A Moment of Privilege

By an Alliance medical worker, serving at a medical center in West Africa

The following is an adaptation of a feature story this worker included in his recent prayer letter to supporters.

“Please Lord, don’t let him be dead,” I whispered as I hung up the phone.

I tried to reprimand myself for thinking so tragically. But this time of the year tragedy is in the air, and sometimes it is catchy. (In September and October during peak malaria season, a large number of critically ill patients come to us. Some of them die.)

Bad News?

I was in the operating room-doing I-don’t-remember-what when I received the phone call. It was from one of the pediatric nurses who told me that Daouda’s dad was there to see me. I worried that his visit could only mean bad news, since the family is quite poor, and they live a good distance away.

Daouda is a 9-year-old patient who came to us last year. His face and neck were burned a few years ago, resulting in scarring that pulled his lips all the way down to his collar bone.

Since then, we have performed several surgeries on Daouda with the help of many visiting surgeons. Though the scarring is still evident, he now has good movement in his neck, mouth, and face. He no longer has to wear a ski mask to cover the deformities.

King of the Ward

During his last hospitalization, Daouda really grew attached to our staff workers and was having the time of his life playing with everyone who had a minute to just hang out. (Our workers call him the “King of Pediatrics.”)

In early September, a Dutch physician a pediatric nurse from this region, and I traveled to Daouda’s village to visit with him and his family. He seemed to be doing really well.

So after hanging up from the call, I started walking toward pediatrics to find his father, hoping that Daouda hadn’t succumbed to malaria after all this.

But as I approached, I was happy to see Daouda peek around from behind his dad. I greeted them and then took them to my office to talk. After some small talk, it became clear that his father was there to ask for help for something.

He handed us a letter written in French, which my colleague and I struggled to fully comprehend. It was a request to help send Daouda to school. He had never been allowed to attend school because of his deformity, but the family wanted him to start this year.

$20 Fulfills a Dream

After pulling in another local pediatrics nurse (a mom who knows about schools here), we figured out that the financial request totaled a little less than $20 to cover Daouda’s schooling for a year, all of his supplies, and even his transportation to and from the village.

We were able to pool our resources and even purchased his supplies that day, sending him on his way with notebooks, pencils, chalk, and a chalkboard-all stuffed in a backpack designed to look like a puppy dog. He skipped away so happy that day. And I . . . well . . . I felt like a million bucks.

I tell this story not to pat myself on the back (you’d have to be a scrooge of the first order to NOT have given $20 to send this kid to school), but rather to tell you that I’m so privileged to be here. There are days when the busyness and the challenges of this place cloud my perception of that privilege, but there are moments of clarity that make my heart sing.

I want to thank you for your prayers, encouragement, and support. You are truly a part of this ministry, and I hope you can celebrate in joy with me over the moments of privilege I experience serving here.

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