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Archive for September, 2009

take a breath. . .

for me some of the scariest times of my life are when i have delivered a baby or been around a delivery and the baby doesn’t breath.  even if the baby takes a few breaths, but is struggling, my heart rate immediately goes up as i think does every persons in the room.  there are many reasons that could make a baby not breath at the time of delivery.  when you actually read and understand (or try to understand) all of the intense workings going on inside a baby as they are making the transition from life inside the womb to life outside you could see why perhaps it isn’t always a smooth transition.

the problem is that when it isn’t a smooth transition you need someone around who knows what to do.  who knows how to intervene.  this is one of the reasons i am grateful that many women chose to come deliver at the birthing center in haiti, but also a reason i know many babies die who are delivered at home.  this is probably why asphyxia at birth accounts for 8% of the deaths of children under five.  i am sure the numbers are actually higher than that for babies who are born at home, but never accounted for.

our nurses at the birthing center are ready and willing to intervene with this problem and i have seen them time and time again take babies that look like they may not make it and use an ambu bag or stimulate them to breath and what a joy when you see a little one take their first few breaths and their color return and you know that they are going to be okay.

more birthing centers on the northern coast and educating those women and birth attendants who are around for deliveries who can encourage babies to take their first few breaths will help decrease the numbers of babies dying from asphyxia.  that percentage can change on the northern coast of haiti.

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52%

i am excited!! i went to check on getting flannel for my sewing hope project and the flannel at hancock’s fabric was 52% off for their anniversary sale. yeah, what a good deal!

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undernutrition. . .

ever since i read this sentence it has haunted me. . . 

“Undernutrition is an underlying cause of 53% of all deaths in children younger than age 5 years.”

basically 53% of deaths in children under five are due to the fact that they don’t have enough to eat.  that is a pretty harsh reality.  a reality that i face everyday while i am in Haiti.

every day that i did pediatric clinics at northwest i saw significant anemia.  this anemia is a sign of undernutrition.  many times this anemia may be from malaria and parasites that have destroyed red blood cells.  but many times these children are anemic because their family can’t feed them iron rich food and their bodies can’t make blood cells without iron.

one of the ways we treat anemia is through multivitamins and iron drops.  as i am getting ready to head back to haiti in a couple weeks i know there will be many days when i go to the pharmacy to see if we have iron drops for these children who so desperately need them and we won’t have any.  i will for sure see children whose blood levels are at critical levels and i know for sure that our shelves in the pharmacy are probably empty right now of these essential iron drops.

these children who are anemic and undernourished are part of that sentence above, part of the 53% who die from the underlying problem of undernutrition.  for me they are not part of a statistic, but are faces and families.  we sent one child to the hospital for a blood transfusion this last time i was in haiti.  he was 2 years old and his blood levels were a third of what they should have been.  his mom stayed with us at the maternity for a few days as we treated his malaria and then we gave her money to take him to the hospital for a blood transfusion.  she just kept talking about how she just didn’t have any food to give him.  what a hard reality.

one of my goals is to work at improving our nutrition program and beginning to take in more children so they have something to eat and begin to change that statistic on the northern coast of Haiti.  to begin to intervene and assess more from our clinics before children get to the serious levels of undernutrition and malnutrition making them they susceptible to those top five diseases of childhood.

a practical way you can help is through helping us get children’s multivitamins and polyvisol (children’s) vitamin drops.

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Pneumonia

Cassandra is a little one who spent a few days with us as we treated her for pneumonia.  Her father had no money to take her to the hospital.  After a few days of antibiotics she improved greatly and was able to go home.  I saw her again a few months later when her mom came to say thank you for taking care of her, I could hardly recognize her because her little face and body were so much healthier.

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Many children are brought to clinic in serious respiratory distress from pneumonia.  Many we are able to treat and some we have to refer to the hospital.  

 

When you think about the major diseases or things that effect children to such a serious extent that they die, many times you think of typhoid, malaria, HIV, you don’t think about pneumonia.  Or at least I didn’t.  I took a course this summer about international medicine and each specialist who talked about pediatric care in the developing world, talked about pneumonia and how serious it is.  It made me more aware of the seriousness of pneumonia and that information was important as I spend time doing pediatric consults.

There were many children I consulted who were on the edge of serious pneumonia, we were able to give them antibiotics or perhaps just the fluid support they needed to get over a virus, but I know that as a healthcare team we are making a difference against this disease on the northern coast of Haiti.

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according to the WHO (world health organization) there are six major causes of death for children less then the age of five.  for you these may be statistics or ideas that are talked about at health conferences.  for me these categories are faces and families.  they are families that are striving to live against the horrible odds that are stacked against them, merely because they were born in an impoverished country.

these six causes of death in children are – 

pneumonia (19%),

diarrhoea (18%),

malaria (8%),

neonatal pneumonia or sepsis (10%),

preterm delivery (10%),

and asphyxia at birth (8%)

Undernutrition is an underlying cause of 53% of all deaths in children younger than age 5 years.

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these are real life problems that face so many children in Haiti.  i saw them over and over each day as i did pediatric consults.  over the next couple weeks i want to share stories and make some of these issues come to life for you as you walk with me through some of the stories of what we see and face every day as a medical clinic in the poorest country in the western hemisphere.  

there are simple solutions to many of these problems, but many of them are only the surface of deeper problems.  with each category i share over the next couple weeks, i want to share a practical way you can be involved in helping make a difference.  many times the problems of international health and development may seem daunting, perhaps you are at a loss of how to get involved, or what you can do.  you can’t pack up and go, you aren’t a doctor, but you can make a difference in significan ways.

join us at northwest haiti christian mission, as we are fighting this battle for those little ones under five every day!

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