Among my travels this week, I spent some time at the Kimbilio Hospice run by my friend Juli McGowan through her ministry, Living Room International. Kimbilio mean “refuge” in Kiswahili.
I have written about this refuge and about Juli before. Juli is a wonderful nurse practitioner who has built this lovely place where very sick, poor forgotten people — people seemingly beyond hope – receive care and have a resting place . Some of her patients do die in her hospice care from terminal illnesses, but they have someone tending to their needs and keeping them comfortable. Others, like her assortment of severely malnourished children, can actually recover and have somewhat normal lives if someone goes through the immense work of feeding them and helping their bodies and spirits to recover. This is not my area of expertise, but I’ve promised to help her whenever and however I can.
After seeing some very sick and sad little children, I spent some time with a patient who Juli first had me see back in 2011. Juli and both remember looking at this child and looking at each other and thinking, “What on earth can we do?” I did not think this little girl was going to live, and we were really taking it one day at a time with her.
This is what I wrote about her then:
The Living Room currently has a very sick 8-year-old girl who weighs only 13 pounds (6 kilos!). Frail little C came out of a horribly sad situation, where she has not received the care she needed for a very long time. The extent of her weakness and malnutrition were among the worst I have ever seen, and it is a struggle to imagine that her body could recover from this. The general idea at the Living Room has been to hold her and to feed her (which has to be done through a very careful process when a child is this malnourished). So far, the small steps seem to be sustaining her. Even more amazing is C’s sweet personality. Despite being too weak to lift her head, she will smile when someone calls her name. And when one of the caregivers holds her and sings to her, she laughs softly. Small steps and even this damaged body may have hope again.
Little C, smiling despite all, in 2011:
Well, C lived. She is still at the Kimbilio Center, and she still smiles and laughs. They have taken excellent care of her. She doesn’t have the ability to move very much, but when you talk to her or sing to her or touch her face gently, she smiles the very biggest smile and laughs.
It is a joy that she lives. And, in her own way, she lights up a room.
C, this week: