to unmask the microbial culprit. But Jamilla would have to go by ambulance. It would cost forty dollars to send her.
Could she survive the trip?
Probably. If she remained in Wa, there was little hope.
I arranged for Jamilla, accompanied by one of her aunts, to leave for
Jirappa the next morning. She returned the following day with a diagnosis: klebsiella.
Two drugs were effective against this. Wa Hospital had ordered both,
but they had failed to arrive, had probably been stolen somewhere along
the way for sale on the black market. The doctor suggested I inquire in
the handful of splintered wooden shacks that served as Wa’s pharmacies.
I tried two of these in vain. At the third I got lucky.
If you want to witness a miracle firsthand, watch antibiotics lift someone out of the grave. Lazarus has nothing on this. Forty-eight hours
after starting the correct medication, Jamilla was discharged from the
hospital. Raised from the dead, she walked slowly but purposefully to
a waiting taxi, her lips parted with the relief of breath and life, with the
promise of vitality. She was, after all, just sixteen years old.
Within a week, Boris was once more flapping in distress in my hallway, his breath so full of booze it was combustible. He complained that
Jamilla’s appetite was bankrupting him. She could eat more than his
entire family combined. He turned stony-faced when I pointed out that
Jamilla was making up for a month of hell. I handed him money for food
and promised more.
He stared at me and did not look away. The realization hit: Jamilla
was no longer his responsibility. She was mine. That proverb about saving someone’s life and then they’re yours for good? It was true.
I was less than overjoyed, being no more fond of responsibility than
was Boris. Plus I was leaving town in ten days. What was I supposed to
do with a childless young woman who could never be a mother, whose
family didn’t want her, whose husband had divorced her, who was illiterate and had no skills to support herself? A girl cast out by husband and
kin, on her own at sixteen with enough history to keep a Westerner in
therapy for a lifetime?
After consulting Jamilla, I enrolled her in a training program at the
Baptist Mission in nearby Kaleo, a live-in facility for rejected wives,
barren women, childless widows, wayward daughters—the flotsam and
jetsam of local social systems. The Mission provided unwanted females