It has been a long time since a patient really got to my heart but I’m feeling a bit wrecked over some kids I took care of this week. Most of the kids I was with are kjung and were here in Soroti for the Timothy Retreat. Many of these kids are in the program because they vulnerable and neglected.
The Timothy Retreat is a lot like a week at camp and I was filling the role of camp nurse. One little girl, Sabina, was driving me nuts because she was coming to me over and over again with physical complaints (usually when I was in the middle of something else). But one of the things all the kids got was a brief health exam because very few get their basic medical needs met and in my time with Sabina I realized she did possibly have something going on. She had some adventitious lung sounds and enough other symptoms to make me suspicious of TB. Her exam also increased my sympathy for her quite a bit. She in 13 but doesn't even tip the scale at 40 kg (less than 90 pounds). She wasn't just seeking attention but possibly saw me as her only chance at getting some help before being send back to Karamoja. So she was put on my follow up list and I made plans to get her a chest x-ray. I had characterized her as one of the slightly slower kids because for Primary 5 (roughly 5th grade) her English was pretty poor. But while we were at the clinic she started translating easily between Teso and Nakaramojung for the doctor and one of the other kids I had brought. So, she was poor in English but fluent in two other languages. When I asked her about it, she explained that her father was Teso (a different tribe) and when she was little he had told her she wasn’t to speak Nakaramojung when she was with him. Her mother is Karamojung but estranged from her father. She hasn’t seen her mother in years and her father sent her away to live with an “auntie” because “he was tired of caring for me.” So, now she lives with a distant cousin of her mother because she was the only family who would take her in. Sabina says frankly that her auntie abuses her but she only has to stay with her when she is not at boarding school.
Frustratingly, there was no power when we were at the clinic so I never did get her a chest x-ray but I’ll follow up with her in a few weeks and see how she is doing.
Then there is Abraham. He is the closest I’ve ever come to taking a child home with me. Abraham is bright but obviously quite insecure and unsure of himself. He is new to the Timothy program and very neglected. At 14 years old he is also in less than the 25th percentile for weight and has a general look of undernourishment about him. I was told that he has no home, so for this Christmas break he will just stay in the empty dorm at school because he has nowhere to go. He came to the retreat with the one shirt he had that wasn't his school uniform and one pair of torn shorts. When he came in for his medical assessment he told me his teeth hurt and when I looked in his mouth I nearly gagged. His mouth is hands down the worse I’ve seen outside of people who have used methamphetamine. He told me he had been taken to the doctor for the pain in his mouth back in 2012 but he didn’t have any money for treatment so nothing was done. I arranged with Daniel (as a vet, teeth seemed more his specialty than mine!) to take Abraham to the dentist who removed a rotten molar. I’m sure more needs to be done but we’ll let the poor kid recover from that first and I’ll try to follow up soon.
After the extraction he had come back to the church and I checked on his bleeding a few times and got him something to drink. I gave him some pain meds and antibiotics a few times and was trying to keep him as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. I had gone home for a few hours but went back to the retreat before the kids went to bed for the night to check on him again and make sure he had eaten something. As I was sitting with him while he swallowed the fistful of meds I was making him take, he made the statement “You are taking care of me.” It was like he was processing why I was there. He was kind of just staring at me. “Thank you” he said. I almost cried. No child should have to say thank you for having their basic, human needs met. The next morning as they were loading on the bus to head back to Karamoja again he just came up to me and quietly said thank you again. As it was day 5 of a very full week of camp (camp counselors you know the feeling right?) I was feeling dragged out and tired. And here was this kid who was about to head back to an empty dorm, less than 24 hours after a rather painful procedure, with only some Tylenol, and what to look forward to? And he was appreciating that I had spent a few extra minutes paying attention to him.
Father God, May your favor rest on this boy in a special way this Christmas. May your peace surround him in a supernatural way and will you show yourself to be the loving Dad he doesn’t have. I pray for all these children, that they will know you and trust you as their Father when their earthly fathers have failed them. Please meet their needs out of your glorious riches in Christ Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.