The police officers named the baby Jesca.  Apparently, if you find a baby, wailing from inside the empty confines of the TAMCO factory lot at 10 p.m. you are awarded unchallenged authorship over the blank page of her.  I suppose, as melodramatic as it must sound, Jesca does owe her life to the policeman who discerned her bundled, mewling cries from underneath a moonlit shrub.

She is not a newborn.  Jesca's got to be at least a month or two given her weight, a healthy 4.5 kg.  Her saggy cheeks are full, as if she's tucked away bilateral stores of acorns.  Her glassy, marble eyes are alert if unfocused, and the delicate nubs of her flexed knuckles fumble about her miniature lips.  She is flawless.  Even so, she was left to her own devices, buffered against the nocturnal forces of the African nightscape by only a pink acrylic blanket. 

'Do they do this where you come from?" one of the nurses asked me.  She rapid-fired the words in Kiswahili, but accompanied as they were by a two handed tossing-to-the-side football gesture, I gathered her meaning.

I offer a sisterly Africans-are-no-different-than-Americans shake of the head.  It's true, isn't it?  I'm sure I've heard Fox Five reports about babies left screaming in public bathrooms.  

The nurses in the labor ward feed Jesca formula on an uncharted, unmonitored schedule.  I feel an uptight concern about this although the important thing is, of course, that someone is administering regular bottles of nutritionally complete liquid to the child.  These same laid-back caretakers also ensure that Jesca is supplied with an ever-expanding wardrobe of matching knitted and ruffled, flowered and elaborately embroidered getups.  Although the temperature rarely dips below 85 degrees Fahrenheit, Jesca never travels outside the maternity ward without a hat and woolen socks. 

I met Jesca when the labor ward attendants brought her downstairs for an HIV test.  Given that she still carries her mother's antibodies, we performed what is called a Dried Blood Spot.  This unpleasant activity involves pricking an infant's big toe and then holding the screaming child's foot perfectly steady while five drops of blood are squeezed with exact precision onto pencil eraser-sized circles marked on absorbent paper.  The Dried Blood Spot is then sent by airplane to a central lab where technicians search for the presence of HIV DNA.  Results return anywhere from a week to a month later, depending on the careful choreography of plane, donor funds, and ground transportation.  As I held Jesca and freed a hot foot from its sweaty binding, she looked right past me.

It is clichéd and sentimental.  I'm a white suburbanite from, of all places, Connecticut.  Still, I wanted to take her home with me.  I could handle the self-righteous stares of strangers and politicized acquaintances.  And I think my family, once they got over the shock, would come around.  But I said nothing about my secret wish.   

At least Jesca's mother (or was it her father or an auntie?) deposited the baby within spitting distance of the hospital.  He or she left Jesca close enough to the road for Officer Whoever to swiftly convey her to the nurses' triage station to be assessed, admitted, and renamed, to be entrusted to our caretaking collective until further notice.

Copyright 2008- American Society of Registered Nurses (ASRN.ORG)-All Rights Reserved


Articles in this issue:


  • Masthead

    Editor-in Chief:
    Kirsten Nicole

    Editorial Staff:
    Kirsten Nicole
    Stan Kenyon
    Robyn Bowman
    Kimberly McNabb
    Lisa Gordon
    Stephanie Robinson

    Kirsten Nicole
    Stan Kenyon
    Liz Di Bernardo
    Cris Lobato
    Elisa Howard
    Susan Cramer

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