…ever after.

September 10, 2010

While in Africa, this blogging business took more of my time than I’d care to admit. Now at home, I have been waiting for months to write this last post. Do you know what I had imagined that I would tell you? The perfect ending to Kpely’s story, which would be the perfect beginning to the rest of her life: That, after years of dwelling in her own urine, she is finally, finally dry!

So I’m left a little downtrodden having to tell you the reality. The reality is that her fistula was closed, but Kpely still leaks. When the infant in her womb pushed down during five days of labor, the pressure not only killed the little bit of tissue that formed that hole, it also killed a significant amount of the tissue that forms her bladder. This means that she is left with a very small bladder, as well as weak pelvic floor muscles from years of non-use. She just cannot hold in her own urine. She will leak less now than before, but still, she will leak.

I wonder how Kpely is coping with this outcome, or even if she understands why these skilled doctors on the big white boat could not stop her leak. I wonder how her village reacted when she went back to northern Benin, and where she will live, and how she will earn enough money to eat.

It reminds me of a conversation I had in Togo. A friend came home one day after bumping into a Peace Corps volunteer that afternoon. After telling this young person about Mercy Ships, the girl had proclaimed, “We don’t need God–we need people like you!”

But what about Kpely? She was operated on by one of the best fistula surgeons in the world. She received first-class post-operative care from devoted nurses. For the first time in her life, the odds were stacked in her favor! But there are some problems that surgery cannot fix. Some physical wounds will not be healed.

I wish I had the wisdom to understand, or to draw a poignant lesson that will leave you and me feeling a bit more comfortable. More satisfied. And then what? We would go about our lives, every so often recalling this fairytale ending to a story about a poor woman in Africa. Instead, we have to realize that each day as we go to work and buy our groceries and hug our families, Kpely has urine dripping down her legs. I hope that it doesn’t stop at this uncomfortable thought. I hope it makes you tilt your eyes upwards and question, or plead, or throw up your arms in exasperation that this life is so often unfair. For this woman who was given us to pray over for a short time is now ours to pray over for a lifetime.

Maggie sent me a gift that I want to share with you: this photo of Kpely taken on the day of her send-off from the ship, donning a brand new dress and headscarf. She is beautiful. Beautiful in a way that no stench or wetness can conceal. May she know that she is loved.