So, having seen this little baby with the dent in the head, I came home and did what any of you would have done.
And, I didn’t really find much. At that point, I was working under the assumption that this baby was born with a congenital defect that caused it to be missing a large chunk of the skull in the frontal lobe area.
Since the hospital had only done a physical examination, they had no idea what other conditions might be present. At least the baby appeared stable and was nursing well.
I went back to the hospital (the impetus for my matatu adventure), checked on the mom, and the baby. The nurses were concerned that the baby was not on 2nd line antibiotics. I asked what the problem was, they said the mom (our former Centre girl) couldn’t afford the medication. I asked for the prescription for the medication.
I went out and talked with Joyce and her boyfriend, both of them incredibly concerned over the mounting hospital bills and the fact that there was no possible way they could buy the medication for the baby. I assured them that we would work it out and asked if they would be ok with the baby getting the antibiotics, they agreed, and off I went with Naomi from the Centre to get the antibiotics from town.
Since we had taken a matatu into town, we made our way the old fashioned way, on our own 2 feet. We were successful with one of the medications at a shop just across the street from the hospital (Thank God, my feet were swelling faster than a disposable diaper in a swimming pool), but the other required a further walk into Thika town.
We headed for a chemist (pharmacy) that I had visited before. I’m in with the owner. I had brought just enough money to cover 5 of 14 days of the prescription. As we walked, I had some time for the enormity of this situation to sink in.
Here were 2 young parents of a new little baby, and what a desperate situation they were in. Do you know how much the hospital bill cost that they were sweating over?? 2500 shillings. That’s about $35 dollars US. A bed in the maternity ward of the District Hospital costs 200 bob (shillings) or $3 US per day. Doesn’t that sound insane to any of us Americans?
When the doctor indicated that the cost of the antibiotics for the baby would cost about 600 bob per day, and that the baby would need the drugs for 14 days, I am so ashamed to say that I thought twice. I thought to myself, for a few minutes, “Oh my, that is 8400 shillings”. And folks that is barely over a hundred dollars US.
How in the world could I hesitate for even a moment over a hundred dollars? Ok, so we’re not rolling in dough over here, but a hundred dollars to possibly save a baby’s life? And for that kind of decision to rest on me? I felt humbled for ever questioning that I would spend this money on this baby, and a bit overwhelmed by the incredible amount of power (for lack of a better word) that has been given to me. As we walked, I had that choking feeling in your throat that you get when you are trying REALLY hard not to cry. I guess I have just never been so close to a situation where a baby’s life was held in such a balance….and yet that is how it is everyday here, for SO many of these young women who find themselves pregnant and giving birth.
We arrived at the chemist. My friend was there. I told him what the meds were for. He cut me an amazing discount and we discussed how it was hard NOT to help when it involved babies and children. Adults were different. I agreed. Adults can be selfish, and annoying, and darn right criminal…but the babies?
We went back to the hospital, dropped off the medicine and left Joyce and the baby.
Fast forward 4 days when I got another call. The hospital wanted to do a scan. I traveled back to the hospital and met with the doctors. They wanted to send the baby to a diagnostic centre to run a CT scan to check out the baby’s brain. Gulp. “How much?” I had to ask. I’m the one paying.
7,000 shillings (about $95).
Gulp, but this time, I just answered, “Whatever it takes.”
This hospital is a Level 5 hospital, so pretty sophisticated for a government hospital, but it doesn’t have a CT machine, so we would have to take the baby across town. I asked the hospital to call ahead to see if we might get in this late in the day.
And then we waited. And went and bought diapers for the baby because although the parents had some clothes for him, they didn’t have diapers. And then we had to buy an outfit (with a hat of course), and some socks, and a diaper cover.
And then back to the hospital where they inform me they have changed their mind again, and want to do a cranial ultrasound, which can be done in the hospital.
Ok. So can we do that now? Cause if the brain looks ok, then this mom and baby can go home!
So after much hemming and hawwing, us sitting around, them running around, they announce that the technician is gone for the day, so Joyce and the baby will have to remain ANOTHER day.
SIGH. This is so Kenya.
Naomi and I drive home. I feel good that the baby seems to be doing well, that it is receiving necessary meds, and that there might soon be an end in sight to this hospital ordeal.
And wouldn’t you know it, I’m not even sitting on my butt on my sofa but 10 minutes and Naomi calls to say they are releasing Joyce and the baby from the hospital.
HUH?? Wasn’t I just there?
And so it ended.
Joyce, boyfriend, baby, boyfriends sister, boyfriends other sister, Naomi and I all drove home. Past Karibu Centre, cause Joyce isn’t one of ours any more. Right on to the slum
It was surreal to pull up like a taxi to drop someone off THERE. In that kind of place. But that is her reality, and this baby’s reality. A slum without electricity or clean water.
Everyone piled out, and Naomi and I (and Ian cause we needed him to drive us through our road lake to the slum) drove home.
But not quite.
Joyce showed up the next day, to visit me. With baby .
Here they are together:
Joyce with baby Aeralieo
Sweet baby boy
Such a sweet mellow baby. The dent is his head is still there, covered always by a hat of some sort. The good news is that the hospital agreed to do the cranial ultrasound outpatient, so Joyce will take him in this Monday for that. And, there seems to be skull bone under the dent, so it is not missing entirely. Hopefully we’ll get the scan done and some answers about the condition of his brain. In the meantime, please pray for this mom and baby boy, he has pneumonia and we are working on getting him over that so he can be healthy despite everything else going on.
And so it goes here in Africa. I feel like this is usual and customary here, and that life home in the US will never be viewed through the same lens again.