Elizabeth and Martina asked me to take their sick children
to Bugando Hospital in Mwanza, Tanzania. Both were baby boys about one-year-old
who were suffering from severe anemia and urgently needed a blood transfusion.
We set off in my 4-wheel drive Toyota. The two babies were breathing rapidly, a
sure sign that their bodies needed more oxygen that their low blood level could
circulate. From time to time I would take a quick look at Elizabeth’s baby Golgadi. His tongue and palms seemed white rather than red. He was breathing
heavily, even panting at times.
After passing Kahangala Elizabeth suddenly said to me:
"Stop the car. I want to get out." I looked down at little Golgadi. He had
stopped panting, his frail body was limp. Elizabeth said quietly: "He is dead.
I’m going to take him back home to be buried." I pulled over to the side of the
road, stopped the truck and sat stunned. Tears filled my eyes. Elizabeth began
weeping. Immediately I baptized Golgadi. I said quietly: "God our Father and
Mother has called your son Peter home early." We stood downcast and numbed.
We parted sadly. Elizabeth started walking back to
Kahangala carrying her dead baby Peter. Following the local African custom the
dead child would be buried in the family homestead that very afternoon. I’ll
never forget that lone figure slowly walking away — a symbol of so many African
mothers immersed in the grief and tragedy of so many unnecessary deaths.
Then Martina, her sick baby Masunga and I set off for Mwanza. At Bugando
Hospital the anemic baby received a blood transfusion. With the baby in good
hands I said good-bye and continued my trip. Later I heard the joyous news that
the boy recovered and was baptized Thomas.