Kervenson Jean Baptiste is a four year-old boy who came to see us in our clinic a few weeks ago. He had a cold and high fever and was crying a lot as I tried to examine him. So, I got a little toy car out of our toy box and gave it to him, in hopes of making him feel better. “Do you like this car?” I asked him. He didn’t speak, but shook his head “yes” as he looked at me through his tears. “Well,” I said, “you can keep the car but you need to bring it with you each time you come to clinic so I can see it, okay?” His eyes brightened a bit as he shook his head in agreement. Off he went with his mother and his medications and I thought that would be the end of the little car.
This week Kervenson came back to clinic for a check-up and I fortunately had made a little note in his chart about the toy car. He stood next to his mother in my examination room, wearing a clean white T-shirt and pressed beige dress pants. “My, don’t you look sharp!” I said to him, as he stood waiting expectantly. “Where’s the car?” I asked. He smiled a big smile and reached into his pant pocket where he was hiding his precious possession. He proudly held it up for me to admire. I rolled it around on my desk and confirmed that it was in working order. Then, I handed it back to him. “It looks great,” I said. “Take good care of it and bring it in to clinic next time you come in.” Then, I took his photo and asked him and his mother to say a prayer of thanks to the children of Kingston Presbyterian Church in New Jersey who collected toys like his to send down to us – precious gifts from special children.
Kervenson with his toy car
Darline Simelien was brought to clinic on the same day as Kervenson by her mother and father. Her parents no longer lived together and Darline lived with her mother, her mother’s boyfriend and a younger sibling. The parents said that Darline wasn’t eating well, had a cough, fever, shortness of breath and became swollen all over her body a few days ago. They had walked all day to get to the clinic, carrying the child on a little “branka” or stretcher, and arrived at 5pm, just as we were closing.
Darline’s homemade “branka” or stretcher
As I examined her, I wondered how in the world a child could be allowed to get in such bad shape without anyone bringing her to see a doctor? It was obvious to me that she had been sick a lot longer than a few days. But, this wasn’t the time or place to debate the issue. She was extremely anemic, had pneumonia and was severely malnourished. “Your daughter needs to go to the hospital in Jérémie right away,” I said. “She’s very sick and will die if she isn’t taken to the hospital today. We can take her in our jeep, but someone needs to stay with her in the hospital.” As the parents discussed this information, it was quite evident that the poor child’s mother wasn’t the best caregiver in the world. “My boyfriend can go down with her,” she said. “I have another sick child at home to take care of and I’ll go down to the hospital tomorrow.” The father also had two sick kids at home, so the young boyfriend was elected to go with the child to the government hospital in town. He held her tightly on the bumpy road down the mountain in our jeep and we took them to the hospital, where I introduced them to the nurse on the pediatric ward. Fortunately, the hospital has a very good malnutrition ward for patients like Darline, funded by Doctors of the World and we knew she would be cared for without expense to the family. We’ll check on her in the hospital periodically and will follow up with her once she’s discharged. She’s a little child with very big needs.
Darline with malnutrition and pneumonia