OkaZHI: Okanagan-Zambia Health Initiative

The Resilient Children of Mongu!

This week on pediatrics was great, but left me asking a lot of questions. I started Monday with feeling nervous about entering the children’s ward because this population is one that I love to work with and care for. I didn’t have much time to think about it as maybe 5 mins into our shift it felt like I was pushed out of my comfort zone and past my limits. A child was receiving treatment to help drain his leg of osteomyelitis was difficult to be a part of.  I am grateful to have Jackie, who came into the room just when we needed her. It wasn’t easy to be there while this was happening, but as I have reflected it was a fight or flight moment and I chose to fight. I kept saying , it will be okay, and to look at the father. The moment was difficult later to reflect on and needed some support, however I could see the growth in myself from the previous weeks and was partly the reason why I was able to continue to work and become involved with the care with the other patients. More importantly from this experience was able to help us connect with the community of the pediatrics floor.
On this floor the community is visible and all the parents help care for each other’s children. If one parent can speak some english, then that parent helps with the translations. On one side of the bay I could see that between three parents that would make sure one parent was there at all times and would comfort, watch over each others children, bring food to the bedside. This floor goes through a lot of highs and lows. I could see in the women’s faces the sadness when a child had passed away on the floor one morning. I wish I could describe it better, but it is something that you feel and can see on the floor.
Caitlan and I would read stories, pull out the coloring books and crayons, bubbles to create some activities. It was a great moment to see the family members coloring with the children, or just coloring themselves. We created a story circle and then going around and read the books to children again. It was moments like this that the language barrier could be set aside and we could still be a part of the community.
I had also struggled with the children dying from what I perceive as not receiving the basic health care, such as oxygen or getting access to ventolin. The staff works very hard to try and treat the children with the limited resources they have access to. I think I found it really hard to see the children that were dying from things such as pneumonia or  malnourishment ( also when the malnourishment  was related to malaria or HIV). It is incredibly difficult to see children who either are not getting treatment or unable to have access to the medications or treatments that would help children extend their live when battling illness such as HIV. It is just hard to be in the room with the parents and the children and know that I come from a place where there are a lot of resources, I know there can be more done, or even how much the basics would make a difference. However, you have to remind yourself as I have learned this week, that we do the best we can with what we have.
Caitlan and I really wanted to be able to administer ventolin to a young child as we could visibly see and hear that the child was having difficulty breathing. With Faye’s support we managed to get our hands on a liquid form of ventolin and then used our resources to create our own chamber to use with the inhaler. We found a mask, a large dropper (turkey baster looking thing) and a little mask  and created this little tool. This was good enough to get some of the medication into the child and what a difference it made to her breathing. It was moments like this where you realize that creativity goes far with limited resources.
I was lucky enough to go with Caitlan, Darien, Lauren, Faye and Jessica to Limulunga school. There I was able to take the letters from the Canadian students and share them with the young students at the school. So glad to have their teachers help translate the letters and was a neat moment to have them connect with each other. We also taught dental care using (thanks to Lauren’s idea) egg cartons jaws with our homemade tooth brushes to demonstrate. We talked about malaria, safe water, physical activity and hand washing. For hand washing we poured sparkles onto their hands and then had them shake hands with each other to try and demonstrate how germs spread. The look on their faces as we poured the sparkles was fantastic. They didn’t know what to do with them first and then they were excited. I think my favourite part was having the children singing twinkle twinkle little star as we washed our hands. The children were so excited just to play and sit with us. It is neat to see these children and be reminded that all children are the same in the end. Special thanks to Sister Peggy and the teachers of our classrooms for inviting us and making us feel so welcome.


Over this practicum I have been reflecting over my experiences and been thinking about how it has changed me and how it will affect me when I am back in Canada. It will be my birthday soon, which I always try to come with goals to achieve over the next year. Because of this experience I find myself thinking about working towards career paths or experiences that I don’t think could have been inspired or that i would be able to do it without this practicum. Thank you to my friends and family at home for their support during my time away and to the Zam crew for making this experience amazing.


looking forward to going and making this last week here in Mongu count 🙂

Aileen

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