There was an empty chair next to her where her husband should have been, and, in that emptiness, the sounds of waiting: the fabric of her dress as she shifted against her own seat, the folding and unfolding of hands, the footsteps of doctors and nurses and other visitors walking through the bright, clean halls of the hospital.
Across from her, a group of people were sitting together. They moved and spoke and smiled like people waiting for something good to happen. A baby, she guessed. One of the men kept asking if he should buy pink or blue clothes.
She straightened the hem of her dress and tried not to think of the tube running out of her son’s head. The clear fluid dripping down it. Water in the wrong place.
He’d been her first. The first kick she’d felt come from inside of her. The first heartbeat that had been twin to her own. She’d called him Collins, as her husband had leaned over her bedside, and they’d had six happy months of him being just theirs.
At month seven, Collins had stopped eating. They’d brought him to the hospital where they’d had to share him with doctors and nurses and a machine with a hole cut out of its centre.
Afterwards, when a doctor had explained that Collins had Hydrocephalus — an excess build-up of fluid in the brain — her husband had turned on them both. He isn’t mine, he’d said. He’s yours and yours alone. And so their son had become her son. And the money she received for farming tea plantations had become her only means of feeding them both.
She’d felt two other heartbeats inside of her, since Collins. Two more pairs of kicking feet. But, Collins would always be her first. This boy of hers, lying on a hospital bed. All of that water dripping down the clear plastic tube.
She looked away from the man worrying over pink or blue and toward the door. She wished it would open. She wished it wouldn’t. She waited for someone to tell her that everything had fallen apart or that everything had come together. She didn’t look at the empty chair beside her. She did.
Later, after she’d followed a nurse through the halls to a room with beds and chairs beside them, she placed her hand on his, small and warm beneath hers. She waited for his eyes to open.
It is only through the generosity of our funders that we are able to offer treatment to children like Collins. Thank you for your prayers and your donations.
“I may not have physically met [the] people who give through BethanyKids…but, I believe they rejoice in our triumphs and cry in our setbacks. At least I know someone somewhere cares.”
– Collins Muriuki’s mother