We were just finishing up a long outpatient clinic. I was exhausted…and we still had a 3 hour drive ahead. Being a Monday the health center was bustling with patients from near and far, but it was now close to 5pm. The lines had begun to die down and the nursing staff was just getting around to taking afternoon tea.
I had completed our last patient of the day and my team was starting to pack up in preparation to leave. We had 3 severely malnourished children waiting to be taken with us and the daylight was slowly fading. In my haste to ready everything and everyone, I heard a noise and quickly looked up…and that’s when I saw him…his pale little face resting on his mamma’s shoulder. Wearing a knitted winter hat and wrapped up, as if it were cold enough to actually warrant winter wear. His big brown eyes seemed to look right at me, and for a moment I stopped; for a short minute I looked at him intently. Had I enrolled this child in our nutrition program? No, I didn’t recall doing an assessment on the child and I wondered how we had missed them…I didn’t recognize him at all. But even from a brief, far off glance I could detect presenting malnutrition. I was in a hurry though. I wanted to start the long drive home. I had patients to care for. I hadn’t eaten all day. And my daughter was waiting for me at home. He would have to be seen at the next clinic.
He slowly closed his eyes as his mom continued to gracefully saunter away from where I was standing, on the veranda of the health center. Unaware of my watchful glance…
I continued packing.
But something in my heart didn’t feel right. An unsettling feeling washed over me. And so reluctantly I, along with one of my staff trudged after them. We quickly spotted them walking though a cornfield. A few minutes later we were making our way back to the health center where we could have a better look at the child and talk to the mother…a cornfield is not always the most conducive for medical assessments.
After a few brief interdictions, Lydia (the mother) quietly explained that ever since Patrick was a couple weeks old his intestines had been outside of his abdomen. Due to an abnormality at birth he was taken to a hospital where a doctor attempted to do a colostomy. But the procedure was not done properly and within a couple of months the colostomy prolapsed, leaving most of his large intestines hanging out of his stomach. Patrick’s parents took him to several hospitals, even the national hospital in Kampala, but by that time all surgeons agreed unanimously: he was too malnourished to undergo the operation. It was far too risky. So, they went back home. And they waited. They waited for what seemed only inevitable…the death of their son. As time passed Patrick grew even thinner. He lost his appetite and refused to eat all food completely. He had no desire to walk, and now at the age of almost 3 he hardly even spoke.
That day Lydia had brought another child for malaria treatment, and because Patrick was only content in his Mom’s arms he had come along for the ride. She was unaware that we were even there.
It was quickly decided that Patrick and his Mom would be coming with us. We gathered their things. Spoke with Lydia’s husband, and headed out. Finally.
Once Patrick got settled in (and let me tell you he was not happy about the settling) we began to take him to see Doctors and specialist. He needed surgery and waiting longer wasn’t doing anyone any good, but we continued to hear the same thing “Get him to gain about 8 pounds and then we’ll consider it”. And we tried. We tried to get him to gain weight and he simply would not. He would gain a pound and then lose 2. It was a constant uphill battle. He was miserable. Poor Lydia was trying so hard! She was the perfect picture of patience. She was always loving, and never failed to serve her child with the upmost kindness.
But after 2 months passed we were only slightly closer to our goal.
We had all tried hard. But Lydia was needed back at home where her other 4 children remained. So with little luck rehabilitating Patrick from our center, we came to the conclusion that we would give it a go from home.
The next week as we drove along the bumpy dirt road towards Manafwa, Patrick and his mom sat quietly in the back seat.
We enrolled Patrick into our outpatient program and started him on a high calorie, high protein diet. Lydia was a Rockstar! Though she was almost 8 months pregnant she diligently fed and cared for her stubborn toddler son. We saw them every 2 weeks but never saw much change. Good or bad. Then one week Patrick and his Mom didn’t come. The next time we saw them there was change, but not the kind of change we had prayed for…
That day the little family once again made the journey to Jinja.
After some searching we found a surgeon who agreed that though the surgery was risky Patrick couldn’t live much longer without it-his health would continue to decline because of the loss of fluid and nutrients. He promised that if we could get his weight up to 7 kilograms by August he would operate!!! We were elated. Being only May we had high hopes that it could be done! But, he would have to remain in Jinja for almost 3 months, and Lydia was nearing her due date…all parities agreed and we set to work.
At the beginning of July Selah and I left for the States. We left Patrick in good hands, and returned home 5 weeks later to find him at a happy, healthy weight of 7.2 kg. He was ready for surgery.
But shortly after our return, before the operation was scheduled, on a Saturday morning Mamma Patrick went into labor. What should have been a joyous celebration of life turned into a heart wrenching night that will forever be ingrained in my mind and heart! That night, after almost 24 hours of labor, Lydia was taken for an emergency C-section. When they opened her up they found twin baby girls, conjoined in the abdomen. They both died 2 hours after birth. (That evening is a story in its self. If you would like to know more you can read a blog post by one of our volunteers by Clicking Here ).
So here we are. Over 5 months from the start of our journey together…
Mamma Patrick is slowly healing from the intense trauma of that terrible night. She will forever hold a scar marking the loss of her daughters, but I believe that just as her physical wounds are healing, so are her emotional wounds. So is her heart. Almost every afternoon you will find Patrick and his Mom slowly walking laps around our compound, hand in hand, quietly talking and pointing at things as they pass. Walking towards healing, strengthening their broken bodies. And Patrick, bless his heart is hanging on to those 7 kilos.
So I write to challenge you. To invite you to be a part of this beautiful family! We have seen much tragedy and also so much joy come from watching God unfold this story. And He is not finished yet. With Patrick’s baby sisters at his side, He is still scribing! I don’t know what the end will look like. But I do know that somewhere in this next chapter there is a little boy who needs his physical body put back together. Because only then will he one day have the opportunity to invite the fullness of Christ to dwell inside his heart.
Will you be a part of this chapter?
Patrick’s surgery will cost about $1,500-2,000, and he will likely need more then one operation.
If you would like to make a donation to help cover the costs of Patrick's surgery (s) you can do that at our website www.servinghischildren.org or use the link to Paypal on the sidebar of this blog