He was shy at first but the cajoling playfulness of the health worker brought a smile to his face. So many big people in a small house can be worrisome when you’re eighteen months old. But mommy had invited everyone in and was chirping her welcome. She began to peel layers and layers of clothing off the boy to ready him for the monthly session of weighing and measuring, general checkup and check in. And even though the gathering was all business it was conducted in a neighbourly fashion that felt like a social call.
We’d knocked at the front door on a cloudless day sparkling in high altitude blue. Our sizable troupe, comprised of invited representatives and volunteers, tramped into the small space. We came together to learn about projects and build contacts for future collaborations. And fortunately in touring locations, CSRA, an Andean health organization arranged for us to make a house visit to see a child who had been seriously ill. Fits of diarrhea had racked the boy and left him weak, underweight and categorized as high risk. We accompanied the health worker; whose rapport with the family was unmistakable. His reassuring tone and manner put everyone at ease. First assisted by mommy it was hop, hop up onto the scale for weighing then swooped up and laid down onto a height measuring contraption, all appropriate notations and entries were made. Dots were placed on a graph and the information was shared with all present. Efficiency was punctuated by the boy’s giggles and smiles. He thought it great fun.
Then in conversation about the child and his regained health, diet and activity level yet more information was added to the file. All attention had shifted to details provided by mommy. On the sidelines, the little boy brought me a ball and though not sure on his feet, he wanted to play. I took the ball and rolled it to him. He wobbled then steadied himself; he kicked the ball out the door and into the courtyard. With peals of laughter he toddled after it and kicked it again. I blocked with my foot and scooted it back. Kicking it to the older sister, she joined in. More laughter, more fun; the games went on. Inside the adults finished up and initiated their goodbyes as we in the courtyard continued to play and titter and assist the boy in training to “Bend it like Beckham.” Parting pleasantries concluded with a little boy´s hug and a pat on the head, the troupe piled into a waiting vehicle and we began our return journey to the La Paz city center. En route I asked the health worker; “If the family had been left without care, would the boy have survived his illness?”
“No way, he´d have been one dead little boy.”
“So attending to this family and to the child, saved the boy’s life?”
“Señor, without help that little boy would have been just another statistic.”
We all cringed. And with the high infant mortality rate on the Altiplano of Bolivia, I couldn’t help but think I’d been playing soccer with a little dead boy who, thankfully, had been snatched up, protected and saved for more of this life to be lived full on…
Copyright © Mick Huerta 2011. All Rights Reserved.
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