Once upon a time (21 July 2011 to be exact) triplet girls were born at Nkhoma Hospital.
Sadly their father had abandoned them long before birth and tragically their mother, Margaret, died of severe anaemia when they were just nine days old. Happily their Auntie Vigil saved their lives by caring for them at Nkhoma’s Kangaroo Mother Care. She carried them next to her skin.
It was difficult to care for all three and many of the hospital staff helped her to feed them formula, with syringes. Auntie Vigil had other children at home and when she went to them it was round-the-clock work for volunteers.
The whole community donated blankets, formula, clothes, nappies, and other things. One of the maternity staff gave them names. He named them Tamanda which means “we give praise,” Takondwa, “we are loved,” and Tadala, “we are blessed.” Their birth weights had been about 1200gm and they lost some of that, but soon started to gain.
Then, three weeks later, into the KMC came three little boys who had been delivered by C-section.
Again, their father was gone, but they had a strong, loving mom, Lucy, and a wonderful, devoted Auntie Linda. Nyathipa, the clinical officer who delivered them, named them Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They had healthy, full term weights but stayed for a few weeks and developed friendships with the three girls in the next bed.
When it came time for them to go home, parting was sweet sorrow.
Tamanda, Takondwa, and Tadala grew and grew until they too were ready to go home.
But Auntie Vigil wanted them to stay at Nkhoma. Working with the District Social Services the girls were placed in foster care with the staff who had been caring for them for two months. Tamanda went to live with Ellen, the nurse in charge of maternity ward. Takondwa and Tadala went to the home of Nyathipa and her husband, Justice.
While all these babies grew toward their first birthdays, a new development was growing at Nkhoma Hospital. In partnership with an American organization called Y-Malawi, the production of a food supplement for malnourished children was established. Y-Malawi built and staffed a factory at Nkhoma Hospital which makes PB + J (Peanut Butter + Jesus). It is a therapeutic, fortified peanut butter product. The peanuts are bought from the local farms, so supporting the community.
Then, Lucy and Linda were asked to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in for assessment. Sure enough, the boys were found wanting some nutrition. Lucy could barely feed them all herself. They were loaded up with enough peanut butter food supplement for two weeks.
Upon returning, Shadrach and Meshach had gained a kilo each. Abednego not so much. But then they returned home to feast on some more peanut butter, and even Lucy is now taking it as well so she will have more milk to give them. Their progress will be monitored every two weeks.
Hopefully they will all become strong enough to ward off malaria and pneumonia and live happily ever after.