I spent a week in the Paeds Ward.
I do believe it was, along with the Obs and Gyn ward, the hardest one to be in.
I genuinely think that on a general level across the globe, no matter what a child’s place is in society, there is a common sense of prioritizing the young. Illness or death of the young is always more devastating and more shocking. I do believe this is a behaviour dictated by our genes as prioritizing the young is an innate behaviour that does in a sense ensure the survival of a species.
Maybe this is why finding myself face to face with sick children was particularly difficult, harsh, unfair and shocking. Shocking not because I haven’t seen before sick children, but because children should not be subjected to such life threatening conditions.
Children would usually share their hospital bed with their mother; very rarely you would see the father caring for the child. I remember on a particular occasion a mother holding her child had a black eye. When Dr. Ray (the consultant I was shadowing) asked what happened she said that her husband beat her with a gun. Dr Ray advised that she leaves him but she said that that would be inappropriate as it is out love that he abused her. I often wondered why abused women are often convinced that abuse is a sign of love because in my eyes, any stimulus that causes pain and sorrow to an organism is instinctively avoided, but not in this case. Reading up on it I found out that the attacker-victim relationship is much more complex than I thought. The attacker will often hold the victim instead of himself (or herself) responsible for the violent behaviour. This is how the guilt game is instigated and then amplified further by claims on behalf of the attacker that this kind of behaviour is a reflection of immense and passionate love. I guess it reaches a peak when the actual attacker comes across as the one victimised which does spark forgiveness and overlooking of the abusive behaviour.
Now back to the Paeds Ward.
Dr. Ray was awesome in allowing us to try reach a diagnosis conclusion and then giving us feedback on it. The majority of children had malaria and urinary tract infections (UTIs). UTIs are not commonly suffered by children in developed countries, but in contrast the hygiene standards in Tanzania are not the best in preventing such infections. A couple of children also suffered of sepsis, which is unfortunately very hard to stop from being fatal even in the more developed world, let alone in Tanzania.
The one condition, however, that has really shaken me up is AIDS is children. I do not know why I feel differently facing a child with AIDS than a child with sepsis. Perhaps because it is unfair that a child with HIV in developed countries would have a normal life expectancy whereas a child in Tanzania will die before it thrives; perhaps because it is not a consequence of a child’s own actions, and perhaps because it is such a slow painful death.
To read the story of Raymond, the child in the Paeds Ward with AIDS, please read the post dedicated to him.