Friday, during a funeral that most of our staff attended, a mama arrived late in the afternoon carrying her sick child, about 5 years old.
She told me the child had been sick in the morning with fever and malaise, but then seemed to get better.
By the time the nurse was called and arrived from the funeral 5 minutes away, he had time to try to start an intravenous line, but as he was putting it in the child took her last breath. He was able to get a little more history: apparently the mama left the child at home feeling okay, but when she arrived back home the child was unconscious and appeared short of breath. (In retrospect, she was having Cheyne-Stokes respirations, the deep sighs that signal death is imminent.)
I found the mom, keening alone on the floor, with the body of her dead child on the bed beside her. All I had to offer were murmurs of sympathy and a shoulder to cry on, so that is what I gave.
We suppose she had severe malaria, which kills so many of the children here. We will never know for sure. All I know is that another funeral will be held. One of too many funerals.