Every Thursday, the Therapy Department holds a club-foot clinic . . . we counsel mom's that club-foot is a malformation and not the result of a sin they've committed or a curse someone has put on the family . . . we remove the cast or splint from the week before, reposition baby's foot with a little more stretch, and recast him so he's stuck until he comes back to see us . . . oh yeah, and we make babies scream. And boy, are they loud!
So far we've had two kids. So that's two kids that should have been crippled, that will now be ambulators! How's that for 'making the lame to walk'!
Things were going really well, until little A-H got some sand in his cast that resulted in a small wound on his shin. (Brace yourself . . . Short-Story-Long Girl strikes again!)
His mom brought him in and asked that we not cast him until the wound healed. The doctor assured her that we would clean it and bandage it and the cast would act as a protective barrier. She wasn't convinced. We compromised by cutting a little window in the cast so that she could clean the little wound (about the size of a US dime).
The next week she came back. Our original gauze was still in place, and it was FILTHY! Not infected, just covered in dirt from all the crawling he does on the earthen floors of their house.
She said she wanted us to take the cast off until the wound healed.
Our physician somehow managed to convince her that was a bad idea and we needed to keep going with the process.
That was Thursday.
Around 10:45 Friday morning, Momma rounded the corner of my office with a screaming A-H strapped to her back.
He was upset.
So was she.
She begged me to remove the cast, promising to come back when the wound was healed. The baby had screamed all night.
I tried to hunt down the doc . . . who, as it turns out, was off in a village following up on sick child.
'You'll have to wait until this afternoon when he is back. You have to see the doctor. I can't take it off without him seeing his leg.' What I really meant was 'I can't put the cast back on by myself' but I don't know how to say that in Hausa.
She had gone from being upset to being angry. But she agreed to wait.
When the doctor finally came back, several hours later, we gathered the necessary instruments to remove the cast and to replace it.
A-H continued his screaming aria.
As we removed the cast, we saw the problem wasn't his little wound, the problem was that during the casting process, baby kicked hard, lurching his leg into extension, followed by a quick reflex reaction on the part of the doc to force his knee bent and ankle back into it's proper dorsi-flexed position.
We saw the resulting crease and tried to correct it.
But we hadn't.
The pressure on his little ankle was too painful.
And he let the whole neighborhood know . . . all night long!
When we had arrived at the cause of the problem, Momma was already packing up her stuff to go. We asked her to give him to us to recast.
With tears seeping from her eyes, she refused.
She thanked us on behalf of her husband, and informed us that she and A-H would not be returning. The family appreciates the work we've done, thus far, but they are done with us.
We tried to convince her to let us go ahead and cast . . . and at one point, I'm certain, we almost did.
Empathetic attempts didn't succeed, nor did the reminder that if they stop now, baby will never walk normally. Ever.
But the more we pushed, the harder she cried. 'My husband says "no more".' Her reaction made me wonder what would have happened to her had the baby shown up at the house with another cast on his leg.
She was leaving. There was no changing her mind.
We asked if her husband would be willing to come on Monday and meet with us. She said she would ask.
As she was tying A-H to her back, the doc gave her 1000cfa (about $2) to help her with the taxi fare home. She refused it.
Having never had a Hausa person refuse money before, he insisted. She was offended and left.
Seconds later, she was back. This time yelling.
He tried again, and then disappeared around the corner. She went after him.
Thinking the drama was over (famous last words), I started cleaning up.
She was back.
Only this time she was yelling at me. She put, a now quiet and calm, A-H on the floor next to her purse. She began digging through it and then throwing things in the air. She was yelling . . . I understood 'white' . . . 'doctor' . . . 'money'. . . 'one thousand'.
I grabbed a passing nurse. 'Is she saying she dropped the money that the doctor gave her and now she can't find it?' He stopped and listened to her rantings. 'Yes. That is what she said.'
I told her not to worry, we could replace it.
And this is when the hysteria started. She began screaming at me . . . then wailing . . . the screaming at me again.
A crowd had formed . . . and the onlookers all wanted to act as intermediaries. So not only was she screaming, but baby had started up again, and the mob was all chattering away, each one trying to out-voice his neighbor.
Another innocent nurse walked by. I grabbed him. 'You're going to help me!' I threatened.
He started talking to her, then to me in French. But I couldn't hear him over the crowd.
So I did what anyone with Bronx-blood flowing through her veins would do: I raised my hands above my head and yelled louder than the rest of them!
I NOT UNDERSTAND!!! NOT A LOT OF HAUSA!!! NOW!!! ONE TO SPEAK!!! FINISHED!!!!!
They all stopped. Silenced. And stared at me.
'Now,' I said to the nurse. What is the problem?'
I didn't know what she said, but I understood that she had been significantly offended by the money.
I said to her, in French, that it was not meant as an offense, instead, it was to help her with the taxi, since she normally comes once a week, but now she had come again, and we were asking them all to return on Monday.
All she needed to hear was 'taxi' and she understood. She left, but was still very worked up and emotional over the whole thing.
The nurse followed me into my office. 'Do you understand why she was offended?' he asked.
Turns out, when the doc told her that if we didn't continue with casting and splinting, her son would never walk normally, if at all. So when he gave her the money, she interpreted it as though he were putting a curse on her son . . . condemning him to a life as nothing more than a beggar.
I knew that when she had walked out the door, she would not be coming back.
And while it would be a detriment to little A-H for the rest of his life, what pained me was that she left thinking those that work at the Christian hospital are unkind hypocrites. That all that she had been told about who Jesus is and how much He loves Nigeriens would be stained by those past few minutes.
It was agreed upon, that if the father didn't come to see us, we would go to see them.
And that's just what happened.
First we had to visit the village Chief.
We sat under a lean-to type shelter and shot the breeze. Then we left.
Somewhere in the course of our visit we acquired a tour-guide and the pastor of the village's two-person church.
The directions we had to the house weren't very accurate and so we took quite a few wrong turns. But eventually, we arrived. A-H's father came out to the road to greet us, and we followed him to their home.
Momma came out of the house carrying Baby. He saw our team and was fine . . . until, of course, he spotted me. His eyes got big . . . and he began to wail.
We all sat together and, after the almost-as-long-as-this-story greetings, we discussed why we had come. The doc shared what the problem had been with this most recent cast. He explained the whole process of the treatment intervention. He explained that it was a four year process, but the most involved part would soon be over. He explained that after those four years, A-H's foot would be as perfect as if he had never been born with a club foot and he could grow up to play football (soccer) for Niger.
|Walking with Momma back to the car. You can see|
little A-H's feet sticking out from behind her back.
Momma explained what she understood to have been the problem . . . the doc explained to the father how that was a misconception.
By the time we were done, the whole neighborhood had shown up and with them, two disabled children and a sick old lady. Now I understand why Jesus had to get away from the multitudes from time to time! As history's first mobile clinic, the mobs just kept bringing their sick and disabled to Him!
When it came time to go (and the reason you've read this far), Momma did a very unexpected thing.
She reached down and took my hand. She squeezed it all the way to the car and wouldn't let go. When it was time to get in the car, she gathered all her fears, looked me in the eye and said 'Na godé so say. Sai Jeudi.' (I am so very thankful. See you Thursday.)