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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Young mother wants to kill her baby and herself – dumps baby then takes rat poison.

Teresa and Jared.

 This week we have a team of 70 volunteers who are here from the US and Canada.  We are always thankful to greet and serve with people who have worked so hard to raise the funds required to come and help “the least of these” in Swaziland, while also supporting the work of Heart for Africa.  One of our volunteers this week is my dear friend Teresa Birk.

On Tuesday I got a call from Social Welfare asking me if we have room for another baby (actually a toddler).  I asked Teresa to join Khosi and me and we headed in to town to learn about this child. Another sad situation, this time with a young mother who had been forced at the age of 17 years to sell her body to provide for food and basic necessities since both of her parents had died.  She desperately wanted to stay in school and was leaving the child alone all day locked in a room while she went to school (grade 8).  The school reported the situation and we were asked to help.  

I don’t often get to meet the mother or father of a child that we get as most of our babies are abandoned, but when I do it is usually a heartbreaking meeting, for me.  But typical of others, this young mother had no tears and quickly ran away after the child had been placed in my arms. Her relief was visible and she was “free”.  I always have a firm conversation about abstinence and/or safe sex when I meet young people at the Social Welfare office. But when a young girl is forced to have sex for food it is a hard, and maybe uncaring conversation to have.  

When we were only a few miles out of town I got a call from the same Social Welfare officer called and asked how far away I was.  A newborn had just been abandoned and he wondered if I could meet him while he gathered the report.  We turned around on the highway and headed back to town.   
The story was short, but not sweet.  A young woman went to a Daycare facility in the morning and quickly handed them her baby saying that she was late and needed to rush to work.  They only accept 3-month old children and she assured them the baby was 3-months old, then reluctantly gave her phone number and ran off.  When they went to change the baby’s diaper they saw that the baby was a newborn, the umbilical cord had recently fallen off, and it was bleeding a bit.  

They called the mother right away, but she refused to answer the phone.  They kept trying throughout the day, but finally got a text message that explained that she was not going back for the child. In fact, the mother claimed that she wanted to kill the baby and herself, but decided to drop off the baby and only kill herself.  Then they called the police, who called Social Welfare, who called me. 

The mother told the Daycare workers (through text) that she had given birth to the baby in the bush and that there was no healthcard/birthcertificate.  But when I examined the child I found that he had been circumcised (clearly a hospital job, I found a prescription from a local hospital AND I found Nevirapine, which is a drug used to give a baby when the mother has tested HIV positive.  Sigh.

It was almost 5PM and the Daycare was closing.   I was asked if I would take the baby to safety until a full investigation was done, hopefully resulting in a family member being able to take the baby.  We got back in the car and headed home with two babies.  Another surreal day in Swaziland. 

The next day was the official opening of the El Rofi Medical Centre (El Rofi is the Hebrew word for “the God Who Heals”).   It was day full of special preparation as we were welcoming the Inkhosikati LaMbikiza (the King’s wife who is the Patron of the El Roi Baby Home) and the Honorable Minister of Health Sibongile Simelane, along with many other dignitaries and special guests.  The event went off without a hitch and the highlight was definitely a speech given by “Nomsa” sharing her story of pain and suffering with the Queen and the other invited guests.  In next week’s blog I will share her speech. 
Nomsa addressed the crowd.

At the end of the speeches, ribbon cutting and a million photos,  I was chatting with Teresa who was holding the new little baby when he suddenly started to have seizures. We thought we saw seizures the night before when he first arrived, but then they passed. These definitely were getting worse so we quickly took our first patient in to the new clinic and called ALL the Doctors who were in attendance to help.  With the best medical minds together it was quickly determined that we must rush him to the hospital because he likely had Sepsis or Meningitis…not the way we wanted to end the special day, but thankful that the right people were there at the right time. In addition to the medical team, the Social Welfare officer who asked us to take the child was there and gave permission for us to seek immediate medical treatment for the baby.  This is an important factor in case the child passed away in our temporary care.

The party ended, the tents were taken down and Ian and I drove the baby to the hospital.  The baby is there still today receiving broad spectrum antibiotics through an IV.  He joins our boy Levi who has been in hospital for the past few weeks being treated for burns he received from an accident with hot water.  He had three small skin grafts this week and hopefully will come home next week.  
The mother of the baby has been found and is receiving counseling. We learned that she had attempted to drown the child in water and dettol (disinfectant) earlier in the week, but then realized that was wrong. She also has a 3-year old child who is suffering from extreme malnutrition. She took weevil tablets (like rat poison – and is the suicide “drug of choice” here in Swaziland) to end her life, but thankfully she did not succeed.  Social Welfare found her parents and there are conversations going on with them to see if anyone can help the young mother, the young child and the baby. At this point we don’t know if the baby will stay with us, but we are praying that the situation will be resolved in a way that everyone is helped. 

I will end the blog by telling you that we are happy to announce that we named our new toddler “Jared” in memory of Jared Birk who lost his life in a swimming pool accident a few short years ago.  Jared and his family were the inspiration for the town of Cape Girardeau, Missouri to fundraise for and build the El Roi Baby Home.  We will never have enough words to say “thank you” to all involved.  The little baby in hospital has been named “Enoch” – Jared’s son in the bible (Genesis 5:18).

Live from Swaziland … we are grateful.


PS – we join the families who are mourning the loss of the people on Flight 17 and specifically all of the HIV/AIDS researchers and experts who were going to Australia to help find a cure for the disease that has had an impact on so many of the children who now call Project Canaan “home”.   

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