South Africa: Josh, Rene and Addison

21 12 2010

Today I literally saw the face of hope.  As I walked into TLC for the first time in four years I saw a little boy half crawling, half shuffling across the dining room floor.  Instantly I noticed that he had the signs of hydrocephalus – the enlarged, pointed head, the inward eyes.  Instantly I thought of Rene and Addison and my heart broke for them.

TLC, where I was a volunteer years ago, and will be helping out over the next ten days is the best child’s home I’ve been to.  Probably because it is a home, one in which a family (three generations, in fact)  lives along with 30 orphaned children and a host of volunteers from throughout the world to care for them.  If any child with hydrocephalus is going to thrive without the one-on-one attention parents can provide, it’s at TLC.  And that’s just what Josh is doing – thriving.  Skirting around the floor faster than volunteers can catch him.  Laughing at jokes.  And having a three-year-old attitude.

Later in the day I asked Thea about Josh.  She told me that for two years she begged a nearby hospital to let her take him.  For some reason the hospital never relented – they just let him lay there waiting for the shunt that had been placed in his head to stop working and for Josh to die.  But then he found his voice.  He learned a high-pitched, death curtailing scream.  And he didn’t stop.  Within 24-hours the hospital had called Thea to come pick him up – they couldn’t stand the sound of Josh’s scream.  And with that he was free.  For the rest of his life he’ll still need to deal with the effects of his hydrocephalus and he’s suffered from some brain damage due to a second surgery that didn’t go perfect, but, because he learned to scream, he has hope.

I think of Addison who never had hope.  The child care center she was in was ill-equipped to handle her needs.  They chose to ignore the signs of her condition.  And when help finally came, it was of poor quality and too late.  She suffered a slow death.  She had no hope.  Rene, who was lucky enough to receive surgery in time to limit the damage to his brain, is in a facility that doesn’t understand the special care and attention his condition needs.  They are unaware of how to properly care for the shunt that saved his life.  While he’s lived to 12, his hope is depleting and his time is running out.  All this to me just proves how much our lives are determined by the circumstances of the world around us – Addison could have been Rene, Rene could be Josh and Josh could have been Addison.  But somehow Josh is the lucky one – he gets to live and thrive in the closest thing to a family any of these three children have had.

Rest in peace, Addison.  Keep on fighting, Rene.  And keep on thriving, Josh.

Rebecca Harris

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