A repost from my regular update letter, for those blog readers who don't get that letter.
"Please Lord, don't let him be dead," I whispered as I hung up the phone. I tried to reprimand myself for thinking so tragically, but this time of year tragedy is in the air, and sometimes it is catchy.
I was in the OR, doing I-don't-remember-what, when one of the nurses from pediatrics called me to tell me that Daouda's dad was here to see me. And I worried that such a visit could only mean bad news, since the family is quite poor and they live a good distance away.
Daouda, as some may remember, is a 9 year-old patient that came to us last year. He had been burned on the face and neck a few years prior and the resulting scarring was pulling his lips all the way down to his collar bone. Brett, the pediatrician, rightly said that it looked like the Picasso painting "The Scream."
Since then, we have done several surgeries on Daouda, with the help of many visiting surgeons. Though the scarring is still evident, he now has good movement in his neck, mouth, and face. He no longer has to wear a ski mask to cover the deformities.
During his last hospitalization, Daouda really grew attached to the staff and was having the time of his life playing with everyone who had a minute to just hang out. (They took to calling him the king of pediatrics.)
In early September, Saskia (the Dutch physician), Lazar (a Malian pediatric nurse), and myself took a trip out to Daouda's village just to visit with him and his family. He seemed to be doing really well.
So after hanging up from the call, I started walking towards pediatrics to find his father, hoping that he hadn't succumbed to malaria after all this.
But I was happy to see Daouda peek around from behind his dad as I approached. I greeted them and then took them to my office to talk. After some small talk, it became clear that the father was there to ask for help for something. He handed us a letter in French, which Jessica and I struggled to fully comprehend, but it was clearly a request to help send Daouda to school. He had never been allowed to go to school because of his deformity, but the family wanted him to start this year.
After pulling in another a Malian peds nurse (also a mom who knows about Malian school), we figured out that the request totaled a little less than $20 to cover the whole year of school, all his supplies, and even their transport to and from the village. We even purchased his supplies that day and sent him on his way with his notebooks, pencils, chalk and chalkboard all stuffed in a puppie-dog backpack. He was so happy as he skipped away that day... and I...well, I felt like a million bucks.
I tell this story not to pat myself on the back (you'd have to be a scrooge of the first order to NOT have given $20 to send this kid to school), but rather to tell you that I'm so privileged to be here. There are days when the busyness and the challenges of this place cloud my sight of that privilege, but there are moments of clarity which make the heart sing.
And I want to thank you for all your prayers, encouragement and support. You are truly a part of this ministry, and I hope you can celebrate in joy with me over these moments of privilege!