Tuesday, April 27, 2010

At Age 8, He's Learning to Walk Again

New Life Children's Home, an orphanage in Port-au-Prince is now the home of Candidate W, a very happy, active, inquisitive and precocious little boy. Candidate W is 8 years old, and prior to the earthquake, most likely was a carefree, easy going child living with mom and dad at their family home. This all changed after the earthquake in which his mom perished, and Candidate W lost his right leg. His dad, grieving the loss of his wife and saddened by the loss of his young son's leg and losing all of the family's earthly possessions, had no choice but to take his only child to the orphanage for care.

Approximately one week ago, Candidate W was brought to the Hanger clinic by care givers at the orphanage for prosthesis fitting and physical therapy. During the earthquake he sustained such severe injury to his right leg that he required a very high above the knee amputation (AKA) to save his young life. Since receiving his prosthesis and with much support, Candidate W is gradually learning to take precious steps again, he appears happy but sad, cautious and scared at the same time. His assisted steps are taken with much hesitation, and what appears to be fear. Nonetheless, slowly but surely his steps become less cautious and apprehensive and more certain and free. Here's a video clip of patient W learning to use his prosthesis.

On Saturday morning Candidate W was brought to Hanger clinic for his usual therapy session. As he was brought into the clinic he was observed to be very quiet, droopy, almost lethargic and extremely hot to touch. Candace the physical therapist concerned about the state in which he was, called me to assess his condition. He indeed appear ill, but not seriously so. We agreed that laying him on one of the examination tables, giving him Tylenol, placing cold compresses to his skin and encouraging him to drink as much fluid as he could tolerate, should take care of the matter. Just about 2 hours later, he was not only cooler to touch but he was up and about. He was laughing, pushing himself around on one of the clinic stools as he played with his new found friend, a ten- year-old prosthesis candidate. He was looking well and appeared to be feeling much better so we decided that physical therapy should continue. After therapy was completed, he was driven back to the dorm with his escort and the other prosthesis candidates.

At 4 PM, I was called and informed that Candidate W was now very difficult to arouse and again extremely hot to touch. As I was not available to assist at this time, Madame Melon, otherwise known as Madame Billy thankfully was able to take charge of the situation. (Madame Billy is a descendant by marriage of the Melon family who built and started the Hôpital Albert Schweitzer (HAS) in Deschapelles, Haiti some 50 plus years ago. Madame Billy has been traveling back and forth to Haiti for nearly 30 years, supporting the work here at HAS.) Madame Billy not only drove to the Candidate W's dorm to check on him, but also took him to HAS and stayed with him while treatment and eventual admission for further evaluation took place. Lab tests were completed, intravenous fluids and antibiotics were started, but definitive diagnosis was not clear until he was discharged on Tuesday with a severe case of viral infection-not malaria as most of us had anticipated.

While in the hospital, Candidate W was visited frequently by Madame Billy, who brought meals and fed him - as it is expected that family members provide care for their loved ones while being treated at the hospital. She also kept him entertained by reading to him, telling stories and playing games with him. Candidate W was also visited by many of his friends from the Hanger clinic and as each entered his room, his precious little face would just light up with the biggest, brightest smile that made you want to just hug him and smother him with kisses. Nonetheless, although he was very excited and thrilled to see his friends from the Hanger clinic, during his most febrile state of 40 degrees Celsius, all he wanted was his papa, and that's who he called for all the time. But papa was never going to come, never to hold him or feed him, not now. The question is, will he ever?

Thanks for reading-Project HOPE volunteer Joy Williams

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