by Julie Yerger
January-March 2016 issue Free Methodist World Missions Pulse
Baby Asterie* visits pediatrics on a regular basis. She’s 8 months old and weighs only eight pounds. Lack of food is not her problem. Her heart defect prevents her from thriving. We cannot fix the defect, but can at least explain the problem to her family.
At home Asterie’s mother treated her like a normal baby, not knowing there was a problem except that her daughter did not gain weight. At the hospital, we were able to explain the heart problem: what symptoms to look for, how to mix cup feeding and breastfeeding to decrease the amount of work the baby has to do, and other ways to help. We were not able to give her a good diagnosis for her daughter, but the joy on Asterie’s mother’s face when she learned there were ways she could help her daughter was rewarding.
The Jeff Crandall Memorial Pediatric building, part of Kibogora Hospital, was completed in March 2015. Jonas* came to the new building for edema (swelling). Like most ill children, when he arrived Jonas had no interest in the building or activities. But now, on the mend and being a typical boy, Jonas enjoys everything about the new pediatric building, especially the afternoon play time. VISA teams, the chaplains and occupational therapy hospital staff have a time of singing, Bible stories, crafts and games four afternoons a week. Jonas loves when the football (soccer ball) is brought out, so he can play with the other boys.
The majority of children coming to the hospital have their physical needs met; they learn more about Jesus – some accept Him as Savior – and then they go home. Treating some cases, however, is beyond our ability at Kibogora. Cancer is one of those diagnoses. One little girl came to the hospital with a distended belly and was found to have a mass in her abdomen. She will soon be transferred to the cancer hospital in northern Rwanda. In the meantime, the Kibogora chaplains visit the family to talk and pray with them about their unknown future.
A few children need extra care in planning for their discharge. The social workers connect the hospital to the community. Some children come from abusive homes or are orphaned. Eight-year-old Suzanne took care of her mother at the hospital until her mother died. Suzanne had no father or siblings and no way to get home. The hospital found an aunt for Suzanne to live with, made sure she continued in school, and checked on her adjustment to her new life.
In the community these children might be considered the “least of these,” but at Kibogora we model and demonstrate they are of great value.