Stories of Hope-Malaika Faith

This little angel was found on the streets of Ronda in June, where it appears she was abandoned. Ronda is similar to other poverty-ridden towns around Nakuru. Many people live in small homes made of mud or tarps with earthen floors and no water or electricity. It’s a constant struggle to have adequate food. School is a luxury, afforded by very few.

Initially, we thought this tiny girl was malnourished and that was why she didn’t walk. Her thin arms and legs stretched from her extended abdomen.  Her vocabulary put her at around two or three, but we really had no idea. And we didn’t know her name. (We gave her the name Malaika, Swahili for Angel & Faith) She was a sweet, hungry child whose heart was beating so hard, you could actually feel it through her clothing.  When you put your hand on her chest, it practically felt like you were holding her heart in your hand. We assumed it was the same excitement we find in many kids when they first see Springs of Hope, meals, and us wazungu (white people). But her little heart never slowed down.

Six days later Malaika Faith ended up in the local hospital with pneumonia, and the doctors diagnosed her as having a VSD (Ventricular Septal Defect) or small holes in her heart. After five days in the hospital, she was discharged as the pneumonia had cleared. The doctors told us to bring her back for a check-up in August, and said the heart holes would likely close by themselves.

But as soon as Malaika Faith was well enough to travel, we took her to the larger Kijabe Hospital for a full evaluation.  Kijabe is about an hour and a half drive from Nakuru, and is known in Kenya for quality, affordable medical care.  At Kijabe, we learned that Malaika Faith did have small holes in her heart, but more critically, we learned she was in heart failure.  She was admitted to the hospital immediately and given an echocardiogram. Fortunately, a cardiologist was coming the next morning who could do a complete evaluation – a major praise. She was diagnosed with a patent (open) ductus arteriosus, otherwise known as a PDA and two small VSD’s holes in her heart.

We learned that the ductus arteriosus is a blood vessel that all babies have in vitro that allows blood to bypass the lungs, and flow from the pulmonary artery to the aorta.  After birth and the umbilical cord is cut, the lungs start working to supply oxygen to the heart. The ductus arteriosus usually closes within the first hours of life, as it is no longer needed.  But sometimes, this closure doesn’t happen, which is what happened with Malaika Faith. A newborn with a patent ductus arteriosus may have rapid breathing, frequent respiratory infections, poor growth, and tire easily – all signs of congestive heart failure. In the Western world, newborns with this condition are usually diagnosed quickly, and the condition is corrected with laparoscopic surgery.

But for Malaika Faith it didn’t happen that way. It’s very likely she was born in a household of extreme poverty, with limited access to medical care, if any. he was getting sicker and sicker as her heart was failing.  Chances are her family never knew about her underlying condition, but just that she was a sick child they couldn’t provide for.

Malaika’s family most likely didn’t have access to medical care, and they may not have had food or even a home. Who knows, but maybe they had faith that someone would help their sick child. God may have led them to the place where they had the courage to leave their precious child, guided by the sense that a Good Samaritan would find her and take to the authorities, increasing the chances she’d get the care she needed. Malaika’s family may have trusted God wholeheartedly, knowing He would do what was best for His child.  

We’re joyous that Malaika’s heart is healing, but she still requires a large amount of medical care and we are praying that she doesn’t have to undergo any further surgery. She needs to go to Nairobi for ongoing cardiac care. While we are busy making sure she is getting the care she needs, she is busy learning how to walk! She keeps us busy and we love it. She’s a true delight!

A word about her name: As soon as we saw this young girl we thought of Faith and Angel. Malaika is Angel in Kiswahili, so the perfect name appeared for this hopeful child.

Fast forward…
On January 23rd at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Florida, sponsored by Dr. Ettedgui,
Patrons of the Hearts, and all of you, Malaika had surgery to repair both the holes in
her heart. Surgery went better than expected and her recovery was remarkable. We
were able to travel back to California from Florida on February 6th. We had been told
so many times not to bank on surgery, as she was too sick. A miracle! Our little
fighter never gives up! The God of our universe has plans for this little one here on
earth there is no doubt about it.
Malaika still struggles with Pulmonary Hypertension and another amazing
cardiologist here in California is following her and will be working with Dr. Ettedgui
to ensure she gets the treatment she needs.
For now we are waiting to see if the pressures in her lungs come down which would
mean that the Pulmonary Hypertension COULD reverse itself. That is the hope and
prayer! We should know more in the next 3 to 6 months, then the doctors can give us
a better outlook on her longer term health.
I am beyond grateful, as none of this would have happened in this little girl’s life
without people like you who have supported the work at Springs of Hope Kenya.

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