After several days have passed, I notice a woman who has been patiently waiting since we arrived. Tarike is 30 years old, and has walked very far to get here. Her 9 year old daughter, Dinkiyo, waits with her, a tiny replica of herself. She has three other children and makes a living selling firewood. Business has been down, as her rectal fistula prevents her from working in the fields. Her first husband died of some undiagnosed medical condition, and her second husband abandoned her a few years ago when her fistula appeared after hard laboring during childbirth. She lives with her mother, and together they eek out their existence. They live on very little food and water, in highly unsanitary conditions, but this does not seem to deter her from being a loving mother to Dinkiyo.
I see that she has been selected as a candidate for surgery today, and I watch closely as Dinkiyo tends to her mother, fear shadowing her face often. Many times, when someone enters into a hospital in Ethiopia, they are subjected to procedures without anesthesia, their health falters, they die. Dinkiyo never leaves her mother’s side. I try to find an interpreter to talk with her, but they are all busy in surgeries. Instead of talking, I give her four pencils, one for herself and three others to take home to her siblings. She beams, and shows her mother the brightly colored erasers on the end. She is beside herself with happiness from such a small item. I wish I had a pad of paper to give her.
Soon it is time to bring Tarike in for surgery. She gasps, and reaches out to her daughter. The nurses give her little time to say goodbye, and I hear her voice get louder with words I can’t understand as she is led away toward the operating room. I follow, and try to find a nurse who speaks English. What is she saying? I ask repeatedly. No one, understandably, is listening to me. They have much more worry on their minds, as word circulates that a mother has delivered a baby in the room next door and is threatening to kill the baby, because she has no means to take care of it and has been disassociated by her family due to her early pregnancy. I still persist a bit, and finally someone asks Tarike what she needs. “My daughter. Please take care of my daughter. She is alone outside.” I drop most of my equipment on the nearest chair and go outside to find Dinkiyo. She is sitting quietly on the stairs alone. I extend my hand and without asking if it was permitted, I bring her into the recovery room away from the crowds. Brynn sits down beside her, and Dinkiyo’s face lightens up as she shows Brynn her new pencils and begins to count them in English, “one, two, three, four”. She giggles as she continues counting, her confidence growing as she sees that Brynn is impressed by her knowledge of how to count in English.