She yells down the hallway in a loud voice, “Deba, Deba!!” She comes running up to me and gives me a friendly whack on the leg and runs away again. She climbs onto my lap while I sit at the computer doing my charge nurse work. She takes my hands and asks me to tap away at the keyboard. She comes and tickles me and runs away. I run after her and play chasey and she laughs out loud over and over and I laugh and smile so much my face hurts. Sometimes when I walk away, she stands at the door and waits for me to come back and play with her.
This is a different 5 year old from the one who was carried into the ward by her mama two months ago.
Her story is a little fuzzy but basically she was attacked by a rat or some small creature when she was only a baby, leaving her face disfigured. One eye had to be sewn closed and she lost part of her nose.
When she came to us for a repair of her face, she had already known terror and it showed. When we tried to give her medications, she spat them out quicker than we could get them in and then she would lay on the floor under her bed crying, not letting even her mama touch her, for up to two hours.
After surgery it was very difficult. She was very aggressive and difficult to do cares on because of her fear. She would cling to her mama and fling herself around the bed, screaming, “Pain!” or “Finish!” over and over, in a heartbreaking rhythm. When we had finished her mama would pick her up and walk the hallway with her, calming her. We used all sorts of pain control for dressing changes and tried hiding meds in her food, but she is a smart girl! She soon figured it out and we just had to stop trying because she refused to eat.
We prayed and prayed for her, that her heart would be calm, that she would trust us and that she would accept the love we were trying to show her, but this behaviour carried on for weeks.
Then suddenly there was a change. I came to work one day and although she still screamed for her nebs and suctioning, she recovered quickly and would leave her mama’s side for small times. One day she brought me a pile of books and climbed onto my lap! It was at hand-over time and all the on-coming nurses and those already there exclaimed what a surprise it was to see her happily sitting on my lap.
Moments like that continued until it was normal to see her running around the ward, blowing bubbles for other kids, batting a balloon around the ward, painting her fingernails and doing the same for others, tying my hair up into ponytails while I sat at the computer, tickling every nurse that walked past, digging in the bottom draw of the desk for balloons or stickers and sticking them on everything in sight, including all the nurses’ faces.
When I recently left the ship for two weeks, I thought she might have been discharged while I was gone and I felt so sad about that! What would I do in the ward without our little live wire! But when I returned a few days ago, I went down to the hospital and there she was with her mama in the hallway. She was running around batting a balloon in the air. I wondered if she would remember me, since she wasn’t really calling anyone by name before I had gone away. “Deba!” she yelled out after she saw me standing in the hallway. My heart leapt with surprise and joy!
She is not a cuddly girl. She is rough, but for all the fight she has in her, it has kept her alive. She has endured much in her five years and I’m not surprised at her actions, but we have seen her miraculously soften.
Two days ago I was sitting at the charge nurse computer, she came running up to the desk (she hardly walks- she has too much energy for the small space that the ward is!) and she was singing, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, oh oh oh my soul…” (10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman) I think my jaw dropped open. Here is a little one who speaks no English. She certainly understands much more than she did before she came to this big white ship but she doesn’t speak the language. She’s singing not just any song in English, but a powerful song of praise! Every time I would begin the chorus of the same song she would join in. Then the song got stuck in my head and as she sat on my lap, every time I got to the chorus, she’d join in.
Oh my heart, my heart! Jesus you are good! Despite the challenges that she and her mama have faced and the challenges that we, as nurses, continue to face with her as she hates her nursing cares, she is singing Your praises! How beautiful.
My little live wire, I love you.