Shuveecha (greetings) from Bangladesh! The mission is now in full swing with patients coming in and out of the operation room and the wards full of children and their families. It's wonderful to walk among the hospital beds attending to the children as they recover from their surgery and speaking with the families.
Our patient mix is varied; mostly cleft lip and palate surgery, but also a good number of surgeries to separate congenital fused fingers (syndactly) and to release scars from burns that have caused joint contractures.
One of our patients operated on yesterday is 12-year old Mra. She lives in the rural Hill Tract Khagrachari area 5 hours by from Chittagong where her parents are farmers and extremely poor. Mra is one of nine children in the family, but four of her siblings died as toddlers from diarrhea and other infectious diseases. Most likely some of the children died from rotavirus, a GI virus that causes 1 child to die every minute in underdeveloped areas of the world.
Fortunately, there are now two rotavirus vaccines available to prevent rotavirus and supranational organizations like PATH are working to introduce these vaccines at minimal cost in low incomes countries. I am very proud that GlaxoSmithKline developed one of these rotavirus vaccines, and that our vaccine is being used to prevent illness and death like that which occurred in Mra's family.
When Mra was one year old, an oil lantern in her home fell over while she was asleep and caused severe burns to both legs and ankles. Mra's parents could not afford to get her treated by a doctor and she was left with scars on her right lower leg and left ankle that make it impossible for her to open her right knee and to move the left ankle. As a result Mra can barely walk. To add salt to the wound, Mra has never attended school because she cannot walk to it.
A few weeks ago, a neighbor in her village spotted a poster hanging on the fence at a nearby army base that was advertising this Rotaplast mission. The neighbor told Mrs's parents and her father contacted the army base. Six other families in the area similarly contacted the army base about their children's surgical conditions. A captain at the army base called the Chittagong Rotary club and arranged for all seven children and their families to come to our screening clinic. In a stroke of good luck, all seven children qualify for surgery and will be operated on by the Rotaplast team this week.
Mra's father told us that he had no money to travel here and he is grateful that the army drove him and the other families five hours in a jeep to come to our hospital. The dad has a cell phone (like everyone else here) and he will contact the army base when he needs a ride back to his village. Dad expressed his gratitude for the staff at the hospital not only for the surgery to help his daughter regain the ability to walk, but also for the hospital staff who are giving him (and all of the other families) vouchers for food.
Mra's operation yesterday involved cutting away the scars behind her right knee and over her left ankle, and the wounds were covered with skin grafts taken from her belly. Mra is doing remarkably well today and the pain medicines she is receiving are keeping her very comfortable. To keep Mra busy we brought her some paper and crayons. Mra had never seen a crayon or pencil before and we needed to show her how to color. She took to coloring like a flower does to water. You can see in the picture one of Mra's beautiful creations.