In our monthly updates I attempt to introduce one of the children at The Pines. I want to give an update here of a small boy named Boetie Boetie. This is not his real name, but rather a nickname meaning "little brother". This boy is currently 7 years old, although to look at him, you would probably guess he's more like 5.
We received him at The Pines in late May this year, and of all the children we have, he had the most difficult transition. Usually, the children adjust quickly without crying at all. You must remember that the kids we get have usually been neglected or even abandoned, so for them to receive good food and loving care is more than they have probably ever known. Boetie Boet however was a little different. He is a very sensitive boy by nature, and has been through more in his short life than any of us can ever imagine.
He was referred here through a sister organization we work with called Morningstar. Morningstar is a Christian daycare run for HIV+ children who come from the poorest homes. The director of Morningstar had tried to get him placed with us when we first opened, due to his unhealthy living environment, but the government placed him with another person for care. In fact, we were recently looking through some old pictures and found a photo of him visiting here at the grand opening, almost a year before we were able to take any kids at all.
Boetie Boet's family was very unstable and he was not getting the proper care and nutrition that he needed. Fortunately he was receiving some care and nourishment through Morningstar or he wouldn't be alive with us today. I'm not sure the exact timeframe, but I believe about a year or so ago he was orphaned, and went to live with another adult who agreed to take him in. In situations like this, the government gives a small grant for the care of the child, but it is barely enough to feed a small child. Oftentimes people will take in several children in order to collect the grant money for them, but whether or not the funds actually are used for the care of the child is very much a concern. It seems this may have been the case in Boetie Boet's situation.
Finally, in May the government removed him from the place he was staying and put him with us. For 3 days straight he cried, and not just wimpering, but full blown sobbing. Finally he stopped crying, and after about a month we were able to get him to smile and play with other children. Many of the children when they first arrive are infected with TB, and such was the case with Boetie Boet. He began treatment, and doctors tell us that once treatment begins they are no longer contagious. In addition to TB he had other various ailments that frequently accompany an HIV compromised immune system, such as ringworm, common colds, etc... After several months of living at The Pines, his overall condition seemed to improve, but some of these symptoms would not go away, so we took him to the medical clinic for a checkup.
At this checkup the doctors determined he may still have active TB, and they ordered him to be admitted to the hospital immediately for treatment. This was three weeks ago. After initial admission he began treatment but it seemed to have no affect. The doctors began then to suspect he is infected with a resistant strain of TB, which they currently are unsure how to treat. It takes at least 6 weeks for the tests to come back, and after that time a plan will be made on how best to proceed. As far as we have been told he would have to go into isolation treatment at a hospital about 2 hours away from here from 9 months to a year.
At the public hospital patients are given meals, but often not in a manner suitable for small children. For instance, they may receive an orange, but it wouldn't be peeled. Also, between meals they are pretty much on their own. They basically just sit in their small bed with nothing to do. It is the responsibility of family to provide any other needs a child might have. We have been able to send someone every day to sit with him, but obviously if he is sent to the other hospital that may become prohibitive. Since he is already behind the eight ball when it comes to school and development we have made a distinct effort to provide stimulation for his mind. He has a good stack of coloring books, crayons, small toys, story books, and K-level schoolwork. Everyday he is read to and played with. Actually, when I have been there he seems to be the life of the party, even though it is completely contradictory to his normal personality. The whole time I am there children from all over the ward come to borrow his crayons and coloring pages, or return toys he has lent them. It seems he finds more joy sharing with the other kids than playing with things himself.
One day while I was visiting with him we talked about Jesus. He knows what sin is, and he knows what Jesus did for us, and while I was there that day he stopped right in the middle of our conversation so he could pray for forgiveness for his sins. I don't know if he had ever done that before, and obviously God sees the heart, but we pray for each of our kids here that they would know the freedom and joy that comes with assurance of eternal life.
Here is a young boy who has spent more time in his life at the hospital than at school. He has seen friends come and go, some through discharge, others not. When he first arrived at the hospital he went through the same transition as when he arrived here. For the first 10 days whenever one of us would visit he would just start weeping uncontrollably, wanting to come home. Now, he tells the Mama's when they visit that he knows he is sick and doesn't want to leave until he gets completely better. When we visit now, instead of asking to come home, he asks that we bring him this toy or that. One frequent request is that we bring a computer so he can play Mario Bros. (a favorite on the classroom computers here at The Pines). It is still difficult when his friends leave, or when he is moved to another ward, but he is taking it nicely. We continue to pray that he will be healed and returned to us quickly, but we are encouraged by the small progress we see every day. Pray with us.