Sunday, August 1, 2010

Small efforts can make huge impacts in a child's life

The previous story on Club MEDCAPs was on the light side, and humor is an important tool in the skill set of any volunteer who works a medical mission under somewhat adverse conditions. But laughing aside, the work our Project HOPE volunteers do is hugely important to thousands of lives; lives that are changed one, by one, by one.

Hope Pediatrician Alan Jamison had nothing but positive stories to tell about his recent seven days in Jailolo, Indonesia. “I thought we’d be in tents out in a field. They gave us nice rooms in one of the hospital wards.” If this doctor’s army cot kept him awake at night, there was no mention of it.

When asked if one visit with one patient can make a different, Dr. Jamison nodded his head affirmatively. “There was one toddler I saw who had a dermoid on her cheek that was 2” long and quite thick. She would have had a terrible time in life with such a disfigurement.” Dr. Jamison was able to refer the child to a mission dermatologist, who with some local anesthesia, was able to exise the dermoid that very afternoon. This story made me think of Syarif, our recent adult patient who had to wait until his twenties to have the very large nevi removed from his face, with much more extensive surgery and a many-day stay on our hospital ship.

Dr. Jamison has nothing but positive comments about Indonesian parents. “The mothers here do a great job of taking care of their children. I saw no diaper rash or evidence of the sometimes limited resources people have for staying clean.” But our pediatrician did see many children suffering the effects of birth trauma, including children with cerebral palsy. Fortunately, our HOPE providers also had the support of mission physical therapists, and Dr. Jamison referred several children for PT. “The physical therapists are able to teach the parents exercises that will help their children maintain flexibility, avoid strictures, and even strengthen cognitive development.”

What one medical provider does for one mother and child might seem like a small thing. But it can make a huge difference in the future of that child, and those who care for him or her. And speaking of one child, our first little patient in the yellow dress is now back home in Jakarta. Santi’s vision dramatically improved by having corrective surgery for congenital cataracts in both eyes. Because of Pacific Partnership 2010, and the many individuals who have volunteered their time and expertise, Santi’s life has transformed from shadows to sharp vision. That is no laughing matter, but it is occasion for a huge smile.

Thanks for your interest in Project HOPE -- Kathryn Allen, HOPE Public Affairs Officer

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