February 09, 2011 - India
by Jamie Shaff
Continuing with our series from Jaimie Shaff in the field in India, here is Part 2!
Naiara joined me on the second day and we began the day with a quick trip to the toy store. Luckily, the toy storeowners had just gone to Indore and had some more toys for us! We picked up a couple of our CNEs and headed back out to the villages, this time starting with some of the kids living in villages outside of our program’s reach.
Manoj lives in a village that we do not cover in our program. It took us a little over 2 hours to get to the village, and then another half hour to find Manoj. Manoj was the victim of an inept doctor’s IV rampage, and had over 16 needles stuck in him in just two weeks. By the time we got another doctor to give him appropriate treatment Manoj was traumatized. His mother and I shared tears of frustration, but worked hard to get him better. And then he came for follow up in the middle of a measles outbreak and was promptly stuck with a measles vaccination! Poor kid. But, I’m happy to report he’s super healthy, afraid of me, but very happy with his new toys!
Vijay was the first serious case at the NRC in June 2010. I didn’t know him, but the CNEs did. It turns out he lives right next door to Manoj! He and his twin brother are happy and healthy, and received some toys to share.
Neha is finally starting to gain some muscle in her legs, but is still in serious need of psychosocial support. She makes an attempt to walk and doesn’t hide as much, but is still needs a lot of TLC. Her father just grew a kitchen garden filled with green leafy veggies, so we shall see how she progresses in the coming weeks.
photo: Amansingh before
photo: Amansingh from house
On Day Two, we had a whole list of children to see. However, there was one child we absolutely had to see. Amansingh had come to the NRC in October, when our nurses Jana and Rachel were here. He was severely malnourished, filthy, covered in a fungal skin infection, and absolutely miserable. After a month in the NRC, he came back for follow up with a severe case of the measles, complicated by bronchial pneumonia and conjunctivitis. At this follow up, we were introduced to his little sister Suriya, 6 months at the time and ineligible for a vaccination. She was a beautiful baby girl, smiling all the time, and we hoped the mother’s breast milk would protect her.
Amansingh’s village is extremely far away and not covered by our program. I had never been out to his home, but quickly realized why his case was so severe. Their home is a 15-minute drive from the Anganwadi center, and does not have a water pump within a reasonable distance. There is no crop around the house right now, and the parents do not have any other form of income or access to markets.
photo: Suriya how we found her
We arrived at the home to our worst nightmare. Amansingh’s little sister was lying on the ground outside naked, covered in flies, filthy, and crying. She was severely malnourished, and covered in the black marks indicating a recent case of the measles. She was also covered in scars. Her mother was sitting about 10 feet away rocking back and forth, laughing. Her mother is mad.
Amansingh emerged from the house with his father naked, filthy, and miserable. His skin infection had returned with his edema, and he was once again presenting with SAM. With a few words, we whisked the family into our car and began the trip to the Jhabua District Hospital, 2 hours away.
photo: Amansingh and Suriya at hospital
In the car, I felt a little hungry (it was 3pm at this point and none of us had eaten since breakfast). I brought out a couple of snacks, including some dried fruit and a Luna bar. I offered around the car, and back to Amansingh’s family. To my absolute horror, I watched as Amansingh began to practically inhale the food. He hadn’t eaten in days. Needless to say, my hunger quickly disappeared.
We got to the hospital and our favorite doctor came to meet us, sad but not surprised that Amansingh was back. In good hands, we left the hospital and headed back home.
The problem is, this is not going to have an easy solution. The two little children’s lives have just been saved, but the problems are far from gone. The mother is psychologically disabled. The father is in his late 50s/60s. The house still has no access to water, food, or health services. The mother abuses the children during her fits.
Currently, there are no services available for children like this. Their rights as human beings do not exist, as there are no support structures in place to safeguard these elusive “rights.” They are safe, now, in a hospital, but they will no longer be protected when they return home. We cannot remove them from their homes. We can barely stop ourselves from whisking these children away to a better life.
The sunny side is that without this toy-giving extravaganza, these children may not have had a chance. While we make every effort to follow up with our kids, sometimes it takes just a bit longer. For these two, we came just in time. Suriya still has innocence in her eyes, and it is beautiful.
Your donations and your generosity to my Facebook Cause saved the lives of Amansingh and Suriya. They changed the lives of many others and will keep on changing lives. It’s incredible how a little bit goes such a long way out here. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I can’t wait to continue giving.
For Amansingh and Suriya, we can give our attention and our awareness. We cannot do more than offer services and provide access to basic human necessities. We can only do our best. Our best, right now, is to spread the word, increase awareness, and incite change. Through change, be it policy or a magical group that knows how to help these kids, we are doing our best. We can change the lives of so many future children by starting now.
For more information about RMF’s Malnutrition Eradication Program in India, click here.
We can use any financial help you are able to provide on this project to continue our Education, Treatment and Outreach and help towards our goal of Malnutrition Eradication in this region of India.
To contribute to this initiative, please visit our website at realmedicinefoundation.org.
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