It is Wednesday, the 9th of May. We get a phone call requesting a home visit. This is nothing unusual, as we get frequent calls from relatives or neighbours telling us there is somebody sick in their family or neighbourhood. We go there and assess what the best way of caring for the patient may be. We we decide on the spot whether or not we take him along for admission at the Care Centre or if he should be brought to the primary health care clinic or to hospital. This call came from a lady whose niece seems to be in a bad state of health. Therefore we go there to examine the child. As we arrived we found Nyekeni*, an approximately four year old girl totally withdrawn lying on a lounge suite with an opened nappy. The aunt told us the child had been suffering from diarrhoea for a long time and that she had stopped walking about a week ago. Nyekeni lived with her aunt and uncle, as both parents had passed away. The Nurse wrote down all particulars and then we took Nyekeni with us to the Care Centre.

She appeared very disturbed, did not walk and could not eat properly. When I bathed her and wanted to wash her there were big problems, as she refused to sit in the water and to be washed, especially not between her legs. When I dried her and applied body lotion I realised that there was something wrong and notified our nurse. She examined the little one and agreed with me. Then  she called our doctor who also examined the child and diagnosed that somebody had interfered with her. The district surgeon was consulted and stated that she had not been raped, but the fact that she was so perturbed and had stopped to walk and to talk is still a clear indication that Nyekeni had been abused. The police was content with the district surgeon's certificate and did not initiate criminal investigations probably for lack of evidence.

Our Care Centre has always been open not only for terminal patients, but also for people who otherwise would not get help and therefore it was a matter of course for us that she could stay with us for the time being. We tried to make the little one feel comfortable with us and that she will realise that she has no reason to be afraid. She always forced such large amounts of food into her mouth that she could hardly chew it and meanwhile she had both hands full of food again to keep stuffing into her mouth as much as she could. That was very strange. At the daily hygiene I tried teaching her that she could do this herself, especially between her legs where she would not allow anybody to come close to her.

After a few days we made the first attempts to walk again. That was very strenuous for her and would not be successful at all without assistance. Nevertheless we diligently made our exercises, as she wanted to run around in the room and on the patio like the other children as well.

After a few weeks there was evidence of success, at least as far as walking is concerned. Feeding was still problematic and she still totally refused to talk. She played with the other children, came for a cuddle like to others but somehow she still appeared very perturbed. She continued making good progress in walking, eating and playing with the other children.

It was weeks later that we could discharge Nyekeni, after she had improved significantly and he have to trust that the consulted social worker will have remedied the environment to such an extent, that she will be fine in all future.

Angelika Mueller

* Nyekeni (Zulu for "Leave me alone!") is not her real name.

This page is part of the Newsletter No. 27 of the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard

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