Find a picture of yourself when you were two. Look at it. Look at it hard. What were you like? How many teeth did you have? How small were your hands?
Isaac was two. He had friends. A mother. Grandparents who farmed a small lot of land. His view of the world was mostly other people’s knees. Isaac was two when he came home with a piece of cake, sticky and half-eaten in his small hands.
What would your mother have said to you, standing in front of her with cake under your fingernails? What would she have said if she looked at your face and saw your mouth swollen? Your lips so thick you couldn’t call out to her?
Isaac’s mouth was tight with hurt. He couldn’t answer when his mother asked what had happened. The words wouldn’t fit through.
Poison, she thought. Maybe she held his swollen face to her chest as she said the strange word to the doctors. Maybe he still had some of that cake on his hands when they gave him strange medicine.
Lab coats and needles and hospital beds. An x-ray of a child’s throat. Words like “surgery” and “esophagus.”
He couldn’t eat. Not really. His throat had contracted. It would all come back up, fast and hard. And small hands become too small when you can’t swallow. Bones show themselves.
Isaac’s parents didn’t know what to do except hold his too-small hands and think about what they’d do after Isaac became a past-tense child. The son they’d had.
But then a friend mentioned BethanyKids Kijabe Hospital. And on a February day, Dr. Hansen bent over Isaac and cut in places that needed to be cut and opened spaces that needed to be opened, and, soon, Isaac was eating. Too-small hands became small hands, again.
He’s been back more than eighty times since. Faces open into smiles when they see him walking down the halls.
His mother works at her uncle’s tea farm, now. Her job from before wasn’t patient enough. Nor was her husband. But, BethanyKids has been there. And they’ve made sure the money is there for Isaac to keep coming back.
“I believe, that even if the world is full of injustice and suffering, things change for the better,” Isaac’s mother says. “BethanyKids…allowed Isaac to heal.”
Isaac is five. He has friends. A mother. Grandparents who farm a small lot of land. His small hands are bigger, now. His view of the world has grown beyond other people’s knees.