Wednesday, September 19, 2007

momma's and babies

momma's and babies
Originally uploaded by megan_petock
Yesterday in report I was told that a patient of mine might be discharged that day. It was 1 year old Alita, whose cleft palate surgery was cancelled due to a positive malaria test. It was the second time she had been cancelled because of Malaria.

My heart sank as I heard the word “cancelled”. With only two months of surgeries left in the outreach, there are not a lot of opportunities to reschedule. And the free surgery we offer is the only chance many of our patients will ever have at a normal life. It is far more complex than just having surgeries. I wanted Alita to have her miracle.

When I met Alita I was immediately taken by her charm. She was petite and wore tiny gold hoop earrings and wobbled around the ward on her tiny legs.

She loved to smile. I would picker her up and dip her head backwards towards her mother and she would break out into a fit of laughter that was like a refreshing, merry stream of water. As we were watching The Jungle Book she began to shake her body and wave her arms to “the bear necessities”. Being a nurse, I had a list of things to do, but they were all non-urgent and I love to dance. So I grasped her thin arms and for the song’s duration we danced together in the middle of the ward.

Dancing with a beautiful little girl. It was an opportunity I could not pass up.

As soon as you walk into the room you notice a child’s cleft lip deformity. It as if someone melted away part of their face. The deformity makes it difficult to eat and many of these children are very malnourished. Also, they are most often rejected by their communities and sometimes by their own mothers. They are outcasts. But a simple surgery can change their entire lives.

Malaria is a common problem in West Africa and there are two blood test that we perform to detect it in a patient’s bloodstream. The first is a quick test that can be read in Minutes. Alita’s had a positive quick test. The second is a smear which takes longer to read but is more accurate. Alita had both test’s sent.

I dreaded having to tell Alita’s mom that she could not get her surgery that day and I desperately prayed that we would have a slot for her before the end of the outreach.

Around mid-morning, the two laboratory technicians confirmed that Alita’s smear tests were both negative for malaria. It made sense seeing that she was a febrile and running around the ward quite happily. We were able to perform her surgery today. Alita got her miracle.

I went down to the ward to see how she was doing. Steri strips now replaced the hole that was previously on her face. She was laying on her mother’s lap fast asleep. She had no idea that her life was just changed.

But I do. And so does her mother. It’s a very happy thought. It makes me happy to be in Africa.

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