We had a big surprise arriving home from college last week. Mop and pail in the middle of the hall, cleaning supplies strewn all around – it looked like Victoria had left in a hurry! She comes by in the mornings to keep the dust down.
We tried a few numbers. No answer. So we just left the mops where they were and assumed she’d be back.
Sure enough, Victoria came through the gate a bit later – loaded down with Elvis, her little grandson! She had walked to Kitwe Central Hospital, as much a mortuary as a hospital, checked the child out, scolded what staff she could find, and walked the kilometer back to our place with the boy on her back!
“They were not helping!,” she said, very upset. “The boy, he just get worse! Those people, they just want money! I took the boy with me!” She looked at us as though we could fix this.
We called a former student who is a medical aid. He came over by nightfall. “This is very serious,” said Shaka, looking at the swollen little arm. “This is bone infection, probably caused by an unclean needle. Has he had an injection?”
Indeed, Elvis had been injected with Quinine a week earlier for severe malaria. Kitwe Central Hospital! The procedure had infected the upper arm, which was now swollen up to twice its size.
Shaka helped us admit the boy to the Chinese Mine Hospital where he works. They slated the lad for surgery first thing in the week — even though it was Chinese New Year! Next day he came out of surgery with a reasonable report.
“We just did that operation in time,” said Shaka. “The infection had attacked the bone and it was quite critical. Within a week…?” He shook his head at what might have been.
Sometimes you help save a life just by being on the ground. We hope and pray for that these days. It’s the story of Africa missions. Your presence is probably your greatest gift.
Once in awhile you just lend a hand to those who carry the sick on their back.