He lays on the bed, his limbs tighten, bending in ways they shouldn’t bend, his jaw stuck open and I look at my watch to time his seizures. I turn him onto his side and I stare into his eyes. I beg to Jesus, Make it stop.
In between seizures, I wash his soiled clothes in the basin next to his bed. He can’t understand me, but I still talk to him. I apologize because I’m not very good at hand-washing clothes but I’m trying.
Another seizure starts and I go to his side, caress his arm and sing “Jesus Loves You” choking on the words, “You are weak but He is strong.”
Hours pass before he is seen by a nurse or doctor and my frustrations grow greater. He hasn’t had his anti-seizure medication yet and they haven’t run any tests on him to find out what’s wrong with him. I start to judge the doctors, thinking they have no compassion for this boy.
I ask a nurse for help and I’m quickly humbled. She’s busy taking care of a dead body. She isn’t lacking compassion. She’s taking care of the hundred other dying children in the ward. It’s not their fault there are not enough nurses and doctors.
The seizures continue. More begging to Jesus, Save him, save your child. He slips in and out of consciousness.
He smiles often in his unconsciousness. I’d like to think he’s having good dreams. Dreaming of heaven, of Jesus’ face.
The doctor come and examines him. Everyone asks the same questions.
Who is his caretaker? I am.
Where are his parents? I don’t know.
How old is he? I’m not sure, maybe 13?
Where does he live? At “M1.” He was picked up off the streets.
What is his medical history? I don’t know.
Does he talk? He did on Monday.
Monday, the day Kelsey and I met R. Kelsey spotted him while we were at M1. He couldn’t stand on his own and walked very slowly. The staff at M told us he was mentally ill. Kelsey and I walked him to the room where we have worship. He stood next to us clapping along and holding our hands during Fred’s sermon. Then I heard his small voice whispering, repeating Fred’s prayer to God. Moments later we were in the car on the way to the hospital.
Now, I feel helpless as he convulses again, repeating the only Lugandan word I know: Yesu. Yesu. Yesu. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.
Children are dying all around us, three died in one night, five the next day. I watch his chest rise and fall, checking for signs of life. I call his name and he turns his head and opens his eyes to look at me. Hope rises in me again.
Kelsey comes to take my place at the hospital and we put on worship music for R to listen to.
I can see the light that is coming for the heart that holds on,
And there will be an end to these troubles but until that day comes,
Still I will praise You, still I will praise You.