Imagine that you are a fifteen-year-old mom with a 5-month-old baby (a really cute baby). Your grandma died 2 weeks ago in a nearby hospital – she had a harsh sounding cough which quickly developed into pneumonia and she was gone. Now your baby has a bad cough. You have no vehicle to get her to a doctor, no money to pay for one. Your own mom is still struggling with losing her mom and really doesn’t want to go back to the hospital. You’re scared. What would you do?
You would do exactly what every good mom would do – you would call a friend and ask for help. That is what Irandi did this week when Baby Alison’s cough started sounding ugly and obviously causing pain. She was scared – really scared when she called me. She wanted to see a doctor but had no money or health insurance. Would I help?
Of course we will help – that’s a no brainer. But the question we face every day here – what is the best way to help in the short term without hurting in the long term? I don’t have the answers fully worked out in my head so for now I go with my heart. There’s a sick baby that needs to get to a doctor and her mama is scared.
Grant and I went to San Vicente to pick up Irandi and her baby and while we were at her house, I suggested that her sister Ibet who is 16 come along and bring her 3-year-old son who has had a runny nose for many months. We filled up Azulita with worried mamas and sick babies and headed to a pediatrician’s office in Mezcales. We probably could have gone to a local general doctor, but I remember when my youngest daughter Brett was 6 months old she had a similar bronchial infection and had to be hospitalized and kept in an oxygen tent for a number of days. I remember how serious this type of infection can be for a baby and wanted to get the best care.
The doctor was great. He asked many questions about her life and the life of her baby. He asked who I was and Irandi told him I was a friend of her family. He was kind and concerned for Alison. He prescribed a number of medications and put her on oxygen for 30 or 40 minutes. He knew little English and we struggled to understand one another but he tried to keep me involved in what was happening. He asked us to come back on Thursday afternoon. Kevin also received some antibiotics to help his infection.
On Wednesday night after I had gone to bed, Irandi called in a bit of a panic. Alison was still coughing. Maybe we should go to the hospital in Vallarta in the morning. But that is where Grandma had died and no one wanted to go there again. I could hear Alison in the background and she sounded strong so I told her to call me early in the morning and we would decide what to do.
In the morning, I had my friend Anita call the doctor using the cell phone number he had given us, to ask if we could see him sooner. He was in another town until later in the afternoon, but he offered to phone Irandi and find out what was happening with Alison. That calmed everyone down a bit and we decided to stick with keeping our afternoon appointment with the pediatrician.
That afternoon we picked up Irandi and Alison and this time Irandi’s boyfriend’s mom came along too – I was so relieved to have some family support for this young family. The doctor listened to her lungs and sent her to xray where it was confirmed she did have a lung infection. He felt she could be treated at home with the medication he had already prescribed. He gave her more oxygen and sent us on our way, to come back in 2 weeks.
Again I am faced with the reality of what poverty looks like when you look it in the eye. Honestly, I just want to kick it in the head most days.
One of the cool parts of this story is that just the day before Irandi called me, I had looked in my purse and found a folded bundle of cash. I had no idea why it was loose in my purse, or where it came from. It wasn’t in my wallet with the rest of my money – just a loose wad. I had asked Grant if he had any idea what it was and he looked at me with the “what are you talking about” look. I still don’t know where it came from – but it was almost exactly the amount that I needed to pay the doctor’s bill and purchase the medication. So I told God, “I don’t know what I’m doing here, and we don’t have all that much money now that Grant’s not been working, but if you keep filling up my purse, I’ll keep using it to care for the people you put in my path.”
I now recognize one more thing I need to learn: what medical and financial resources are available for families like Irandi’s when illness strikes? How can I help these young moms stand strong and be wise as they care for their children?
Yesterday I received a text from Irandi. “Thank you Karen. For yesterday. Thank you. Alison is much better.”
Another day, another baby, another difficult life lesson. And another miracle.