The first time I held her, it was as if I was holding a body filled with air. She looked to be about 7 or 8 months old, though her actual age was 14 months. For nearly 6 weeks, she yo-yoed between the TTL safe home and Mokhotlong Government Hospital, stricken with various maladies exacerbated by acute malnutrition. It was as if she was vanishing before our eyes, each day finding her frailer than the previous. I truly didn’t know how much more her fragile body could endure. Though we were afraid to utter the words, we all questioned her future.
Some weeks before the holidays, we noticed a slight change. Though she remained quite malnourished, illnesses were no longer repeatedly plaguing her. Her food intake and her ability to tolerate medications were improving dramatically. Slowly, her blank expressions took on a twinkle of hope; there was a noticeable sparkle in her eyes and intention behind her actions. We were cautiously optimistic. We watched her flourish, tentatively at first, then with what I can only describe as conviction. We breathed a collective sigh of relief and, as her weight and health continued to stabilize, we began to speak of reunification.
We frequently spoke of Lipuo’s miraculous recovery. We compared the illness-plagued toddler with the chubby, inquisitive, talkative, and very mobile little tot in our midst. The transformation was truly magical.
Last Thursday, 13 February, we said goodbye to Lipuo. In a span of a few hours the fierce toddler, who less than one day before stood independently for the first time, was gone. Her loss is tragic and we are reeling.
The safe home is subdued these days. We miss the incessant mishmash of high-pitched chatter from a certain little girl who appeared able to conquer the world.
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).