Wednesday. My day to visit the hospitalized children in the HIV/AIDS ward at the national children’s hospital in Kyiv. Typically Jim teaches medical English to the doctors here also on Wednesday, but this week was a bit different. No lessons, but we wanted to see everyone after our time away. We checked in with the doctors…who were very excited to see us back in the country. Two of Jim’s students had babies while we were gone and so are currently at home. Never even knew they were pregnant — oh how lab coats can hide baby bumps! I can’t wait to see those little ones! Jim was able to catch up with the conditions of some of the children as he reconnected with the doctors.
As we left the office and headed to the ‘waiting’ area — waiting for the children to awaken from afternoon naps — I was greeted with a huge hug from one young boy. He started rambling on a mile a minute and then remembered that he needed to slow down for me to understand him. He was so patient as I struggled to get my foreign language brain into Ukrainian gear. He wanted to know just what was in our bag…nothing. Sidewalk chalk for everyone to share. No individual gift. He has perfected the pitiful look — head down, lips pouting. But he knows we have his number…we don’t fall for that look from him!
One of my favorite moms came down the hall next, looking tired and thin. She managed a sweet smile and gave me a hug. I asked about her daughter — a champion bingo player — and she said that she can no longer sit up. Because of some deterioration of the vertebrae…this is being written by a non-medical person…she must stay flat in her bed and wears a corset when sleeping. I asked if I could visit her in her room and her mother said, “Of course.”
I went into her room and was honestly quite shocked at the sight of the little girl we had left just a few months ago. A child who previously looked frail and gaunt was now puffed into twice her size. I went to her bedside and smiled at her. She focused and then smiled back…a weak smile. Not letting on that she was in great pain. I took her hand and showed excitement as I noticed her fingernail polish. Another smile. But then she got more and more tired. I stroked her arm and squeezed her hand and challenged her to squeeze back. She asked why I had not been there for so long. I explained that I was visiting grandsons in America. She stared at the ceiling and her eyes began to close. I asked her if she was tired and she said that she was. I asked her if she wanted to go to sleep and she said yes. I stood up, kissed my finger and placed the kiss on her cheek. She grinned the biggest grin of the day, kissed her own finger and put it on my cheek.
It was hard for me to leave the room. And hard to tell Jim what she looked like. Well, hard to not start crying like a baby. She’s a fighter…but I’ve been told that she’ll never be able to sit up again.
Praying for these children. And their families.