You can tell Kevin is coming by the noise. First comes his two pet chickens, clucking and squawking as they move in a dusty blur through the yard. And Kevin comes fast behind them, running and laughing as he chases them around the outside of his house. He barely skirts the pile of mangoes his grandmother will sell to their neighbors, his feet thudding on the dry ground.
A few months ago Kevin’s grandmother, Carlina, noticed Kevin’s run was slower. Soon the dusty yard had grown quiet and Kevin could no longer chase his pets or even play with his friends, his legs in constant pain.
Carlina wasn’t initially concerned about Kevin’s pain. She had devoted much of her life to caring for Kevin’s medical needs — this was just one more obstacle that they would overcome together. Kevin had meningitis as an infant, and his mother and father left him with Carlina, overwhelmed by his physical needs. For two years Carlina nursed Kevin back to health, working with him through limited mobility and damaged.
Carlina was proud that her grandson, 11 years old, was so healthy and active. This pain in his legs would pass.
But it didn’t. Soon Kevin could barely walk. Carlina went to the Compassion student center where Kevin had attended since he was 7. Through the Medical Fund, the staff was able to take Kevin to a specialist. He was diagnosed with muscle atrophy, a condition left over from his battle with meningitis. The doctor said Kevin would need months of therapy and rehabilitation.
Compassion staff arranged for a physical therapist to come to the student center to give Kevin therapy. After just a few weeks Carlina could already see an improvement in his walking.
For a child and caregiver who have lived through years of chronic illness, constant pain and even physical abandonment, healing goes beyond the physical. Compassion staff had noticed some aggression and behavioral issues with Kevin, and they had seen evidence that Carlina struggled in how to discipline the boy in a healthy way. So they arranged for the two to visit a psychologist every week.
Kevin latched on to the techniques the psychologist taught him — when he grew frustrated or angry, he learned to count to 10 to calm down.
“Sometimes I have to count to 15,” says Kevin. “If I don’t feel better then, I know I better leave.”
Carlina has learned how to help Kevin maneuver through conflict, through dialogue not aggression. Through this combination of physical and emotional therapy, Carlina is able to provide a home that is stable and safe for her grandson.
“It was hard for me to raise Kevin alone,” says Carlina. “I don’t know that I could have done it without Compassion.”
Kevin has regained most of the use of his legs, and he is back to chasing chickens through the yard. But when he slows down, he tells his grandmother he wants to be a teacher when he grows up. And Carlina is happy to do whatever she can to help Kevin overcome any obstacles that could get in his way.