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the way home

Posted Nov 23 2009 4:14pm
Little Wasti is doing better than anyone expected. He spends much of his time propped up, sultan-like, on a pile of the softest blankets we've scrounged from whatever linens haven't been washed and packed away for the sail. His mama dresses him in a motley assortment of clothes, and she makes sure to tuck the pillows securely around him when she leaves his side.

Today, Wasti was also wearing eyeliner.

This might seem strange, wrong even, that a six-month old baby should be sporting charcoal rims under both his wide, black eyes. Over here, though, it means everything. It means that his mama has decided that he's hers, decided that she wants to mark him as belonging to her, with all her wild, tattooed beauty. It means that, for the first time in his short life, she sees his future.

Over the course of the day today, Wasti's story was fleshed out, the pitiful bones we'd heard on Friday taking on heartwrenching shape. His mama is one of many wives. I'm assuming her husband is well-off, because when each wife came to stay, she was given a cow and a small piece of land, a pittance with which to scrape out a livelihood for whatever offspring she would produce for him. Wasti's mama made nothing but broken babies, and one after the other she sold her land and her cow, trying to find the money to put together the pieces of her shattered children.

It wasn't enough. It's never enough, here, and so she was turned away, sent from the village. I'm guessing that the sum total of her possessions is represented in the two small bags and several bowls that are tucked beneath Bed Twenty right now.

The ship was her last chance. She came on the razor's edge of too late; his would be the very last surgery of over six thousand for the year, and we almost said no. Go away. Your baby is too sick. He's too broken, just like everyone has always told you. No.

But instead, in the corner of B Ward today, there's a tiny family on its way back from the darkness. Wasti's mama looked hopeful as she told us that she's almost sure that they'll let her back into the village. That there's more than a good chance that she can go home again. I just have to figure out how much a new cow is going to cost so we can take up a collection for that little boy's mama. But all that will come in time.

For the next few days, my job is just to sit back and watch. To watch Natalie, our pediatric coordinator, work her magic as she teaches a completely illiterate woman how to tell time, how to count precisely, how to measure water and mix the formula so that her baby will get enough food. To watch a little boy soak in all the love he's never known. To watch hope grow in a barren heart.

To watch a mama find her way home.

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