- photo by keithernesto
"We don't know her name."
The tiny girl carried in by one of the volunteers from the
Pediatric Centre in the hospital could not have a sadder story. Her
mother died, and she was found on the floor of their home all alone
after however many days it had taken for someone to realize that
her mother had passed. Her body tells a story of many months of
not-enough-food and sickness and neglect. We don't know how old she
is. And we don't know her name.
Somehow, out of all those sad details in her story, that one
stuck with me. We don't know her name.
Today's specialty in my HIV clinic seemed to be very sick
children with both TB and HIV and complications that made it almost
impossible to find the right combination of medicines for them. The
medicines that can cure TB cause problems for our HIV medicines,
making them not work right. And the usual medication options to get
around these problems are not possible if you have certain
complications, as the children I saw today had. A damaged liver.
Too malnourished. Too little to take tablets. All of these things
and more conspired against our already-limited options.
I was frustrated over my inability to come up with good
solutions for these kids and the need to choose between
not-so-good and possibly-worse.
And then I really looked at her, girl without a name. Beautiful
and precious despite her emaciated body and sores and tube for
feeding down her nose. No matter how sick and poor and overwhelmed
she was, this girl's mother surely chose a name for her daughter
that was as beautiful and precious as she is. Parents give so much
thought to a child's name. So much of this little girl's story lost
to this virus...
But we begin a new chapter. Hers has been a story of grief and
loss. We try to change her story into one that is headed to
health and happiness and hope.
I start medicines for her HIV on top of the medicines to treat
the TB in her lungs. I refuse to accept the verdict that we are out
of the nutritional supplement that will give her much-needed
calories, and - sure enough - some plumpynut is miraculously found.
The lab tells me that they cannot run the test I need because they
are out of vials for blood, so I send her back with a vial from my
study supply. We try. We try.
And at the
Pediatric Centre on the wards, where the volunteers look after
abandoned babies with great care, they have given her a new
May her story change.