Saturday, December 24, 2005

Good Night Thomas, Wherever You Are:

Across the street from the outpatient clinic where John and I spend most of our weekdays, is Grace Children’s Hospital, funded by International Child Care, an American organization. The only inpatient ward in the hospital is for children, most of whom have TB. There are usually about 50 children in the two rooms that comprise this ward.

In the first smaller room, five cribs line the outside wall. Some of these beds contain scrawny, lethargic babies who are too weak to even eat. They look like skeletons covered with skin and are just this side of a heartbeat alive. Sometimes when we return to the ward, we notice that previously occupied beds are empty. “Where are the babies?” we ask the doctors. “Yo mouri.” They died, they tell us with as little feeling as if we’d asked directions to the restroom. In a country with endemic child death, those who work among it must remain impassive in order to function. Or at least I would.

At the other end of the room are iron barred beds. The couple toddlers in these beds stand and look at us with the bright eyes of well children. “Abandonee,” one of the nurses tells us. Their mothers who probably couldn’t feed them left them at the hospital. We take a special interest in one of these children, who fits in our arms like they were made to hold him.

Another boy, a big, brawny two-year old named Thomas, seems to lack the instinct to ingratiate himself with any interested looking adults that orphans need to survive. He has an aversion to people he doesn’t know; when we put our hands out to pick him up, he shakes his head violently and twists away. Thomas seems angry when we pay attention to him, though he appears to like it when we play with the other children.

When we return home, I tell my mom about Thomas. “What will happen to him?” she worries. Many of these abandoned kids stay at the hospital for months, as there are no slots for them in the orphanages. But on two subsequent trips, we check in and note that Thomas is still on the ward.

At home, a good man, Tom Murphy, dies. He was a former Catholic priest who married and then became an Episcopalian clergyman. When he was pastor at St. Mark’s, he matched the parish with a sister parish in Haiti. He is responsible for many Peorians, including moi, going to Haiti.

“I had a dream,” said my mom after Tom died. “In my dream, I asked Tom Murphy to watch over Thomas.” If any one would do it from heaven, it would be Tom.

A few days ago, we again stopped by Grace Children’s Hospital. This time, Thomas’s bed was empty. Some orphanage slots opened up, and he and a couple other children went to their new, hopefully temporary, home.

Merry Christmas Thomas, and we think of you often.


NWO said...

This is the best Christmas blog I've read so far. God bless you, and Thomas.

Maria Carroll said...

Thanks for your kind words and prayers for Thomas.

Merry Christmas!