GOROKA - Her dazzling smile lit up the room. Her enchanting beauty amazed them all. Her liveliness made them feel alive. Their pain faded at her sight. She gave them hope. This little angel gave them hope.
Late last month, at about three in the afternoon, I had to rush my nine-month old daughter Brianna to our doctor.
She had an awful swelling on her left jaw after the mumps, which she had for a week, seemed to have subsided.
Well, there is a first time to everything and I panicked. Brianna was diagnosed with a parotid abscess and had to be admitted for surgery at Goroka Base Hospital for surgical drainage to remove the pus. The medical terms scared me. Even the term ‘minor surgery’ didn’t sink in well.
Myriad frightening thoughts raced through my mind. I wasn’t even listening to what the doctor was saying. We live in a time of uncertainty and I was worried and very concerned about something going wrong.
It hurts to see your children go through a difficult time - especially sickness. God only knows how they’re feeling.
Luckily, there was an empty bed in this ward for six patients so we settled Brianna in. I dreaded staying in the main wing but the five other patients and their guardians had warm welcoming smiles and I felt at ease despite the hospital’s gloomy atmosphere.
Brianna gave them all her best killer smiles and we quickly made friends. She has an enchanting smile that can melt ice and draw people to her.
Our first night at the ward went well. The female guardians were kind enough to take turns in carrying her around when she couldn’t sleep. She’d stay up smiling, showed off her only two teeth, waving at people, clapping and singing in her baby language.
Brianna didn’t show any sign of discomfort given the situation she was in. I, on the other hand, couldn’t help but worry. I guess it’s just human to feel that way.
That night, a boy, probably about four years old, passed away in the surgical ward. Tears welled in my eyes as I watched his innocent lifeless body being pushed away and the grieving mother. So inconsolable.
This precious gift was taken away from her too soon. She had him for these few short years. I felt such pity I was unable to sleep. I hugged my daughter tight and prayed my guts out that all would be well.
The next day, Brianna was scheduled for morning surgery. My younger sister and aunts and Brianna’s twin brother Brian were there. The twins were excited to see each other after what had been their first night apart.
We waited with other moms and babies outside the operating theatre. My heart skipped a beat as I heard Brianna’s name called. I undressed her and hugged her before handing her over to the theatre staff.
We waited impatiently outside. It was a long 30 minutes wait. I could not imagine this delicate, fragile skin being cut open. Then finally I was called to get her. A felt a stab of sadness in my core as I saw her on the gurney, half of her sweet round face all bandaged.
I wrapped her carefully in her blanket and held her close to my heart. She cried a bit when she saw me. But as we walked back to the ward, she hummed and swayed her head groggily. I fought back tears and smiled. She is truly a brave girl.
I anticipated the worst at night, there would be pain from the surgery, but Brianna didn’t give me hard time.
She was irritated by the big dressing on her face and pulled the bandages off twice and the nurses had to be called. But it was hilarious. Smiles, giggles and laughter even from this swollen face. The other patients, even the ones who had undergone surgery that day, couldn’t help but smile through their pain.
Her liveliness despite her discomfort cheered them up. Again, the female guardians took turns carrying her around until she fell asleep. She slept soundly, snoring gently. This was much for one little girl to handle and I was stunned by her courage.
The next day it was comforting to have someone lead us in our morning and evening prayers and to share messages of hope and healing. Food was shared and one female patient kept us entertained with funny stories. I felt grateful to be amongst them.
People’s experiences at being admitted at the hospital can be diverse. I’ve found hospitals to be a place where strangers turn into friends. The kindness of strangers when you are in pain and fear is indescribable. It made me forget my own anxiety and fear. It made me believe that angels do exist.
We were discharged a couple of days later and, although our stay was brief, we met some wonderful strangers. Their kind deeds will have left an imprint on my soul. It was heart-warming to hear them express how this little angel’s smiles and good spirits brought them hope and led them closer to their recovery.
Tears were shed as we thanked them for their kindness and said our goodbyes. A week later, Brianna has fully recovered and is still her jolly self.