topped up and back from the brink of death, so we're all relieved.
And all in a day's work: diagnosed a new 4 year old child with AIDS today, her mother is an articulate lady who actually has a job and connections but out of fear had refused testing in pregnancy, but when we saw the girl, moderately malnourished with a chronic draining ear and huge patches of fungal infection on her skin, we sent her for her test, which was positive. That was balanced by another 4 year old whose mother had died . . the Grandmother was sure the child had AIDS too, and an initial test had been positive, but the confirmatory tests were all negative, so we just told her to go home and live a normal life and thank God. Then there was a lady 7 months pregnant with twins who walked 8 hours from across the border in Congo for an ultrasound with Scott: he was packing up to leave mid-day when she arrived, but once he heard the whole story he regretted feeling frustrated with her lateness! So many stories, these are only a few, that we feel over-the-top.
Need a bottle of Top-Up, perhaps, for energy and faith!