| Apr 13, 2010
For every almost every person on this Medical Teams International mission to Haiti, there seems to be a life changing event. Portland paramedic Geoff Goodman had his emotional breakthrough when he treated emaciated 11- year-old Samuel for malnutrition.
“I’d see starving children on TV and I thought I knew what malnutrition was all about.” Geoff, said. But when he was feeding Samuel rice and beans spoonful by spoonful and the child stopped to frantically lick a few morsels of spilled rice from Geoff’s hand, the paramedic realized the extent of the child’s desperation.
When Samuel was brought into the Mathieu village clinic along with his three brothers and sisters, it didn’t take long for Geoff to realize something was dreadfully wrong and triage the child to the front of the patient line for R.N. Midwife Mary Carpenter to examine.
The mother said the child had been lying in bed for the last week, not eating and hardly able to move. She had taken Samuel to another hospital 2 weeks ago, but he hadn’t done well. Then she took him to a medicine doctor, but he still was weak and not improving.
When she heard Medical Teams International was doing a clinic in the village, she brought Samuel there, seeking help. Noting Samuel was severely malnourished and dehydrated, Mary and Geoff started an IV on him. The seriousness of the situation was revealed when, after two liters of IV fluid, Samuel still didn’t have to urinate. Most children his age are begging to go to the bathroom after the second liter.
Mary and Geoff were concerned about possible HIV (AIDS is rampant in Haiti), TB or malaria. Mary and Geoff took the child to a lab where they drew blood for testing. Fortunately, lab results showed Samuel had none of the suspected virulent diseases. Instead, he basically had malnutrition and was suffering from severe anemia. The Medical Teams International team stopped to pick up the mother before taking Samuel to the hospital for a blood transfusion and subsequent treatment.
The young woman’s story was sad. She had lost all relatives except her four children and was living alone in a tent city trying to fend for herself with very little food and no family support. She was very confused and suffering from severe post traumatic stress syndrome since the January 12 earthquake.
On the way to the hospital, Geoff had stopped to buy Samuel a hot lunch and some juice. The boy was too weak to feed himself, but Geoff tenderly fed him rice and beans by the spoonful. “It was like it was his first meal,” Geoff said.
When the young paramedic spilled a few pieces on his own hand, Samuel leaned forward to lick them off with his tongue rather than miss a single one.
“You see stories on television about starving children” Geoff said. “But when you have a kid eating rice morsels from your fingers, it really hits home.”
Samuel did well at the hospital and was soon ready to be released. But his mother had walked out and abandoned him there. So arrangements were made to take Samuel to an orphanage which is sponsored by Save the Children so he can get further care.
We’re all sad the little boy has lost his family, but at least now he hopefully will have his life.