Today Dennis is awake and sitting up. Gogo is happy to see me, while Dennis can not take his eyes off the notebook and pen I brought him together with some crayons. I do not understand until later why these are so important to him.
Juliette, the MSF head nurse is here as well. She is the kind of nurse you would want if you are sick. Kind eyes, beautiful face and always with a smile. Dennis is obviously feeling much better today. He had been quite a severely dehydrated case when he came in and had to be put on a drip, which he was still on today but which Juliette hoped they could stop later on. “He’s finally drinking his ORS,” says Juliette with a smile.
Dennis is small for a 10-year old and now he is so thin it makes him look even smaller. He is quiet and polite. I ask him what it feels like to have cholera. “I had a burning in my stomach,” he says rubbing his abdomen just at the memory. “How do you think you got it?” I ask and Juliette helps me with the translation. He is thoughtful for a moment, then says that he thinks it wasn’t anything he ate, but, “because I was playing outside in the rain in muddy water.” I am surprised at his perceptiveness and think that he is probably right – sewage runs openly through the neighborhood and rain would be a great disseminator of the bacteria. “When I go back, I will tell the other kids not to dig through the rubbish,” says Dennis quietly.
Dennis tells me he wants to be a doctor when he grows up so that if his mother gets sick he can take care of her. It was his mother who brought him to the hospital. Even though she had recently given birth, she carried Dennis on her back all the way; they don’t have the money for transport.
I ask him what he would wish for if he had the chance. He looks down at his thin hands resting on the red hospital blanket and says almost in a whisper, “I want to go to school.” When Juliette questions him further he says he can’t go to school because he doesn’t have books, notebooks or pens.
I say goodbye and hope that Dennis recovers fully soon. Maybe next week, once they are back at home, I will try and visit them at their flat in Mbare. For now, I turn and cup my hands in the Zimbabwe indication of gratitude and say, “Mashvita, Gogo, mashvita Dennis.” They both laugh and repeat the same for me.