I don’t know what to say.
“Why?” seems like a silly question.
There is no answer other than the lack of resources and the cold, arbitrary consistency of threats to this country’s most vulnerable children. The two go hand in hand. It is because of the lack of resources that the threats are so many, so suddenly serious and so deadly. They make themselves known when you least expect it, hiding around the corner in the form of some illness or another, something you hadn’t thought of until BAM…there it is, and there a baby is no more, and there you are left to wonder, “Why?” – in a world without an answer.
This weekend hit TTL hard.
On Saturday, Nthabiseng, the sweet and chunky little girl who had been here since December, who seemed so healthy, who had almost made a full recovery and was probably going home soon, died.
I came home to the shocking news after being out of Mokhotlong. The croup had come on fast.
Croup is an “acute inflammation and obstruction of the respiratory tract, involving the larynx and the main air passages,” that is usually caused by a viral infection with bacterial secondary infections likely to occur as well, according to the Oxford Medical Dictionary.
Last week, Nthabiseng had a cough that didn’t seem too serious, but which we had checked by a Baylor doctor on Friday. It was then that we started Nthabiseng on medication and an inhaler for the croup. It was only the next day that she stopped breathing suddenly in the middle of the day. Kirsten attempted CPR, then rushed Nthabiseng to the hospital with one of the bo’me. By the time a doctor arrived it was too late.
Then on Sunday, the day after Nthabiseng’s death, Kirsten and I were both in the office when Nthabeleng arrived in her church clothes, distraught.
She had just received a call from the family that took Thapelo and Mathapelo home on May 12. The twins were TTL’s miracle babies, who survived premature births in August and who just left us after spending their entire lives at TTL.
Thapelo had gone home with measles, so at first I thought something was wrong with him.
“No,” Nthabeleng said. “Mathapelo. It’s Mathapelo.”
The information we have isn’t clear, but apparently Mathapelo had a bout with diarrhea and died.
The news, on top of losing Nthabiseng the day before, was crushing. Two babies who we thought were going to make it are now gone. The entire episode is made worse by the fact that two other babies, Nthati and Ntseliseng, are also breathing with extreme difficulty and are also being treated for croup. Nthati is also being treated for pneumonia. I’m scared for them both. We’re doing all we can here, but it doesn’t seem like it’s enough.
I think we’re all still working through both deaths in our heads. Before today, I was in my head a lot and was confused about how best to move on…
Then today, I drove on outreach with Matello to a rural village that the hospital had referred us to, to find another set of twins. Matello and I drove as far as we could along the mountainous, rural road, then hiked the rest of the way – straight up a mountain, over the top, and then around the two twisting ridges to a distant village that no roads reach.
There we found the twins, Bohlokoa and Bohloeki. They are four months old and are smaller than many new-borns. They are now the newest residents of the TTL safe home.
They are there along with Lipuo, who I wrote about last week, Karabo, another little girl who just arrived, and Selloane, another new safe home resident and the same little girl who I wrote about finding my first week in Lesotho. Selloane became a client of TTL way back then, when we found her with her grandmother and brought her back to the Mokhotlong Hospital, but is currently not doing well and is now in the safe-home. She came when I was in Maseru at the end of last week, and I hadn’t known she was here until this afternoon, when I got back with the twins and started helping around the playroom as they got bathed. (The twins have scabies – something I also wrote about dealing with not long ago. The last experience helped this time around.)
That puts our total number in the safe home at 8, double what it was not long ago.
The deaths and the still-present threat and the new arrivals is all a lot to wrap your head around. But considering it all, together, is just what I needed to do in order to figure out that question in my head: What’s the best way to move on from all this?
The best way is to keep going, to keep finding kids in trouble. The new twins being here doesn’t mean that Thapelo will have his sister back. But it means a lot.
There is no real, sufficient answer to why Nthabiseng and Mathapelo died. In my mind, there never will be.
But the answer to why TTL does what it does is still crystal clear. In fact, it’s clearer than ever.
The TTLF Fellow is a representative of the North American organisation Touching Tiny Lives Foundation. Based for one year in Mokhotlong, Lesotho, the TTLF Fellow serves in an administrative support capacity for the Basotho charity Touching Tiny Lives (TTL).