He fidgets with the number in hands, placing one on top of the other and back again almost as if searching for a place for his hands to hide. I smile at him reassuringly, wishing I could read what was going on inside his head. I am convinced that he must be at least a little uneasy about the doctor visit, but all I can see on his face is happiness. The wait for this day can be counted in years for this little boy.

“Tesfaye, arief no?” I ask, using some of my limited Amharic. “How, arief” He replies, indicating that things are good, but he offers nothing further than an expectant smile.

A young girl, perhaps about six years old sits quietly in her mothers arms a short distance from where we are sitting, I smile at her and she shyly nestles her face in her mother’s neck, just as she does this her weight shifts and reveals a calf that is no bigger around than a snickers bar, both legs are completely limp. A short moment later she peeks back up to see if I am still watching her and I wave. She lifts her hand back at me and smiles again, and I can see that her fingers are crumpled in on themselves. Useless. She lies back down against her mother, almost as if the effort of looking over at me has made her want to take a nap.

“Dear God.” I whisper to myself, “He fidgets with his hands, placing one on top of the other and back again almost as if searching for a place for them to hide. I smile at him reassuringly, wishing I could read what was going on inside his head. I am convinced that he must be at least a little uneasy about the doctor visit, but all I can see on his face is happiness. The wait for this day can be counted in years for this little boy.

“Tesfaye, arief no?” I ask, using some of my limited Amharic. “How, arief” He replies, indicating that things are good, but he offers nothing further than an expectant smile.

A young girl, perhaps about six years old sits quietly in her mothers arms a short distance from where we are sitting, I smile at her and she shyly nestles her face in her mother’s neck, just as she does this her weight shifts and reveals a calf that is no bigger around than a snickers bar, both legs are completely limp. A short moment later she peeks back up to see if I am still watching her and I wave. She lifts her hand back at me and smiles again, and I can see that her fingers are crumpled in on themselves. Useless. She lies back down against her mother, almost as if the effort of looking over at me has made her want to take a nap.

“Dear God.” I whisper to myself, “keep this little treasure of your’s safe.”

Nearly three hours pass and although I am getting impatient with the seemingly endless wait, Tesfaye is still grinning from ear to ear. As long as he has patiently waited to see a doctor so far, another few moments does not bother him in the slightest. Rahael, the nurse from Bring Love In who came with us to the visit is unfazed as well, it is a lesson I am still trying to learn, but patience does not come easy for me like it does for someone grew up here.

Finally a nurse in a blue pair of scrubs emerges from doorway number 15 and calls out into the waiting room. “Number Seven”

We spring to our feet and excitedly make our way into the doctors office, in which we are then quickly left alone. “Hakim meta” I say, letting Tesfaye know that the doctor is coming, but unsure myself of just how much longer we will have to wait. This is a good hospital, the best in the country for Tesfaye’s kind of injury, and I know that it is worth every minute that we have to sit here, the next closest hospital that would know what do with this kind of situation is several countries away. Still, can someone just please take a look at Tesfaye’s arm!?

“Tesfaye, Hakim arief no?” I ask, wondering if he has any fear of the doctor, and trying to reassure him that everything is going to be okay. He only nods slightly and looks back at his elbow where it seems to be permanently attached to his side. Rahael, smiles at me, as if to say. “He is fine”

A few more moments pass and a young American woman comes into the room, she is pleasant, yet has that doctor kind of speed about her, a few quick introductions and she gets down to business.

“How did he hurt his arm?” She asks, already her hands are in place, moving meticulously around the elbow feeling for places where the bone is broken.

“We were told that his father hit him with a machete.” I reply, thankful that Tesfaye does not know enough English to understand what we are talking about. I want to be honest with the doctor, but know that it could be a sensitive subject for this dear child who we are caring for today.

“How did he come to you” She asks. I reply with the three minute version of what we do at Bring Love In, how we take kids from the government orphanages and then place them with widows from the local churches, and how together they make a new family. I tell her that Tesfaye is one of our kids who came to us last month, and how we have some information about his past but not much. We know that that his father hurt his arm badly and that he witnessed some pretty traumatic stuff at home before he was placed in the orphanage when his father was taken to jail, but beyond that we don’t really know anything else, especially not in the area of what medical care in any he has received for this injury.

“I am going to need to see an x-ray” she says as she places Tesfaye’s arm back on his lap and rises to exit the room. She is all business and to be honest I am thankful, she seems to know what she is doing and that is what we need in this situation.

A quick trip to another room in the back of the hospital for a few minutes, a few pictures with a large machine that probably looks like an alien to Tesfay, and we are back. The doctor is only a few moments behind us and we are all standing around looking at a screen. I am no doctor but I have seen my fair share of x-ray images and this one does not look good. In places where bones should be there are shards of things all mashed together, where the connection of the bones should be at the elbow there is a mass of white.

“Well, it does not look good” the doctor says, eyes fixed on the screen. “He will never be able to move his elbow or rotate his hand again, no amount of surgery will fix that.”

I shift the mass of my body backwards feeling the full weight of what she has said, and wishing that it was different. “No way at all?” I ask, hoping that she was kidding or perhaps just exaggerating.

“No, not at all” She replies. “At this point we can look at pain management options, but we can do nothing to regain any lost movement.” I can tell by the way she holds herself that this is not a person to mess around, she knows what she is looking at and is completely sure of the verdict here.

Back in the car Rahael explains carefully to Tesfaye about the news we just heard. I can only make out a few words because she is speaking Amharic in a low voice close to his ear, her arm is wrapped around his shoulder. “Ishe”, he replies, “ishe” (okay). He turns his gaze out the window of the car and his breathing starts to get heavy. I see a flinch across his face, like he is holding back tears, but nothing comes. He may have a soft heart but this world has turned him into a fighter, and this is another battle that he is determined to win.

All hope of being able to play ball like the other kids is gone, all hope of going through a day and being able to forget the past, gone. I consider pulling the car over to somehow make it better, maybe going back to the doctor and telling her to look again, anything but this! Oh this dear boy, this deal sweet child, and the torture of having this kind of wound for his entire life… My heart aches for him, but all I can do is drive back towards home.

“Izoh” Rahael says as she pulls him closer in beside her “Izoh” (It’s ok)

We drive the 45 minutes across town in complete silence.

Please pray with me for Tesfaye, pray that his heart heals. I wanted so badly to make it better, to give Tesfaye a way to move his arm, to forget the past. But some wounds are just too deep. Today we can pray that his arm that lays limp by his side, no longer reminds him of the past, but instead God would make those horrible memories fade, and replace them with love.

A note about this story:
Tesfaye is not this sweet boy’s real name, his story is his to tell, and so perhaps one day when he is all grown he can tell you of the struggles he has born and how God came in and made things better, for now he will remain anonymous, and we will know him only as Tesfaye but we can pray for him still.

Levi

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