by Sr. Bridie Canavan MMM Ireland 26.07.2023
The night was alive with a thousand eyes. This came to my mind as I looked out at the star-studded sky from the veranda of our desert house in Nakwamoru, Kenya. I was on my way to bed. It was very hot, not a night for sleeping, but tomorrow we had an early start as our Mobile Dispensary team had a long safari before them. We had to do a few hundred vaccinations as well as treating ang ill children. So, the bed beckoned.
Suddenly there was a meaningful knock at the door and the sound of a distressful voice calling “Sister”. A concerned father and mother waited outside – each holding a twin. They were six months old and acutely ill with malaria and anaemia. They had trekked for hours to get to us and in faltering Swahili they entreated me to cure their babies. The babies had burning fever and all the tell-tale symptoms of dehydration. Even the mother’s own skin was dry and tough from the heat and the long travelling without water.
Here in Nakwamoru we are in the midst of the desert and in the dry season; the riverbed is just sand, and more sand. It is hard to believe that this same river can be so swollen in the “long rains” and we are virtually cut off from everywhere.
The babies’ names, Kona and Emuria, both boys, were to become very popular in the weeks ahead. It was an uphill effort at first with very little hope of recovery. But, with the help of the parents and the staff, they were brought through the crisis and everyday it gave us new heart to see them improve.
They were lovely children, especially Kona, who won our hearts with his antics, drawing attention to his first tooth which was forcing its way up through his little gums. Emuria, toothless and a quieter baby, seemed content to take a back seat as long as he got regular feeds!
The story had a happy ending. Two months later the happy parents brought back the two very healthy babies. Kona, now eight months old, still had his hand in his mouth, now caressing his second tooth and flashing his mischievous smile on us all.
How happy I was to see them before I left for home leave in Ireland, leaving the busy health centre in the capable hands of Sr. Canisius and Sr. Margaret.
Desert life has its crosses, but also its consolations and compensations as in the case of Kona and Emuria.
First published in 1988