I spent my third week of practicum on the Children’s ward in the Lewanika General Hospital. I was most excited for this ward because spending time with children is something I love! If I can make one child a day smile, forget about their health condition for a moment, or show them compassion they may not see at home, my goal is accomplished. I spent the majority of my time in the PEM room for children who are severely malnourished. I cared for the same 6 children for the majority of the week which I appreciated because I enjoy getting to know my patients and their families. Making these relationships and bonds with my patients is something I have learned to be difficult when their health conditions begin to deteriorate. Many people say to not get attached to your patients, don’t bring your work home with you, etc. However for myself, I know I am one to do no such thing. With children especially, I think about how they will do overnight until I can see them again in the morning, I wonder how they will do when they go home, what kind of home life they have, and what more can be done for them.
In the PEM room I became particularly interested in one case. I spent the majority of my hours with a little 2 year old boy who was malnourished, along with various burns and large areas of his body that were excoriated and infected. He could not talk or even make noise when he cried because of all the sores in his mouth. His breathing was never quite at ease and there was so much I wanted to do for him that I could not do, due to the lack of resources, supplies and short staffed doctors and nurses.
Although there were many things I could not do and could not find out about the boys condition from the father due to the language barrier, I did everything I could think of to improve this boy’s condition and make his hospital experience more enjoyable. To accomplish this, I made sure that the boy received his full feeds on time, whether that meant feeding him through a syringe myself or monitoring the father while he did the feed. I completed thorough oral hygiene daily with the boy, and bathed him in a small tub 1-2 times during my shift to help clean and heal his wounds. All these simple and small tasks are something that in my eyes should come naturally to a parent. However in this particular case, the father had no parenting skills, and was not fit to care for this child. Unfortunately for the child, his father was the only family he had as his mother passed shortly after he was born. Because this child was in such great need of care and compassion, I knew he would be someone I would not be able to leave alone.
On my fourth day working on the Children’s ward, I arrived to work to find out that my little man had passed away just a few short hours before I arrived. I was heartbroken to find this out, and even more disheartened when I was told that the father did not even spend the night with him because he went out drinking to watch the soccer match instead.
My little man who should have walked out of the hospital a happy and healthy two year old was instead rolled away on a stretcher to the hospitals morgue. A death that could have been preventable if proper care was given around-the- clock, if antibiotics were initiated earlier, or if everything that should have been done for this boy was done early and done right. I can think of so many things that could’ve, would’ve, should’ve been done, but at the end of the day you have to accept what life decides. I am a strong believer in “Everything happens for a reason” but on days like these the word ‘why’ seems to continuously cross my mind.