I entered the in-patient ward feeling giddy. I’d just observed the birth of a healthy baby boy and was euphoric, noting how the harsh realities of a refugee camp could be transformed by the joy of welcoming new life. In the moments after a baby is born, the world can feel full of hope and happiness.
Then I spotted 9-year-old Kentia. She was lying on a hospital bed while her mother wept over her frail body. Suddenly, the harsh realities came crashing back violently. In an alternate world, my own 9-year-old daughter could have been the refugee child, ill in that bed. The distraught mother could have been me.
I observed from a distance, not wanting to interfere with the healing power of a mother’s love. Kentia’s listless body shook rapidly, her eyelids barely opened and when they did her eyes would roll back into her head. I found myself desperately praying that the medicine entering her veins through the IV drip would work faster — no child should suffer this way, and no mother should have to watch it.
We learned from the nurse that Kentia had been struck by an acute, severe case of malaria. That morning the girl had gone to school like any other day. When she returned home in the afternoon, her mother asked her to help prepare a meal — a typical chore for a typical day. But after the family finished eating, they found Kentia collapsed on the ground, convulsing and struggling to breathe. One moment she was healthy, the next she couldn’t speak.
Kentia’s parents rushed her to the Medical Teams-supported hospital near their home within the Mtendeli refugee camp in Tanzania. “I thought my child would die soon,” her mother later confessed. And she had reason to think so — the nurse confirmed that the malaria was so severe that Kentia would not have survived if she hadn’t been able to receive life-saving medicines as quickly as she did.
Still, as we left the camp that night I was scared for Kentia and her mother. The girl’s body appeared out of anyone’s control. Despite the rapid diagnosis, the speedy administration of medicines, and the attentive care of trained medical staff, malaria seemed to be winning the quick and vicious battle.
Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. – Psalm 126:5
That night I prayed for a miracle. And the next morning, I steeled myself before walking back into the hospital. Would Kentia’s mother still be weeping? Would Kentia’s frail body still be shaking on the bed?
My colleagues and I couldn’t contain our shouts of joy when we saw Kentia sitting up on the bed, her mother still by her side but no longer distraught.
I thank God because I can’t believe my child is in this condition right now. – Kentia’s mother
Kentia told us she was surprised to find herself in the hospital that morning. She remembers feeling a sudden headache, followed by chest and joint pains, but once she fainted she has little memory of what followed. “Slowly, slowly I’m getting better. I was very sick yesterday,” she explained. And she’s glad to be feeling better now — once the IV malaria treatment is complete, Kentia is expected to make a full recovery.
From the miracle of new life to the miraculous healing of a child near death, songs of joy are replacing tears every day in Medical Teams-supported hospitals. Lives that could have been lost are being saved. Mothers who would have mourned are now rejoicing.
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