Peter

"Karibu mama, karibu!", what a beautiful baby you have by the hand!

She too has a pretty face, a slender young woman's body wrapped in a kanga of many colors.

I have already seen the problem: both of the baby's feet are malformed.

"Jna lako nani?"

"Peter," says the mother. The child does not speak and looks around. I think this clean and tidy environment is foreign to him living in the misery and confusion of the slum.

Wear flip-flops: after so many years, every time I see them, I still wonder how these children walk. But then I think that all of Africa walks with flip-flops ... Oh well!

Only the external part of the foot rests on the ground, the sole is turned inwards and has no contact with the ground.

"Enda kwa kitanda", I tell the mother. She lays him down on the examination table and holds his hand. The child looks at me and has a moment of bewilderment. I hand him a candy which he unwraps and slips into his mouth. He is attentive and has good dexterity, it is not cerebral palsy: it is "just" a congenital malformation of both feet.

These feet, in addition to being twisted, are rigid, it is clear that they have been walking on them for five years. This condition will give me some more problems in the operating room tomorrow morning.

[In the operating theater, the following morning.]

I'm having a coffee in the tea room and I see the mother enter with the baby in her arms: she hands it to Florence, the nurse-instrumentalist who in turn entrusts it to Judit and Daniel, the two anesthetists colleagues. I hear some screams. Surely they are pricking his arm to cannulate a vein. Then silence, just the beep of the anesthesia machine. Daniel looks out and gestures to me that I can wash: it begins.

I finished, the result is satisfactory, as expected the surgery took up almost the whole morning, having decided to operate both feet. I called Henry into the room to make the casts to keep the malformation corrected. I go out to drink some tea to relax before starting the next surgery: a child with osteomyelitis of the leg. At the end of the room, late in the afternoon, I go to the ward to check on Peter: he is still asleep, I touch my toes sticking out of the plaster to make sure they are warm. It's okay, he sleeps, it's better this way, as long as he sleeps he doesn't feel pain. I go in guest house to relax a little. It's almost dinner time.

I want to pop into the ward this morning to see Peter and check him out while awake. He is a bit in pain, I can see it from his expression, but he doesn't cry. I give him a candy, ask him to move his fingers sticking out of the plaster and he does it with a grimace: okay, that's enough, I tell him. I go to the operating room. At the end of sitting, while through the courtyard headed in guest house for a bite, I see Peter bundled up on Mom's back, wrapped in a kitamba Red and blue. They come towards me, Peter leans a little to smile at me. "They are beautiful," I think. His smile repays me for the fatigue and tension spent in the operating room: today's fatigue disappeared instantly.

I point to Peter the stadium that can be seen in the distance beyond the hospital gate and I make him promise to invite me one day to see him play football in the red Kenya national team jersey.

His face lights up: mine too.

Antonio Melotto

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