Waiting for (the) Queen
She was somewhere between limp and dead with eye slits focused on nothing. Nine years old looking like six, wrought with fever yet cold and clammy, staring eternity in the face and just hours or even minutes from going to be with God. We rushed mom and her small charge into our truck with dad following on his bicycle. The heavily pock-marked roads lit only by the truck’s headlights forced me to drive painfully slow-- just over walking speed to the local hospital. Once there, we waited as time crawled by before “Reine” (Queen) was admitted. And then we waited even more.
We are spoiled by western triage and urgent care. Here it’s mostly first come, first served. One learns to wait with prayer if not with grace. Culturally short-circuited frustration is always lurking in hospital waiting rooms. It’s too easy to imagine the worst when it is the worst that you most often encounter. We waited and waited some more. Drenched in sweat, I began to wonder when someone would turn on the fans that dotted the steaming hospital hallway lined with benches of those waiting to be seen and the anguished faces who waited with them.
We filled Reine’s prescriptions at the hospital pharmacy. The shotgun shell of medications is normal when tests take longer than the patient may have to live. Often multiple IV antibiotics, saline solution or Ringer’s lactate, calcium and vitamins begin to stir life. The next morning with more targeted treatment, Reine could almost sit up with her back against the hospital wall and her mom cradling her head. She had dodged eternity and survived an especially severe case of malaria,* for now. She will likely make the same dance many times throughout her life.
Days earlier, Janet and I were still moving to our smaller home located between the local garbage dump and the nearby “nonlotit” (unofficial) warren of one-room, tin-roofed homes of brick and blocks made with cement and the local red dirt. We need to cut our expenses to pay for increasingly larger orders of imported baby formula. As we prepared to bring another load of belongings into our smaller home we encountered Reine’s father. We knew him from months before when he and his wife brought twins, one suffering from acute protein malnutrition called Kwashiorkor--a ruddy, bloated boy who cried his way through a couple of weeks in a local hospital before a gracious and loving God called him home. The family was now our neighbor living only a couple of hundred meters away and with a limp, unblinking daughter who was close to joining her brother.
We returned to the hospital two days later to visit the family and to pay their hospital bills. Reine was standing and walking albeit shakily. Her parents thanked us repeatedly as we walked to the truck to bring them to the home they shared with at least four other families. Reine was greeted by the others, hugging her like a local celebrity. They thanked us in at least four languages. We told them that all that was done for Reine was a gift from God. Now whenever we drive past their home, someone sitting beneath the sprawling acacia tree is sure to smile and offer a wave and a warm greeting.
Last week, Rein and mom knocked on our door to share their joy with us. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a child’s smile is worth billions.
We encountered God between a garbage dump and a hovel where the ubiquitous plastic bags fly about and inhabit the sparse trees, goat-chewn cartons blow in the smoky breeze, and hope can be as rare as rain.
And that’s exactly why He sent us here.
Dieu est grand tout le temps. (God is great all the time.)
*We have started a new program to distribute insect repellant, mosquito nets, fumigant, and Malaria medications free of charge. If you would like to support this unbudgeted project, please go to the Sheltering Wings website at: sheltering-wings.org. On the home page, scroll down to “Be the Hands” and click on “Donate Today.” In the “Donation Center” go to “Don and Janet Guizzetti West Africa Projects” and click on “Donate.” Scroll down to “Emergency Medical Fund” to make your most needed and appreciated donation to help with the most urgent, life-threatening needs. Thank you and may God bless you abundantly.