Thursday, December 07, 2006

Hospital Visit. This afternoon we met the RVA assistant superintendent Mark Buhler and his daughter April (10th grade) and walked down the hill to the AIC hospital, to visit children in the pediatric wards, including one with children who have spinal bifida or hydrocephalous or (as is often the case) both. Mark told us that there is apparently a greater incidence of this problem among children in Kenya, and it may be related to a lack of folic acid in the diet. In any event, children born with these birth defects and the mothers who bore them are often rejected by their husbands and communities.

We first visited the ward with the children without these birth defects. None of them was alone: a parent, in most cases the mother, was with them, usually lying in the bed with them. The children were all little children. Mary had asked us to bring over some bottles of bubbles, the kind with the wand which you dip into the solution and blow on. So she would blow bubbles for the children and then hold the wand for them to blow, and that simple thing cheered up both the children and the mothers.

Among the most heartbreaking was a mother and child from one of the Somali refugee camps. (There are two such camps in Kenya, one with 90,000 people and one with 130,000 people.) The little child had somehow rolled into a campfire. Its feet had burned off and after coming to the hospital, one of its legs had to be amputated. There were no private rooms in the ward but for the one that this baby and her mother occupied. The physicians suggested we not go into the room, and we didn't. But I could hear the baby crying. We were talking a bit outside the door to that room, and the mother opened the door and stood there and we said hello and she greeted us. She was slight, small young woman, probably not even twenty. I felt so sorry for her and her baby. April had to go outside the ward for a few minutes to collect herself.

Inside this ward was a refugee from Darfur. She had burns as well and was there, I think, because they were short of beds in the adult section. Mark told us that her village in Darfur had been raided by the Janjaweed (?), the Muslims who are making war on the Christians there. The village was destroyed, she was separated from her husband, and, along with her seven children, terribly abused and taken north into slavery. She was finally sold as a second wife to a Muslim man. Encouraged by the man's first wife, she ran away, sending ahead her five oldest children. But she didn't get far with her two little ones, when the man came after her on horseback, firing at her and the children. But instead of killing them that way, he set fire to the bush in which they were hiding. The little children were killed and she was terribly burned. Meanwhile, the older five children had reached a place where there were sympathetic people, and they got someone to come back looking for their mother and little siblings. They found the mother and carried her away from that place. Her burns were not treated well, and the scarring on her arms caused them to be stuck together, the forearm of each to the bicep area, although she had the use of her hands. She supported herself and children weaving little crosses from palm leaves in a sort of micro-industry project. Some time elapsed and she heard of the AIC hospital here in Kijabe, and recently she underwent operations at the hospital to "unstick" her arms. Mark said that when last he saw her she was in a great deal of pain, but today she seemed comfortable, and we were able to speak with her a little bit and to pray with her. Her name is Mary.

Mark told us that Mary told him that she never denied Christ through all of this, despite being urged to worship Allah by her captors. She is concerned, however, about her children, the five older ones, because they were in the hands of the Muslims long enough for the indoctrination of the children to begin in earnest, and she is not sure that they will accept Christ. However, she is hopeful. If you have space on your prayer list tonight, you might put those five children on it.

Then we went to the second ward, where the spinal bifida/hydrocephalic babies are treated. Before we went there, we ran into the senior physician, for whom that ward is especially his responsibility. His name is Richard Bransford, MD, and the ward has a name of its own, Bethany Kids, and its own support organization, He is an older man, probably in his mid to late sixties, and has been there for thirty years.

We mentioned that our Mary had been diagnosed hydrocephalic and had a shunt. He became intensely interested (not that he was disinterested during our conversation up till then), and Mary had him feel her shunt, which he did, and then he called over a nurse and introduced her to Mary and the rest of us, and had the nurse feel Mary's shunt. He told us he would very much like Mary to meet the mothers of the children who had to have such shunts, because mothers are often despondent over the outlook for their babies, and that Mary would give them hope. Mary said she would be glad to help with this.

After that we went over to Dr. Bransford's ward and met the mothers and children there (and one father!). Mary told one of the mothers that she had a shunt and had the mother feel the bump on her head . She showed the mother the scar on her abdomen through which the drainage tube had been inserted. The mother simply lit up in amazement, and two others who were watching Mary lit up as well.

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