Thursday, September 6, 2012

Baby Maria

Baby Maria is sitting on the bed next to Trish Perkins.
Baby Maria wasn’t an orphan when she came to Maforga --not exactly. Her father is still living, but he’s old. Very old.

A month ago, he brought her swollen body to Roy and Trish and begged them to help. Her mother had just died of AIDS in the village and she was not far behind.

Afflicted with a severe case of kwashiorikor --a form of malnutrition due to protein deficency—she barely moved from the pain in her joints and the swelling in her limbs. It didn’t help any that she was also HIV positive.

When I first met her, she was sitting up and considerably improved. But even though the swelling from the kwashiorikor had subsided, she still struggled to gain weight.

But we were hopeful.

It was hard to tell her age by looking at her though. Had I gone by the look in her eyes, I would have guessed her to be well passed a hundred. But in actuality, she was about 10 months old. The thing was... she weighed little more than a newborn.

Only time would tell if she would improve.

We prayed for her daily while her caregivers pestered her hourly to eat even the smallest of morsels.

I checked on her from time to time. But when I did, I usually found her sleeping. Her eyes closed, her chin tucked, and her twig-like frame lay listlessly on the cot. When I stroked her face, she wouldn’t flinch. When I pressed her hand, she would not make the slightest acknowledgement.

Once she opened her glassy black eyes to look upon her aggressor, but quickly unimpressed she closed them again to rest. What little energy remained was focused on keeping her heart beating... and her lungs full of air.

Day after day, her caregivers spent hours getting her to swallow a few bites of fortified porrige, but even the will to swallow had passed.

She had clearly given up.

Life clung only to the frayed edges of her soul and stirred softly in the ever darkening expression in her eyes. It was clear she was trying to say goodbye.

Everyday she fought a little less. Everyday she drifted a little further away.

Yesterday she died.


Is it wrong of me to feel relieved? Do you think me heartless for it? I’m heartbroken she passed away, but I’m thankful her suffering has ended.

She is the very reason I want to work here –she and her nameless mother.

Why do we have orphans dying of AIDS in Africa? There is no trite and simple answer to that question. There just isn’t.

But roll back the calendar a year and a half to when Maria’s mother first conceived. How much different could her pregnancy and birth have been had she had a midwife to help her in the village? How much healthier could she have been had she taken the retrovirals... or had access to them in the first place?

What if during her birth, her midwife could have reduced the risk of transmission of HIV and Maria had been born free of this corrosive blood sucking virus?

What if... what if...

I’m not saying I have the solution to all the woes of Mozambique. And I’m certainly not saying that I can save them all.

But seriously what is the alternative... to do nothing? –to watch them die slow, emaciated deaths? --to plant their brittle bones in the ground and walk on?

Is that really an alternative?

Please pray with me today. I seriously need your prayers. Right now all the doors seems to be curiously closed to me and what I want to do. Please plead for God to open the doors and grant favor for me to discuss my ideas with the local powers that be.

I need to start somewhere. Why not here?