Thursday, August 16, 2012


I’ve been so so so behind in my blogging, but I have a valid excuse.  I’ve had almost zero internet access for the last couple of weeks. My Facebook stalking is taking a serious hit.  I had a couple other blogs I wanted to write including “Boris Gets Stuck For the First Time in the Mud and is Pulled Out By an Angel With a Chain” and “Things You Didn’t Know Could Mold.”  However, since the time I wrote those blogs in my head I’ve had a rather life changing event occur so I decided I’d write about it instead.  No Mom, I didn’t run off and get hitched. 

I now have a four year old little girl living with me.  The plan is to keep her here for the next two months.  Oh my gosh, I cannot possibly express what a huge change this has been!!  I don’t know if I have ever been as exhausted or overwhelmed or frustrated or filled with such an unbelievable love for this little girl.  Yikes.  So where to begin.

Once upon a time I was at the hospital. Per usual.  My home church was going to have their VBS in a few weeks and the kids were going to do a penny drive to raise money for the hospital.  I wanted to make little videos for them to watch from different parts of the hospital. I went to the OB ward and made a little video of a mom and baby who had been saved by having a C-section, went to the Peds ward to talk about a little kid who was saved by malaria medicine and a blood transfusion…you get the gist.  I went down to the Alpha ward which is our ward for malnourished kids.  That’s where I met “Kadiatu.” 

The first time I met Kadiatu
You can see that while most of the malnourished kids you see on TV are super skinny, Kadiatu doesn’t look that skinny.  Kadiatu has a kind of malnutrition called Kwashikor. Underneath all of that swelling she’s still skinny, but instead of just lacking calories, she’s lacking protein which allows the fluid to seep out where it’s not supposed to, making her swollen all over.  This was Kadiatu’s third admission to the Alpha ward.  She’s 4.  This time she was brought by the police after her uncle took her father to the police station for not taking care of his family.  The purple that she is covered with is called GV paint and they paint it over wounds here.  Her whole lower body and some of her arms and face were covered in wounds.  So this is the story of Kadiatu and I, up to this point.  It’s probably going to be a bit long so feel free to skip ahead during the boring parts (which might be most of it).  J

I’m not sure what it was about this little girl that got to me. I’ve seen hundreds of kids since I got here, and many of them have been sick like Kadiatu.  But for whatever reason, she tugged at my heartstrings and I started spending a lot of time in the Alpha ward.  I was concerned about the wounds covering her body so I took one of the guys that does a lot of dressing changes to the ward and we talked about what we should do.  The wounds covered most of the back of both legs, and her rear end.  We found a special kind of dressing to put on and so began the daily process of changing the dressings while she screamed and cried.  She had diarrhea and could barely stand she was in so much pain, because of the wounds, so keeping her dry was a challenge.  Nevertheless, another ex-pat, Erin and I changed them every day.  After every dressing change I would get her some of these cakes that she likes which were super spicy. She’s definitely an African kid.  I went to Freetown at some point and was gone for probably a week and a half.  Erin kept at the dressing changes and when I came back I was amazed to see how much better her legs were!! There was almost nothing left that still needed to be dressed! It was incredible.

Kadiatu was in the hospital for about a month. During this time, God only knows why, but I was kind of addicted to her. Her eyes were just so empty and I wanted so badly to see her smile!!  Every day during work if it wasn't busy I'd go in there and spend time, reading to her, painting her nails, trying anything to get a reaction. Usually I got absolutely nothing. The look on her face in the picture above was her look. It never changed unless she was crying.  When I tried to engage her she usually just looked at me like she was begging me to stop. It was like she just didn’t have the energy to give any kind of response. It was heartbreaking.

Just before she was to be discharged I had to go to Freetown again. I called every couple days to see how she was doing and they told me her discharge had been postponed because she had malaria again, she wasn't eating well, etc.  One time I texted my friend to check on her and he didn't text back. I texted another friend and she didn't text back either. I was sure she had died and they just didn't want to tell me.  I was relieved when they called later and she was ok. 

It was around this time that I started considering asking her parents if they would like her to come live with me for a little while until she was doing better. I started quietly asking some questions.   Why exactly does this kind of thing happen. Is it just poverty or is there something else going on? One of the nurses in the OB ward who was in charge of the Alpha ward for many years told me that yes, part of it is poverty. But there are often some other factors going on.  Kadiatu is the oldest of 3.  Her mother had just given birth to her third child 9 days before Kadiatu was admitted to the hospital.  When Kadiatu was admitted they actually wanted to admit her younger brother who was also malnourished, but the father would not agree.

One of the things that can happen here is that as the women have children really close together the older ones kind of have to fend for themselves as the younger ones get most of the attention.  My friend suspected that that’s what was happening with Kadiatu. They also said that most likely the husband had another wife who was getting more attention than this wife and her kids.  I haven’t actually asked Kadiatu’s mom if her husband does have another wife (kind of seems like a weird question) so I don’t know if that’s going on in this particular situation, but it’s common. 

I was going to be in Freetown again for a little bit and then my mom and sister were coming so I decided to wait and pray about my offer to let her come stay with me for a while.  I was terrified of making an emotional decision. It would mean a big change for me and the focus of my ministry here and would also obviously be a big change for her.  She barely understands Krio and only speaks her native tribal language.  I'd only heard her say a couple words as her mom said she never talks when she's "sick" like this.  

A couple years ago my pastor was preaching about dreams and ambitions that we get from God. He said that when he gets an idea or dream of something he wants to do, he will pray about it for a month. If it’s not from God it will usually just slip away but if it’s something that God wants him to do, as he prays about it he will just become more passionate about it.  I decided to do that. 

I prayed and prayed and agonized and prayed. I lost sleep over it. I talked to a friend of mine in Freetown who runs an organization that provides food supplementation for malnourishment cases like this.  I told her about Kadiatu, showed her some pictures and asked for her advice.  She gave me two cartons of this stuff they call “plumpy nut” which is like a peanut butter based food supplement with loads of other good stuff in it that’s supposed to pack on the good, healthy pounds. I asked her what other good kinds of food for her to eat would be and she said that really, if she was eating as much plumpy nut as she was supposed to, she didn’t even need to eat anything else.  She also told me something sobering which was that kids like Kadiatu who have that kind of swelling have a 70% chance of dying.  And this was Kadi’s third time being admitted for malnutrition.  It was serious.  

After about 3 weeks into my 4 week prayer time it all of the sudden just seemed clear to me.  I would leave Kadiatu in the village but take her plumpy nut every day to every other day.  See, there are a couple problems with the plumpy nut.  It tastes good, and is therefore valuable.  If you give it in large quantities to the mothers, it will often be shared with the whole family if not more people, or it will be sold.  We often find it for sale in the market in our village.  Kadiatu lives about 20 minutes away from my own village so I just decided I would go take her the plumpy nut every day to every other day.  That would also allow me to keep a good eye on her.  So how did I end up with this epiphany of having her stay in the village to now having a new roommate?  Tune in tomorrow….or the next time I have internet, to find out.  J


  1. Hate it when you leave us hanging!! :)

  2. Ditto what Bethany said!!! Praying for you Emily!
    Wanita Canifax

  3. amiga!! love to read your blog. estoy orando mucho por ti. abrazos y bendiciones.
    i want to know more about kadiatu and your life.