As I walked into the inpatient pediatric oncology waiting area at Yangon Children’s Hospital—a relatively modern, well-equipped hospital in Yangon, Myanmar—a beautiful young woman approached me. She was holding her son, a 15-month-old boy who had Down syndrome. In English, she repeatedly sobbed, “Please help me.”
An interpreter explained that she and her husband were farmers from rural northern Myanmar (more than 700 miles from Yangon, an urban area of more than 5,000,000 people) and that recently their son had not wanted to breast feed, had been sleeping a lot and had developed lumps in his neck. They had previously traveled to Thailand, where their son was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The parents had sold their farm to travel to Yangon so their son could receive chemotherapy.
I smiled and put my arm around her but could not think of what to say that would give her comfort. It was my first day at Yangon Children’s and my first experience in my yearlong global health nursing fellowship with Boston Children’s Hospital’s Global Health Program. With this single chance meeting in the waiting area, it took all of 15 minutes for me to begin to understand the challenges that families and medical staff in Myanmar face in providing quality, consistent health care. …Read More