Paige expelled a sharp breath. The past few months had taught her to think fast on her feet and find solutions to what often seemed to be impossible situations, but those scenarios hadn’t included rebels in the equation. Any solid answers to resolve the problems facing this woman and her people escaped her.

“We should get started.” Paige pushed aside the dismal reality that seemed all too prevalent in this country — ​and the lingering guilt. In four days she wouldn’t have to deal with any of this anymore. “Even though our time is limited on this initial visit, I want to do everything I can to help, especially by evaluating your specific needs for this clinic. But for now, if there are any patients you’d like me to see . . .”

“Where do I begin?” Patience pointed to one of the women. “Sari’s seven-and-a-half months pregnant. We managed to stop her contractions, but without the generator, if her child is born anytime soon, the chances of the infant surviving are small.” She nodded at the child in the next bed. “We diagnosed Tayla, who’s six, with pneumonia and have done what we can, but she is not responding. She’s so weak . . .” Patience’s words faded as she turned toward the mother.

Paige picked up her medical bag and crossed the cracked cement floor of the clinic, stopping at the metal-framed bed. A woman sat on the edge of the thin mattress next to her daughter, a vacant expression covering her ebony face.

Paige rubbed the little girl’s fuzzy, black hair and studied her lips and the tips of her fingers. Both were a dusky, unhealthy shade of gray.

“I cannot lose my daughter.” Tears filled the young mother’s eyes. “They killed my sons and husband in front of me. Tayla is all I have left.”

She’d heard stories of other countries where villagers were forced to hide in the forest at night in fear of the rebels who stole their children, raped their women, and murdered their families in front of them. But she’d never imagined being thrust into the center of a similar nightmare. She eyed the stack of hygiene kits they’d brought and felt the nausea return. Free hygiene kits, with their limited contents of toothbrushes, chlorine tablets, and mosquito nets, seemed useless compared to the needs of these people.

The clear tremor of fear lacing the mother’s words filled Paige with a renewed sense of determination. Back in Tennessee her niece had just celebrated her seventh birthday. Tayla deserved the same chance.

“I’ll do everything I can to help your daughter.” Paige touched the woman’s hand, wishing she had a better answer.

She turned Tayla onto her side to listen to her lungs with her stethoscope. The crackling sound confirmed the nurse’s diagnosis. Upper respiratory infections in young children and infants, especially those who didn’t have the chance for adequate nutrition, could quickly turn lethal. If she were back in Tennessee, she’d have sent the child to the ICU. Here, listening to the grunts of the small child as she fought to breathe, she didn’t have that luxury.

The handheld radio she’d brought with her buzzed inside her bag. “Hello, Echo Lima, this is November Gold, over.”


She picked up the radio and pressed the Transmit button. “Roger . . . November Gold . . . Send, over.” One day of practice on the field radio wasn’t nearly enough.

“I’ve just received a radio communication with orders to fly you out immediately. Over.”

Paige dropped her stethoscope around her neck and moved toward the screened window overlooking the dozens of people who’d come seeking safety inside the hospital compound. If she and Michael and Simon left now, it could be days until another team was sent, which meant more lives lost. There was no way she was leaving.

Blood Covenant
Copyright © 2011 by Lisa Harris
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