Sunday, 9 November 2014

A day of rest

Lineo- three weeks old

"I am convinced being generous is a better way to live.  I am convinced having compassion is a better way to live.  Fighting against famine, debt, poverty, oppression, despair, death, slaughter, injustice, loneliness and suffering for all mankind is a better way to live."  R. Bell

Two years ago, Bracelet of Hope held their first annual World AIDS Day event.  November has become an exhausting month as our small team of people work day and night to prepare for this event.  We are deep into the thick of it again this year.  Today I woke up and felt exhausted.  I have days like these, not many, but every once in a while and usually at least one in November.  At that first event I told the story of a child that I treated in Lesotho who died of AIDS.  I'd like to tell it again today.  His name was Lefa.

 Originally told to an audience of 600 on December 1, 2012:

My name is Lefa Kamoka.  I am nine years old.    It is very hard to breath and I have a headache.  I can feel the warmth of my mother’s lap and her arms wrapped around me.  She looks worried.  She always looks worried but today it is more than that.  What is it?  It might be hopelessness.  I can feel her fear.  I think she knows.   I have been sick for a very long time.  I do not remember being well or feeling good but now I can’t breath.  I can’t get the air in and I am so tired.  I rock back and forth, back and forth with my hand on my head hoping there might be some relief……but there is none.  She holds me tighter.  My legs and arms are thin.  I can see the spaces between my ribs.  She is frantic now.   She must know.  I …… know.

I was born in Lesotho and have lived here all my life.   My brother and sister have gone before me.  I am the last of my siblings.  Without me, my mother will be alone.  I don’t remember being happy.  I have never played.  There has never been a time of peace or joy in our lives.   Somehow, I know this is not right.  Children should play.  Everyday should bring joy but I was born in Lesotho and here, many children suffer. 

If my mother had received one pill when she knew I was coming, I would have been well.   Just one pill and my life would have been normal but in Africa and here in Lesotho, it is hard to get this medicine and so, my life will be short, very short. 

I struggle to live.  I struggle to breath.  My mother brought me here where the doctors are.  It took us hours to get here.  She walked with me wrapped on her back.   Two doctors now look at me.  They are white and from a place in the West.  One of them is on her knees in front of me.  She holds my hand and looks into my eyes.  She is worried too.  Now, I am afraid.  I look up to the doctor who is standing beside her.    They look at each other.  He drops his head and shakes it back and forth.   They must know too.  My mother starts to cry. 

I feel their fear but the pain now consumes me.  I close my eyes.  I rock back and forth, back and forth……I cannot breath.  My name is Lefa Kamoka and I was born in Lesotho.

In Beautiful Lesotho.

1.9 million people
300,000 infected with HIV
250,000 AIDS orphans
Many of these orphans are born with HIV as a result of vertical transmission, the transmission of the virus from mother to newborn at the time of delivery

50% of the children born with HIV who do not receive treatment will be dead by the age of two.
80 % by the age of five.

They often die after their parents and in great agony
One pill given at the first contraction virtually prevents transmission

That pill costs $2.99

Lefa’s face is seared into my heart and my soul.  His eyes never leave me.  I will never forget.   On my knees I witnessed this child’s suffering and I will never forget.    Together, my colleague and I have collectively accumulated over 20 years of post-secondary school education, 10 of those from Canadian medical schools considered among the best in the world.   The best the world has to offer in science and medical technology…….. and there we were helpless, absolutely impotent to do anything for this beautiful, anguished child.  Nothing.  We sent him home to die with a small packet of Tylenol.  That’s all there was on that day, in beautiful Lesotho. 

God forgive us.  How did we get here?  In a world of unprecedented wealth, unprecedented advancements in science and technology, how can Lefa and all of the other forlorn, neglected, impoverished and abandoned children of the world be left to die?  I looked up to the God I love and asked, “Why?”   

His answer: 

“You are my hands and feet.  Take action, nothing is impossible.
 To whom much is given, much is expected”

I truly believe this.  Now, two years later, I no longer ask "Why".   I just keep pushing towards the goal.  My hands, my feet have found the place where they must stand, where they need to encourage others to stand, where their work can help create a world in which children live lives that are healthy, joyful and free. 

But today, I will rest.


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