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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Meet Atlehang

For anyone who follows Restoring Hope on Facebook, you've probably seen our posts about Atlehang.    For the rest of you, here is an introduction into the newest member of our Village family.

Atlehang came into our care in March this year.  We had been over capacity, but our youngest girl, 'Ntsieki was placed back into her mother's care early this year (and seems to be doing well).  While that was a very difficult experience, it opened a space for us to receive a new child.  Atlehang is that child.

At 9 years old, she only weighs 27 lbs.  To give you some perspective, the average 2 year old weighs about the same.  She came to us very sick and malnourished.  In fact, she spent her first 2 weeks under our care in the public hospital.  She was discharged for a week and then readmitted for another 10 days.  Lois and Abby oversaw daily visits to the hospital.  Mama Selina and the teenage girls were faithful in their attendance and Dieketseng began bringing her guitar so they could sing to Atlehang and the other patients in her room.  Not many of the kids get visitors that actually bring some cheer with them, so even the doctors and nurses began to stop by to listen to our girls sing.

Her illnesses have ranged from HIV to thrush.  Many of her medical problems are the result of inconsistent care.  Since HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus, it stands to reason that people suffering from this disease tend to contract other illnesses quite easily.  She had been bounced between several different family members for care, finally settling with a very elderly and frail grandmother.    The Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ARV's) that HIV+ people use are very strictly to be administered at 12 hour intervals.  Because of her inconsistent care she frequently defaulted on her medication, leading to a host of other ailments.

Normally an HIV+ person qualifies for ARV treatment when their CD4 count (the white blood cells that fight infection) drops below 200.  Atlehang's CD4 count is 2, meaning she has basically no immune system whatsoever right now.  It is possible that her CD4 levels will rise, but it will take time.

Our daughter Meredith, who is 7 years old, was carrying Atlehang around on her hip like a toddler at church.  Out of the hospital now she seems to be doing as well as can be hoped.  She still struggles with health issues but God has provided strength for her in the last couple weeks.  A big part of that is a healthy diet, a warm and secure home environment, and knowledge that she is loved.  Her face is filling out and she is starting to put on some weight.  In fact, in the short time she's been here we had to increase her clothing size from 4T to bigger clothing (for all you guys out there reading, my wife informs me that 4T is meant to be worn by the average 4 year old).

Since she is so weak and sickly she hasn't attended school much.  Even now we haven't sent her to school because of weakness and fear of exposure to so many other illnesses.  Instead, Abby Hall (volunteering at RHI for 12 months) has been tutoring her one-on-one.  Abby has done a great job and it seems that she and Atlehang have developed a special bond.

Just because she's been so weak and sickly doesn't mean she is without personality.  She has a strong will and wacky sense of humor.  You can see it is an effort for her to smile sometimes, but when she does smile it lights up her whole face.  We hear from the other girls that when she is falling asleep, when she just wakes up, or sometimes just in the middle of the night she bursts out into song.  Sometimes in Sotho, sometimes in English, at 2:00am no one seems to enjoy it but her!

Please keep Atlehang in your prayers, for her health, her growth and her spiritual life.


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