I saw Grace yesterday. Her feeding tube had fallen out at home, so Esther and Anthony made the long trip from Benin back to the ship three days early. Our feeding program coordinator, Jess, stopped by D Ward to see if there were any pediatric nurses around who could place a new tube and I was quick to volunteer. I gathered my supplies and headed out to the dockside tent where Grace's small family was waiting. I got huge hugs from both of them and quickly got the nasty part over with.
Once Grace's new tube was taped firmly in place, I stole a quick snuggle. With her tucked my arms, I got the chance to ask her parents how things were going. It turns out little Grace isn't quite as little as she used to be; she's gained a whopping two hundred grams since we last saw her. It doesn't change the way her heart looks, so it doesn't mean that we can do surgery, but it's more than we expected. We caught up on family news, learned how excited the other girls were to have their sister back, and sent them home again. I'll keep you posted with her story if I hear more about how it's unfolding. Anthony would like me to thank you all for praying. He was speechless for a moment when I told him about all your comments and e-mails and then just ducked his head and said, You need to thank them for me.
Down on the ward, Bernice had a new blue cast put on yesterday and went home today, her caregiver laughing and hugging her thanks to all of us.
It's hard, sometimes, to let them go. Harder still when you know they're going back to an orphanage with sixty-one other kids who all need love and care. Hard to trust that they'll watch over her vigilantly enough, clean her mouth well enough, make sure she eats the right foods. I found out today that Bernice actually does have a mama, but that her real mama wants nothing to do with her. She rejected beautiful Bernice when she was born with a cleft lip and palate, unable to see past the deformity, unable to imagine that her child could ever be worth anything.
But Bernice is anything but unloved. She's had affection poured into her little soul from every angle over the last week and she's been soaking it up. It was finally my turn for a cuddle today during morning worship. I had her in my arms, her head on my chest, her bum resting comfortably on Poppy's head, apparently, if my own kiddo's wild dance moves were any indication. As the drums beat and the music swirled around us, her tiny hands patted my back in time with the rhythm, her fingers soft as little feathers.
Eventually the singing slowed and I handed her off to the next willing set of arms so that I could finish writing her discharge orders.
There's a rhythm to this place. They come, we fall in love, and they go. As Bernice's caregiver was collecting their things, four year-old Mounira rolled back into the ward from the recovery room. The steri strips on her lip mirrored Bernice's, and I saw Bernice's caregiver nod knowingly.
Here's another one saved, that nod seemed to say. Saved from a lifetime of rejection and ridicule before she's really old enough to realize that she's different. Mounira's papa stood by her side, his own smile wide as he looked down at his sleeping daughter.
Here's another one who doesn't have to hide her face, another one who gets to look like all the rest of us. This is how it should be.