Chronicles from Uganda

MERCY

 

Compassion or forgiveness shown towards someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm.

“The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.” Psalm 145:8-9.

 

 Sharon & Mercy

Sharon & Mercy

Imagine this. Your baby is born full-term but something goes wrong during the delivery and your baby has to be put on oxygen immediately. You are never able to breast-feed your baby. You have no income so it is hard to pay for milk and/or formula. As your baby starts to grow, you realize there are some serious health issues. You and your husband take the baby to the hospital to get her checked out and when the Doctor examines the baby he tells you that they need to do a CAT scan on the baby’s head. Your husband tells you he needs to step out to use the restroom. Then, the unthinkable happens. You never see your husband again. One year later, your husband calls and asks you if the baby died yet.

Friends, I don’t think you can make this stuff up. It’s almost impossible to believe these kind of stories, but when you look into the mother’s eyes as she tells you what happened, it’s just heartbreaking.

Little Mercy was born 8 years ago. She has CP (Cerebral Palsy). She is totally blind and (this is the really hard part to believe) she weighs a mere 30 lbs. 30 POUNDS! EIGHT YEARS OLD! 30 POUNDS! I can hardly wrap my head around this one. Her arms and legs are like little sticks and she is wasting away. She has no strength to hold her head up for any period of time and she is unable to sit-up on her own. But, I’ll tell you what…Mercy has the MOST beautiful smile I have ever seen! Once she meets you, she recognizes your voice. Then, when she hears your voice, she lights up like a lamp! I have fallen in love with this precious little girl. When I approach her now, I say “Mercy, Auntie Sharony is here!” (That’s what the kids call me here.) Oh, my friends, she makes me feel like a million bucks when she smiles from ear to ear and gives me her quiet little laugh. Now tell me…how does a father walk out on his precious little baby girl and the mother of his child, because this poor, sweet little girl was born with a birth defect (which, of course, the mother or no one else, had any control over)? I will NEVER be able to understand how anyone could not love their flesh and blood, no matter what the circumstances are. I pray God has “MERCY” on this man, who chose to turn away and ignore his “special Mercy”.

I was blessed to have the opportunity to meet Mercy and her mother, Goretty, in January. She brought Mercy to our Medical Camp, at GRACEland. I only got to see her for a couple of minutes, but when I met her I thought Mercy was around 3 years old. (I later found out that she was actually 7 years old at that time.) Mama Mercy brought Mercy back to GRACEland about a week later to have her rechecked. This was at the same time I met Rodgers (the 18-year-old CP Patient who I recently wrote about). Mercy’s mother had told Mama Rodgers about Loving One by One as they are neighbors. I find it a bit ironic that there are two CP patients who live almost next door to each other. As I have mentioned in my past posts, we have numerous CP people in and around our Village. It seems to be very prevalent here, which makes me wonder if there is some sort of common denominator which could be causing the high number of cases of CP. Is it a lack of prenatal care? Is it poor living conditions and lack of nutrition? Is it poor medical facilities with lack of training and/or equipment to handle emergency situations? Is it cerebral malaria? Folks, I’m sure it is all of these things contributing to the high number of birth defects and disabilities that are happening here. It breaks my heart that the health system in Uganda is SO broken and/or so lacking of quality care. I would imagine that if the health care was more readily available, and affordable to the average Ugandan person, the number of birth defects and infant mortality rate would be drastically reduced.

The one and only thing that Mama Mercy asked me for, was a wheelchair. I told her that I would see what I could do. I admired Mama Mercy for not begging for anything and she was so appreciative that I told her we would try to find a wheelchair for her little girl.

A few weeks went by and during the time that we were helping Rodgers with his broken arm surgery and the other complications he was having, we finally found time to look for a wheelchair for Rodgers and Mercy. Unfortunately, when we went to the Salvation Army they only had adult wheelchairs. They told us that they would continue to look for a child’s wheelchair and that they would call us when one arrives. A couple more weeks went by and they never called. When we called them to follow-up, they told us it is very difficult to find a child’s wheelchair. We decided then, that we would try to raise money to have one custom made at Cheshire, the same place where we had Gilbert’s CP wheelchair made.

One of the hardest things here, is that there are so many needs, and so little time to address them all. I feel so bad when time gets away from me and then before you know it, many other situations arise and you start working on someone else’s problem. The couple of times we stopped by to see Rodgers after his surgery, we always stopped by Mercy’s house to check on her and to let her know we haven’t forgotten about her request for a wheelchair. Well, the last time we stopped by to see Mercy, Mama Mercy told me that Mercy wasn’t feeling well. This gave me an opportunity to go into her home to check on her. What I found was that Mercy and her mama sleep in a very small, one room, house. They have no bed mattress and they both sleep on the dirt floor, on a bamboo type mat. When I walked in and said “Mercy, Auntie Sharony is here!” Mercy gave me a beautiful smile, as usual. Mama then showed me some sores on Mercy’s head and some sores on her body. I immediately realized that this poor little girl was developing bed sores from sleeping on the hard ground and from laying down all day and all night long (other than when her mother was carrying her). We decided then that we need to take Mercy to the Pediatric Neurologist for review and not only did she need a wheelchair, but she also needed a bed mattress. Of course, we were also very concerned about her low weight and the lack of nutrition.

We scheduled Mercy to go see Dr. B. (the Neurologist). However, the appointment had to be rescheduled as this was the same day we were going to take Baby Norah (who died the week before the appointment) and Baby Noah, who died the day of the scheduled appointment. Friends, I think this was the most difficult week I have experienced since I have been Uganda. The challenges are many but the rewards are great.

On Friday, March 23rd, we picked up Samson (who I posted about today – he is the boy with severe Epilepsy) and his Mama, and Mercy and her Mama. (On a side note, I have to tell you a funny little thing about me. One of the things I have never been able to handle well and one of the reasons why I could never become a Nurse is I can’t deal with it, when someone gets sick. It has become sort of joke about me, because it almost never fails that when I take someone to the hospital or Doctor in the car, they become car sick. Sweet Goretty was with me on this day when we took Samson and Mercy to Dr. B. We hadn’t been in the car more than 10 minutes when Mercy started to get sick. My gag reflux is really getting tested here. LOL! As we traveled a bit further, soon after, Samson starts heaving. Then, when I look back, I see Mama Mercy turning a bit green and sweating profusely. She is fighting the car sickness as much as she can. We quickly pulled over and had her get some fresh air. When I look back at how many times this scenario has happened, I have to laugh at myself and I joke with God about Him trying to stretch me out of my comfort zone. I am so thankful for people like Goretty and Teri and our Nurses and Santo, who are with me when these situations happen and who are so strong to be able to help the people who are sick. I have never been able to do that and I feel bad when I can’t help them because of my weak stomach.) Anyways, after several stops that day, we finally arrived at the Neurologist office.

I had previously asked Mama Mercy if she ever has seizures and she told me no. But, as we were sitting on the grass outside, waiting for Mercy to be seen by Dr. B., Mercy had a seizure. I asked Mama Mercy again, if she has been having seizures and she said no. She told Goretty and I that this just happens when she is startled. We explained to Mama Mercy that these are seizures and that we need to tell the Doctor about this.

When Dr. B. examined Mercy, the first thing he said was “she is severely wasting”. Basically, what he was saying is that she is extremely malnourished. He checked her over from head to toe. When the nurse told him that Mercy weighed only 14 kg (approximately 30 pounds) he was upset. He said that the first thing we need to do is to get Mercy’s weight up to 19 kg. He recommended that she have an NG tube (feeding tube) started immediately, from his office. He also recommended an EEG in a couple of weeks, to evaluate her seizures (she also has an extremely small head) and he said she will need some Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy. The one good thing he told us, is that he believes Mercy could possibly walk someday, when she gets the strength and proper nutrition she needs. When he said that, a sense of joy came over me. Imagine if this sweet little girl would have the opportunity to use the legs that God gave her! My mind quickly went to our little Elizabeth (Nakato) who was so severely malnourished at 2 ½ years old, who was blind in both eyes and who we never thought we would see walking, talking, etc. Today Elizabeth is our little miracle girl. Mercy can be a miracle girl too!

We went to the Nurse’s room to have the NG tube placed in Mercy’s nose. I knew this was going to be a hard one for me to watch, but I also wanted to be there for Mama Mercy as I knew she was struggling with the thought of this. Goretty was right there by her side as Mama Mercy held Mercy on her lap. When the nurse asked one of us to hold Mercy’s head, I knew I couldn’t do it. Goretty was such a trooper. She stepped right in and helped. I stood back, at a distance, and snapped some photos of the procedure. (I’m such a whimp when it comes to this stuff!) Oh my, this was SO difficult to watch. As they inserted the tube in Mercy’s nose she screamed and cried in pain and gagged profusely. Mama Mercy turned her head away as she couldn’t bear to watch. It was making her queasy. I kept asking Goretty if she was doing okay and she said she was fine. I thank the Lord for Goretty at these times when I am so weak, she is so strong. When they finally got the tube inserted, they tried to show Mama how to pinch the top of the tube, while she would slowly push the syringe filled with the pureed food through the tube in her nose. I could see Mama Mercy squirming in her chair and the stressed look on her face. I knew this was something that would not be easy for her to do. She must have a weaker stomach than mine. 😊

They were trying to demonstrate the process with a little water. Every time they tried to syringe water in the tube, Mercy choked and gagged. My heart was breaking for her, more and more, by each attempt. The nurse finally realized there was a kink in the tube. This meant that they had to pull the tube out and do it all over again with a new tube. Oh why, dear Lord, does this precious baby have to go through this all over again? My heart just ached for her. She cried and screamed, as they tried to insert the next tube. She gagged and choked consistently and poor Mama wasn’t doing much better. I stepped out of the room and apparently after this second attempt, Dr. B. came in. Goretty told me that he scolded the nurses for putting too small of a tube in her nose. They were using a size 10 tube but he had ordered a size 14. Apparently, the larger the tube, the easier to insert (which is confusing to me) and the better the food flows. After they removed the second tube, we were told to have our Nurses, at New Hope Medical Clinic (our new Clinic) put a size 14 tube in when we got home.

As we left the Neurologists office that day, we were all stressed. I told Mama Mercy that I had decided to buy a stroller for now, instead of wheelchair. At least Mercy would be able to sit up, instead of constantly laying, and it would help Mama Mercy from having to carry her everywhere. We were almost to the place where I wanted to look at the stroller’s, when Mama Mercy started to get sick again. What a day it had been! We ended up buying a second-hand stroller. Mama Mercy was SO happy and excited. I know she wasn’t feeling well but she tried her best to show her enthusiasm. We also stopped and picked up a mattress, bed sheets a blanket, super porridge and many vegetables. What Goretty and I decided, on the way home, was that if Mama Mercy would agree to feed Mercy every two hours, with high protein foods and if she agrees to come to New Hope Medical Center once a week to weigh Mercy and to have or Nurses check her, then we would not force the issue of the NG tube. When the twins were so malnourished, this is what we did to help them gain weight and it worked rapidly. The living conditions are not good at Mercy’s home so we were concerned about the hygiene of the feeding tube. And, with Mama Mercy being so squeamish about the feeding tube, we knew it would be very difficult for her to clean it and to feed her without stress. I could see the relief come across Mama Mercy’s face when we told her of our decision.

When we arrived at Mercy’s home, the excitement came over Mama Mercy. She was so grateful and overwhelmed with joy. I hope and pray that the first night on their new mattress, that they were both able to get a good night’s rest. When we were at the Doctor’s office, Mama Mercy had told us that Mercy never sleeps. I would imagine she was suffering from hunger pains, pain from the CP, and pain from the seizures. No wonder she hasn’t been able to sleep. Also, the pain from sleeping on the hard ground, which was causing bedsores. My oh my, life is so hard here. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like, having to live under such dire conditions. I am so blessed to have a warm, comfortable bed to sleep on every night. I pray that I never forget to be grateful for things God has blessed me with.

I want to thank all of our NUMEROUS sponsors who have been so generous in donating money toward our work here in Uganda. You are taking care of people like Mercy and her Mama. None of this would be possible without you. Thank you for loving the people of Uganda and thank you for loving and supporting us. Please keep Mercy in your prayers. She is a very sick little girl and she has a long way to go to get healthy and strong. But God has a plan for His child. I put my trust in Him to use this situation to glorify His name!

In His Amazing Love,
Sharon