Last week I was waiting to pick someone up from the local hospital when I was approached by a man reading the side of the car--"Orphans?". He worked at the hospital, and told me about a little ten year-old girl inside that he and his wife had informally adopted as their own. Mina, he told me, was "a true orphan -- no ma, no pa. HIV positive." The orphanage at which she'd been living dropped her off at the hospital but didn't come back to check on her. So he would visit her when he had the chance, and asked me to look in on her too.
This was one of those times when I'm tempted to be too busy, to brush it off. Then I thought, Well, why not. Maybe I can encourage her a little. And so I walked into the paeds ward and immediately saw her way at the back, sitting hunched over on her bed. Her face didn't brighten when she saw that I was coming to see her, nor did she respond to me except to murmur. The head nurse came over and asked why she wasn't eating, why she wasn't talking. Nothing.
I've never seen such a discouraged child, no matter how sick. And Mina was definitely sick. So I consulted the American doctor handling her case, to see what her outlook might be. I was told she'd be in the hospital for a good long time, but that she needed to start eating and taking her meds. The doctor's biggest concern, though, was her attitude--that she was severely depressed.
Got a call that little Mina, with no parents or siblings, died over the weekend. She just gave up.
This is Africa. This happens. There was nothing that could be done. All of these are inappropriate. No, ridiculous. No ten year-old should, for lack of love and care, no matter what the prognosis, give up like she did. It was staggering.
I'm not angry or sad about this, I'm just...disappointed. And I'm trying to leverage that disappointment into a new commitment. I don't expect more than a handful of strangers have even noticed her passing, but now you can join me in remembering her.