09 September 2014

WhiteGirl and the Owner of Spiciness

As you know by now, I have a big soft spot in my heart for kiddos who have been extremely burned. They are the bravest and sweetest little people I get to work with.  Often they come to our hospital for a couple of months and we follow up with them each month for a year.  Needless to say, they quickly wriggle their way into our therapy department family.

Little H. is no exception.  

A four year-old who was badly burned in January when, wrapped in a thick blanket and unsupervised, she went to warm herself by a cooking fire.  The base of the blanket ignited and she couldn't get it off fast enough.  When her family found her, they thought she was already dead.

But Little H. is a fighter.

And I confess, I think it's her abundance of tanka (a mix of hot chilies and spices used in local cuisine) that I love most.

When Little H. came to our hospital, she had already received months of treatment at an MSF clinic an hour up the road.  The burn wounds on her chest and head weren't healing and becoming chronically infected.  So they brought her to us for skin grafting . . . but because of the infection, we had to wait. 

The first time I tried to get Little H. to come to the therapy gym for treatment, she put her hands on her hips and scowled at me. 

'WhiteGirl,' she shouted, 'I'm not going ANYWHERE with you!' 

'I'm Déborah,' I answered, 'Not, WhiteGirl.'

She looked at me funny.

'My name is Déborah, not WhiteGirl.'

She scowled.

'Why don't you come with me and the other kids and we'll go play,' I smiled back at her.

She crossed her arms.

Turning to her granny, I explained that she really needed to start moving her already-badly-scarred hands and that we would need to start splinting her elbows to stretch them.

Reluctantly, Granny brought her to the gym.  

Little H. spent our first burn-kiddo play-group with her scowl in place and her arms firmly crossed.  She absolutely refused to have fun.

But that was okay . . . she'd need that spunk to get through the rest of this long post-burn process.  In fact, I'd say it's what kept her alive.

We went on like this for a few weeks.  She'd come to play-group, but always grumpy.  She'd wear her splints, but always with a bit of sass.  She's absolutely that I'm-Sitting-Down-on-the-Outside-but-Standing-on-the-Inside kiddo . . . which I love . . . perhaps because I'm that kind of kid too.

Mai Tanka: the Owner of Spiciness
It was WhiteGirl and MaiTanka (the Owner of Spiciness).

But one day, it all changed.  

She had been laying on her hospital bed when I came to get her and the other kids for play group.  As I entered the room, the mom of a new patient called out to me, clearly confusing me for someone who actually knows what they are doing, to come and check on her sick kiddo.

'WhiteGirl, come look at my daughter, she's very sick!'

Before I could respond, Little H. popped up on her bed as if it were a surfboard, and she yelled at the woman with her pint-sized voice: 
'HER NAME IS NOT WHITE-GIRL!  HER NAME IS DÉBORAH!!' 
I looked down at her, shocked.

She looked up at me . . . and a big smile swept across her face.

From then on, she was nothing but giggles and cuddles, warmth and joy . . . and maybe a slight bit of bossiness.

I guess this is what they meant when they said 'sugar and spice . . . that's what little girls are made of!'  (although, in the case of Little H., I might have to say 'spice and sugar' . . . but I guess it takes one to know one, huh?)

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