Since our return to Ukraine in August, Jim and I have suggested to each other that we go visit our friends at Children’s Hospital #1, but it seems that something always interferes with our plans.
But Friday, when Viktor called to see if he could come by before he went to the hospital we quickly said yes and asked for a ride as well. So good to be back there.
Ukraine Medical Outreach takes responsibility for one of the rooms in the infectious disease ward — the room where abandoned babies who are HIV+ go to wait for the paperwork to be completed that will place them in an orphanage. It’s also the room where young HIV+ children with secondary illnesses are placed. Some of the children are from the orphanage and others come from homes but without a parent willing or able to stay in the hospital.
UMO pays salaries for two dedicated women to be present six days a week — each one for three days. Typically, hospitalized children have a parent stay with them to take care of all needs that are not medical — take them outside, provide a variety of foods, play games, bathe them, read, sing, rock, touch. Normal parenting behaviors. But children with no parent are required to simply stay in their beds…for their safety and for the safety of other children in the room. The medical staff is not able to provide the extra hands to allow these children to play and they certainly cannot be running around unsupervised.
Our team members provide the touch of a mama. The children thrive under their watchful eye and tender care. Some children have learned to walk in this room. Some children had a first bath in a real bathtub in this room. Many babies experience being held while sucking a bottle rather than having the bottle propped next to them in a crib. They’ve enjoyed music and laughter and silliness and outdoor play and the list goes on.
Today a young patient discovered that two dogs had moved in under the raised walkway leading to the entrance of the building. He intently watched them peer back at him, took a few steps closer, and then quickly reached for Katya’s hand. Katya is his constant during his stay at the hospital. He is HIV+ and has just developed a cough. He has been admitted for further evaluation and to prevent him from passing on the cough to his caregiver, his grandmother. No parents, it seems.
We’re thankful for consistent attention given to these young patients. God provided just the right women to carry on this important work…to show these children that they are loved and have value no matter what diagnosis they have, no matter what stigma society has placed on them.