April 9

Dear Diary,
So many times I have imagined what it will be like to be a doctor. Standing beside mother in the clinic has shown me how to do many things, and always it makes me feel better to help someone who needs it. The government trained her to be a community health worker, to do simple things like taking temperatures or giving shots. But, of course, life is not always so simple and sometimes a person needed more than that. Mother has treated wounds, some that needed stitches. She makes very neat, tiny stitches! I have watched.

So as we ran home, praying that the thieves would not chase us and slipping on a trail turned to mud from the pouring rain, Ogbay fell. His machete cut him on his leg. We saw him stumble and heard him cry out, even over the thunder. Then Father and Tekle were beside him. Blood was pouring from his calf.

Father shook his head. “We will never get home like this.”

“If only we could get to the plateau, at least we would be able to see if someone is coming, and if we need to hurry so much,” added Tekle.

I slid down Kassa’s neck and ran to Ogbay. “Let me see the cut,” I said.

Father shook his head. “This is not your problem, Rahel,” he said.

“I am not afraid,” I replied. “I have seen many cuts at the clinic.”

“Let her look,” urged Tekle. Ogbay was moaning from the pain. He was also shaking, so I knew he was in shock, and I said so. Tekle lifted the bloody cloth they had wrapped around Ogbay’s leg.

“It is a clean cut, not too deep,” I said, “but it needs stitches, that’s what Mother would say.”

“But your mother is not here, Rahel,” Father pointed out. “We need to keep going.”

“He is bleeding too much. I can stitch him.” There was a lot of discussion, but I stuck my arm into my backpack and brought out my little box. “I always keep my medical things in my backpack. A doctor should be prepared,” I said. Father’s mouth fell open.

“Your daughter is…unusual,” smiled Tekle.

Diary, I do not know how I did it. I poured iodine from a little bottle into Ogbay’s wound, and he bit down on his knife handle to keep from crying out. Father and the boys held their plastic ponchos over us like a tent to keep the rain off. Tekle lit father’s lamp and placed it beside me so I could see to thread the needle. The first time I pulled the thread through Ogbay’s skin, I felt dizzy and a little sick. But I pretended I was already a famous doctor, grown-up and smart and calm. I made ten stitches—as neat as I could—on Ogbay’s leg, while the silent tears leaked from his eyes. Then Tekle wrapped the leg with strips torn from his shirt.

Afterwards, I held my hands up to the rain to wash away the blood. My stomach turned over, but I was not sick. Father held me for a long moment.

“I have never been so proud to have a daughter,” he whispered. I hugged him back, to keep from falling down. I wonder why I felt worse afterwards than when I was stitching, Diary?

We put Ogbay up on Kassa and I told her to be good and carry that sick man gently. Then we hurried to the plateau as fast as we could go. The rainstorm moved away.

From the grassy top of the plateau, we could see our trail. If someone was moving along it, they must have been far behind, still in the trees. The men made a shelter for Ogbay and laid him down. Then Tekle offered to run to the nearest village for help. Father and Berhanu kept lookout while Dawit and I watched the animals. Even though we were wet and cold and very tired, our fear kept us awake until Tekle returned.

He came back with six men. “This is pastor Mulu Ken and his friends. They will help us.”

The pastor smiled at all of us, then looked at Ogbay. “We have brought a stretcher,” he said. “Four of us will carry your friend to our village. Two of us will stay to help protect you in case the thieves are following.” We noticed that the two men staying were tall, strong-looking, and carried rifles. They nodded and introduced themselves as Adamu and Gofa.

Father and Tekle thanked everyone and we got ready to go. Father took one last look at our trail. “There is something moving—about a mile away. I cannot tell who or what it is.”

Adamu and Gofa said they would wait a little and keep watch behind, and that we should hurry ahead. So we did. We traveled down from the plateau back into the trees. The animals had rested while we stopped, so they were willing to hurry a little more. The clouds broke and sunlight came down between the branches.

I was almost cheerful then, Diary.

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