Friday, April 15, 2016

"Vaccines are the tugboats of preventive health" William Foege

First stage of bumping the mumps is complete!

I arranged for the Doctor to come and vaccinate all 50 children for Measles, Mumps and Rubella. It was easier to get the Dr to come to the orphanage than take them all there. At first they were all excited at the prospect of missing school and seeing me. I think they all thought I was going to take them out.
I was not very popular at being the person to cause them pain with the jab. If only I knew how to say 'it's for your own good!' in Vietnamese!

I must say I was impressed by the entire operation: they took each child's temperature, filled out a checklist, did a quick assessment and then they got their jab.

The kids were all so good and helped each other through it. The older ones trying to keep the younger ones calm and the boys laughing and teasing each other to ease the nerves of the jabs.

The cake they got after their jab seemed to make them forget quite quickly about the jab.

Huge thank you again to all who donated and made this mission possible!!!!

Booster shot set for six weeks time and I have already looked into the chicken pox vaccine up next for when I return in July.

When I return back home, I will talk to people from the public health unit in Australia and seek advice about the best way to move forward. The goal is to get the children immunised for everything!!!

“We are put in situations to build our character… not destroy us.” Nick Vujicic

I walked into the disability room and said hello to everyone. I'm amazed that I visit this place so little, yet they all still remember me. It then saddens me that they must remember me because I am one of the few people who have shown them kindness? I don't know, I'm speculating.

As I walked round the beds, there was a girl on the bed who is severely physically disabled. Her body has been taken over by atrophy and I cannot move her position. Her whole body is a tangled mess and I can't stretch her out at all. Her wrists sit at unnatural angles and won't budge when I tug lightly on them. She is whimpering softly. I went up to her and spoke to her and she moved her eyes in my direction. As I walked away, I turned back and saw that her elbow was, well.... A huge open sore. It was around her whole elbow and was red raw, blood filled, covered with a layer of pus and a few flies buzzing around in there. My heart tightened. Crap. She had an open wound.
Surely they must know it's there and have been giving her meds. I consoled myself with that thought as I walked to the door. But I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn't turn my back and walk out without knowing. I went back and asked a carer and she just nodded at me. I asked if they had medicine for her and after a lengthy getting lost in translation dialogue, I found out that nope. They weren't giving her anything. They had this one natural spray remedy but that ran out.   Then one carer motions to me and together we lift her up and I see two giant bed sores just on top of her bottom.
I wanted to vomit. They were ghastly. I have never seen bed sores this bad before. They were infected, open and there were holes separating her flesh to the rim of the sore.
I wanted to gag. Stage 4 ulcerative sores.
I asked about a Dr. No. No money for a Dr. I asked to take her and was told nothing could be done about these. What to do?
I took photos of them and went to the chemist. I showed the chemist and he gave me iodine, this wound dressing powder and a gauze dressing.
I went back and there were six student volunteers in the room. One spoke limited English that I used as a translator. I got them to help me lift her as I tried to clean the wound. When the students saw them, one ran out, couldn't handle the sight, one burst into tears and one started taking selfies! I told him to get out quickly. A few hung around as I was cleaning her, crying and suppressing my gag reflex. They were watching, stunned in silence, a few crying quietly now with me.
The poor girl was crying as I was trying to move her and get her cleaned. She was shaking and quivering and I tried to work quickly.
I'm not a nurse or know anything about bed sores but I instinctively took a towel and rolled it and placed it under her arm so her elbow was off the bed.
But her two major ones on her bottom. I can't flip her onto her side or her front. She is that tangled. I just sat and lovingly stroked her hair and forehead as I cried and tried to tell her I was going to try make her feel better. The powder the chemist gave me ran out after three cleans.
Then we had an issue: I couldn't find this wound dressing powder anywhere- and I ran from chemist to chemist and all the way to the hospital. The hospital had no idea what I was talking about. I showed them the photos and they all grimaced and said there was nothing for those.  I started to panic as what I was going to do for her.
Facebook came to the rescue with me posting for any advice. First I was told that iodine was not to be used on her. So I took that away. Everyone had great suggestions, but all useless in this country. I didn't have any access to fancy bandages or meds.
The only thing I had on me was two jars of paw paw, a nappy rash cream and some gauze.
It took some old school thinking to get there but we did thanks to a few old-er friends.
Salt water to clean, nappy cream as a barrier around the sore to protect the good skin and then soak the gauze in paw paw and pack it into the sore. Cover with another bandage and cover that bandage with another bandage.
I went to the chemist and bought syringes, gauze, dressings and more nappy rash cream. Things I could find.
I went back to the orphanage again.
The girl was crying in bed and the carers took her for a bath. I tried to explain to them that they shouldn't be getting wet. The elbow we could control but the bottom we couldn't. They are close to her anus and she urinates and defecates and then it all gets into them and needs a bath. I'm not sure what else to do for her. I tried to explain to them to try keep them clean but it was falling on deaf ears. I worry these wounds will never close and heal.
So in I went armed with three months of supplies and got the carers around and demonstrated the steps. They listened and thanked me and asked me to stay there with them. I wish I could. I wish I could split myself into three and be at each of these places at once.
The disabled girl who is 14 years old, would look at me and I felt like she knew I was there to help her. When I worked in her sores she kept still and didn't cry as I talked to her throughout the whole thing. I saw her leg shaking at one stage when I was using the salty water on her and tried to calm her, all the while crying, dry retching and irrigating her wound.
My god. I felt sick. I couldn't sleep that night.
Some of the responses I got back from people was that these sores were beyond me and that a Dr and hospital was needed. I know that Sherlock! I don't need a degree in medicine to know that. But I'm faced with a dilemma where a Dr and hospital was not an option. Was I seriously meant to just leave her after seeing them?
I did the best I could with what I had. I'll be back soon and will bring back the fancy covers we have In Australia for her. I just hope that the carers keep at it until I return.
I walked out of that place that night crying behind my sunglasses, breathing in and out and sending gratitude for my healthy, able body and sending thanks to Australia where we have whatever we need at our finger tips. I'm sure not everyone does in Australia, but me, I do.  That I am lucky enough to have access to this health system that protects me. And then I cried thinking about everyone in the world who doesn't! It was an emotional night.
I couldn't just walk away knowing I didn't try my best and gave it my all to help this poor girl. Thank you to everyone who gave me advice via social media. It was a group effort!

The coke can that caused an episode...

People mean well and come and do what they can. But sometimes, I wish they would think and perhaps wait to donate food items when they have enough for all.
Two ladies walked into the disabled shelter with 6 cans of coke. There are 50 residents here.
Like a lion, the 20 or so residents out front when she took them out, pounced.
And the ones who missed out went into a frenzy.
One girl went into what seemed like an episodic state and was talking really fast and her eyes glazed over and wasn't looking at me when I tried to calm her down. Then she started lashing out and kicking anyone in front of her. The other residents were trying to get her to stop by holding her and one was hitting her. This was sad to see. Then to get her to stop, a carer rushed over and started physically controlling her too.
They pushed me aside, trying to protect me from her kicking but I was telling them that I didn't mind and then when they started hitting her to get her to stop kicking, I was trying to stop them from hitting her.
A full blown sad circus. All over a can of coke.

It's not the natural order of life to lose a child... or three

It is with much sadness that I was told that two of my precious boys from the orphanage passed away from the mumps. The mumps? At first I was in shock and did not believe them. They must have it wrong. I swear I saw them yesterday. Didn't I?  Tomorrow I would walk into the orphanage and they would be there, running up to me with a huge smile on their faces. Would they? My gut was churning all night until the next morning when I returned to the orphanage.
But no. They were right. I confirmed it with four different people just to make sure and surely, the two boys had passed. That is three boys now in total and one young adult.
I went back and dug out all their photos from the last five years. I was in a state of disbelief that these two beautiful faces I would never see again. How could this be? I googled everything I could on the mumps. Fatalities don't occur from the mumps anymore. It's like one in ten thousand. How come I had four children (two from each place)  pass from the mumps?
There must be some mistake.
I'm told from the doctors here that it was the mumps. How much I trust their diagnosis is a different issue but all the symptoms they described sure sounded like the mumps: the huge swollen glands and testes.
There is sadly no treatment for the mumps.
Only a preventative.
I know babies get immunised here a month after a birth. What was that for?
A little digging revealed that the mumps vaccine was only introduced to the Vietnamese children's schedule beginning of this year. This means that none of the children at the orphanage would have gotten it.
Also, many of the children joined the orphanage later after birth and so there are no records at all as to even if the children were vaccinated previously.
Right. I had to do something.
I sent a message out to the long term volunteers and began a campaign for raising funds to get these children immunised. We had to get it done.
A doctor could come to the orphanage and give each child the shot for $20. Crazy to think that $20 could have saved the lives of the these little angels.
The response was astounding and the initial $2000 we were campaigning for reached $6000. Truly unbelievable.
With this much money I could now look into the entire immunisation schedule and go through the process of getting every child vaccinated.
What an amazing and wonderful group of people who made this possible. I am truly grateful and humbled by everyone's generosity.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Happy 8th, 12th, 16th, 17th and 18th Birthday Loc!

So here we are huddled around Loc and his cakes for his 8th, 12th, 16th, 17th and 18th birthday. Loc's bday kept changing. It kept changing to make him younger in order for him to continue to stay at baby orphanage. And now no one seems to know how old he is or when his birthday actually is! Loc asked me for a birthday party. Why not?! He was so ecstatic with his cakes and having his name on them. 
Currently, Loc is down as 12 years old! I say there is no way he is 12 as he has acne and facial hair that is beyond a 12 year old.....

Whatever his age, Happy Birthday Loc!

RIP little Tri

It is with much sadness that I inform everyone that little Tri has also passed away. Tri taught me so much in the art of patience, tolerance and endurance. He showed me how to appreciate joy in the simple things in life like clapping your hands. I will miss you Tri. RIP

Rotary's Generous Donation

I must say I am truly grateful for the support of people like Rotary Glenhaven Club.
They presented me with a $5000 cheque to go towards clean water systems in schools in the mountainous areas of Vietnam that I frequently visit.

Am truly overwhelmed and will definitely put this money towards at least three clean water systems for some schools in a disadvantaged area. Stay tuned to see the results!