A sympathetic pediatric charge nurse has placed me in Peace ward for the past two shifts. It's been about a month since I have worked there. While I love our adult patients, it's been nice to remember how much I enjoy working with children.
We currently have a plastics surgeon on board and have been performing many burn contracture release operations. In the third world, burns in children are fairly common. Living in a place without electricity makes fire your primary light source. Children and fire is never a good combination. Accidents are bound to happen.
Miriam is a nine month old little girl. She has tiny rows of platted hair and two small gold earrings. Her mother's name is Massa. She is 17 years old and incredibly sweet. Last night she offered me some of the food she had brought. It was a very kind gesture.
I was told in report that Miriam was happy until any member of our staff touched her. A very typical reaction children have when hospitalized. In order to minimize her fear, I very gently approached Miriam during my initial assessment. I let her touch my hands and play with my stethoscope before attempting to obtain her vitals signs. I tried to make her laugh by raising and lowering my voice as well as gently touching her nose. She would give me a hidden shy smile.
The left side of Miriam's body is completely burned. The right side of her face is soft and baby like, while the left completely scarred. The skin looks as if it is melting off. Her left arm is equally burnt. She had a burn release contracture done on that arm.
Today, I sat at Miriam's bed and talked to her mother, Massa, while I was assessing her. Massa told me that Miriam had been burned by a candle.
"It was an accident."
I could see the pain in her eyes. It was like she was admitting to a terrible crime. I believed her, that it was an accident, and my heart broke for her.
Gently, I commented on how hard it must have been for her to watch her baby go through so much pain. I told her that sometimes it is harder for mama's to be sick then it is for the children, because the mam's would rather take on the pain themselves then watch their children bear it. Her eyes began to brim with tears.
"It was hard. And it will be hard later."
It will be even harder later. Later in the night I carried Miriam down the hall to visit the ladies in faith ward.
"What happened to the baby...it's sad to see this happen to such a fine child."
Her scars are comparable to a real life phantom of the opera. It's the first thing people noticed. Someday when Miriam goes to school, the other kids will notice. They will probably laugh and tease her. Kids can be cruel.
"It will be harder later..but I am happy she has her life."
Miriam has her life. And she is a beautiful little girl. I call her beautiful as often as I can.
I sat on Miriam's bed and told her mother how much God loves Miriam. How beautiful He thinks she is. How He has good thoughts towards her and good plans for life. How He makes beauty form ashes and derives good from evil.
I told Massa the story of Joni Erickson. How she was able to write books and effect millions of people across the globe from her wheelchair.
It is such a privilege to take care of Miriam and to speak to Massa. I can't imagine bearing the weight of so much at the age of 17. It is a beautiful experience to love those the world shudders from.
As I looked at Miriam I could only think of how much God loved her. Of how special she was to Him. At how His heart breaks for the sufferings of His children. And I get to be the arms that hold her in His stead. Amazing.