The day had finally come. Pierre was ready. With his oversized pants hoisted up by a weathered black belt and a checkered blue and orange shirt tucked underneath, the little boy exuded the air of a wizened old man ready for a long journey, not a four-year-old child getting discharged home from the hospital.
His mother had taken pains to plaster down his wisps of blondish-brown hair, a sign of his vitamin-deficient state, that had started to grow back. She’d made sure he would go home in style, with pride.
I caught mirth in Pierre’s eyes and a grin that revealed carried teeth as he waved good-bye. This young boy was a far cry from the tired, fragile little one who had been admitted to the inpatient malnutrition ward a mere three weeks prior.
During my time as a clinical fellow working in the pediatric ward at Hospital Saint Nicolas in Saint Marc, Haiti, I’ve had the opportunity to take care of infants and children who have etched indelible stories of both heartbreak and triumph in my heart and mind. However, the faces and stories from the malnutrition ward, where those children who are too sick to manage in the outpatient malnutrition program are admitted, stand out most vividly. …Read More
I will never forget the first time I saw a child die of a vaccine-preventable disease. I walked into a room in a busy Haitian hospital (where I spend 6 months each year working as a fellow with Boston Children’s Global Health Program) to find an 8-year-old boy gasping for air. A thick, greyish white coating covered his mouth and throat, and his body burned like it was on fire. I had seen it only in textbooks before—a classic late presentation of a diphtheria infection.
A few hours later, despite our best efforts and timely antibiotics, the child died of acute respiratory failure. I remember sitting in the doctor’s room, staring into the space and overwhelmed by an intense wave of sadness. This child could have lived, if he had been vaccinated. This should never have happened.