One small baby girl raises her index finger and gravely points at my white face. She is dressed in a pink pinafore and red dress and solemnly follows my face as I try for a smile. There are no smiles today, smiles take energy! The Doctor gently explains that her wrinkled skin is “where the baby used to fit” in other words she is malnourished. As we examine her, her mother suddenly breaks down crying. This is so unusual, as the women are so silent and strong. Imagine not being able to feed your baby enough to keep her thriving. The mother shows courage in bringing her baby for care. We can offer momentary support and food and hope for better times for the family.
A grandmother greets me with a smile as I perch beside her. Her grandson is 4 months old, weighs 5 pounds and looks like he is 100 years old. He looks at me with old eyes, not even crying when we start an IV. I suddenly find tears filling my eyes. What kind of world has he experienced in his 4 months that would make him feel that crying is a waste of energy? Grandma and I share a look and I suddenly find tears rolling out the corners of my eyes. I pretend I have a cold and excuse myself to blow my nose and compose myself.
My grumpy pants 4 year old boyfriend (sorry Jo) who has been with us for 3 weeks and has not been won over by my scintillating personality, finally smiles! He has been treated for Malnutrition and TB and finally is turning the corner. Good to win some!
The little girl ( burns on chest and thighs) who has been painful and cranky...we round the corner and she is sitting up, eating a piece of bread the size of her head and grinning at us. Again, the smiles of all staff and parents say it all.
One of the nurses tells me that they missed us yesterday...they say it is so much more fun when we are there! The sweetest of praise is to be missed.
The play therapy toy box causes a stir and the kids hug each toy. It is hard to convince them that they can get them back tomorrow. The ward staff is amazed and delighted with the notion of play.
I close with a reminder to hug your kids and count your blessings. We feel blessed to be part of this hospital and the lives of our Zambian friends.
Love to you all. Fay