Ruth’s Story

One of the most memorable people I met in Kenya was a 9 year old girl, we’ll call Ruth. I was walking through a pediatric hospital ward with the medical team as we went from bed to bed reviewing how each patient was doing and what we could change to improve their treatment
As we walked towards one bed, the little girl stood out from the other children because she didn’t hide in shyness, or giggle, or wince or pain, or cling to her mother. She just stared straight in front of her, with a blank expression. We stood in front of her, but there was no interaction. Just a flat stare. One of the doctors who knew her turned to me and explained that she’d had a stroke, as a complication of having malaria. She’d almost died, had survived, but now had brain damage from it and severe weakness partly¬† from the stroke, partly from being bed in so long.
It was one of the saddest things I’d ever seen.
Then I noticed her mother. Her mother did not stand out from the other mothers. She cradled her daughter close, smiled and spoke with the doctors on the team, patiently kept trying to coax Ruth to eat. In spite of the minimal interaction even towards herself from Ruth, she kept caring for her child. And had been for weeks.
It was one of the most poignant things I’d ever seen.
Stroke is one of those situations in medicine where there’s not a whole lot we can do. . . . sometimes we can give a medication to try to break up a clot, if all the stars align and the circumstances are right, usually the best we can do is watch and wait, pray the brain heals without much permanent damage, and offer rehab to encourage recovery. Seeing a child with a very uncertain future, feeling helpless to change the outcome, but also being moved by how faithful her mother’s love for her was. . . it’s hard to know what the punchline of a story like this is.
Maybe the point is that life is unfair, but God’s love for us is amazingly faithful, patient and the only constant.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

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