Willboy. Three years young, 2 ½ feet tall, flashing white smile and big chocolaty brown eyes. A story which was just beginning to be unfolded by our heavenly father and a life which was abruptly turned upside down after some sort of horrific incident which led to >40% of her body being covered in burns. For 3 weeks Willboy fought for her life. Multiple medical teams treated her, starting with Sean and myself in Catel, the hospital in Sao Domingo, and then the team at Simon Mendez , a hospital in the capital, Bissau.
The first night we saw her she was mostly unconscious, responding only periodically to pain. Her lungs were bubbling full of fluid, our nostrils were pungent with the infection oozing from her burns, her eyes were swollen and oozing, and she barley flinched when we cleansed her burns and started her IV. Within the first few days, with hours of wound cleaning, antibiotics, antipyretics, intensive rehydration therapy, and a prayer network that stretched across at least 3 continents, little Willboy was making progress.
She first began to open one eye, then two days later was able to open both. Next she began to move around and adjust herself for comfort and resisting wound cleansing. Finally she began to speak, requesting and then guzzling down the mango juice we always brought her, and eventually starting to eat again. God was working in more than just her little body. As the days went by we began to see changes in her surrounding family. They became not only tolerant but accepting and encouraging of our prayers at her bedside. In the weeks which followed we saw a remarkable change in their attitude toward Willboy’s life and toward God. As their trust for us grew this family who initially seemed to throw up their arms in surrender to her impending death, saw hope and managed to get funding to get her to the capital for proper hospital care.
At Simon Mendez, she was greeted by a great nurse. He was brief but confident. He worked cooperatively with us and was gentle and reassuring with Willboy and her family. He used his personal cell phone to call and give us updates and let us know when she needed more medicine and supplies.
Last Friday, February 17, Sean and I were able to take transport up to Bissau to visit Willboy at Simon Mendez. As we walked into the trauma center, I soon made eye contact with the nurse who’d been keeping us up to date, and he escorted us up to her new room. Her family greeted us excitedly and Willboy herself offered half a smile after her aunt reminded her in Balanta (their tribal languge, at only 3, Willboy didn’t yet speak much Kriol) that the white people who always bring her mango juice had arrived. The nurse tracked down the physician managing her case. They gave us positive updates, I listened to her lungs which were sounding much improved, and her skin was continuing to heal. They’d restarted a line in her right hand which she was getting LR as well as IV antibiotics. They reported a strong appetite and some of her most superficial burns were already covered with new pink skin. We reminded her family that we, along with many of our family and friends around the world were praying for Willboy and them as well, bought her some additional medications which she needed refilled, and headed back to Catel with high spirits.
Yesterday, exactly 1 week later, as I entered the gate after a 25 mile trip home from Ziguinchor, Senegal, which took approximately 4.5 hours on transport, Sean whisked me inside and delivered the news . Thursday evening, while I was in Senegal night before he’d got word that Willboy passed away. Wrought with emotion I sat down and wondered how this could be. How this little one what first seemed to have no chance, held on for nearly a month and made marked progress yet was no longer with us. How a family, who we wanted so much to show the love and hope and strength we find in Christ, would perceive this. Would they think our heavenly fathered had abandoned her? Would they question His tender loving care that He has for each one that’s born, which we longed for them to recognize. We don’t know.
As our understanding remains significantly limited by our earthly minds, we are often unable to comprehend the ways of our heavenly father and won’t have satisfactory answers for many of their questions. I’m convinced it would be no different if we spoke the same language. We do know, however, that he loved this little one. He cherished Willboy’s smile and relished her laugh. He loved her more than her family did, more than we did, more than any of us can even imagine. We know that He grieved with the family, and shed tears as she endured the painful suffering when her burns began to heal, and we know that He never left her.
God, I thank you for being here. I want to praise you for your relentless pursuit of your children. I thank you for working even in the most tragic situations such as this. Father I pray that you’ll continue to reveal yourself to Willboy’s family and give us wisdom in our interactions with them. Lord help us to know how we can offer support and be reflections of your love in this time of suffering.
And so, our hearts are wounded as we grieve the loss of God’s precious child. Please join us in prayer for Willboy’s family.