Last week I was given an opportunity to exercise my nursing muscles. Since a large portion of my time these days is spent going on road trips to finalize details for the medical teams or waiting in government offices for documents, when my friend told me she could use my help with some kids she works with, I jumped at the chance.
My friend has recently started working with an orphana
ge for kids with special needs. With a 25% chance that you will die before you reach the age of 5, being a child in Sierra Leone is difficult enough. Imagine how this would be magnified if you had a mental or physical disability. There are many cultural beliefs that make it even more difficult, such as the belief that these kids have a demon inside of them or have been chosen to die. Many of the kids in this orphanage have been anonymously dropped off, and a few were found discarded on the side of the road. Heartbreaking.
One day upon entering the orphanage, my friend found two children who were extremely malnourished and dehydrated. She immediately set off for the hospital. On the way, one of the kids started vomiting profusely and then seizing. She was afraid he would die before
he even reached the hospital. When she got to the hospital she had a hard time finding someone who would admit the children, as they said they weren't that sick and didn't need hospitalization. Obviously they did. The kiddo that had been vomiting and seizing ended up needing IV fluids for 3 days before the cracks in his lips started to heal.
After the week or so that they were in the hospital, they were placed with a caregiver who could carefully monitor their progress. They were given something called "Plumpy Nut" which is a nutritional supplement specifically designed for malnourished kids
After hearing their stories, I was anxious to go meet these kiddos. When we arrived, "Abdul" came to greet us and grabbed onto both of our hands. He was all smiles and his caregiver said he LOVES to eat! When we weighed him, he had gained about 2 kilos in the last month or so, which was pretty steady progress.
Abdul doing awesome!
The second kiddo, "Abdulai" (the one that had been sicker....vomiting and seizing) was not as social. He held back but surprised us all by getting up at one point and walking out of the room. Last time my friend had seen him he hadn't been able to walk at all. So
that was some improvement! He was still one of the skinniest kids I've ever seen. And he wasn't smiling.
Abdulai....doing better....small small
Several years ago I went to a seminar on tropical medicine and while they were discussing malnutrition, the doctor mentioned that you will rarely if ever see a child who is malnourished smile. After spending some time over here, I've seen that proven over and over again. And "Abdulai" wasn't smiling. The caregiver told us that unfortunately, every time Abdulai ate the Plumpy Nut it gave him diarrhea. After hearing this, we weren't too surprised to see that he had only gained half a kilo in the month since he'd been weighed last. Not great. So we talked about changing up the formula of Plumpy Nut, getting him tested for various kinds of worms, and other optional sources of protein.
I think God kind of protects me from feeling this way a lot, but there are some times that you really just want to scoop these kids up and take them home with you. This was one of those times for me.