Written from the journal of a volunteer
Claudine volunteered with us at Gabriels 2013 her writing told the story:
I looked into the face of death.
Death didn’t scare me for it was there to collect another, although her time wasn’t quite there. Death was waiting, slightly obscured by the shadows but there to be seen should you look hard enough. Death is patient; he is quite certain we all come to him in turn, and he knows she will be with him before the next full moon.
I could see Death in her sunken eyes, and I thought I could see Fear there too. At the sweet age of fifteen, the victim of a brain injury sustained from a beating, she didn’t want to go either.
Or perhaps I imagine the fear in her eyes, and she is long gone. Why do we always wish to minimize the pain of such events?
I leave, wondering how I can cheat Death from his prize. If she could only have a feeding tube, a drip, she would make Death wait another decade or two to claim her.
But to what avail? Her family, already poor and in the slums, could hardly feed themselves prior to the beating she sustained. Now, one of the sisters must stay home with her 24 hours a day. They had to rent a second room to house her crippled body. Her colostomy bag is blocked with no-one to change it, she can’t swallow and as a result is slowly starving to death, and her family are burdened.
But my efficient problem-solving Western brain can’t accept that. Early the next morning, I rise and walk to the hospital. I visit the only hospice in Nakuru, and learn it is for cancer patient palliative care, not for long-term disabled patients. I leave with a half-solution; they will try to send a nurse out.
I know that the family can’t afford home care for the next twenty years. Part of me wishes that the African inefficiency kicks in, the nurse never visits and spares the family any false hopes. I have tried to explain she won’t be healed but is likely to spend her living years like this, but they don’t seem to understand.
I am mad at the hospital. They would have patched up the wound and sent her home. I wonder if the brain injury she has is related to the trauma itself? Or is it a result of the swelling that she probably had as a result of the trauma that they didn’t fix? Would this have happened in Perth or in London or in the Hague?
I can’t go back to see her. I baulk when Chris suggests we go back to get her particulars from her sister; I tell him I am so busy I can’t come and squirrel away at my computer instead.
I can’t go. I can’t look her in the eye again and see Death grinning at me. Look, he says; she’s mine and you’re not going to change that.
I can’t help, I can’t change it, and it isn’t my fault; but I dream about her at night and wake feeling heavy.