Miracle in Segou

Master Sergeant Donald Sparks, Flintlock 10 Public Affairs wrote:

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I watched a baby defeat the fingertips of death. Severely dehydrated and mercilessly from the sun’s kiss, she lied in her young mother’s bosom. Her frail body was losing against the hands of time.

“Doc, is she going to make it?” I asked. As a father of three children my paternal instinct overwhelmed my conscience. “I don’t know, she is gravely dehydrated,” Doc diagnosed. “All we can do is wait and see.”

With each passing breath, Baby Girl’s eyes looked dimmer and distant. I’m waiting, I’m seeing, I’m praying. I’m recalling parables I read in the days of my youth in Sunday school class of how the Lord performed miracles — well, I want to be a witness now.

The young mother gives me a sheepish smile as I raise my camera to take what might be the only photos taken of her offspring. She in her heart that I am intruding on this private moment, I’m grateful for her patience, but even more for her reluctance to deny me.

Given a syringe and a bottle of glucose-filled water, Doc explains to mother how to give her 10 dosages of sustainer of life. Baby Girl’s first attempt to swallow was not a success as a small river of water trails down her tiny neck. Damn, she’s too weak to drink. Her mouth can’t believe there is such a pleasure in moisture.

On the second and third attempt there is progress, the river on her throat is running dry as the water makes its destination down her throat. Attempts four and five, baby girl is no longer motionless. I have counted a couple blink of the eyes, whereas before her eyelids were weighted down by exhaustion.

Doc looks at mother to give her some assurance, his facial expressions do not lie though. Yet he continues to proceed and give Baby Girl care. The Warrior Ethos he’s learned as a Soldier — Never Leave a Fallen Comrade Behind, is driving his effort. “You are going to survive,” he wills her.

I’m also steadily encouraging her to fight from behind the zoom lens on my camera. I’m pleading for the glucose-filled water to nourish and quench every cell in her body. Any sign of recovery is one step closer survival; each gulp of water delivers life to her heart. She sips, attempt . Mother caresses her head — she sips, attempt five. Mother kisses her — she sips, attempt six.

Right before our eyes, Baby Girl showcases her resiliency to both Doc and I. She lets us know that the weak are not always forsaken, that she is stronger than we both thought she was. The struggle is not over, she has a distant view to the finish line, but she is now on track to witness tomorrow.

As for me, I do believe in miracles. I believe in the compassion of mankind, I believe in the power of healing, and I believe in the spirit of survival.

(Editor’s note Master Sgt. Donald Sparks is currently assigned as the Exercise Flintlock 10 Public Affairs Chiein Mali. He is providing photojournalistic coverage of Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara during the special operations forces exercise from Mali, Africa.)

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