When you work at a place where you meet about 20 new faces every week, after a while, you begin to see a lot of familiar faces on follow-up clinics. Nyeri is one of our new mobile clinics, and because of this, it’s not so busy and there are just a few familiar faces coming back for review. On one of our recent visits, we got to Nyeri as usual around 9:00 A.M and as usual, we started off with prayers.
As we were engaging the patients standing outside to help with registration, I noticed a familiar face in the small crowd that was slowly growing. It was a lady with a baby on her back. I looked at the baby’s face and was sure it was a face I had seen before. She was now a bit restless on her mothers back, so her mother let her down. She made a few steps, running around her mother and back to her mother’s arms like a little bird that had just learning to fly. She showed no sign of any deformity, so I started to wonder if I really knew this child. Just then, the mother looked in my direction and smiled. She knew me. She started walking in my direction, smiling, holding her hand forward for a handshake. We exchanged greetings and then pointing at her daughter, she said: “See how she is running effortlessly,” face beaming with pride and joy. “God is so great.”
it all came back, flooding my mind. I knew this baby! She had been one of our favorite babies in the ward. She had grown up so fast. This was baby Shanice and her mother, Lucy.
Lucy began to tell me how excited she was that her daughter was walking. “It’s only been a few weeks since she started walking. I never thought she would ever walk,” she told me. I asked her if it was okay to share her story with others. “In fact, it was a video someone showed me of a child walking with a prosthesis that gave me so much hope when I was really down. Maybe my story can give such hope to someone out there,” she responded.
“It all started when she was born. When I got to the hospital the day I was delivering her, I had to have a cesarean. I did not expect it because the other two kids, I had them through normal delivery. But anyway, that all turned to joy when I found out that I had been blessed with a girl. I had been really praying for a girl. Then in the midst of my joy, the nurse asked me if I had seen her leg. She showed me [Shanice’s] leg then started to ask me all these questions about prenatal clinics. Then one of the nurses told me not to worry, it was nothing that couldn’t be fixed. But this was just too much for me to take. I couldn’t think, I just started crying. They tried talking to me to calm me down but I could not just take it in. So, in my head, I decided these people would talk and talk and when they are done talking, I would go take the baby and get rid of her.”
As I listened to this story, Shanice was nearby playing by a flower bed, oblivious to what was happening: her story being narrated. Instead, she was plucking off leaves from a plant and throwing them in the air, having fun with whatever her hands could reach. It was hard to imagine that this lovely, energetic baby was the character in this sad story.
“I could not just imagine how I would take a crippled baby home,” Lucy continued. “I was trying to look back and think of all the people I knew and none of them were disabled. I could just not imagine how life would be for her. Plus, my first born is in high school and my second born is now in grade five, I tried to imagine how I would explain it to them. I started regretting getting a third child. I started asking myself why I could not just have been satisfied with two kids. I remember when I saw my husband for the first time that day, I started crying. When he saw my tears he said to me, ‘Don’t worry, I know you wanted a girl but even if you got a boy it’s still very okay. He is still our baby.’ When I told him that it was a girl he was confused. He thought I should be rejoicing since I had gotten what I had been praying for. I then told him that she had a deformity. He had all these questions, I just told him that I couldn’t explain, he just had to wait to see to understand what I was talking about. When he left I started again thinking of how I wasn’t going to go home with her.
We were just the two of us there and for a while, I refused to breastfeed her. But then I was looking at her and she was looking at me and I couldn’t think of how I could do anything bad to her. I thought of my first born at home. He loves to ride bikes. And I thought to myself, if one day he had an accident and became crippled, would I disown him? Then God reminded me that my second born had been in road accidents three times and he wasn’t injured in any of them. And I asked myself: ‘Would I have also disowned him too if worse had happened in those accidents?’ So I thought to myself if I tried anything bad, the Lord was watching.”
By now Shanice was getting bored playing with leaves and wanted some attention. She came over to the bench, sat on her mother’s knees, and started making some cooing noises all directed to her mother for some attention.
“Then I couldn’t just take it anymore, so I fed her,” Lucy continued. “But things were just good when we were the two of us. Anybody from home coming to see us at the hospital would remind me that we would still have to face reality, and I would start crying again. Some of the nurses at that hospital were not so nice, they would tell me to get used to this because there’s nothing that can be done so it was better I moved on. Thankfully, before I left the hospital, there was one orthopedic doctor who came by my bed and told me about getting an artificial limb for her. He explained to me how that would work and told me that I could find help in Kijabe. That gave me some hope. We were soon discharged but when we went home, I started having a lot of pain in my stomach so after a few days, we went back to the hospital and I had to go for another surgery. When we got home after I was discharged, Shanice fell ill. She had pneumonia and we were back to the hospital yet again. That was really a hard time for me.”
By now Shanice was on her feet and clearly wanting her mother’s attention. Lucy reached for her handbag and handed her several sweets. That brought a smile back to Shanice and she was off entertaining herself again. I listened intently as Lucy finished her story.
“When we were finally discharged for the third time, I already had dates for the CURE mobile clinic in Embu and I was so much looking forward to meeting the doctors from CURE. So much so that the day of the clinic, I was there by 7:30 AM. I needed a solution to all this. I even had carried clothes. I thought they would see me, and we would go back to Kijabe with them for treatment. However, when they saw her, they told me that they couldn’t give me anything conclusive. She was too small, they needed x-rays to make a decision on the way forward. They talked to me and told me to let her grow a little. Well, I waited, but I was very paranoid. I wasn’t letting anyone near my baby and every time I would see people talk around me, I would think they were talking about her.
When she was around three months, we went back for the mobile clinic and the doctors told me to still give her some more time. Then finally the third time they asked for her x-ray. I still had hope that they would just straighten her leg and we would go home with her having a normal leg. But then they confirmed my worst fear: the doctor explained to me that the only option for a solution they had was to amputate the leg and give her a prosthesis. What I remember happened then is I went outside and started crying. Thank God for that doctor, I can’t remember his name, but he followed me outside and asked me if I had come alone. He took me back inside the room and he really tried talking to me until I was a little calm. He then told me not to come alone on the next appointment.
I still had hope of another decision so when I came the fourth time to the mobile clinic, I still came alone. And when the doctor still confirmed the same decision, I started to cry again. But, staff from CURE directed me to one of the guys who was with the team, Francis. Francis is the one who showed me a video of another baby who was about two years old. He had a problem like my daughter’s and had artificial limbs. He was walking and you couldn’t even tell that he had had his legs cut. That video just gave me so much hope. That’s when I finally went home and told my husband about Shanice getting an amputation.
Yes, all this time I had not told anyone about the option of an amputation, not even my sister. They didn’t even know about the clinics. When I told my husband, it was also hard for him to take it in, so he told me that the next clinic he would come with me to get the information firsthand. So we were both in agreement and planned and traveled to Kijabe. We got there and the next day it was surgery day for her. The minute she got out of my hands to go to the operation room, I started to cry all over again. It was hard to imagine that her leg was being chopped off. The other mothers in the ward tried to talk to me, but it was just hard. Anyway, the surgery went really well and there were no complications. We went home and came back after a while and she was fitted for the prosthesis which we then came back and collected.
A few weeks ago, she started walking on her own — something I had never thought would happen and I tell you, through all that, I have experienced God. At home, people stand and stare. They ask each other if this is the same kid, and I am always quick to say yes, this is the same girl, and it’s all God’s doing. You can’t even tell she has an artificial limb. God is great.”