I don’t look at her or get too close because I will make her cry. She already feels awful and I don’t want to make things worse. She is suffering from malnutrition,such skinny skinny arms and legs, with a huge taunt belly...which is complicated by the fact that she has diarrhea, worms, maybe malaria, maybe Tb, maybe is HIV positive….maybe maybe maybe…we will do the tests, we will treat and we will start her on the milk formulas F-75, then to F-100 and then to plumpy nut (ready to eat mix of fortified peanut nut butter), hoping we got her soon enough…all the while giving her deworming medicine and as prophylaxis a broad spectrum antibiotic…and once she starts feeling better….we will be friends and she will smile and play with me, let me hold her…. but right now, day one, I’m too scary and she is too sick.
I hate to make them cry but it is inevitable and rare that I don’t….on day one….or two or three…but it is also rare that I don’t fall over and over again in love. Who knew? Certainly not me…I would have been the last to have predicted such an incredible pull on my heart for malnourished babies and children. I was never much for working in the Pediatric wards in the States. I love my kids to pieces, but other people’s? and sick ones at that?…not for me. But here, in the malnutrition ward in Kigutu, Burundi, I am like a moth to a flame…who knew?
She is sitting on my lap and I start the Village Health Works Waka Waka video and she starts singing along, this little voice...filled with such joy! Her face is lit and I am in awe. They are all special but this one has me wrapped around her little finger. She is so smart, so independent, an old soul with such a fighting spirit.
I tell Crystal all about her and she asks…”Mom, are you going to adopt her?” That is apparently how transparent I am. I do hesitate, I do imagine and then say, ”No, no I’m not.”
I will be leaving soon, far too soon, not enough time…which as I knew even before I came, that it would not be enough…but all that I can do is be present and enjoy the moments, the precious moments as they unfold.