Monday, November 16, 2009

Devastated father...

There is a man in Freetown who I have known for sometime, since November 2006 to be exact. I’ll call him Kargbo. The day I met him was the day he came to the clinic with a one-month old boy. The child was not his own; it was his brother’s child but due to a severe cleft lip and palate deformity, the child had been disowned by his family. In Sierra Leone children with such deformities are shunned. The mother is blamed and told it is because of things she did during her pregnancy, like stepping over a gutter or going to the river at night, etc. And many believe that the child is bewitched, a ‘devil-child’ as they say. Kargbo, however, was convinced that this was not a devil-child but a ‘mortal man’ like every other child and decided to travel to Freetown with the child to find help.

That is when Kargbo showed up at the clinic with this tiny, hungry little boy. Being single and needing to work to make ends meet, Kargbo could not take in this child. So, not only did he want us to help with this child’s deformity but he also wanted us to take the child in. Thankfully we were in touch with someone working at an orphanage in town and we managed to arrange for the child to be taken in by them later that same day. While sorting out the paper work, we satisfied the little boy’s tummy with some milk, provided him with some clothes and laid him down in a laundry basket to sleep. I was happy to be able to be a witness in handing over this child to the orphanage staff.

Over the new few months I was able to arrange a cleft lip repair for this little boy on the ship. And a year later, around the same time he was adopted by a pastor and his wife, he underwent cleft palate surgery. Kargbo was so happy to hear that the child had been adopted and was thrilled to see pictures of the child after his successful operations.

Two years after after our first meeting, Kargbo again showed up at the clinic with a child. This child was a girl, but had the same defect that the little boy had. And again, had been disowned by her family. Having seen the change in the little boy’s life, Kargbo was determined to take care of this little girl. He wanted to be her daddy and provide her with a home. He took great pride in looking after his daughter and came to the clinic with her for check-ups, bought her the formula she needed, came with her when she was sick, etc. He was excited to hear that we would try to schedule a surgery for her. However, unfortunately, the ship’s plans changed and surgery was not possible in the near future. But Kargbo did not lose hope. He even went to other organizations and expats asking for help- for surgery for his daughter. This did cause some confusion as the little girl ended up on multiple potential surgical lists, but Kargbo meant well.

Prior to leaving Sierra Leone I made sure to see Kargbo and his daughter one last time. This meeting took place mid-June. And although Kargbo had been a bit ill, his daughter was thriving and doing well. She did have a heart murmur, but this had been looked into and was not causing her any trouble. I was hopeful she would do well and be operated on within a year or two.

Just the other day I again received news about this little girl. You see, currently there is a team in Sierra Leone to do cleft repairs and so a contact I have went out to find this little girl (who had also been on his list) to fit her in to the surgery schedule. Unfortunately when he went to Kargbo’s house he was told that the little girl died a week earlier, a week prior to her first birthday. And just a week before hearing she would be able to have surgery. It was heartbreaking to hear this news, another child in Sierra Leone that did not make it. And of course I can only imagine how devastated Kargbo is, his little girl, gone. How I wish I could see him and let him know that he has done so much for this little girl. Yes, she died, and that is terrible but maybe, just maybe, Kargbo would be comforted in knowing that she died knowing she was loved by her father. He gave her something no one else did – love.

1 comment:

ruth & robert said...

Sending you a hug my sister. These are some of the hardest things to deal with here. Sometimes it's like riding a rollercoaster and you just want to get off for a while so you can curl up in Daddy God's lap and cry for those little ones and for those who loved them and lost them...

~ Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. micah 6:8 ~