As we approach Mother’s Day — an event that is not celebrated in our home — I wonder if we can appreciate the difficulties faced by a child who has no mother, or has only a mother with no ability to care and nurture.
Last Friday, I got a phone call telling me that Sikumbe brought a young man from Chibolya into town so that I could take him to the hospital. (Chibolya is a compound so tough that even the police don’t go there. It is inhabited by criminals, a place for drug dealers and thieves to hide; a place you can by anything you desire from drugs to guns to little boys and girls for sex.) Needless to say, I was not thrilled by this new task that God had set before me!
When they got to town, the boys phoned me to tell me this patient was going to be very difficult and I should come. I met them at Kamwala Clinic only to learn that we had to take him straight to UTH because he needed oxygen and was refusing treatment. He was so stoned that he did not even know he was sick. He could hardly breathe and was coughing up blood. Not wanting him to die on my watch, I shouted at him at the top of my voice right there in the clinic. I told him that if he was not going to let us treat him, then we would drop him at the mortuary right now and he could wait there to die. After the shouting match, he did agree to go to the hospital.
I sat with him there while he screamed in pain and cried, “Mamio, mamio,” (mother, mother) “help me!” He was delirious, but because he was high on cocaine-laced marijuana, he did not sleep. Each time he cried, I went to him, rubbed his back, held him and said, “I’m here — it will be ok.” He would look and say, “Ok, Mamio,” and then nod off for a bit.
We got him oxygen and the next day learned he was HIV-positive and dying of AIDS-related pneumonia. There was not much we could do to help him. When we told him that, he began to insist that he should leave the hospital and go back to Chibolya. He’s 19, a habitual drug user for many years and dying of pneumonia. There was nothing we could do. Evalisto and Webby did the best they could to get him to stay, the nurses were diligent and caring, and yet — as soon as he was strong enough to walk, he left the hospital.
These are times when I asked God, “Why did you bring him to me, only to go back to an inevitable death in the streets?” And I always hear the same resounding answer — “So that they may know a mother’s love before they leave this Earth.”