We have a new crop of kids at the hospital and, as always, I get a bit attached to them. The three kids in the picture below are three of our longterm patients. From left to right: Issa, Hassim, and Mohamed sitting in my office where they often hang out (and fight with each other).
Issa came to us several months ago with two severely deformed legs. He has Blount's disease which cause extreme curving of the leg bones. We're fortunate in that we have access to a CURE surgical hospital in Niger (a country east of Mali) where they do free operations for kids in need. We were able to send Issa there for a surgery that involved breaking both of his curved legs, resetting them, and casting them until they heal. Now he has straight legs. Both of his legs have been in casts for several weeks but he has managed well.
As you can see, getting around the pediatric ward (and all of the hospital for that matter) has not been a problem for him. He is an expert on that skateboard. Seriously, he leans forward, pushes with his hands, and off he goes. He's everywhere! He's one of the cutest kids around. To be honest, though, he's a handful and I have to make him leave my office so I can get work done because he talks nonstop. That lasts for about five minutes and he's back :-) We've been able to take one of his casts off and the other one will come off soon. Hopefully he'll be up walking in the next couple of weeks.
Hassim is a garabout. Sometimes when very poor parents cannot feed and care for their family, they will "give" one or more of their children to a marabout (a "holy" man) who will take over the care of the child. Ideally this means caring for him, educating him, and feeding him. Unfortunately, the reality is that garabout boys are sent into the streets to beg and bring their wages back to the marabout.
Hassim was discovered by one of my teammates who feed garabout boys twice a week. He noticed Hassim had a very swollen face and brought him to the hospital where he was diagnosed with Burkitt's Lymphoma. It's a treatable cancer and Hassim has done extremely well with his treatment. As you can see in the picture on the right, his jaw is much less swollen. Hassim also developed an infection of his jaw bone and had to have part of it removed. He's recovering well. Fortunately, Hassim's marabout is a pretty nice guy and has allowed Hassim to be treated at our hospital, despite our differing beliefs. Hassim finished his last chemo cycle this week and went "home" today. It was a bittersweet goodbye.
Mohamed is another one of our cancer kids. He has what is called a rhabdomyosarcoma. It's a type of muscle cancer and he had a large tumor removed from his right calf muscle. He will also require chemotherapy.
Mohamed's mother is a sweet lady and dotes on him. He's quite a mama's boy. She had to leave him this week in order to go home and help with planting crops (rainy season/planting season has started). His sister is now with him but he cries for his mother. It's sad and highlights the difficult decisions mothers and fathers have to make here in Mali. I can't imagine a mother back home leaving her child at the hospital in order to go plant crops. But, no crops means no food for next year.
Thank you to all of you who are able to give to our Koutiala Hospital cancer fund or our indigent fund which enables us to treat these patients and many more like them!