Not The Ending I Wanted
Monday, January 16, 2017
This week started off just like any other week. Chris and Luke arrived from Kathmandu and we all made plans to go to the new land first thing Monday morning. There was a big cement pour happening on the construction site that we didn't want to miss so as soon as we ate breakfast and got the kids off to school, we jumped in the truck and headed on over. We crossed over the footbridge to the sound of cement mixers and the roar of construction machinery and wheelbarrows filled with fresh wet cement trailing around the land and up the ramp like ants in a colony. Having walls to touch and rooms to walk through and roofs to stand on with a spectacular view of the valley felt surreal. There's something really amazing and almost indescribable about watching a dream you've had on paper, blueprints, computer screens, and in thousands of hours of construction meetings, being erected. It felt real. It felt like progress. The sun was shining and the sky was blue and I was staring out over our construction site picturing the day, in the not-so-distant-future, when this new school of ours would be filled with giggling children, fruit trees, gardens, and gazebos. "What better way to start a Monday?" I thought. We walked around the campus for an hour, watching the cement pour and the work progress. Over on the other side of the the construction site is our beautiful garden with chickens and their baby chicks waddling around, new baby bunnies, buzzing bees, and three very pregnant cows. For a moment I felt serene and content and proud.
Then I see a sweet two-year-old little girl, so cute that she stops me in my tracks.
"Who's this little one?" I ask Krishna, our groundskeeper.
“Her mother is from the village. She’s dying and I wanted to bring her here today to distract her.”
Her mother’s dying? Where? At the hospital?
No they sent her home.
How old is she? She’s 25.
What is she dying from? No one knows.
I walk over to the house. I see what I feared but worse. I see a woman laying on a mat on a dirt floor in a dark empty room covered in flies. She's all alone. I call people inside. I ask a million questions.
I look at her and know it’s not good. I know she’s dying. It’s all over her face. Her eyes look sunken in and her face looks black and blue and she’s all skin and bones. She weighs 45 pounds. I know this because I can pick her up with one arm. She’s so small she looks like a child. When she sees me, her eyes open. She touches my hand and begins to cry. “I’m dying,” is all she can say in a whisper. “I’m dying. My son, my daughters. I’m dying.” When I look into her eyes, I feel like I can see right through her. I can feel every bit of her suffering. I feel less alone in my own.
I pore through bills and medical documents and can’t find anything conclusive. I see she hasn't been to a good doctor or a proper hospital. No one seems to know what’s wrong and clearly she didn't have the money for proper treatment. How does a 25-year-old woman die like this without a diagnosis?
I know she doesn’t have much of a chance. I know it’s probably not worth moving her. But then I think of her three small children. I think of what I would want if she was me. I think of her three little kids. I call Ruth and Tope and they come right away. We decide to make an attempt to medevac her to Kathmandu and spend the next hour rushing, making arrangements, loading her up with electrolytes. It all happens so fast. I question what I’m doing. Am I doing the wrong thing? Is it worth trying?
I hear this hopeful voice inside that tells me to try, that I want to be able to tell her children when they grow up that I did everything I could. She calls her children to say goodbye and we all sit there teary-eyed on the front stoop. Jeremy and I take her three hours on the bumpy road in the a broken down ambulance and put her on the plane. Before the plane takes off she starts talking and I see this light come back into her eyes. We watch the plane take off and find a car to take us the long, dark, silent three-hour ride home. I get back just in time for satsung and to put the kids in bed and think about how the day started, how all I wanted to do was answer my emails and catch up on work and how so much had happened in 10 hours.
Our team member Rosna received Kanchi in Kathmandu and escorted her to the best hospital we know of in another ambulance. She was there all week in the ICU while we waited and waited and waited to hear results. We got the best doctors. They conducted every test. They did everything they could. And then yesterday morning they called to tell us what we kind of already knew but didn't want to hear. She's dying. Her left lung has collapsed. Her heart is failing. As soon as we pay the bill, they're going to send her back in the ambulance. That's where she is now while I type this, in the ambulance, barely conscious on the long bumpy ride through the mountains coming home from the hospital. She's all I can think about. I don't even know if she'll still be alive when she gets here. I feel a little silly. I feel silly for making her go through all that, for giving her and her family a false sense of hope after they had already come to terms with what was happening. I wanted so badly for it to be the happy ending where the young beautiful mother of three makes a miraculous recovery and comes back healthy and strong to raise her children. I've spent all week dreaming about how she'd come back home healthy and the kids could come to our school and I'd give her a job on the new campus or at the women's center and this will all just be a thing of the past.
This is not the ending I wanted and I'm sad. There are no happy endings. There's just life and it's unbearably hard. I hope that her children will be some of those giggling children running around our new beautiful school one day, I'll be able to think of their mom, Kanchi, and in some way her spirit will live on.
UPDATE: Sadly, Kanchi passed away from tuberculosis on January 15. Thank you to everyone who reached out with kind words. For those of you who want to contribute, we’ve set up a donation page for our newly formed emergency relief fund to cover Kanchi’s medical bills, to provide something for her children’s future, and to have funding readily available for the next young mother who may need it.