It isn’t new, and it’s always around, but it never gets old or seems normal or becomes more easily understandable. Never. Not even a little bit.
It is the heavy, intimate pounding of reality here, as it takes form simultaneously in its two most polar extremes: the drastic recovery of a child into health and smiles and a radiating personality, and the rapid decline of a child into heavy breathing, distress, and tragic death.
Of course, we fight for the former and against the latter. Still, though, and especially when there are lots of babies in the safe-home, sometimes we are fighting both battles on two different fronts. Sometimes, we have to take victory with defeat, practically at the same time, and in one’s own mental space, the gymnastics of understanding such clashing results can become a twisted, tiring tumble through disconcerting thoughts and lots of “what if” questions.
Mothofeela-folomane, the little boy I just wrote about in my last post, died yesterday at the hospital. He had been too small, too ill, and we’d found him too late. Life isn’t fair — wasn’t fair for him. I wonder what would have happened if we had found him just one day earlier. What if his house hadn’t been so damp and cold and dilapidated because of the rain? I cringe at the thought of what his daily life was like toward the end — HIV ravaging him, and malnutrition settings its teeth ever deeper. We lost the battle for his life after entering it too late, and it’s sad.
But in another on-going battle, we have swung back hard and knocked down the many dangerous threats that were on the verge of overcoming another small boy.
Molefi, who came to the safe-home two weeks ago after Matello and I found him covered in flies and his own feces in the nearby village of Checha, has suddenly hit his stride toward recovery.
For the first week or so he was here, he was extremely lethargic and looked miserable as a result of his diarrhea, vomiting and overall struggle against dehydration. But since Dr. Chris from Baylor came to TTL last week and gave Molefi a full check-up and some new prescriptions, Molefi has been recovering at a remarkable rate.
He is now chowing down his bowls of plumpy nut and porridge, the same bowls that, before his turn-around, he would look at solemnly and turn his head away from. He is all smiles and giggles now, after being stoic and silent and melancholy before.
As I continue preparing to leave TTL next week — when my year-long fellowship comes to an end — I can’t help thinking of all the kids I’ve seen during this year, and in both categories: those who have struggled and died and those who have made miraculous recoveries.
I know that in pursuing a mission like TTL’s, there will inevitably be both realities to contend with. And it’s tempting, in a way, to think that I will remember only the good outcomes, the success stories.
But, of course, that would be foolish and fake.
It is precisely the dichotomy between the tragic loses and the triumphant victories, and their combined and disobliging tendency to occur simultaneously, that has struck me the deepest, and which I know will remain etched in my head forever.
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).