11 Aug 2020

8:30 pm. Another phone call?? That's the sixth call this evening. What happened to rainy season?!

Nurse: "The baby has a hemoglobin of 2. The mother came alone."

Grumpy doctor: Great. I wonder if there's any blood in the blood bank fridge. "Is there a donor? What's his blood type?"

Nurse: "The mother's blood is a match. She is giving blood as soon as she eats something."

Slightly-relieved-but-still-grumpy-doctor: At least we don't have to scrounge for blood from our depleted blood bank... "Does he have malaria?"

Nurse: "We don't know yet. She hasn't paid for anything. We did the hemoglobin and blood type tests for free. Even the IV catheter to give the blood transfusion--she says she has no money at all to pay $0.50 for the catheter" (He didn't say $0.50 of course. It's 350 cfa. But he didn't say it in English, either).

Unsurprised doctor: "Is she from here? Where is her family?

Nurse: "No, she's not from here. She walked 9 miles to get here (No, of course he didn't say it in miles. 15 km, if you prefer). "The baby has been sick for a week and all week she's been begging her husband to let her take him to the hospital, but he says no--he doesn't want the baby to go to the hospital. Finally, today, she gave up trying to convince him and came alone with the baby."

Impressed doctor (and slightly humbled and finally starting to feel some compassion for this mom who is really trying to save her baby): "Where's the baby's health booklet?" *pays baby's IV catheter and medications and writes a note to the pharmacist in the booklet*

Grumpy thoughts while writing: What is wrong with fathers here??? Do we have to take on the obligations of every father in this district who refuses to be responsible for his own family?

But, then, I guess all these kids DO have one Father in common who cares about them. And I guess He HAS asked us to do whatever we have the opportunity to do for His kids (one of whom is this baby, and another is this baby's father), and He considers it just like we're doing it for Him personally.

And maybe this particular baby's father hiding out 9 miles from here isn't a horrible monster who just wants his baby to die. Maybe he truly is just a really poor guy who spends his days working in someone else's fields to make almost no money and can't afford to leave his own field to travel to the hospital and doesn't have enough cash to pay for labs and medications. Maybe he's ashamed to show up and admit that he can't provide for his baby. Maybe he already spent what money he had helping his relatives who had malaria during the past month or two. Maybe he paid for a close relative's funeral (even if you can't afford to treat a family member's illness, if they die from it, you'd better have money to buy enough food to feed all the relatives and friends who come to mourn with you). Maybe.

Either way, Someone cares about the babies of Tandjile. So we'll keep doing this for them, and for Him.