The dwindling band of regular readers of my blog may recall the story in 2014 of a Zambian child who would shout out “Doktah! Doktah!” whenever I drove past their house just a hundred metres from the clinic. It didn’t matter if the little girl was having a bath in a tin tub or squatting down having a pee, when I went past, up went the cry, “Doktah!”
For the first month I couldn’t drive down that road because it was a muddy quagmire. Now the track has dried out, I can inch my way along it. Taking this route cuts half a kilometre off my journey. I looked for the child but none of the faces registered. One of the houses looked boarded up and I thought that perhaps the child had moved away.
I stopped by a compound and asked a woman about the child. She said the child was at primary school at present, but she would bring the child to the clinic after school. Later that day, a mother and child waited to see me. The child looked too old to be the one I remembered, and sure enough, when I showed them the photographs, they shook their heads. Mistaken identity. But they did know who it was in the pictures and they offered to pass on a message.
The following day as I arrived at the clinic at 8am, I heard, “Doktah!”. I saw a smartly dressed child in preschool uniform, perched on the crossbar of a bike, ridden by the mother. The child waved and I waved back. Mum stopped the bike and brought the child into my consultation room. I showed them the pictures of an infant in a tin bath tub, being soaped by their mother. They recognised themselves instantly. But the little girl was actually a boy, Desmond.
Mother told me that it was very costly paying for preschool (primary school is free in Zambia, by law) and she wondered if I could find a sponsor for Desmond’s education. I said I would make inquiries. Desmond was late for school by now, so he climbed aboard mother’s bike and she got onto the saddle, a baby strapped to her back. I steadied the bike then gave them a push start, managing to run ahead and take some photographs.
What a great start to the day.