Little Petro's Journey to Recovery

Sister Maria Borda writes from Makiungu Hospital:

"Coming back from Mass I saw a rather familiar sight: a man wheeling his bike into the hospital. On it his wife was sitting, holding a little bundle of cloth. I guessed it contained her baby inside.

"They had set out from their village that morning about 5 a.m., hoping there would be no hyenas or snakes lurking in the dark. The father carried his strong stick in readiness, but now they had at least reached safety and the child was still alive.

"They unwrapped little Petro. He had had a fever for three days and vomited all the medicine that they were given in the local dispensary. He was breathing too fast for a little fellow of ten months, and his heartbeat was almost too fast to count, about 180 beats per minute. He looked pale and dehydrated, and sometimes gave a weak little cough.

"A blood slide confirmed the malaria that we suspected, and his anaemia was causing his heart to fail. We had no choice but to test the father to make sure he carried no infectious disease, and that his blood group was the same as Petro's. We drew 200 mls for a blood transfusion for his son. We covered little Petro with intravenous antimalarials and fluids, and with treatment for his cardiac failure.

"Then we 'parents and staff' prayed. That day and that night were very long, especially for Petro.

"Next day he was able to breastfeed in small amounts without vomiting and without getting too breathless. By the afternoon his heart and his breathing rate were nearer to normal limits. He started showing a very slight but most reassuring interest in his environment, which consisted mostly of his mother and the staff. As I listened to his little chest, I knew he was on the road to recovery.

"On the third day I saw him smile at us, as he tried to pull at my shiny stethoscope while I checked his heart again. I knew that I could start writing his discharge form. It is at that stage that we who care for these sick children forget our tiredness and give a little cheer, strengthened anew to see what we can do for the next patient."