A TINY MIRACLE: It's unusual and maybe wrong to refer to any miracle as tiny, but I'm referring more to the person than the miracle itself. Augustine is five years old, but from his size you would think he's only three. This is most likely due to malnutrition, confirmed by his condition—Noma, or Cankrum Oris, a flesh eating disease in which the normal bacteria in one's mouth takes advantage of a weakened body and begins to quickly devour the skin and even kill bone. Underneath the gauze bandage that he wore into our clinic, Augustine was missing nearly all of his right cheek, part of his right upper lip, and much of his upper jaw bone had died. The miracle? Augustine is from Zwedru, over a day's travel by public transportation from our clinic. His condition had started two weeks before we first saw him. Mortality rates for his condition before the days of antibiotics were estimated from 70 to as high as 90%. When I asked if he had IV antibiotics at the local hospital before coming to Monrovia, the answer was no. I thought he must at least have had tablets on his way down, so I asked his father. No. No medicine at all. I asked the father if he had prayed for him, he said yes. "That must be it then," I told him. "He's a walking miracle." And not only was he in reasonably good physical condition, but the disease did not seem to be in the active state. In a condition caused by a weak immune system, how can a body further weakened by the Noma heal itself? Almost impossible. What's more, Augustine sadly tested positive for HIV, which would further explain the reason for this condition, but make it even less likely that he would be in such good health considering the disease from which he suffered. We did a simple debridement of the area, kept him on antibiotics, and he continued to look better and better. Frieda, who asked the father more questions, said the father was told by many what even the nurses at the hospital have told our doctors about some conditions: "Medicine will not cure it. It's African Sign." This usually refers to the effect of a curse. Most everyone believes in this, Christian or not, educated or not. This father was different. He told us boldly that he did not believe this. We don't want to formulate anything, but there has to be something said of not allowing God to be smaller than evil, or even the possibility of evil. And there is something to be said, a child that is still alive against all odds. He has begun antiretroviral medication and will have a long road of facial reconstructive surgery ahead of him, should the chance even arise. But with the love and faith of his father, he will make it through it all just fine.
He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. 1 Samuel 2:8