I was little confused when the nurse giving report told me that Samuel had a wheelchair be his bed that he could use to reach the bathroom.
"Has physical therapy gotten him out of bed yet," I asked.
"No, he just hops out on one foot."
More confusion. My report sheet clearly stated that we had performed surgery on his hand. So why would ambulation be an issue?
And then it all made sense.
"His leg is amputated from the knee down. It's an old injury."
Samuel is nine. He speaks clear, well thought out English better then most patients, children or adults, that I have taken cared for here. When he was four, he was shot (I have heard by either a mortar or a grenade) and lost the bottom half of his left leg. His left arm was damaged as well.
When I was slowly pushing his IV antibiotics I asked him he had bad dreams at night.
"Sometimes," he replied.
I asked Samuel what he liked to do; he told me he likes to play games, like bingo. Promising to bring him a game, I frantically searched the wards for a set of memory cards. When none was found, I resorted to bringing him a coloring book and crayons. This was appeasing.
Samuel told me he liked basket ball. Flipping through the coloring book, he excitedly showed me picture of a "basketballer," he had found and carefully began to color.
I asked Samuel what he wanted to be when he grow up. Without a moments hesitation he looked up and in a matter-a-factly manner replied, "A scientist. I want to study Venus."
Later in the day we made a list of the 12 well thought out career plans Samuel has for his life:
1. scientist (he extended his range from Venus to all nine planets..if you still consider Pluto to be a planet)
3. medical doctor
6. a footballer (soccer player)
7. a basketballer (basketball player)
12. hero of the world
He gave this list with such confidence that I really thought, for a moment, he might make a good spiderman. Not for a moment did he think about how he would land with his webslingers onto New York city skyscrapers, while missing half of a leg. Dr. Octopus might prove to be a challenge as well.
In the morning Samuel befriended the 12 year old boy in the bed next to him. That boy had a crippled, "wind sweptish" leg that had been corrected. They colored and chatted and laughed together. Apparently they had spent some time living in SKD (a sports stadium) together. One of our translators called them, "hard time boys," a title they would both be appraised worthy of.
However, neither boy seemed to notice.
For about 15 minutes we talked about what they wanted to be when they grew up. I them they could be anything they wanted to be; they just needed to follow God's laws and work hard. Never should they listen to anyone who tells them any differently.
I told Samuel, "Some day I want to hear about a very famous Liberian scientist and I will say, 'I knew him when he was a small boy'. "
Samuel smiled, his wide eyes filled with the naivety, intelligence, and hope. Using his only good hand and stumpy leg, he repositioned himself around the crayons on his bed.
"Meggee, can you find me a color-by-number."
The life of a peds nurse. The search was on.