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
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
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.