Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Child care at maximum velocity
It was the driver who noticed them, a father crying, holding his son in his arms. The child was about five years old and unconsious, lying limp in his fathers arms. They had to get to the hospital quickly. Not self-evident in Kinshasa, especially if you don't have transport yourself. And not at all if you're poor, like these people evidently were.
Our jeep stopped and the father quickly scrambled inside. I took his bag and he installed himself on the benches on the side of the cargo hold, facing me. We were five at that moment in the big jeep: a staff member of our partner organisation and the driver, my two colleagues and myself.
I was very worried about the child, that didn't move at all. I moved closer to check his pulse. I had trouble finding it, because I'm not a trained specialist, because the child's pulse was very weak and because it's bloody difficult to even find the pulse of a full grown elephant in a vehicule that speeds like a fighter plane trough Kinshasa's busy traffic. Our driver drove like mad in the best of circumstances, but now he went absolutely crazy. I still wonder how many people we killed trying to save that child.
Despite the speed, the ride to the hospital seemed endless. The father told us his sun fainted because he didn't get a transfusion. The father didn't have enough money on him, so her in Congo you'll rather die than get assistance. He raced home but then his sun fainted.
I got worried more and more, because the child's pulse was weakening even further. I had trouble feeling anything at all. His breathing was shallow too, and I started to worry that I would have to give him mouth-to-mouth.
Finally we arrived at the hospital. The guys in front wanted to take off immediately, but I jumped out together with my colleague to help the father pass the bureaucracy at the ER. Yes, that's right. Even when you're dying here, that's no excuse not to fill in the proper forms!
We payed for the boy's treatment, it was about 6 US dollar. When we were doing the formalities, the child started to move and wail. I felt so releived!
We left them a couple of minutes later, when we lost them in the middle of a flock of medical students who were going to diagnose and treat the kid.
Everyone working here will tell you we were mad at taking charge of them. If the kid would have died in our care, we would be in serious trouble. 'Serious' in the sense of mad crowds clubbing us to death because we 'caused' the death of a child. No explaining there. But I'll be damned if I let a child die because it would be the prudent thing to do. I don't do what I do to let children die, even if it means taking those risks.
Anyway, at such a moment you just try to help. But I must admit I felt a shock later, in the evening, when I mesmorised on the whole experience.