Friday, January 21, 2011

The Whole Story - Still Day One

(Don't worry, I won't be recounting each of the 22 days we were gone in this much detail!)

Later that day, after lunch and a little shopping spree to replace some of the items in our still-missing luggage, we had the opportunity to spend more time with Ernest. For the first hour or so we hung out with him in the lobby area of the “baby house” where all the children under 3 live. We attempted to engage Ernest, played catch with a soft football we brought, and fed him an afternoon snack of crackers and milk. Throughout the entire hour he was completely mute – even when something startled him at one point and he began to cry. A faint, odd moaning came out, but no real noise. He also, again, seemed completely engrossed in activity out the window – except there wasn’t any. Danny and I were starting to sense that something was dreadfully wrong, but still held back from voicing anything.
The head nanny came to give us a tour of the facility where Ernest has spent most of his life, and honestly, it was very impressive. The entire house, about 4 large rooms and several smaller ones, was impeccably maintained and full of every convenience and tool one might need to care for so many precious little ones. One room even had incubators in the event that a very sick infant was entrusted to them. Every inch was sparkling clean, and each child appeared to have crisp sheets, a fresh outfit, and a huge smile for us – the odd-looking visitors.
We were led to the back room where all of the preschoolers were playing, and we were an instant hit. Everyone (except Ernest) was jumping up and down in excitement over our cameras, and couldn’t believe what they were seeing on the preview screen of our video camera. Each of them wanted to be held, played with, and photographed. The kids showed us their playground just outside the double doors, and we spent several more hours interacting with them there.
The children were clearly thrilled with this change in routine and couldn’t wait to show us all of their tricks. We were treated to renditions of their favorite African nursery songs, as well as many familiar to us including the ABC song, all of the months of the year, days of the week – in their second language, English! (Reagan can’t even do that, and she’s four with the benefit of a family!) Ernest, however, didn’t participate in any of the songs, dances or play, despite the obvious best efforts of the nannies. The more we watched him in comparison to his peers, the further our hearts sank. Our faces were still plastered with the smiles that said we wanted to believe everything was all right, but it was quickly becoming clear that that was a fa├žade. We later discovered that each of the four of us (me, Danny, my mom and my dad) approached the nannies individually to ask whether Ernest talks. Each time they answered definitely, “no,” but seemed hesitant to elaborate.
As dinnertime approached for the children, we said our good-byes and started the walk back to our guest house. We were barely outside the nursery grounds when my very non-confrontational mother turned to us and said “well, I think he has cerebral palsy.” At that point, our hearts just dropped right down onto the ground. Not because it was an offensive thing to say, but because it rang so true, and because we knew it carried so many serious implications. Danny and I had sensed something wasn't right, but we couldn’t put our finger on it. My dad, however, practiced medicine for decades and actually worked in a cerebral palsy hospital ward for a time. He and my mom started pointing out numerous traits Ernest exhibited that are common among CP patients. They were also convinced that he was probably much older than three as had been represented. At that point, I think time started to stand still as we began to question whether anything we had been told was true. The next 14 hours would be some of the longest of our lives, and we were still only 24 hours removed from 40 hours of travel.

3 comments:

Julie said...

My heart hurts for everyone in involved. I think writing it all out is theraputic.

Sharon said...

I know I'm just a relative of a friend...but I am so intrigued by your story. Thank you for sharing in such detail! -Sharon (Brian's sis)

By the Brook said...

Oh Laura! God is so good and I am so thankful for what He has done in your lives through this immense trial. Thank you for writing and I love your detail too:)