Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Maggie is hanging in there.

 It’s a slim grip, but she is doing it.

 We have had several children come to us with Kwashiorkors. Johnny was one, Denny another. Both recovered remarkably quickly.

 Johnny especially only needed the first level of special milk and then moved straight on to normal meals. He was in fairly good shape for having spent most of his life in a semi-abandoned state as his mother suffered from mental illness and just wandered the village while relatives or neighbors made sure she and Johnny didn’t die of starvation.

Denny was a more difficult case with his development seriously hindered by lack of nutrition. His face still bears the scars of malnourishment in its slightly hangdog look. He has mostly caught up now, but did take him several months.

Maggie however spent a couple weeks on F75 which is the first level of special milk, while her body stabilized and the swelling subsided. She has now been on the F100 (the second level milk with a higher calorie content) for nearly three weeks while we wait for her weight to get closer to normal. 

Two weeks ago when I finally saw that the edema (swelling) had finally left Maggie, I weighed her hoping to see good news. Unfortunately her weight had dropped from the 6 kilos at the time she joined our family to 5.1 kgs. My heart sunk. I knew rationally that some of the weight loss was due to the loss of the fluids which had caused the swelling. I had hoped though that there would be more actual weight gain. We had been diligently feeding her around the clock. Why hadn’t she gained weight? 

I called our clinical officer and asked him to run an HIV test. In reading over my malnutrition treatment manual I saw that this could be a reason for a child to not gain weight. Would you judge me if you knew that I actually halfway hoped for a positive result which would mean she had the virus? If she was HIV positive I knew we could combat that with medicine. We’ve had huge success in bringing kids back from the brink once they got on the ARVs (anti-retroviral drugs). I knew what we could do. I just wanted to be able to fix it.

She has been remarkably free of illness. Many children in her state are also fighting off secondary infections and dealing with diarrhea and vomiting which slow down their progress. She has had none of that. Just a frustrating inability to gain weight. So I didn't really expect to find out she was sick.

Maggie’s test came back negative. I breathed a sigh of relief. The poor girl has had enough to deal with. But, if not due to HIV then what was stopping her from gaining weight??

Then! Finally! A few grams on the plus side of the scale. The next day a few more. Then a few hundred. The next day a couple hundred dropped off, but the next day more came on. It has been a gradual process but over the six days proceeding my trip to Lusaka Maggie gained an average of 36 grams per day. I’ll take it!

The other day missionary friends dropped by for a visit. They brought along their 7 month old baby. Aside from the obvious skin color differences, it was painfully obvious how sick Maggie is when she sat next to this other healthy baby. Our friends' baby dwarfed her. It would have been comical if it wasn't so sad. Another glaring difference was how this seven month old baby never stopped moving. She grabbed toys from Maggie, crawled around, came back, put things in her mouth and then grabbed a toy again. 

Maggie on the other hand just sat there looking at the world through her big eyes. She would half-heartedly play along and even mimicked my friend when she tapped out a beat using a plastic spoon and bowl, but most of the time she just sat and occasionally gave big sighs. 

Every morning when I collect her from the nursery for weighing on our digital kitchen scale, she looks at me with what I can only describe as bemusement. I place her on the scale, look carefully at the numbers and then clap and cheer when there is gain, or give extra cuddles when there isn't. I wonder what is going through her mind. 

There is still a long way to go until Maggie is completely well. She needs your prayers. Keep them coming, please!

Exactly One Year Ago: Africa Wins This Round
Exactly Two Years Ago: Sundays in My City--Kickball
Exactly Three Years Ago: Random Ramblings (in which we introduce our monkey)


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