UPDATE 9/3: After having severe stomach pain Brian was taken to the hospital again. It was found that he has an obstruction in his lower stomach that may have been caused by the poison. They were initially going to do surgery, but he started progressing, so they opted to see if he will get better without it first. He will be in the hospital until at least Thursday. If he has made enough progress he will be discharged by the end of the week; if he is is unable to eat whole foods he will have to get surgery to remove the obstruction.
You can help support Brian by donating at kissitointernational.org/donate.aspx and typing Brian in the Special Instructions box. All of the donations will go to his hospital bills and, hopefully soon, his school fees as well.
Sitting on the couch, drinking a mango juice box, Brian is completely engulfed in the cartoon show on the TV. No one knows for sure, but it might be the first time he has ever watched a television show and although he can’t understand most of the English words he seems to enjoy the characters – laughing when they laugh, staring with longing when they seem sad. He speaks Luguiso, like the majority of children from the eastern Uganda region, though since he’s been at the KHI compound, he hasn’t spoke much at all. He understands most hand gestures, and will respond with a nod of his head when you rub your tummy like you’re hungry, or pretend to tilt a cup up to your mouth. He seems happy enough, although his true feelings remain a mystery for now. One thing is certain though, and that is the fact that he probably never imagined he would be where he is now, when less than a month ago he was on the brink of death.
It was a Saturday afternoon and Carolina Tovar, a KHI volunteer was working at the Bugobero health center when the police came in with a little boy. He was 11, but was so frail and malnourished, that at first glance he didn’t seem any older than 6. They said a boda driver had found him lying in the middle of the road, and took him to the police station a few miles away. When the police started asking the boy questions he was so sick he could barely talk. He told them that he was sure his mother had poisoned him. She gave him a mendazi, a staple breakfast food, and told him to stay put; she was going to the Kenyan border and would be back in a couple of hours – it had been days since then.
Often times if a father leaves his family, the mother cannot support the children on her own. When she meets a new man it’s a possibility that he will want his own children with her. Although, not acceptable in any culture, it is not uncommon to hear about a mother abandoning her children when tempted with the promise of a better life. Brian is one of those unfathomable statistics.
Christine, the head nurse at the hospital had been walking through the villages trying to find his home or even a distant relative that would be able to take care of him, or at the very least sign paperwork for him. She came back empty handed; not a single person knew who Brian’s family was.
A man from the church in the village, Mufumbo Alex, had never met Brian but decided to care for him while he was in the hospital. Weeks later you could still find him next to the bed. He did not have a dollar to his name, nor a roof to sleep under; not a thing to offer Brian but company and love. He gave it unconditionally though, and that seemed to be enough.
The staff at Bugobero was able to stabalize him, but after about 24 hours they decided he would need an ultrasound. In order to get one he would need to take the two hour drive to the regional referral hospital. Carolina decided she could not let him stay there alone, and the KHI team decided together that we would bring him to the private hospital to make sure he had the best care, and if needed we would pay for the cost ourselves.
He spent two weeks in the hospital, and after numerous test and x-rays it was decided that he would need surgery in order for his stomach to heal. He was so brave the entire time, braver than any 11 year old should ever have to be.
Day by day you could see the strength come back into his body. Slowly but surely he was beginning to look like a happy young adult. He was able to sit up, and then walk on his own. Kissito volunteers were bringing him porridge at first, but is wasn’t long before he was able to eat rice and beans and chicken.
Before we knew it, it was time for him to be discharged…
… and go home.
We sat around the living room one night taking about the options for him when he left the hospital. He could stay at Bugobero for a while, but no kid (or adult even) would want to live at the hospital. He could sit at the police station until they find an orphanage for him, but he could be there for weeks or months, with no promise of food or his medicine. It didn’t take long before we realized what he had to do. When you have a house with empty rooms, and extra food every night, how could we not let him stay there?
So that’s exactly how it happened, and he’s been here almost two weeks now. He is still malnourished, and has a number of health problems, but he gets stronger every day. He is still a ways away from recovery, but is growing stronger every day.
We hope to find a family member, or someone in the village that knows him and will take him in for good. If not we will eventually find an orphanage that is good enough to provide for him; not just food and shelter, but education, guidance and compassion.
As much as we want him to, we know he can’t stay forever. It will be just as hard to let him go as it was to see him for the first time. As hard as it’s going to be though, it will be worth it, knowing we changed his story, and saved his life.
We may not be able to save the world, but as the quote goes “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire,” and because of the compassion of Mufunbo Alex, the staff at the hospital, and the KHI team – Brian has the entire world ahead of him.
To stay up to date with Brians recovery visit us on Facebook and Twitter. Or, if you want to sponsor Brian, you can donate directly to him by simply typing Brian in the Special Interest box. All of the contributions will go to his hospital bills and his integration back into a normal life.