Monday, July 19, 2010

RIP Jennifer

As tears run down my face, Alex tells me how in Africa, things are different than in the Western world and death among children is much more of a reality. The sound of his words bothers me. The fact that they are so used to the idea of children dying bothers me. It is not fair. It shouldn’t be that way.

On Saturday, I boarded a tro tro headed to Ho to visit my adopted family there. Forgive, Melody and Richmond’s mother had moved to Accra a few months ago with Richmond, but upon hearing of my visit, they traveled to Ho. They arrived shortly after I arrived on Saturday and Richmond was warmly greeted by everyone. It was the first time he had been back to Ho in quite awhile and all the kids and adults had missed his presence in Ho so much. I was quite happy to see him as well as he was the baby that I fell in love with and spent most of my waking hours with during my first trip to Ghana.

I spent the day with my family; talking, playing, and showing them the photo album that I brought for them full of photos from last year. The photo album was quite a hit and was passed around as friends and family members arrived at the compound throughout the day. That photo album must have been flipped through at least 50 times just during the few hours I was there.

Genevieve, also known as Jennifer, the 13 year old girl in my family was laying on a bench in the family’s compound. Her eyes were very puffy and this reserved girl who usually enjoys my presence did not say a word to me. I asked what was wrong with her and was told that she had malaria. I enquired as to whether she was being treated and was told that she had been taken to the hospital and given medication. She spent the rest of the afternoon sleeping but as I know from experience, that is pretty normal for someone who has malaria. Although she was quite sick, she was being treated, so I didn’t think much more about it. She was asleep when I left that afternoon so I left without saying good bye, assuming that she would be better the next time I visited.

On Monday morning, I headed over to the school. The children were singing and praying, dancing and drumming. The children went to class and I taught a math lesson to Class 1 before Alex came to get me as we planned on going to town to run some errands. We walked to the house where, I took my phone out of my bag and noticed an unread text message. It read as follows: “Nic, good morning. Sorry to inform you that Genevieve is dead. Call you later”. Thankfully I was on my bed as I just collapsed. I immediately called John, the father of the family because I was in shock. I had just seen Jennifer two days ago, how could she now be dead? She was just a child, how could she now be dead? She had malaria, a treatable disease, how could she now be dead?

John told me that Jennifer’s condition had worsened on Sunday night. He told me that she was taken to the hospital and then died early Monday morning. I told him I was so sorry and he told me that he would alert me when the funeral arrangements had been made. After I hung up the phone, I laid on my bed, crying. It just didn’t make sense in my head. I know that death is a natural process but Jennifer’s death seemed so preventable. I cried for Jennifer, I cried for Jennifer’s family, I cried for the other children across Africa and the southern hemisphere who die every day due to a lack of good medical care, and I cried because I wished there was something I could have done to prevent her death.

I will keep you updated and let you know when details arise regarding the funeral. Thank you to those of you who have already sent your prayers and kind wishes. It means a lot to me.

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