Sunday, September 30, 2007


This week has been a bit sad and goodbye filled. Four out of the six "Hope Ward girls Club" was discharged, including my lovely friend Esther. Crystal, who was pretty much my BFF on the ship, also left on Friday, as well as many of the people I had arrived with. Goodbyes are hard. Even for someone who doesn't like to be emotionally vulnerable.

But there was also a very sad hello this week.

Little Manja is a one year old little girl whose big brown eyes and wide delicate lips make her reminiscent of a beautiful porcelain doll. In July, she received surgery to correct her bilateral club feet.

Manja had two casts on her legs when she was discharged which would render most adults immobile. But being a curious, energetic 1 year old girl, she was still trying to use her legs. Her mother had a pot of boiling water on a table. She looked away for a moment.

A moment is all it took.

Curious Manja had grabbed the table top in an effort to stand and her force caused the boiling water to spill onto her leaving her small body covered with 2ND and 3rd degree burns. Her stomach, arms, and feet are covered with large oozing boils. Thankfully, her casts kept most of her legs from being burnt and her face was also missed.

We currently have a plastics surgeon on board and have been performing many burn contrature release surgeries. Burns among are a common problem in the third world. No electricity means that fire is the primary source for light, cooking, and warmth. This coupled with small, confined living conditions is the perfect medium for accidental burns.

I took care of Manja on Friday evening. When I arrived her mother's eyes were red and you could see the pain and guilt she was experiencing.

My heart had broken when I heard Manja was burned and I hardly knew here. I can't imagine how painful it must have been for her mother, no mama wants to see there baby in pain.

I offered her mother some comfort. I assured her that accidents happen and it was not her fault.
It really wasn't. It's just the way it is in the third world. If I was a mama here, the same thing could have happened to my baby. There are no safety locks of safety gates.

At the end of my shift both Manja and her mother were feeling mush better. After a long dressing change, which required sedation (it made me feel at home to sedate a patient), Manja woke up and was playing and laughing as if nothing had happened. It was rather remarkable.

As sad as some of the stories we hear in Liberia are there is a deep seated joy in being able to love people. To touch the untouchable. To encourage the downcast.

The children here are so beautiful. I really love them. And it's so happy to love.


"Jlo" said...

Dear Megan,
What a beautiful post. I could feel for the little girl who was burned - i experienced just a minute part of that when hot boiling coffee grounds were poured on my leg. It was so painful - i can't imagine how this child must hurt.
And are a ray of make her laugh in spite of her pain.
You are so right, megan, there is nothing like the joy that comes from reaching out to those who are downcast and considered untouchable.
Because when we do, we reach into the "untouchable" inside ourselves and find healing.
I will pray for this wonderful mission you are on.

megan petock said...

thanks so much!