It is the middle of the night. The only sound is the metallic rattle of the tin roof as it shudders in the night breeze. But soon another sound begins. It starts as a gentle wheeze emanating from a small boy lying on a mat. But quickly the wheeze turns raspy, and the boy sits up, trying to gulp in the humid night air. The rasping turns to panicked gasps, and no amount of effort can force air into his burning lungs. It takes every bit of energy Tertus can muster to cry out a strangled "Mama!"
"He was suffering so …"
Madeleine is at her son's side before her eyes are fully open. She desperately holds Tertus, watching his heaving chest and wishing she could give him her own breath.
Madeleine has known this desperate feeling since Tertus was a baby. When the cold, damp air crept in through the cracks in the walls of their home in the winter, the wheezing would begin. Madeleine and her husband, a taxi driver, had to save up more than a week's pay to take their son to the doctor.
"He was suffering so," says Madeleine. "We took him to small health-care centers and they prescribed medicines that we bought. But he was not getting any better. Finally, we saved up enough money to take him to the pediatrician, who told us he had asthma."
Madeleine spent all of the family's money taking Tertus to the doctor, but now they had no money to pay for the treatment he desperately needed. Then when Tertus was 5, Madeleine heard that Compassion opened a child development center in her town.
"We heard about the registration," says Madeline. "We have three children and only Tertus was the right age. Therefore, I prayed and took him to the Compassion project. After a series of questions, he was registered. I believe that it was because the people saw in us that we really needed our child to get help."
Consistent Care Crucial
Staff members at the AD Samandin Child Development Center (BF-105) knew Tertus needed immediate medical help for his asthma. While his family had done all they could, they had never been able to afford consistent treatment and care for Tertus. Through the support of Tertus' sponsor, Compassion was able to cover the costs of his medical needs. Gradually, Tertus' lungs grew stronger.
"Since Tertus has been registered at the Compassion project, we have been thanking God for His goodness," says Madeleine. "Now we don't have to borrow money anymore to treat him. The Compassion project pays for all of his health expenses and medicine, and this is really helping us."
Nikieme, health specialist at the AD Samandin program, works closely with Tertus' parents, helping them identify triggers for the boy's asthma and prescribing treatments they can do at home. Nikieme has also arranged for Tertus to see a specialist for his asthma — a luxury that would have been impossible for his family to afford.
Returning the Favor
Tertus, now 8, enjoys playing with his friends on the playground without the fear that his chest will clamp shut as it once did. While Madeleine still watches her son closely, listening for the slightest wheeze, she does so with the full knowledge that her son will be cared for if he becomes sick again.
While Tertus is healthy now, he has not forgotten what it was like to be sick. Because of that, he dreams of one day being a doctor so he can help children like himself.
"Our child dreams to be a medical doctor to treat us whenever we are sick," says Madeleine proudly. "Even at school, whenever they ask him about his plans for the future, he answers that he would like to become a doctor to treat children suffering from asthma. My son wants to help others."