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Saturday, January 17, 2015

The little boy from last week's blog...(warning - graphic photos included).

Last week I mentioned a little boy and showed a photo of him lying in the hospital.  He is now 13-months old and he weighs 6.1 KG (13.5 lbs).   Just after I posted that blog I asked the Doctor how the baby was doing and he responded that the child was not doing well, but he was hopeful that he would live.  He also said that he had just spent two hours with the young girl who was sent by the family to look after the child and he learned that the story that had been told to the hospital was all a lie, but the young girl was afraid and ashamed. 

Here is what we believe to be the truth.

Originally it was reported that the mother of the baby had died, the father had run away (a very common story here in Swaziland), and that the baby was being cared for by a very old Grandmother, who was also very sick. When the baby got sick the family/neighbors (unclear who) sent him to hospital with a young 17-year old girl to care for him.  The cost was almost $10 for public transportation as they live so far out in the rural community. 

As it turns out, there is no Grandmother (she is dead) and the 17-year old is the mother to the sick baby.  We don’t know who the man is who impregnated her at the age of 15, but we know that she had no milk for the baby and only fed him what she herself was eating … mostly ground maize once day if she was lucky (similar to grits, but without the butter or salt).  As the baby neared his first birthday he was getting quite fat and so the young mother thought he was okay. Then his skin started to crack and split and he got very sick and unresponsive.  It likely took weeks for her to find/beg/work for the $10 to take him to the hospital and by the time they arrived he was almost dead … from starvation.  

It’s called Kwashiorkor, and his body appeared to be fat due to extreme edema (swelling), which caused the skin to literally split open.

According to,  “Kwashiorkor is one of the more severe forms of protein malnutrition and is caused by inadequate protein intake. It is, therefore, a macronutrient deficiency. Children are most at risk due to their increased dietary needs. Inadequate caloric and protein intake manifests itself with certain physical characteristics. Symptoms may include any of the following: failure to gain weight, stunted linear growth, generalized edema, protuberant (swollen) abdomen, diarrhea, skin desquamation (peeling) and vitiligo (white spots on the skin), reddish pigmentation of hair, and decreased muscle mass. Mental changes include lethargy, apathy, and irritability. Physiologic changes include a fatty liver, renal failure, and anemia. During the final stages of kwashiorkor, patients can experience, shock, coma, and, finally, death.  Treatment of kwashiorkor begins with rehydration. Subsequent increase in food intake must proceed slowly, beginning with carbohydrates followed by protein supplementation. If treatment is initiated early, there can be a regression of symptoms, though full height and weight potential will likely never be reached.”

Clearly this child was not treated early, but the Doctor is hopeful that he will live.  His development is significantly delayed and much of the developmental damage cannot be reversed.  He will likely be in the hospital for several more weeks until the edema is completely gone and his overall stat are stable.  

The story of the young girl broke the Doctor’s heart and he is seeking help with the Social Workers on her behalf. She has only gone to Grade 6, and even then she does not speak any English so we question whether she has ever been to school at all.  There is no one at her homestead who can help provide for her or her child if she goes back and so we have been asked if we can take the child when he is ready for discharge.

It’s complicated.  Nothing is easy. Oh how I wish we could help the young 17-year old, who doesn't speak English and help her baby. Oh how I wish we could help ALL the babies and young girls who are suffering here and around the world, but we can’t.  We are waiting to hear whether the child will be placed with us or not, but in the meantime we pray for this child, and for the small child that she is caring for in the hospital.

Live from Swaziland … I am on my knees today, please join me.


Update Monday morning:  I got a call from the Charge Nurse in the Children's Ward at the hospital. She called the Heart for Africa office and the message was passed on to me. When I reached her 30 minutes later she said that the reason she had called was to ask if I could bring more diapers in for the baby, but unfortunately, the baby just passed away a few minutes before I called.  I am in shock.  One of his organs failed, I assume it was his heart.  He is with Jesus now, but he will not be forgotten by anyone who has read this blog, and for that I am thankful that I had the opportunity to share about his short life. His name was Sinethemba, it means "faith".  


  1. Do you have the money needed to provide the care needed for him right now? Other than prayer, what can I do to help?

  2. This just breaks my heart why are more people not helping