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Saturday, November 1, 2014

I really don't like when people lie to me.

If you haven’t read last week’s blog please go do so now, otherwise this one won’t make any sense.

Last Friday afternoon I was called to the Women’s Prison to pick up a 6-week old baby who had been thrown in a pit latrine at birth by her mother, and then 7 hours later the mother went back to that toilet and heaped fire on top of the baby to make sure she was dead.  An uncle heard the cries of the baby, shoveled dirt on top and saved the baby’s life.  Mother, baby and sister were all taken to a local government hospital for care and 6-weeks later they were all discharged into the prison system while the mother was charged with attempted murder.  That is when we were called to enter the story, and asked to pick up the 6-week old, whom we call Shirley.

Late last Friday afternoon I was called to meet at the Prison (with four men from the Egg Farmer of Canada Association who happened to be with me) to see how we could help.  The El Roi Baby Home has two main guidelines when accepting children; first the baby should be under the age of 12-months, and second do not accept, nor are we set up for mentally/physically disabled children.  I can say 58% of all our children have come to us under the age of 6-months and 31% between 6-12 months.  We have made exceptions to that rule for 11% of our children, based on special circumstances and special requests.  I can also say that 10% of our children have some type of chronic condition (mostly Cerebral Palsy related) that requires some special care and regular Physio Therapy.  An additional 7% are HIV positive, but we care for them and love them all the same.

When we were asked to take Baby Shirley (the 6-month old) we were also asked if we would take Baby Rebecca (16-months old). I told the Social Welfare Officer that we only take children under the age of 12-months so we could help with one, but not likely the other. We would discuss in person.

It wasn’t until we got to the Commandant’s office at the prison that I saw that Shirley had been lit on fire and was severely burned on her face, arms and legs. In fact her big toe had burned off in the fire.  I knew that if we said “yes” to this baby that we would have a long and bumpy (and expensive road ahead), but we had to say yes.  After assessing Shirley I moved on to Rebecca and asked about her condition.

The young mother told me that she was born perfectly healthy and that at 6-months she had had a seizure, which left her with some paralysis, but that she was getting much better after her time in the hospital and had regained a lot of movement. Otherwise she was a perfectly normal baby.  After pleas from the Social Workers to keep the girls together, combined with the poor men sitting in the room trying to hold it together, I agreed to take both babies.

Let’s fast forward to Tuesday morning when Dr. Moira Lemmer came out to assess the new babies, check out sick babies etc. Moira’s assessment of Shirley was that she would need surgery within the next 6-weeks to fix the nasal passage that had melted in to her face. The baby is dehydrated because she has trouble eating and breathing at the same time.  If she got a cold or chest infection of any kind she would likely not live because she would not be able to breath.  In addition she has an index finger than needs amputation and we don’t know what damage was done internally.

Then she examined Rebecca and after a time we learned that Rebecca was born severely mentally disabled and physically disabled, and the reason for her severe malnutrition was because she can’t eat or drink anything without vomiting.  This is likely due to Cerebral Palsy, which doesn’t allow the swallowing mechanism to work properly, causing the child to starve to death.  She is unable to sit or lie on her tummy, and Dr. Moira doubts that she ever did. It was explained that this child would need 24/7 care and really it was a full time job for one person. 

This really bothered me. The mother lied to me, to the Prison Commandant and to Social Welfare Officer who was trying to help, with the hope that I would take both babies away and “off her chest”. The mother is in a very good/clean prison that provides medical care, food, counseling etc and she has all day long to care for her own child.   Rebecca is a sweet little girl who smiles, is loving and she brings me and others around her joy.  But here is the problem.  We don’t have the specialization, the space or the funding to have one-to-one care for this child.  If we had one Auntie caring just for her, then there are three other babies that we would have to say “no” to because our 4 babies to 1 Auntie ratio would need adjusting.  To be honest, my greater fear was that because she was dehydrated and not able to keep food down, that she would die at El Roi, and I don’t think my heart could take another baby death at this time, not to mention the effect that would have on ALL the Aunties, staff and other children.  The impact of the death of a child is immeasurable.

I didn’t sleep well that night because I know that what Rebecca needs is love, pure one on one love and care.  She needs her mother.  I was at the airport starting my 32- hour journey to Taiwan and China and called the Social Worker to discuss the situation.  At that point she mentioned that she had found out that the mother of the children has TWO parents who might be willing to take the older child.  THAT would be great. 

Fast forward again to Friday, October 30th.  The Social Worker picked up the mother from the prison and brought her out to pick up Baby Rebecca from Project Canaan.  Yes, she is going back to the prison with the mother for now, but the prison will provide safety, food and care.  Ian gathered a box of Feed My Starving Children Manna Pack with the hope that this child could get some high protein food that would stay in her tummy.

While they were all at the El Roi Baby Home, Baby Shirley went in to distress and was unable to breathe through her melted nose and so Helen had to rush her to the private hospital in town, right in front of the mother and the Social Welfare Officer.   At the same time, we got a call from another Social Welfare Officer saying that there was a 9-month old baby in great danger because her mother was dying in front of her and we had to send someone to Mbabane to pick up that baby, who is now, again, #81.  Her name is Bella (given to her by her mother).

I know that my decision to have Rebecca’s mother care for her wasn’t popular with some, but sometimes people in leadership have to make hard decisions.  Ian and I both believe with our whole hearts that Baby Rebecca is in the very best place for her right now.  If there was no one to care for her and she was to be left alone on a mud floor to die, we would absolutely have kept her, but she has a mother, and Grandparents, who, with some help from us, can provide for this sweet little girl, and we will follow up on her progress.

In the meantime, please pray for babies Robert and Simon who SHOULD be discharged on Monday after three weeks in hospital, for Baby Thuli who is in ICU with what Robert and Simon had and for Baby Shirley who needs surgery asap.

Proud of my lead Actress Chloe!
Live from Taiwan … I am LOVING my time with Chloe and am a proud mama.


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