It’s almost five o’clock and I’m tired, but it’s a good tired.
Part of being a fellow here at TTL is being available when things are needed – no matter what time it is – and sometimes that means long hours. But the needs are always such important needs, and mean so much to little babies, that you can’t and don’t resent them. They can exhaust you, sure, but they also give you a great sense of commitment, of being of value, of contributing in a way that means something.
Last night I had just left work and finished making dough for homemade tortillas for dinner when Dr. Amy Hutton – a visiting friend of TTL from Washington State – came into the kitchen and said she thought Ntseliseng needed to go to the hospital. Poor Ntseliseng is still not breathing well and looks awful. She can barely sit up and hasn’t improved since last week. I had already been worried about her earlier in the day before she’d gone downhill, so I immediately agreed with Dr. Amy, and washed the dough from my hands.
Kirsten left on Saturday for home, her fellowship having come to a close. But the same day I picked up Dr. Amy, two Canadian volunteers Emma and Quinn, and Claire, a visiting Notre Dame student who has been to TTL before and who is doing research for her thesis on food insecurity. So it’s a full house here at TTL – and nice to have a doctor around.
Dr. Amy, Claire, one of the bo’me and I all took Ntseliseng over to the hospital. The pediatric ward, known as C Ward, is kind of a sad place. It becomes even more jolting when you are waiting for a doctor with a baby who is laboring to breathe, who isn’t eating and is tiny, malnourished, in desperate need of help. A doctor finally came and began to examine Ntseliseng and ask questions, and because of a myriad of emotions and thoughts and visual stimuli, the moment seemed unreal.
A leaky faucet ran free in a sink, and water dripped from the bottom of the sink into a half-full bucket. The darkness of the world outside seemed close. Other bo’me with their own sick children sat in the neighboring ward room, talking softly. We all pulled on face masks to protect against Ntseliseng’s horrible cough. The doctor listened to Ntseliseng’s lungs. Ntseliseng, tiny, shirtless and holding back tears, looked from adult to adult, into our eyes, which I thought must have seemed to loom at her from above our face masks. In her eyes, it was clear that she was wondering what was wrong, begging to know why she couldn’t breathe well. I held her little hand and she rubbed one of her fingers along the edge of one of mine.
Again, the lack of resources at the hospital – especially at night – became apparent, and we were told that the hospital was out of the antibiotics the doctor wanted to prescribe, and that a chest X-ray wouldn’t be available until the next morning.
Still, Ntseliseng was admitted and was given an injection of another medicine that seemed to calm her down and help with her breathing, and after returning to TTL to pack a bag for the ‘me who stayed overnight at the hospital with her, Dr. Amy, Claire and I were able to eat dinner and hit the sack.
This morning, I woke up at 5:30 a.m. to help the bo’me in the safehome with breakfast, as they were short-staffed with one of them at the hospital.
I fed tiny little Bohloeki, the female twin who came last week, from a bottle and rocked her back and forth when she started crying. I held Selloane close in my lap to comfort her against her slight fever, which has since broken, thankfully. As I held her, I drew animals for Nteboheng on construction paper with my free hand, according to her directions.
“Ntja!” Nteboheng said, and I drew a dog.
The rest of today was spent revisiting Ntseliseng at the hospital – where we got the chest X-ray, which shows likely pneumonia – and driving out to St. Theresa, the clinic where our Thaba Tseka outreach team operates.
We just got back not too long ago. I feel like I’ve been going since yesterday morning. But it feels good. It’s a content tired. A happy tired.
Holding Ntseliseng’s little hand at the hospital where nothing seemed to be going in her favor was hard. And in general there is so much illness and sadness. But all of the little things – holding a hand here, drawing a dog there – add up to be something special to me: a challenge to the sadness.
Ntseliseng seems like she is doing better, and I hope both she and I sleep well tonight.
The TTLF Fellow is a representative of the North American organisation The Tiny Lives Foundation. Based for one year in Mokhotlong, Lesotho, the TTLF Fellow serves in an administrative support capacity for the Basotho charity TTL.