Saturday, July 22, 2006

A mother's perseverance...

Three weeks ago a 12 year old girl came to the clinic with a one month history of fever, cough and chest pain. She didn’t look too sick and examination didn’t show anything abnormal, so I decided to put her on a high dose of antibiotics for a week. One week later her mother brought her back for review: no improvement. I suspected she had tuberculosis and sent her for a chest x-ray asking the mother to return with the results. It wasn’t until 12 days later that she showed up with the x-ray. When I asked her why she didn't come sooner the mother explained, on the verge of tears, that it had taken her that long to raise the money for the x-ray. She had to plea with some of her extended family to help her. I felt bad about not giving her the money up front. However, I also know that in many cases, giving the money up front is not wise, as the parents often use the money for something else. Anyway, the child's x-ray showed lesions consistent with tuberculosis and the only thing I could do was refer her to a TB specialist.

The mother was obviously worried about her child, so I explained that TB can be cured as long as the child takes the medication every day, for six months. I also made sure she knew that TB treatment in Sierra Leone is free. The fact that the mom raised money for the x-ray and came back with the child gives me the impression that she really cares. I'm pretty sure that she will do everything she can to help her child. Just before she left I gave her Le 30,000 (=$10) and told her it was a refund for the x-ray. I figured this mom should be rewarded for her perseverance!

According to the World Health Organization, TB infection is currently spreading at the rate of one person per second. The disease kills more young people and adults than any other infectious disease and is the world's biggest killer of women. Each year, an estimated 8-10 million people contract the disease and about two million people die from it. TB is one of the top four infectious killing diseases in the world. Fortunately there is hope for this 12 year old!

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