Yesterday we admitted Mwavita, a 15 year-old, HIV positive girl with pneumonia. Both of her parents died years ago and she lives alone in the world. She survives day-by-day and eats any food she can find on the street.
She is described by all of the nurses and local staff as an astoundingly beautiful girl. Her external beauty is apparent to me but, unfortunately, it does not hide the sadness in her eyes. She has lived a hard life and knows death will come shortly.
Today as I was rounding, she began to hyperventilate and sob uncontrollably. She mumbled “the other mothers in the room told me that I smell like urine and I should leave”.
Immediately, the other mothers in the room erupted and said “She is lying.”
This upset me. I told the entire room “I do not care what you said. The fact is that she is upset and feels unwelcome. You should be mature enough to support her.”
I turned back to the patient and said “there are a lot of people who smell in this room, but you are not one of them.” It was a bit inappropriate but we both laughed.