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Saturday, September 27, 2014

You just never know what is going to happen.


Robert and Jan with the male twin.
 
Thursday started out as a normal day.  Maybe this is the new “normal”?

We were contacted by the Police Commander from our local Police station to ask if we could help a homestead in great need.  We were told that there was an old woman living with 11 small children and there wasn’t a grain of rice to feed them.  Could we just go and visit her and maybe assess the situation to see how we could help?  We said yes, and the next day I loaded up a crate of fresh green beans from the farm and box of Manna Pack and then asked Jan Bechtel and Robert Smucker if they wanted to come along for a short ride.  We would be back in an hour.  Ha!

Delivering fresh green beans from Project Canaan to a desperate family.
We picked up a Police Officer at the station and started on the drive that was not quite the “short distance” that we were promised, including driving down a dry riverbed because the bridge had been washed out by last year’s rain.  When we arrived at the homestead we were greeted by a middle aged woman (by our standards, but an old woman by Swazi standards), a few naked children running around, a few older children and a newborn male twin baby wrapped tightly in 5 layers of clothing and blankets (as Swazi’s do in 90F weather – I digress).   We didn’t even get the chance to ask the woman what her situation was before she handed the Police Officer the twin boy and reported that the mother had gone to town with the twin girl.  The woman was apparently an “Aunt” of the mother of the twins.

In the middle of flurried conversation in siSwati the Police Officer pointed to a 5-year old girl with a beautiful smile and told us that she is the reason that the Police know this family.

“That one was raped by her Uncle a few weeks past and that is what brought the police here in the first place” the Police Officer said.

The family's kitchen.
She delivered the sentence as if she was saying that this girl was good in math or soccer, very nonchalant, in front of everyone, including the young victim.  And just as quickly as the sentence was delivered, the conversation went back to the baby I was by then holding. 

Was the mother breastfeeding the baby boy? Yes.  When would she be back?  Maybe tonight or tomorrow.  What would the baby eat between now and then?  Nothing.  What is the baby’s name?  She didn’t know.  Houston, we have a problem.

As we spoke more and the story started to unravel, the police officer became more and more suspicious and concerned about the intent of the mother and welfare of the twins.  Allow me to make a long and complicated story short.

This 21-year old mother (who also has a 2 and 3-year old child) had a difficult pregnancy and passed out at work early in September. She was rushed to hospital and was admitted with Preeclampsia (Toxemia) for three weeks until her twin babies were finally delivered by caesarian section on Monday, September 15th (Ian and my mothers birthday too!).  Both babies were not doing well at birth and were admitted for five days. On Friday, September 19th they were all discharged, but the mother did not have the money to pay (equivalent of $30 USD) so she snuck out of the hospital with her twins and made her way back to a homestead where she had lived years before. Both of her parents are dead, and this was a distant “Aunt”. 

Unfortunately you don’t get your prescriptions until you pay your bill so with no antibiotics or pain pills, this young woman took a bus home with her newborn twins, after having had a C-Section.  Now, six days later she had gone back in to town with the twin girl because we were told that the baby had an infection where the IV had been in her hand while in hospital. The mother was going to RFM hospital to have it checked, but that didn’t add up to us because if she hadn’t paid her bill there, she couldn’t go back and ask for more help.  They would send her to the accounting department first. 

The Police Officer asked if we would drive to town to try to find the mother and we agreed, and we took the twin boy.  Thankfully I always carry a fully stocked diaper bag with me so we were able to put a diaper on the baby, changed his wet (size 6 months) clothes and Jan gave him a bottle of formula, which he guzzled 3 oz immediately!

We first went to the hospital on the off chance that she was actually there. As we pulled in to parking lot the police officer was called by the Aunt to say that the mother had just called her from a pay phone at the bus rank (a large area in the center of town where 50 buses and 100 vans gather to take people around the country – a somewhat dangerous and not “stranger friendly” place) and she was very weak and felt she was going to faint.  Then she hung up.  We raced down to that area and hopped out of the car to go and search for a needle in a haystack. Jan sat in the back seat of my car with the baby boy and Robert jumped in the front and locked the doors with instructions to leave if any trouble happened. 

Miraculously, within 15 minutes of scouring the busy bus area, we found the mother, with the baby girl on her back, and she was carrying 8 heavy bags of groceries.  As the story goes she actually went to town to confront the alleged father of the twins and he gave her R100 for food ($10 US).  She was the hopping on a bus back to her homestead. 

Both twins together again.
We put her in the car and I asked to see the baby’s hand immediately to see how infected it really was.  When we unbundled her we were shocked to find the IV needle still in the baby’s hand and taped up from the hospital – 7 days earlier!  What?  Again, until the bill is paid, the nurses don’t remove the IV ports as a way to deter people from running.  The mother had obviously pulled out the IV on the boy, and then got scared and didn’t do the girl. 

We had to go to another part of town to get the children’s health cards (!) and then went to the hospital. It took about 30 minutes of back and forth to get the bills paid (NOTHING is easy here) and by then the mother was looking very weak so we decided she needed to see a doctor.  Robert stayed with her while Jan, the twin boy, the Police Officer, the twin girl and I went to the maternity ward with the payment receipt to have the needle removed. 

When we got there the nurse remembered her well and then immediately said, “This baby needs to see a doctor. She is very jaundiced.  Please go straight to see a Doctor.”

So back we went to the Doctor side, paid for the child’s examination and got in line.  Finally we saw the Doctor (whom we know well) and he ran some blood tests, which came back very poorly so the baby girl was admitted.  Meanwhile, Robert found us to tell us that the mother’s blood pressure was very high and she was admitted.  It was 4PM. 

In the end, both mother and twin girl were admitted to the hospital with an expected two-week stay.  We were asked by the mother, police, and social worker at the hospital to take the twin boy with us to keep him healthy and reduce the mothers’ stress.  The boy was not breastfeeding at all so the mother had already purchased formula to feed him so us taking him to the bottle was not a problem. 

IV needle removed after being at home for a week.
We don’t typically do this kind of thing. We are not a temporary home or temporary solution for babies, but in this case we felt that we had to say “yes”.  Leaving a mother with high blood pressure in a hospital where she has to care for her own twins with a high chance of a health baby becoming a sick baby just didn’t make sense when we knew we could help.

So the baby boy came home with us (actually Jan never let go of him), we dropped the mother’s groceries off at the police station for the Aunt to collect and we got home around 6PM.  We pray that mother and baby heal quickly and that this family can be reunited in a couple of weeks. 

We don’t know what the future holds for this young mother and her four children, but we do know that El Roi sees her and He found her in that bus station and He got her and the baby back to the hospital in time. We believe that at least two lives were saved on Thursday, and all of us were changed.

Live from Swaziland …I am thankful for my car, fuel and a diaper bag.

Janine

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