Three mothers and their children sharing a meal together
at the Health Center over Christmas week
Every year something seems to remind me of the significance of God becoming a helpless baby so that even the least of us can know him.
Last week (the week of Christmas), a 7 week old infant was brought to the hospital with pneumonia and in respiratory distress. This was her second admission in her short little life. She previously was here for two weeks suffering from neonatal sepsis and possible meningitis. She was not much better off this time.
Now that she was a few weeks older, a few more characteristics revealed that she probably also has congenital rubella syndrome caused by a virus her mother contracted while she was pregnant. Her eyes are clouded with cataracts and here heart whooshes instead of thumps because of some significant defect. Seeing her size, her defects, and current condition and knowing the resources available in Uganda for someone like her, I sighed thinking her life will not be long. We gave her some antibiotics, and I moved on to the next patient.
A few minutes later, the mother came to me with a distressed look. The baby was seizing. We gave her a dose of diazepam, which stopped the seizing. The child was breathing rapidly and I knew she needed oxygen. Giving oxygen to a patient is a complex process of identifying a power source (solar, hydro power from grid or gasoline generator) finding the appropriate machine or power converter to match the machine electricity needs with the source and finding a bed close enough to a working outlet. If all those pieces come together in time, there is also the commitment of watching the baby and monitoring the petrol levels in the generator (grid power was out) because the staff is not trained to monitor patients on Oxygen and the fatalism of the society would mean they would not refill the machine if it ran out fuel even if it meant saving the child's life.
We had started rounding on the patients one and half hours late because the staff did not come until then. I looked at my watch and around at the 20 more patients I had yet to examine and treat. I was hungry, hot and had a list of 20 things to do when I got home. I did not want to spend the hour needed to get fuel, generator and oxygenator together and running. I looked at the child, pitiful, struggling for breath and cursed with blindness and a dysfunctional heart. I thought about the other children who died over the past couple weeks despite our best efforts. Was it worth it?
Maybe I should not put such a question in print. Of course it is. But pause and think about it. A child with significant defects, in the middle of Africa, in a place where average income is less than $2 a day. A child who has already struggled for life twice in its short 7 weeks of life. A child who cannot see. A child whose heart can barely circulate her blood. Her 1 year chance of survival is near zero. Do we waste resources on her? Do we spend time even thinking about her?
Yet, she is a real human being, a person with the finger prints of God all over her. She is struggling for her next breath and for life. Should I not deny my pride and push back my seemingly important to do list to enter into her world and struggle with her. Should I love this little child, even if she seems unloveable?
Not every patient throws me into such a tailspin of thoughts. Yet, I confess the short but arduous internal struggle I had. As I wrestled through the value of the life of this little child, I felt as if Jesus put his hand on my shoulder and said, "I too was a helpless child, in a poor place, without a home, and laying in a feeding trough. I became insignificant so that she would have significance."
We did find everything needed for some oxygen. We adjusted her medical regimen. We prayed. She is alive still today. She might not be tomorrow. Still we praise God for each day of life given to her and for the value added for each us because of humility he took on himself.
Merry Christmas. Thanks for praying with us and for us each day so we can love a few of these children that most of the world overlooks.
Location:Nyahuka Health center