Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sometimes you can’t make it on your own

It can be great fun here, and more often than not I am having the time of my life.

Some women don’t have that luxury.

If I had a baby, I would know nothing. I would be asking a million and one questions, and I would have many outlets that would be willing to answer them.

I met a woman this week who gave birth to a baby 5 months ago. Her mother left in 2007 to get work in a nearby village and has not been heard from since. Her father died last December and she has been left to care for her 15 and 13 year-old brothers and her 9-year old sister, not to mention her 5 month-old son.

She found out she was HIV positive when she was five months pregnant. She told the father and she says it is the last time she ever saw him. She was given adequate healthcare so she did not pass HIV on to her son during childbirth. However, he is now HIV positive, acquiring the virus through her breast feeding, as she showed us how cracked her nipples had become.

The little boy looked right into my eyes, and gripped my finger and I knew at that moment, I was done for.

This morning I bought all the supplies needed and headed out on Home-Based Care, back to the family’s house. With me, I had bought (using money donated by my aunt and uncle), baby soap, moisturizer, diapers, diaper rash cream, a pack of bottles and bibs and a big tub of baby formula.

The baby had a really bad rash all over his body, which we figure is from not being washed enough. He also had what people call “cradle cap.”

Mpho, one of our Zulu workers, showed the mother how to bathe her baby with the help of Brier and I. We moisturized the baby and got him in a new towel, blanket and t-shirt and he looked so much better than he had. I got to hold him and he seemed happier and healthier.

The mother nearly cried when we brought out the baby’s formula. She goes door to door attempting to do small gardening for neighbours to gain enough money to buy the formula for her boy.

I know it sounds like a story out of a World Vision commercial, but this is real life.

People around the world live day to day, wondering where their next meal comes from, and obviously with the guilt of passing on a deadly virus to their child. The pain this woman of 20 feels can be seen in her eyes, but she watched intently as we demonstrated how to care for her child.

In her, I saw myself. I couldn’t help it – had the stars been aligned, or misaligned maybe, that could have been me, essentially a child left alone to care for a family that has been thrust upon her at the hands of such extenuating circumstances.

Please don’t be depressed by this story. It’s a happy one, in the end. It’s a reality that people around the world lead different lives, with different worries. I am not trying to thrust some sort of higher meaning on you, nor am I attempting to scold anyone for being more fortunate than anybody else.

I am simply here to evoke thought, dialogue, perspective and understanding.

Until next time,

“People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.” – Audrey Hepburn

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