A mother’s Promise in Ethiopia
Kalkidan is a patient at CURE. She is a two-year-old little girl who was born with her hips dislocated — out of socket. She has been our patient at CURE for almost a year and a half. We started her treatment at six months of age, trying to get the “balls” on the end of her femurs (the big bone in your leg) back into the “sockets.” Sometimes this can just be done manually, and then a large cast encompassing both legs and hips and wrapping around her entire pelvis and waist (a spica cast) is placed, usually for six months, with frequent changes. But for her, that wasn’t enough; she required several surgeries in order to get the hips where they belong.
This is a common surgery for us at CURE Ethiopia. It is a relatively big surgery, because there are big bones involved which can bleed quite a bit. We often get to know these patients pretty well because they have to come back to get each side fixed, as well as multiple changes of the cast, which we do under anesthesia because it’s a long, uncomfortable process to get one of these casts put on. These casts tend to get really dirty; there is a small whole cut out for bathroom business. It’s pretty difficult to keep it clean when the vast majority of homes don’t have indoor plumbing.
We got to know Kalkidan – which means “promise” in Amharic – even better than the usual hip dislocation patient. Typically patients get an initial treatment and then go home for six weeks, then return for cast changes as needed. Kalkidan’s mom, after going “home” once and coming back (We found out later she hadn’t actually gone home, but had lived on the streets just outside the city), refused further treatment for Kalkidan unless we found her a place to stay close to CURE.
Why? It’s impossible to take care of a child in a spica cast on the street, and her home was two days by bus and then an additional full day or two walking. Carrying a child in a spica cast is difficult for 20 feet; I can’t imagine a two-day walk with one. They are awkward and heavy. And cleaning a child on a crowded bus in a spica cast… I’m sure everyone would scorn them for the smell that the spica cast always accumulates no matter how great a parent you are. When I put myself in her shoes, I can understand her refusal.
Praise God and thanks to faithful donors, we could offer her a place to stay at CURE until Kalkidan’s treatment was completed. They became part of the CURE family – the mom helping to clean and helping other families as they come and go understand “the ropes” of life at CURE.
During this time we learned Kalkidan and her mom’s story. Her mom is about 18. At age 16 she was a house worker in someone’s home in her village. She was raped by a man of the house. She conceived Kalkidan. Her own family banished her for having a child out of wedlock. In Ethiopia we have been told that if you are a woman or girl living in the countryside, it’s not a matter of “if” you will be raped but “when.” Sometimes the rapists keep you for a spouse, sometimes not.
As her baby’s time for discharge approached, Kalkidan’s normally sweet and quietly sunny disposition changed to one of gloom and apprehension. She didn’t want to go back to her own village, where she was banished by her family and the father of Kalkidan was living. All of us could understand, but it was difficult to imagine what could be done. Kalkidan’s mom didn’t have any job skills and can’t read. The government puts further constraints on helping someone who is living outside of their home town. But thanks to God, a lot of different people came together to find her a workable solution in Addis. She will have a room to rent and some job training, and daycare and eventually schooling for Kalkidan.
I can’t help but wonder why Kalkidan’s mom named her “promise.” Is it hope for a better future? Is it a promise she made to her daughter to care for her despite a difficult situation? I think more likely, given what I know about Ethiopian culture, it had more to do with God and His promises. And maybe she knew, even then, He promises to care for her. And maybe we are all part of the answer to that promise. And I think we need to take that seriously – even when it’s inconvenient for us, like when I don’t feel like stopping by her one-room house in order to check on her because I had a long day at work… yeah… I better do that today.
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matt 6: 27
By your generous donation, you’re taking responsibility to make that possible for a child in the developing world.