Something Great

When you only make $12 per week on a good week, spending $7 on a medicine for your daughter is a huge challenge.

Even when your baby girl is terribly sick with a pneumonia that makes her struggle to breathe. Even when you know that this medicine might be needed to save her life. Even when you love that baby girl more than anything.

When you only make $12 a week, every single bit is already allocated for your rent on the little room in which you make a home with your two daughters and on finding even one meal a day for your family. You would spend the $7 on the antibiotic -- even if it meant not eating for a few days -- but you simply do not have it. Every cent you made this week is already gone. You have nothing in your pockets and this day at the clinic has only meant you didn't earn your one dollar today.

This was the struggle flashing through the eyes of Caro's mother the first time she sat in my room at the clinic. Baby Caro was coughing and febrile and breathing fast, with the skin and muscles sucking in between her ribs. She had the look of a baby who might be too tired to breathe soon. I knew she had pneumonia - one of the top 2 killers of children under 5 in this part of the world - and that's an even worse diagnosis when you have HIV. And yet, where would her mother find the $7 for the basic antibiotic I was prescribing?

I ended up buying the antibiotic for Caro that day. Even after all of these years in this system, I don't know the right balance between fighting to make the system work and just taking care of things. But I do know that I can't let $7 stand in the way of keeping a baby alive.

And this baby did survive. Caro is five now, and completely delighted with her accomplishments in pre-Kindergarten. (I love five-year-olds so much! I love their enthusiasm with life.) Despite still only making $12 per week, Caro's mother keeps both of her daughters in school. She is determined that they will have all of the opportunities that education can provide. She is one of my heroes.

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I have cared for this little family across these years now, and it gives me joy to see this bright and beautiful child. Somehow, that $7 and the years in between have bonded us together. Not because I did anything great, but because I am so thrilled to watch her have the opportunity to grow into something great.

$7 should never stand in the way of a little girl growing up into something great.

Posted at 19:28

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