>My Heart is Sad

>The babies went home…or back to the orphanage. Two things: I have way more respect for mothers of twins…I have no idea how you do it when your husband goes to work. I have more empathy now for mothers who have lost babies. I may not totally relate, but after having these babies for only a few days, I hear phantom cries now that they are gone and woke up twelve times last night worried because I hadn’t heard either of them cry or cough.

We took these babies on Thursday because we knew they were sick and getting worse. After talking to Cody, an excellent pediatric ER physician in Charleston, we diagnosed Isingoma, baby boy, with malaria and pneumonia, and Nyakato, baby girl, with pneumonia. We started them both on antibiotics immediately. Friday night got scary though. Mandie was in major neck pain and took a muscle relaxant that knocked her out. Add to that the fact that I didn’t have internet and felt completely isolated. Isingoma’s fever stayed above 102 despite Tylenol every four hours. He had vomiting and diarrhea and I watched him get progressively more dehydrated. His work of breathing kept increasing and he grew more and more lethargic. I just kept thinking that if I were in the States, he’d be admitted to an inpatient unit with IV drugs and I’d be following doctor’s orders, rather than guessing and hoping for the best. Before Mandie passed out, she tried to start an IV on him to get some fluids in him, but we didn’t have any small catheters, and the one we used bent as she stuck him. So between 11pm and 2am, I sat on the floor next to his bed giving him a few drops of oral rehydration salts and praying fervently for his fever to drop and for him not to vomit the ORS. At 2am, he had probably held down 10-15 mL of ORS and I gave him another dose of Tylenol. His fever came down to 101.8 and I fell asleep for a few hours. At 5am, Baby Girl woke up and wanted to eat so I fed her and check on him to discover his fever was below 100 and he was sleeping peacefully. I have never been so scared of being responsible for someone in my life.

Once the crisis was over, it was good to have them and to feel like I was actually doing some good in being here. It was nice to have babies who wrinkle up their noses at me when I walk into the room, fall asleep in my arms, and like to cuddle. It’s not as nice to wake up every two hours in them in the middle of the night with babies who aren’t sure why they’re awake and why they’re mad. We knew taking the babies was temporary. By the end of four days we felt like they were doing better and that it was the right time to take them back. We felt good when we took them back, but Mandie and I are both struggling now with the decision. We learned from a Peace Corps volunteer that the money that had been donated when the team was here for formula ended up going to pay the water bill for the orphanage. When we had the babies they were going through a can of formula a day. They told us it lasts two days, which means they aren’t getting enough to eat. It’s agonizing to think that I should be doing something to help these kids thrive, but am not.

We went today to check on them and were pleased with how well they are doing. Isingoma is gaining weight, his belly isn’t hard anymore, and he was full of smiles (he didn’t smile much the first couple days we had him). Nyakato looked good too, and has been sleeping almost through the night. We reiterated the importance of feeding them every two to three hours during the day so that they start sleeping through the night. It was good for me to see them doing well at the orphanage so that I don’t lay awake at night thinking they’re languishing there. We’re trying to provide formula for them for as long as possible so that Isingoma can continue to gain weight. If we don’t provide it, they’ll switch them back to cow’s milk. The problem is that a can of formula is $11.00 and if they’re each going through a can /day, it’s not affordable, either for the orphanage or for Mandie and me.

I’m so thankful for everyone who has taken an interest in these precious babies. James 1:27 says that, “true religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted in the world.” That has been my prayer in coming to Africa that I would visit orphans and widows. Though Isingoma and Nyakato are not true orphans, they have been left at the orphanage by their sick mom and we don’t know where their dad is. I’m praying for wisdom as we decide just how much to do for them.

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