Monday morning I began my day with the news that the three month baby we had been treating for partial-thickness burns on his feet and buttocks hadn't survived the weekend. When I had left on Friday he seemed to be doing well.
Wednesday morning, the nine year old with full thickness burns on his back and buttocks died while he was the next in line to be brought in for his dressing change.
In light of last weeks losses and struggles, the deaths of these two children came as quite a blow . . . and of course, a well of emotions. Anger, frustration, confusion, doubt.
I was tired and beat. I wanted to hole up in my house and be alone.
But the US Ambassador had passed through and Notre Director asked me to snap a few shots of the visit. And when the Big Boss asks you do something, you do it. Regardless of how you're feeling.
Which turned out to be a blessing in disguise . . . because I had my camera . . . and I was outside the hospital.
As I finished and made my way back up towards my office, I spotted a man in a beautiful cobalt blue rigga, hopping up the stairs with a pair of crutches. Unconsciously, I lifted my camera and snapped a few shots.
'Hey you!' I heard a lady say in Hausa to my left.
I lowered my camera.
A familiar face peeked out of it's surrounding hijab. 'How are you?' she asked. 'How's work? Are you well? And your patients?'
I tried to figure out how I knew this lady as I politely greeted her.
And then it hit me!
I glanced down . . . and there she was, standing with one little crutch by her mother's side.
You may remember some stories about H. She and I met in August when she came for the treatment of old burns that weren't healing. Her right knee had been contracted as a result of scaring. When we first started working together, she couldn't even roll herself over in bed.
Eventually, H. became one of a pediatric group that grew to eight kiddos. She was there, in the facing bed, when Little N. died. And through the beauty of play and a determination not to give up, she learned to walk with crutches as she waited for her body to heal.
A few months ago, H. came in for a check up. I took one of her crutches away and sent her home.
So there she was. Standing with a lone crutch, covered up by her own hijab.
I passed off my camera, got on my knees and we took a few photos together.
Needing to get back to work, I mentioned that Yaro, the little boy from the group, happened to be back in the Ambulatory Care Unit for a few weeks getting wound care. They took off to go say hi.
At the top of the stairs, H. lifted her crutch and held it sideways in order to run down the stairs. When she got to the bottom, I was speechless.
I quickly found my voice and yelled to her, 'HEY! WHAT WAS THAT?!?!'
She turned and flashed me a guilty smile.
'Give that crutch to your mother! You don't need it anymore!'
She willingly obliged.
As she walked away through the sand without even a limp, tears filled my eyes. In that moment, I had desperately needed a miracle.
And there she was.
Without crutches. Without a limp. Normal. As if nothing had ever been wrong.
The scars she hides under her long zunni mark the journey she's taken. But she can squat and stand and walk . . . and I'm guessing, even run!