Stars and Small Victories

One of my favorite philosophers Katy Perry once said, “I was in the dark. I was falling hard, with an open heart. How did I read the stars so wrong?” Apparently she wasn’t in Zambia where I am because stars shine so brightly here it’d be impossible to read them incorrectly.

Life in rural Zambia isn’t as bad as it may seem. It’s a peaceful place, the locals are nice, and the community of 20 or so westerners who work at the hospital is amazing. Friday nights we have potluck together and watch a movie. Sundays after church we have pancakes together. It is apparently “rainy season”, similar to March/April in Kansas. No tornadoes, so Toto would be just fine, and Dorothy’s bicycle with the basket would fit in perfectly with all of the other bicycles. The most challenging thing about living here are the conveniences lacking: dishwasher, clothes washer, and Chipotle. Most westerners hire locals to help with washing dishes and clothes (I’ve chosen to take care of my own), but I think it may be a reach to try and obtain something like a Chipotle burrito. The sauce I bought called “BBQ” tastes very strange so I’m afraid asking for a Chipotle burrito may provide me with an interesting concoction that I may not enjoy.

I want to tell you about Mata, a special 8 year-old girl.  I’ve never seen her smile. Never heard her laugh or hear her speak. She was brought to the hospital a few days ago in a comatose state and tested positive for malaria infection. We immediately started her on the strongest anti-malaria medicine we had, hoping for a change. For two days, she has persisted in this state. Her eyes have been glazed over, failing to follow me as I move in front of her, similar to a doll. Yesterday, when I would squeeze/pinch her fingers she will frequently fail to move her hand to withdraw to pain. These signs show us that the malaria is causing significant brain dysfunction. Today, when I walked into the peds ward I went straight to her bed. It was empty and my heart immediately dropped. I went to the nurses station and asked if she had died and they told me she had been moved to the “high care” area where she is receiving tube feedings. As I walked into her room I saw her lift her leg, which I hadn’t seen before. For two days she has laid essentially motionless, with saliva gathering around her lips. Today, I sat down on her bed, and pinched her hand. She moaned and pulled her hand back. It was a small victory for me to experience, but she at least showed signs of improvement. About all we can do is watch, wait and pray. Thanks for praying for her!

Here are a few pictures. The first is of the pediatric ward (beds with mosquito nets above). The second is of the market at the “Boma”, the city centre with a few “stores” and a market.

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