Today Cindy and I visited three children with TB at the Hospital Carrión. Unfortunately, Lauren was feeling slightly under the weather so she decided to stay back and rest. After meeting up with Melecio, the head nurse, Esther, took us up to the children’s ward on the second floor of the hospital. The first child with TB we visited was a little boy named Jhosmel who just turned three this past Friday. Jhosmel has had multidrug resistant (MDR) TB, which he caught from his grandmother, since he was five months old and has been in the hospital since. He was unconscious when we saw him and he can neither walk nor talk. The TB has now spread from his lungs to his brain, and even if he is able to survive, he will still be unable to do either of those two things. When I asked Esther where his family was she gave me a surprising yet heartbreaking answer: they had abandoned him. “But why?” we asked. “Because they didn’t have the necessary resources to pay for his treatment,” she replied. It still is difficult for me to wrap my head around the idea of abandoning your own child, but then again I’ve never been in a situation anywhere close to comparable.
Jhosmel Chambilla Rodriguez
The next two children we visited with have slightly more cheerful stories. After Jhosmel, Esther brought us to Tamara, a little three year old girl who seemed to be recovering rather well from her treatment. Tamara has the less aggressive form of TB, not MDR, and has been in the hospital for one week. When she first entered the hospital’s care she was in a much worse condition – she could barely open her eyes. Now, however, she is awake and talking and her treatment seems to really be helping. If she continues to get better she’ll be able to leave the hospital, but still must continue with her 18 month treatment regimen.
Tamara refused to smile for the camera despite all our encouragement and the encouragement of her mom/sister (we forgot to ask how she was related to the woman next to her) – just like any other willful 3-year old!
The last child, or teenager rather, we visited was Noeme who is 14 years old. It is believed that Noeme contracted TB at school rather than from her family. Like Tamara, Noeme is responding well to her treatment. She has only been in the hospital for 14 days and was able to talk with us, take pictures, and make the “wish star” craft that Cindy brought along. Melecio, Esther, Cindy, and I also made these little stars, or “estrellitas” as well. On a thin strip of colorful paper we wrote down one wish or desire we have then folded them into three dimensional stars. The folding took a couple of tries, but in the end we had five new wishes to add to our growing collection. Provided that Noeme keeps responding positively to treatment, she’ll be able to leave the hospital to continue her 18 month regimen at home.
Noeme brought out her own cell phone and had Melecio take another photo of us together after this one. We wish her a safe and happy recovery!