Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Meet another precious child

Meet Nomile (no-meal lee).  She is probably 2+ years old.  No one really knows because she was abandoned by her mother and her father.  Her mother dumped her at the father's parents homestead when the child was about a year old which was around a year or so ago.  The father's mother (Nomile's grandmother) has 12 children.  Yes, twelve.  Both the grandmother and grandfather are living.  Six of the children live at home, with the youngest being about Nomile's age.  Nomile was basically abused and neglected by the grandmother and the grandfather did very little to nothing to protect or care for the child or to stop the grandmother from abusing this child.  This child's grandparents live on a homestead across the river from Thoko's house.  A couple of weeks ago Thoko asked me what she should do about this child and I suggested we bring the child to the hospital clinic to have a Doctor look at her and decide where we go from there.  Thoko finally decided she would bring the child to the hospital clinic today.  Matter-of-fact, yesterday evening I actually bought 2 nappies (diapers) for the child to wear when she came to the Doctor.  As it turned out, one of the baby's aunts brought Nomile to Thoko's house at 6:00 am and said the grandmother said she was giving the child to Thoko.  She didn't want to deal with her anymore.  Thoko cleaned up the child and found some clothes to put on her so she could bring her to the Doctor today.

I met them at the hospital clinic around 10:00 this morning.  I had planned on running a few errands (delivering formula to Tiphelele and Nonjabulo) and then meeting them at the clinic.  However, I was still exhausted from yesterday's events and so I was moving very slow this morning.  Thoko and the Rural Health Motivator in her community said that as soon as the intake nurse looked at the child and started taking her vital statistics she said she would be admitted for severe malnutrition.  I arrived as they were waiting to see the Doctor.

The Doctor is the same one that looked at two boys we brought in last week.  We walked into the examining room and he is sitting at a table reading the newspaper.  He acted bored and like we were disturbing him.  I immediately had to take a real deep breath to keep my feelings towards the Doctor in check.  Thoko is very subservient to a person, especially a male of any authority, so it was hard for her to really open up to the Doctor and tell him about the child.  I filled in some of the blanks answering in more detail.  He asked what we were prepared to do for the child.  We didn't know what he was asking.  I asked if he was talking about financial responsibility, because I would take care of what ever it cost to treat the child.  He said no, he was talking about what we would do if he hospitalized her because that is what needed to happen.  They expect a family member to accompany a child of her age in the hospital.  I told the Doctor we would make a plan to do what needed to be done.  I guess he finally realized we were sincere because he called a social worker.  We went to her office and the bottom line is the child was admitted as a child without relatives.  Nomile will be fed, cleaned and changed by nursing aides and the social worker will go investigate the homestead to see if Nomile will be able to return there when she is able to leave the hospital.

Malnutrition is what I will call a silent, deceiving illness or state of health.  To look at this child, she appears to be healthy - her cheeks and tummy are fat.  But when they took her clothes off, you could see that her arms, legs, rib cage, shoulders and the shoulder blade area were nothing but bones with a little skin stretched on them.  She weighed 6.5 kgs which is about 14 pounds.  The hardest thing to see in this child is that just by looking at her you can tell she has been neglected and abused.  She is afraid to move and afraid to look at anyone.  Thoko told me the child was put in a hut by herself to sleep.  This child doesn't make a sound.  You can tell that she is just trying to be invisible.  When you hold her, it's like holding a straight board.  She doesn't move.  I held her and rocked her for a long time.  She finally closed her eyes and was trying to sleep as I rocked her.  Thoko touched her and she flinched back away from her. 

It was very interesting to see the reaction on the malnutrition unit.  The unit was full.  It had 9 or 10 babies in it.  One baby was just 6 weeks old and weighed only 2 kgs - about 4 1/2 pounds.  There was barely room to stand in the room.  But all of the mothers and the staff gathered around Nomile's crib asking questions.  Then there was a very loud, heated, emotional discussion.  I couldn't understand what they were saying, but I could tell they were outraged by the state of this child, especially the very obvious abuse and neglect this child had gone through at the hands of her grandmother.  One of the mothers went to a corner in the room and cried.  I knew how she felt because I kept fighting back the tears myself.

After Nomile was settled, Thoko and I took care of some other business and then went to buy a few things for Nomile.  I also bought her a teddy bear.  We took the things back to the hospital for her.  While there the nurse's aide came in and gave her the specially fortified formula to drink.  She will be fed every 3 hours.  They told us she will initially loose weight, because some of the weight she currently has is fluid built up in her body.  Once her system starts working again she will loose some of that fluid and then start gaining weight.  Her target weight for release from the hospital is 8 kgs.  Thoko, the Rural Health Motivator and I will make a plan to rotate when we visit the child.  We're going to call Thini in as well.  Our plan is to wrap this child in love because we know that her spirit needs to be nourished as much if not more than her body needs the nourishment.

As I was holding her I thought of how sure I was that Scott was going to be a girl.  We wanted a girl and because my pregnancy was so different I just knew he was a girl.  Christopher wanted a baby sister, but God's plan was for me to have two boys which as always I later realized was the best thing.  But as I held Nomile today I also realized that this is the third very sick baby girl that God has put in my path.  I also thought of the other children, mainly girls who have become so much a part of my life and I realized that God blessed me with boys as my biological children because he knew I would have many daughters here in Swaziland.

Please add this sweet baby girl to your prayers.

1 comment:

Dianne (aussies) said...

What a reality check, brought tears to my eyes. Give her a big hug from me -- she is in my prayers