I remember the first time I met Lameck. We were visiting a lady called Mkame who was ill and needed the bottles of water and rice we had come to give her. It was the first time I had been along that well trodden path, and woven between those houses that would become so familiar to me.
As we walked, children seemed to appear from no where. Popping up out of the long grass and flocking towards us, reaching for our hands and peering up at us with those large questioning eyes. Lameck was one of them. He came straight towards me, and I remember thinking that his long pointy face seemed too small for his bulging eyes, his wrists too thin for his hands. He didn't smile, just took my hand and answered my stumbling swahili queries with a small voice and simple 'eeehh' (meaning 'yes').
I can't remember what happened after that moment. But we often came back to visit that place to check on Mkame, and I began to recognise that 'lameck' kid who I'd seen before.
Halfway through the trip we decided to build Mkame a toilet. It meant that we transferred most of our energy and time to that small little cluster of houses. We would pull up every day in our truck and the children would swarm towards us, grabbing our bags and tools - eager to help us in our work. We would traipse along that small path together and arrive at the worksite.
I have several stand out memories of this quiet, thin and unassuming little boy. The day we first started building the toilet, his gaze fell upon the box of gloves we'd brought with us. Him and lots of of other curious children seized them and wasted no time in donning them with delighted grins.
We soon discovered that Lameck had one brother (Charles) and a sister (Eppi). And that he and his brother had sickle cell anemia. It's a horrible disease, one only found in black africans, where your red blood cells assume an abnormal shape. If he had been a child in the UK it could have been managed by dietary control and his life expectancy would have been fourty or almost fifty years longer. As it was, he lived purely off cassava and he wasn't expected to live to twenty.
As a team we strived to help Lameck and Charles as much as we possibly could. I remember taking him for a blood test at the local health centre (the coptic). I remember him sat on my lap and looking at me with a strange smile on his face as the needle went into his arm. I think ashamedly back to my own blood-test experiences and my face burns - I can barely stand the experience, but these two boys ages 5 and 7, didn't seem bothered at all.
We fought the government hospital, begging them to give the two boys a blood transfusion but they refused. We went to the bishop of the area and he told us that we would have to take responsibility for the boys ourselves, which could lead to horrible consequences if anything went wrong. We were stuck.
Then Lameck had what's called as a 'sickle cell crisis'. I wasn't there, but apparently it was awful, he had been in so much pain he was barely conscious. The team rushed him to hospital and the government eventually gave in and allowed him to have a blood transfusion. We had spent that night praying that he would survive.
The relief we had felt the next time we saw him had been almost tangible! He was fine! We rounded the corner of their small village with our hearts in our mouths and came across him and his brother making flags from bamboo and cloth.
|Lameck and Charles with their flags!|
I have many other memories of Lameck - him giving Gaby and I two segments of orange and laughing as we spat them out. Him giving Abbie and me two eggs as a thank you for our help - something that must have been so precious to them. Him asking 'picture?' and 'puto'? (balloon) almost constantly.
A week ago we were told that Lameck had passed away.
It doesn't seem quite real that a boy who is so alive in my memory can be gone. He is still there in my head, walking along that grassy path towards me, him with the gloves on, and abbie's sunglasses oversized on his head. I don't think I realised how attached I had become to that little boy who seemed to need us so much. He lived such a strange and different life to me, so poverty stricken, how is it fair that just because he lives in a rural corner of Tanzania that he doesn't even reach the age of 8?
I know that God put us in the last few months of Lameck's life for a reason. We enabled him to have a blood transfusion, to enjoy living, to play games with him...So this is a blog post in memory of brave, serious, little Lameck - someone who brought home the impact of poverty with sickening reality.
There are so many other children out there who are just as helpless as Lameck, so so many who suffer from poverty and illness. It just so happens that his life and mine brushed each other for a while.
|Lameck and Charles and me.|