Often times when we talk about working in a hospital people's first thought is "That must be so depressing." It's true that it can be really hard. I have moments when all I can think about is the future these kids might never see. However, working in a hospital has also allowed us to learn about taking advantage of every moment, never giving up, and bravely facing problems.
Mercy is a little girl who I have become good friends with in the past week. She has a large tumor covering one side of her neck and part of her face. When I first met her, she was shy and self-conscious. She turned her head when I had a camera to try and hide the tumor. She didn't talk much and didn't like making eye contact. Now, just one week later, she seems like a different girl. She hugs me instead of shaking my hand, we make menus and place mats for our little restaurant, and we dance down the pathways singing the few Swahili songs I've managed to learn. I've taught her games and she's done my hair. I walk her back to her ward at the end of the day, but she comes back and waits until we leave. She smiles face-forward when I pull out my camera and she looks absolutely beautiful.
Charles is a cancer patient. He's about 10 or 11 years old and has been in the hospital for a very long time. His dad is gone and his mom is severely mentally challenged. Charles has undergone chemotherapy and, though it's probable he will have to return, he has been told that he can leave the hospital as soon as the bill has been paid. With no parents to support him, Charles relies on his uncle, who lives in Uganda for support. He talks to his uncle on the phone and is reassured that the uncle is trying very hard to raise the money for the bill and will come to get him as soon as he can. With this hope Charles wakes up early every morning, puts on normal clothes instead of hospital scrubs, and goes to the gate to wait for someone to take him home. He returns to the gate every afternoon, searching for a familiar face. Yes, it may seem sad or even silly for this boy to wait every day just to be disappointed again and again. But I think that the hope that Charles holds onto that someone will eventually come is what gets him through the day and motivates him not to give up.
Today I made a new friend. His name is Abraham. I'm not exactly sure what's wrong with him, but it is very difficult for him to walk. The nurses want him to stay in the wheelchair. His unsteady hobbling makes them nervous, but Abraham refuses to sit and watch the other children play. When I first saw him this morning he was attempting to wheel himself over the mulch to get to the swing set. I grabbed the back of his chair and started to turn him. Thinking I was taking him away he started to protest, but stopped when he saw that I was simply turning him onto a smoother route to the swings. I helped him onto the swing and started pushing. Motivated by this activity, Abraham started walking around the playground; climbing things and going down the slides. I don't know how painful or difficult it was for him to walk around (it definitely did not look easy) but he had a blast doing things just like a normal kid. I'm sure that he wouldn't have been able to play like that without the help of the hospital and I'm excited to watch as Abraham gets even better.
I'm so in awe of all of these kids. They know what they're facing and are still able to laugh and play. They are often in pain and they continue to try their hardest and play like nothing is wrong. They know that they might never leave the hospital but they are still curious about the world around them and continue to learn life skills. I admire them so much and am so glad that I've had the opportunity to get to know them.