I have fallen in love with the most delicate little girl. Her name is Charity, and she is almost eight years old, but her frail body makes her appear as though she is only 3. She is unable to speak, walk, eat, or even sit on her own.
Her dependence fills my heart with dreams. I dream of her first steps. Of the first word she will speak. I dream of the day she will sing and dance and know love for the first time. I dream of watching her grow and of one day sharing the story of this very day we met. I even dream that she could be my own child.
As I hold her in my arms, her smile captivates every inch of my heart. Even the way she blinks and moves her hands makes me think of a tiny fairy. It is as though I am holding an intricate glass figure—in awe of its beauty yet exceedingly aware of its fragility.
The orphanage directors are here to pursue Charity’s admission to our long-term care unit. While I would typically call my patients to the exam room before beginning any evaluation, this time is different. I simply sit and hold her in the waiting room. I am determined to be more than her medical provider. I want to be the love that she has likely never known. The love that she so desperately needs and deserves.
For thirty minutes, I sit with the orphanage staff and dig deep into the story of Charity. As they speak, my mind is painting pictures of this one-year-old baby who was thrown in the street and left to die. Of the seven years she has spent deteriorating in the bed of an institution. I ache as they tell me of the daily cries she lets out in pain, of the way her dainty fingers dig into her abdomen as she is unable to communicate the agony she is feeling.
Suddenly, I see Charity without rose-colored glasses. I see the outline of every bone in her body. I see pale, lifeless limbs, and the total inflation of her abdomen. I rest my stethoscope gently on her chest. With every rising breath, I become more aware of the stress that simple existence has on her body. I see what is left of her strength fighting for every next moment.
My hands start to tremble against her cold skin. It was as though they sensed what was to come. As I gently press into the expanse of her abdomen, my fingers contour numerous masses. In this moment I want so badly to be wrong. I want to justify the abnormalities with any benign alternative. Surely, this is my naivety as a new clinician.
When we finish the initial medical exam, I begin dressing Charity in a new pink gown. I help her slip her stiff arms out of her worn clothing and savor the ignorance of this moment. I allow myself to dream again. To cherish the lightness of these minutes before we are plagued with definitive answers.
I turn my head as she leaves for imaging. I realize that the next time I see her, I will likely be faced with an impossible prognosis. But as the hours pass, I become more hopeful. As usual, I turn to social media and friends at home to seek prayer and support for Charity.
In hindsight, I realize that the story I shared candy-coated the reality of Charity’s condition. This was my well-intentioned attempt to make her testimony one that could capture the heart of a sponsor without sending them running for the hills in fear.
I now hold results in my hand. Images and numbers that confirm my earlier fears. My heart is devastated but also overwhelmed with passion. I fully believe in healing and miracles, and I also believe in unconditional love. Love that is vulnerable and outweighs the fear of loss.
My life is not one that is chosen by the masses, but I choose to continue in the tremendous honor so many are missing. I will seize this opportunity as it is. I will invest in the possibility of tomorrow when today is without a glimmer of hope. This love is worth it. She is worth it.
And a miracle occurs just as I am posting the blog! An advanced scan shows absolutely no tumors! What was first presumed to be signs of metastatic cancer is now thought to be complications of intestinal disease.
Sweet Charity, is indeed very sick and our answers are still not certain. We know she will require surgery, biopsies, re-nourishment, and years of therapy to overcome her daily struggles. It will be a long road ahead, but how beautiful is every mile of that road when you become aware that you get to travel any distance at all?
We know that no matter what the future holds, we will cherish these victories. Without the risk of loss and pain, we would never experience the divine joy that comes with such miraculous reports.
“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.” - Saint Teresa
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