I opened the door to the play room today and there they were: Selloane and Ntseliseng, looking back at me and smiling from ear to ear.
“Hi!” I said, waving.
They both giggled. Ntseliseng waved. Selloane bolted in my direction, and I scooped her up and spun quickly in a circle. She grinned, her dark eyes seeming to sparkle, and I laughed out loud in amazement.
In the last few days, both girls seem to have hit a turning point in their recoveries, and suddenly seem like brand new, energized versions of themselves.
The transformations are absolutely striking.
Selloane, who will be three in October, was so shy for so long. She used to sit quietly and stare. When she was sick, she frowned and looked miserable. She didn’t want to be held or played with or, as far as I could tell, acknowledged.
But ever since her fever broke, she’s been opening up and gaining weight, going from 7.2 kg on June 12 to 8.2 kg today. Her face has filled out, and while it used to be a big event if she showed even the slightest hint of a smile, she now gives big, cheesy smiles all the time. She literally looks like a different kid. She’s loud, happy and expressive, wandering around the playroom with all the energy a girl her age should have.
Ntseliseng, who will be two in September, is smiling and making lots of noise now as well. She still isn’t walking, her legs still tiny and extremely underdeveloped, but she is crawling and scooting on her butt more and more. She happily ate her entire lunch of carrots, chicken and rice today, is breathing regularly and looks better and less gaunt every day.
All this after being on death’s doorstep so recently, and being on a roller coaster of health fluctuations for the last month. Ntseliseng got here tiny and ill, recovered and started to do better, and then hit the wall of illnesses that swept through the safe-home last month and spiraled quickly downhill. I wasn’t sure she was going to make it. There were moments when I thought she would stop breathing at any second.
But now she seems to be back on track. She’s gone from 5.6 kg on June 6 to 6.7 kg on June 12 to 7.1 kg today. She’s getting less and less fussy with me when I try to pull her onto her feet and exercise her legs.
After the happy greeting I got walking into the playroom earlier today, I played with Ntseliseng and Selloane for about a half hour just before lunch. They both like playing a game where they stick their tiny hands toward my face and I pretend like I might bite. They shriek in laughter and yank their hands away. Ntseliseng also likes playing a game where she puts her face less than an inch from mine, then looks directly into my eyes until she or I break and roll away in laughter.
At one point I was on my back, and Selloane sat on my chest smiling as she watched Ntseliseng pull herself up onto my chest as well. They both seemed happy and content and comfortable, laughing down at me – such a far cry from a few weeks ago.
I caught myself marveling at their improvement, and again laughed out loud.
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).