Saturday, July 14, 2007
St. Julie Centre - Week 24
For the past couple of weeks there has been one child in particular from the Centre that has been on my mind, Godfrey Matika. On June 24th Godfrey past away. He was the sixth child from the Centre to pass away this year. But what makes him stick in my mind is that I knew him well. Godfrey was one of the first children I met when I came to the Centre back in January. His mother used to bring him to the Centre every Monday, until the last few weeks of his life. He was a six-year-old who was blind and had cerebral palsy. He was very thin and it seemed obvious that he wasn’t feeding well and I think this may have been the main cause of his death.
I was told that his parents were so poor that they began to sell off their land bit by bit until they were left to live on a patch of ground that was so small that there was no room to plant or grow any food. It seems as though, in selling off their land, they sold off their main means of survival. And in the end, the burden of caring for a severely disabled child could have been more than they could bear.
After Godfrey died, I began to look into the other children that have died this year and their causes of death. Most of them didn’t come to the Centre as often, so I didn’t know them as well, but from what I could see, they seemed to be to be doing alright, all things considered. It seemed that one day they were here, the next day they were gone, and I was the only one asking questions about it. No one else needed a reason. Death was just a way of life. I talked to the occupational therapy staff at the Centre and was surprised to hear how common it is for a disabled child to suddenly die. The staff, who had been at the Centre since it’s opening, seemed more accepting of this fact than I was. Apparently, when a small child has a disability, that could be in only one part of the body, the whole body is effected in some way. It’s as if due to the lacking of the one part, the rest of the body has to work harder, or is compromised. Mental disabilities are always more difficult to treat than physical disabilities and with small children, feeding can always be difficult.
When Godfrey would come to the Centre his mother would bring him in and lay him down on the floor mats or sometimes prop him up in the sitting devices. Godfrey didn’t move much and his body seemed to be stuck in the fetal position from birth. His arms were very stiff, curled up into his chest, and his legs were raised, bent at the knee, and seemed to be frozen in that stance. When I would try to engage him in play therapy many times, besides his eyes blinking and the slight movement of his mouth, he wouldn’t talk or move at all. I would move his arms and legs for him to help reduce some of the stiffness. But one day I found that when I continued to play with him and call out his name he began to respond and move all on his own. It wasn’t much, but he would move his arms back and forth at the elbows and while his fingers were also curled into tiny fists, he looked like a boxer preparing to fight. I used to look at Godfrey and think, “This one’s a fighter.” Sometimes I would put my hand on his chest and I could feel his entire rib cage. I would think to myself, one day I will bring him something to eat while we played. Little did I know, at the time, that I wouldn’t see him much longer. I will truly miss him. May his soul, and all those who have died this year, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
In the month of June I heard, and saw, that I have a brand new baby nephew back home. In the month of July I heard the sad news that my 84-year-old grandfather has died. Wherever you are in the world, America or Kenya, whether you are rich, poor, or middle class we cannot get away from the fact that our days are numbered. Each day is a blessing, each breath a gift from God.
Posted by tim at 12:03 AM