(Photo by John Carroll--July 17, 2012)
I think the hardest thing for me to deal with is slow starvation in a baby.
I call it a thing because I don't know whether to refer to it as starvation or an illness or a condition or neglect or socioeconomic injustice.
Whatever it is called, starvation is bad.
This morning in clinic the little baby girl above, Sophia, was carried into my office by a very well nourished twenty-some-year old young lady who also had her well nourished three year old daughter with her. They live in Sarthe which is just outside of Cite Soleil.
Sophia is eight months old and weighs nine and one half pounds. Her eyes were pretty bright and she interacted well. She would suck on the toe of her black plastic shoe during the exam. Sophia just seemed very hungry. And very tiny.
The lady told me that her sister abandoned Sophia to her one month ago and that her sister did not breast feed Sophia or feed her much of anything.
I asked the aunt if Sophia is eating with her in her home and she said that she has no money left over to buy Sophia any food...so the answer was "no, not much". She admitted that she and her daughter eat ok, but she repeated that there are no extra resources to buy extra food or powdered milk for Sophia.
When I heard this answer, I had no anger against this lady. (Well, maybe a little, but not very much.) She was right up front with me and told me what was happening. Maybe she could do more, but I am not going to judge that. I don't live in her shack. And at least she brought Sophia here today.
Sophia has also been having a fever and diarrhea so I started the medical workup today and empirically treated her with antibiotics.
Sophia gobbled up one half plate of pureed rice here in the clinic and fell asleep a very content appearing baby.
People, something is very wrong here. There were many malnourished babies in clinic today. Sophia was just one of them. So many many of Haiti's babies are starving or very under nourished all over this country.
I admitted Sophia to our long term malnutrition clinic where she will get a hot meal and shower every day until she improves significantly on her growth curve. But this is not the long term answer for all of Haiti's starving children. Children are damaged when they are allowed to starve or near starve at this young fragile age.
We can't let them suffer and hunger in the first place before we decide to do something.
In the end I think we are going to have a lot to answer for.
John A. Carroll, MD