Playing Nurse

June 30, 2009

Have you ever seen sick suffering children on TV and wanted to wrap them in your arms to comfort them? We did that today.

We went back to the orphanage to lay pipe, dig a trench through the road, fit the sink and hall up buckets of rainwater from the latrine pit. The engineers worked hard to find the most effective way to accomplish the best solutions, while accommodating everyone. Plus, we were all hurting today. Sore backs, stiff legs, blood blisters and scrapes were our closest companions, but it is so worth it. Apparently, many children had slipped and fell off the logs of the old latrine, into the human feces.

I took a break to examine the rooms where the children sleep. Most of the children sleep on a paper-thin mat, which is laid over a grimy cement floor. I noticed a little body curled in one of the few bunks. It was 5-year-old David, one of the twins that was found wandering the streets of Ho four months ago. He had a wound on his swollen toe that was infected and causing a fever. Later I discovered Mama Elize left to find medicine. I carried him to the first aid station, holding him tight as he flinched and moaned from the cleaning of the wound. After I laid him back in bed, three other little ones came to me, showing their wounds. I tried to clean them with alcohol, but some of the wounds were so old, the puss had crusted over the skin. I felt awful. Katie, Lindsey, and Courtney created their own bandage station by the van. Children lined up to have the teachers fix their boo-boos.

Things brightened up when the teachers brought out new jump ropes and baby dolls. As the children played, Katie brought David out and held him as he laid his head on her chest. She was worried he would be too hot being so close to her body, but he told her he liked the sound of her heart. Francisca, the twin of Francis, was attached to my lap most of the time. When I came back to the kindergarten “classroom”, I noticed little Jennifer was asleep on the bench. I shook her to wake her up, and when she did not, I started to panic. I picked her up and her eyes were still closed, but to my relief, she started to move her arms. With half-open eyes she told one of the older girls she had stomach pains. I held her in my lap for the next half an hour, while the kindergartners played with my camera and the older girls learned how to write my name.

Daniel, David’s twin, is the most melancholy child I have ever seen. His gigantic brown eyes are filled with a deep sadness; I can’t imagine what they’ve seen. He was inching closer to me until finally he trusted me enough to show me his legs. His legs are ridden with hundreds of mosquito bites. The open wounds oozed and he couldn’t keep the flies from feeding off them. My heart broke in two. The twins came into the orphanage in bad shape, and with dirt floors, 50 children and few resources it is difficult to give them the attention they need. I held Daniel in my lap for a while as the other children, who are better adjusted to the orphanage, played happily around us. Finally, I saw the first smile from Daniel’s lips when I let him take a picture with my camera. It made my day. Bent down, surrounded by hyper 5-year-olds, I felt a tug on my shirt. David came out and wanted me to hold him again. I sat there with David’s head resting on my shoulder and rubbing Daniel’s back, wondering when the last time they had been held.

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One Response to “Playing Nurse”

  1. lisa said

    Hello: I have been reading your experience and it is so powerful, and heart tugging. I will be heading to Ghana in July at an orphanage through madventurer , do you have any helpful information for me that will make my visit the most bentificial for the children.

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