Friday 17/3/16 – Day 3
Bangla Belly has hit! We all woke up with tummy pains and diarrhoea. We’d visited some physician friends of the Dr the night before and had supper with them. The tap water they served we probably could have dealt with, but one of the pastries was the culprit. We found out the next morning that others in the household also had tummy aches. Lots of Traveller’s Friend, parasite cleanse tablets and water to clear out the bacteria for us. I, Eleni, also woke with severe cramping over the kidney area. Every movement was agony. Here we were, all unwell in varying degrees, Micheal being the best, and we’re still carrying on with the treatment of the children despite the pain and numerous trips to the toilet. What troopers we are!!
The children coming through today were all the same. Same symptoms, same time frames of when the symptoms started (soon after birth or within the first year, and most of them only in the last 15 years) and the parents hoping for a miracle to bring normalcy to their children. We prescribe water as they are so dehydrated, yet we know and they know the water is polluted with iron oxide, lead, arsenic and aluminium. There is no regulation for the safe disposal of waste products from Industry here. It all gets dumped into the environment which makes its way into the water supply. And this is what they are drinking, day after day. It seems so cruel to send the parents away telling them to give them more of the poison that’s slowly killing them.
One beautiful little girl , 6years old, Baby, had a deformed leg so huge it would have weighed more than the rest of her little body. The leg was hot and very tight. We were pretty sure she had cancer, and the Dr will get blood tests to confirm. He offered to treat this little girl out of his own money. Even the herbal medicine we suggested he’ll pay for. The hospital wanted to amputate. Her father had left her and her mother because he was ashamed of her condition. We felt sorry for her. She held herself so gracefully and regally. Colleen and I massaged her leg to try and get some circulation happening and clear some of the toxins. Straight away we noticed the swelling reducing, which lifted our spirits. We showed her mother how to continue with treatment. We wished her and her mother the best.
Some of the children that we see daily are so contorted, we wonder how their little bodies can handle the strain. They don’t appear to be in pain, although, they’ve been this way all their short lives, and may be accustomed to the pain and discomfort. This young 12 year old boy, Samin, has been contorted in his body since the age of 12 months, after having a vaccine-induced fever. He takes very strong prescription medicine to reduce the daily seizures. We show his parents how to massage magnesium oil over his body to try and reduce the tightness. It won’t cure him, but at least it will make him more comfortable. He is unable to swallow properly, so he’ll need to be fed liquid foods with a spoon for the rest of his life.
Little Aswan, a sweet 8 yo boy, has brain-damage and constantly speaks the same words over and over again with great enthusiasm. We encourage his mother to persevere with trying to teach him new words, speaking to him slowly and deliberately pronouncing each syllable.
Saturday – 18/3/16 – Day 4
Today I woke up in great pain. I slept fitfully due to the pain in my kidney area. It’s all muscular and brought about by emotional upset at seeing children so severely disabled we can’t help them. I wish we could bring the world media in here to see what is happening to these people. The pollution is everywhere. In the air. In the water. In the ground. There is no garbage collection. Rubbish is dumped outside windows or doors or in a communal pile. Hawks fly over the communal dumps to pick out food, cows and goats forage through the rubbish eating food scraps, dogs and cats do the same. Occasionally, children and women can be seen in these piles of rubbish too. The poverty is everywhere and so in your face.
We go to the clinic today. We don’t want to. To have to see these children again and be stoic and unemotional as we tell the parents we can do nothing for their children is becoming too much for us. We’ve only been here 4 days and we already feel this way.
I rest in a back room, while Colleen and the Dr attend to the patients. Micheal captures the heartbreak on film and video. Colleen and the Dr churn through the patients, boom! boom! boom!, one after the other.
10 year old Rakib was severely underdeveloped and had not grown much. He couldn’t walk because the muscles were too weak. He was very smart though. Sometimes, the children come in with brain damage and sometimes with other just as debilitating illnesses.
Colleen comes in the room at lunch break and tells me how sick she feels doing this work. Micheal is disgusted at what he’s seeing every day. After lunch, we all rest for an hour. Colleen and the Dr continue working on the children, while I continue to rest.
A young 14 year old Downs Syndrome boy comes in with his parents. They want us to make him normal. Downs Syndrome is not a condition that is recognised in Bangladesh (according to the medical reports we read). Colleen tries to explain to the parents we cannot make their son whole.
We get told that we’ll only work for an hour, then finish. However, 15 children and their parents are herded in. Two hours go by. We are exhausted, especially Colleen. She’s done an amazing job today. I feel like I’ve been holding the space for all this to take place, and my body is suffering terribly.
I still see a couple of challenging patients, and only make minimal changes to their conditions. One little boy, Salauddin, 8 year old, comes in with his father. He has an enlarged testicle. Is it cancer? Hernia? A cyst? The doctors at the hospital want to chop it off. The father heard about us and decided that maybe we could offer a better solution. We tell the father, that because there’s no pain and no obstruction to urinating, to come back to Dr Hakim when he’s older to see if there has been any changes. The father was happier with that than the barbaric remedy offered by the hospital. (No image taken)
A bright and bubbly young 9 year old girl has a misaligned jaw, which makes it challenging for her to speak and eat properly. I do some jaw moves to loosen the muscles, and explain to the father that we cannot fix her jaw without surgery.
The Dr tells us we have the day off tomorrow. Yayyyy!!! We so need it.