Friday, October 4, 2013

In His Arms

“It is estimated that one in four children will die before the age of
10 due to preventable diseases.”

I remember writing that statistic as a Facebook status months before
leaving for my much-anticipated trip to Burkina. I was raising
awareness as well as support. I wanted people to connect with life in
Africa, and see the harsh realities the Burkina people faced. Months
ago, that statistic was shocking but not entirely tangible to me. I
knew it must be true, but I couldn’t understand the how and why of it.
Today, however, that statistic became reality for me.
Last week, while at a medical clinic in the small town of Dori, a
young mother presented her son with desperation on her face. It was
obvious just from looking at him that he was extremely malnourished.
It was difficult to watch his labored breathing. With each inhale, his
face reflected pain and struggle. Upon closer examination, Josie (the
orphanage nurse) revealed his bloated stomach, swollen hands and feet,
and scars all over his abdomen. She informed us that his mother had
taken him to see a “traditional” doctor, who had cut this young boys
stomach hundreds of times, promising it would cure him. Josie asked
the mother a series of questions, and translated the answers for us:
this boy, probably about 5 years old, had been sick for quite some
time. His mother had been taking him to see this “traditional” doctor,
but he had only been getting worse. Proper medical care is much more
expensive than traditional medicine, and the people in these small
villages are raised on the stories of traditional medicine healing all
ailments. As a desperate final attempt, this mother rode her bike for
miles to Dori to see Josie, where Josie sternly instructed the mother
to take him to the hospital immediately. We gave her money for the bus
fare, and told her it was a matter of life and death; her son would
surly die if she waited any longer. She phoned her husband, said a few
thank yous, and was on her way.
As the week went on, my mind wandered back to the image of this tiny
boy’s distorted body. I would pray long and hard that God would heal
him, provide care for him, and let him be one of the medical clinics
best success stories yet. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case for the
sweet little boy- we got word today that he didn’t make it. He died at
the hospital last night.
Suddenly, that statistic- 1 in 4 children die before the age of 10- it
was tangible and real to me. I’m not sure we will ever know exactly
the cause of death, but I do know that it was preventable. With proper
medicine and care, this boy could have lived. It’s a difficult concept
to grasp, with so many questions and very few answers. Mike and Amy
(the husband and wife running the orphanage) have been working hard to
get the people in and around Yako educated- traditional medicine isn’t
always the best way to go! Rubbing mud on a wound and making hundreds
of cuts around it doesn’t heal it! It is a slow process because it’s
so ingrained in the culture here, but Mike and Amy are seeing
progress. I was able to see before and after pictures of a few
children that had been treated at the clinic and although the deaths
outnumber the successes, any progress is still progress. Plus, while
some of the cases they treat at the clinic aren’t life threatening
YET, they soon could become so. With lack of clean water, proper
nourishment and rest, a small infection or illness can become
something serious quickly. That’s the whole reason Mike and Amy host
these clinics- for prevention, and with the hopes they will encounter
these children who are brought out of desperation, and save their
Today, I am grateful for the work that Mike, Amy and Josie do. I am
grateful they take four hours each Thursday to drive to Dori and treat
these children. I am grateful for the success, and grateful for my
health. Today I will pray for the family of this little boy- that they
might know he is no longer in pain, but in the arms of his Father. He
can finally run, play and laugh again. While it’s difficult to
understand, it’s comforting knowing he will never feel pain again.

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