He’s no longer a number…he’s more than a name…he started as a patient…and now he’s one of “our” kids. The statistics are staggering, more than 80% of Hondurans do not have health insurance. Three years and five months ago we first heard the name “Ostin” and learned he was in need of medical attention. At first we helped from a distance…communicating with doctors in San Pedro Sula and sending money to cover the visits and transportation. Next, we were able to meet him and his family in person. We contacted doctors at prestigious hospitals in Boston, listened to their advise about protocol for treatment and forwarded that information on to the doctors in Honduras.
We continued to visit Ostin, reassuring his parents we were still committed to helping. Many months would pass, and eventually we helped obtain a drug from Japan which the doctors in Honduras were able to inject into Ostin. We returned to Honduras and accompanied Ostin and his mother to medical appointments. Initially, the drug seemed to work and Ostin was showing improvement. Months would pass, more injections would be given, and then we would return for another visit. At last, the doctors felt they had done all they could do for Ostin and he would need to go to the States for more treatment.
Many more months passed as we coordinated doctors, hospitals, financing, and visas. Ostin arrived here 10 weeks ago and since then has undergone two big surgeries and other procedures. Once a child moves into your home, he/she is no longer a patient…he/she becomes one of your own. We know his fears, what makes him happy, his favorite foods, the toys he likes to play with. Sometimes it’s a slow process, other times it’s more immediate, but they crawl into your heart.
Having a child living with a serious medical condition is extremely stressful. We try focusing on one medical appointment or procedure to the next, but then there are unpredictable setbacks in his health or unforeseen issues with financing and the feelings of frustration and disappointment escalate.
Loving a child who has no health insurance and has one opportunity to receive medical treatment before returning to his life in poverty adds a whole new dimension…especially when you feel like you’re his voice.
This past week I was hit with a nasty viral bug. It came on suddenly and wiped me out quickly. I chugged a variety of medications, slept as much as I could and anxiously awaited relief. But while I waited, I thought of people in Honduras who are faced with similar common illnesses and those who suffer from far greater ones. How much harder they endure and with far less complaining than me!
After years of working in the medical field of Honduras, we’ve been accustomed to a shortage of supplies in medicine and equipment, but things have become worse. Last fall we learned about hospitals having to cancel surgeries because they lacked oxygen. Now, there are 28 public hospitals having to postpone surgeries because they lack basic operating materials.
It’s alarming to hear this news which tremendously impacts the general population, putting the majority of Hondurans at risk. We also witnessed this personally, in our village of Flores, with a neighbor suffering from Guillean-Barre Syndrome. This illness struck the nervous system of a healthy 18 year old, and now poses life-threatening complications.
This situation would be terrifying enough for any family but imagine facing the monumental task of coming up with $15.00 a day for the medication when that exceeds your daily income? And then…facing the obstacle of actually finding a place that has the medication available? That’s just the beginning…the mom couldn’t have been more appreciative of the basic supplies (gloves, gauze, oxygen tubing) which we could provide. These items were not available in town and she didn’t have the resources to look elsewhere.
We’ll continue to collect as many resources as we can, and deliver them in March. Hopefully, there will be additional aid on a National level, as well.
Bright and early this morning, little Jose boarded an American Airline flight to return to his home in Honduras. He was accompanied by Airline Ambassador, Ina Melen who volunteers her time escorting children traveling alone.
Jose had been hospitalized at Shriners Hospital in Boston after suffering burns from a container of hot molasses. Once again, Shriners transformed this little boy’s life in a matter of weeks. The first time we visited Jose, he was behind plastic on the acute care unit. Yesterday, we joined his going away celebration and delighted in watching Jose, full of giggles, running around the physical therapy room.
Recently, Jose has been living with the Sierra family in Boston. When children are ready for outpatient visits to the clinic and don’t have a place to stay locally, the Sierra family has offered their home. Second to receiving state-of-the-art medical care, the experience of living with a loving family is invaluable. Children have the opportunity to develop physically when they are not in the confines of a hospital setting. They also benefit emotionally by being embraced by people who care. Host families have the opportunity to share a bit of their cultures, as well as, offering new experiences that Honduran children never would have had. Often times, host families continue to be an integral part of the children’s lives, and keep the relationships strong by phone calls and visits. Certainly, the patient isn’t the only one who benefits, host families often comment that it is one of the most meaningful experiences in their lives.
Not everyone has the availability to be a host family but you can still be actively involved by visiting children who are hospitalized locally. Esperanza has an ongoing need of large size suitcases, duffle bags and small carry-on suitcases for the children traveling home. Other appreciated items include: new underwear, gently worn clothing, small toys, Spanish books and MP3 players.
Everyone has the chance to bring a smile to a child…and I guarantee it will do the same for you!
In January, 2007, four year old Astrid Ordonez was operated on at Shriners Hospital for Children (Springfield, MA) for a “tethered cord.” Astrid was born with this neurological disorder, which is caused by tissue attachment that limits the movement of the spinal cord.
Astrid has returned for treatment of her left “cavus” foot, a condition of her neurological disorder, which results in a very high arch. The doctors at Shriners have now completed two sureries on her foot. The first one was a tendon release, and the second one required them to insert a wedge of bone into a cut in one of Astrid’s bones, in the middle of her foot.
Astrid is now wearing a full-length cast for six weeks. She will then be x-rayed and it will be determined whether she will require additional casting or if she will be fitted for an AFO(ankle-foot orthosis), a plastic brace which will be inserted into her shoe.
We are grateful Astrid has been given this opportunity for treatment because without it, the disorder is progressive causing sensory and motor problems, as well as, loss of bowel and bladder control.
On April 13th, Astrid will return home to her family in Flores, Honduras.
This is 13 year old “Rony” who is currently being treated for neglected clubfoot deformity. Rony was not only suffering physically, but socially and emotionally, as well. Due to his lack of mobility, he was not enrolled in school. Fortunately, the treatment and surgeries have been successful. Rony is thrilled to be with his peers,attending school and is not deterred by having to walk with crutches through muddy roads to get there!
Melvin was born with congenital glaucoma. His parents soon realized there was a problem because when Melvin was in the daylight, he would scream in pain. Left untreated, Melvin would have been blind. Thankfully, he was operated on in San Pedro Sula. Melvin’s mother is extremely grateful, and proudly shows her son, exclaiming, “he sees everything and is so much happier!”