We have a marvelous group of Ukrainians dedicated to the care of HIV+ orphans admitted to a local city hospital. I’m thankful that they have a sense of humor (evidenced by Viktor as he models a hat that Olga had purchased for a young girl).
Most of you know that on Fridays I have the distinct privilege of spending several hours at the hospital simply hugging, cuddling, stroking, feeding, and loving these little ones. Their status is unknown, other than they were born to HIV+ mothers and have been abandoned. They may or may not be infected with this dreaded virus, but are basically isolated from unaffected children until they reach the age of 18 months and tests reveal whether they themselves are HIV+ or not.
I often take friends with me and love to watch them interact with the children. A week ago I took a sister, a niece, and the daughter of one of our favorite missionary couples in Kyiv, Doug and Suzie Stoddard. There was nothing too routine about this visit, beginning with a woman in the hall wondering why we were there! I had suggested to our foursome to just keep walking and smile. We entered “our” room, and our friend on duty was nowhere to be seen. Unfortunately, the hall woman followed us and then asked us to wait outside the door just inside the main entrance.
I was never so happy to see Olga heading back to the room with a 3-month-old in her arms. She confirmed that we were legitimate caregivers and we humbly walked back to the room. A second little one was all bundled, including the mandatory hat, and slept the entire time we were there.
I fed little Viktoria and smiled as I studied her face. So precious. And her taupe eyes made ready contact with mine as she downed her formula. I learned later that she had not been eating well earlier…and I’m convinced that holding her, talking to her, and looking in her eyes may have helped her to relax and eat. After a hearty burp, our guests took turns holding her.
She kept great eye contact with Megan, even with her one somewhat lazy eye.
I was a bit surprised at how many times doctors and nurses came in and looked at her, poked and pressed her stomach and liver, and talked among themselves. My medical terminology is not what I would call fluent in ANY language, but I could recognize a few terms and knew that they were concerned.
The head doctor returned to the room and informed me that she needed an analysis. Blood test. Would we be willing to pay for her needed test? I told him that I needed to call Jim with the amount though I already knew that, of course, if she needed a blood test we would be willing to pay for it. (Free health care, eh?!)
Olga bundled her up and the doctor escorted them to another building. We said our good-byes for the day as she went out the door. Not the most normal Friday afternoon, but all seemed well. We soon left the hospital ourselves.
Monday evening we served dinner at our flat to our valued team. We like to meet regularly to get to know each other outside of the hospital setting as well as to learn how we might do what we do better. We value their feedback and want to be sure that those at the hospital are treating them fairly.
When asked about Viktoria, Olga had more of her story to share. On Monday, our little patient had two spells in which she turned blue. Olga provided CPR and saved this little life. (And we’re asked from time to time whether we really need to be paying our team to be in this room for 8 hours a day. Uh…yes! Without Olga’s immediate response, the nursing staff would have most likely found her dead in her crib when they made regular rounds to check on all children.)
Olga said that Viktoria was whisked to the ICU where she still was fighting for her life. When Olga returned to our room another little miniature had been admitted. A little girl with no name (though our ladies have named her Lucia), less than a month old, and suffering from a serious heart condition. She was scheduled for surgery later in the week.
On Tuesday morning, Viktor, our social worker friend and teammate, called our flat. I’m glad that I was in my language lesson so that Jim had to take the call. Viktor wanted us to know that Viktoria had died. Still no definitive diagnosis.
Please pray for our team who pour out love and attention day in and day out to these orphans. I feel like they’re MY children and I only invest a few hours a week with them. I can only imagine the sadness in the hearts of those who are there everyday.
May God use even this little one’s death to His glory. May watching staff observe the tenderness exhibited by our team and realize the value of each little life that comes through their ward.
Our work is not always easy. We don’t always see what we would consider a positive outcome. But we don’t see the whole picture. God does. And He is at work.