Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Last patient of 2013

Bah, I wrote a complete blog post that disappeared into cyberspace when my laptop ran out of battery (note to self: get a new one!). Anyway, the pic is of one of my very last patients before we were evacuated. The wee laddie on the left is Solomon (portentous name, I know!) and the two other boys are his older brothers and the baby's his sister, Betty. He's just over a year old while Betty is around three months and still breastfeeding. He came to us severely malnourished and was also found to have malaria and a urinary tract infection. These malnourished children are extra special to me...maybe because they usually spend weeks on end with us (it takes ages to get even one additional kilo onto their wasted frames), or maybe because the stories that form the background to their illness are usually heartrending.

Take Solomon, for example. His mother has been variously described as being mentally unstable or incredibly 'simple' (almost to the level of an intellectual disability). Whatever the explanation, she was obviously not coping with the care of her four children, even if the oldest two lived separately with their father, a policeman rumoured to be an alcoholic and who was clearly not much involved in the lives of his two youngest kids. Worst still, I think he was partially responsible for their absconding two weeks into their admission. I saw him visit for the first time one Saturday morning, and by the next morning, mum, Solomon and Betty had all vanished. Coincidence, much?

After this disappearing act, they returned the next afternoon with Solomon in a moribund state. My heart just dropped when I saw how obtunded he was, weak and listless with his little eyes rolled back in his head. It turned out that his blood sugar level was 1.7mmol/L (the normal range falling in between 4 and 11mmol/L). Mum claimed that he had refused to eat since 2pm the day before (close to 24 hours), which I gravely doubt, considering there are numerous witnesses to how enthusiastically, almost greedily, Solomon obliterates any edible consumable placed in front of him (it's really cute to see him drink from a cup as large as his head)!

Anyway, mum didn't seem to have any kin who could, or would, help. Both Solomon and his sister were often left in the ward by themselves, crying or fretting terribly, while she was outside cooking or washing. The mothers of the other sick kiddoes would go over and pick them up, trying to soothe away their tears. She would then return to much opprobium; even I, who couldn't understand all the angry words the other mothers unleashed on her, could tell that they heavily disapproved. To top it off, baby Betty fell ill with a mild case of viral bronchiolitis, which was unsurprising considering the rash of bubs with bronch that deluged our paediatric ward in the past month (the epidemiological significance of which is uncertain, especially since we're now heading into the dry season). And their mum fell sick with typhoid fever, not once but twice!

Thankfully, we reached the consensus that Solomon was better off having supervised feeds prior to a safe discharge, and hence negotiated with the orphanage under our parent organisation (Harvesters Reaching the Nations) for the family to stay there for a month or so, just to make sure they have enough to eat in the meantime. Please pray for them; the odds are already against them, seeing how over 1 in 10 South Sudanese children die before reaching the age of 5 years (WHO).

Luke 6:20-23 Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples, and said: "Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man's sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven..."

No comments:

Post a Comment