They took their six-month-old son to the clinic because of a cough.
The clinic thought something did not sound quite right and referred them to us.
We thought something did not sound quite right and sent the child to X-rays.
The baby has pneumonia, the X-ray revealed. Completely treatable; this baby with his healthy immune system and good nutrition would be just fine after a course of antibiotics.
But while watching their child cry as the doctors drew blood from him, first the mother and then the father became undone.
Afterwards, the father repeatedly asked what could have caused their child’s illness. Did they give it to him? Did they do something wrong?
We tried to explain that sometimes babies get ill, and that it is more common during the Winter months. Their command of English was slight, but they caught on to the word “cold”, and the father cried again because he felt that perhaps he had not kept his son warm enough. No matter the explanation, he continued concluding that the illness was his fault.
It wasn’t, I’m quite sure. But I know my parents were much the same while we were young.
In these parts we don’t often see fathers by the side of their sick children.
I know he will give his son the protection he so dearly needs from his father. I know that there is hope for fathers in South Africa.
The next day, not needing supplemental oxygen, the baby was sent home with his parents to complete the antibiotics there. The baby will be healthy, and his parents will be great.