Emmanuel is an eight-month-old little boy. His mother, Yvette T. is a 35-year-old unemployed single mother living with her parents in their family home in Malende in the Southwest Region of Cameroon. Yvette had just returned from Equatorial Guinea where she spent six years in search of greener pastures, but unfortunately, things did not work out the way she had anticipated. Stories she had heard about Equatorial Guinea being a land of plenty didn’t hold true for her.
Despite all her efforts, she couldn’t still make ends meet. She became pregnant and gave birth in this precarious situation. Struggling on her own in a foreign land, she was unable to take proper care of her son due to her lack of resources. As a consequence, Emmanuel fell ill. She emptied the little savings she had as she moved from one hospital to another to no avail. The ever-changing diagnosis from one hospital to the other didn’t help either. She was in a state of total confusion as she could not really put a finger on the exact illness her son was suffering from. Yvette turned to traditional healers; even so, her son’s condition did not get any better.
Even if she had wished to return home, she couldn’t because she had practically no money left. Her family got wind of the ordeal she was going through. They sent her money to return home to have better support. When she arrived, they helped in every way they could until they could no longer hold as their financial situation was bleak amidst the Anglophone crisis. Yvette was determined to do something to earn an income to save her child who now was more bones than flesh. With her certificate in nursing aid in hand, she embarked on finding a job but couldn’t get any. It looked like fate was against her every move. Not being one of those who easily give up, she decided to learn hair dressing in order to be self-employed. This dream was realized but became short lived due to her son’s health condition. This further made life miserable as she had to take care of her two children – eight- months- old Emmanuel and his older sister.
Just when Yvette was feeling discouraged, fate sent her a helper. In fact, on a bright Sunday afternoon, Yvette was carrying her son for a visit as was her custom. While walking down the street, she met with two young men going in the same direction. After taking a close look at her son, one of them came up to her and introduced himself as Elvis, a community worker. Touching the child, he exclaimed, “Madam what is happening with this child, have you taken him to the hospital”? Unfazed by his friend’s insistence to end the conversation for them to do what they set out to do, Elvis told him that attending to the very sick looking baby whose condition needed immediate attention was a priority.
Yvette could not believe the scene that was unfolding before her. She reflected on the uncountable nights she had stared at her son’s livid face, thinking all hope was gone. As she stood there, many thoughts crossed her mind: has God finally seen her suffering and sent someone to help? Or was it a ritualist trying to take advantage of her vulnerability? Her mind weighed more towards the first option; even so she did not want to get too excited for fear of seeing her hope dashed.
As if he was reading her mind, the community worker gave her details on the program he was working with, which had to do with conditions such as the one her son was having. After that brief introduction, he referred her immediately to the Baptist hospital in Mutengene. Sensing her resistance to his suggestions, he connected her with the project coordinator for additional persuasion.
After making up her mind to seize the opportunity, Yvette had to return home to collect a few things. She described her encounter with the community worker to her parents. They were even more skeptical. To them, the entire story was too good to be true. Besides, December was noted for ritual killings. If not, why would a stranger want to help somebody they have never met before? It sounded outlandish. So, her parents concluded that she should not go for the appointment. She agreed to their suggestion to pacify them; deep within, she knew she would have to defy their orders for the sake of her baby. Unfortunately for her, the community worker called again when she was taking her bath; she could hear her parents telling him off. It was at that moment that she understood that her parents were completely against her taking her son to the hospital. Why were they so stiff on their decision? Was it because even as an adult she was still living with them? While lost in her thoughts, she heard her parents answering another call. This time it was a female voice. She could see a ray of trust on her father’s face. To her greatest amazement, he told her that he hasn’t changed his mind. She became very anxious and wondered to herself, “what if my son passed away when a solution was almost at hand? I will never forgive myself for that”, she pondered.
In her battle with her parents, she understood this was the time for her to take a personal decision and stand by it whatever the outcome. She was downcast. Yet in that state, a strange courage came over her and she prayed for days to move faster so that she could go to the hospital for her son to be saved. Later that day, when she judged that her mom was in a good mood, she again tried to enlist her support. Her attempt failed as her mother sternly told her she didn’t have their blessing to go to the hospital. This broke her heart. Strangely enough, her determination to save her son felt even stronger.
Even though her mother didn’t support her going, she gave her a phone for communication purposes since she didn’t own one. This was of great assistance as she easily got to the community worker to inform him of her coming to the hospital. Upon arrival, he was already waiting at the hospital entrance to meet them. Since her son’s case was an emergency, every process went by very fast. He was diagnosed with anemia and severe malnutrition. She couldn’t believe her eyes as her son became alive each passing day. Her physical countenance was also changing for the better. “My son’s situation affected me deeply; now, it is as if the both of us are undergoing a physical metamorphosis”, she grinned broadly.
As the day of their discharge approached, she was eager to go home for the New Year celebration. She wanted to flaunt her child all over the community and tell the story of how he came back to life. She couldn’t wait to see the joy and surprise on her parent’s faces. With tears of joy dropping down her cheeks, she said she felt like thank you was not strong enough to convey her feelings towards UNICEF and CBC Health Services. To her, the two organizations have not only saved the life of her son, but have restored her peace. “Now, I can sleep soundly, pick my life up and live to narrate the story of my son as long as I have the breath of life”, she concludes.
By Vivian Maku