DRC: Saving Mulume and baby Bahati

09 July 2018

Ida is a Swedish doctor on assignment with Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the South Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In the final blog from her assignment, she shares the story of how her team worked to save two critically ill children, Mulume and Bahati.

Mulume is two years old.

His breathing is fast and shallow. He has had a high fever since last night and hasn’t had the strength to eat or drink anything.

This morning he suffered from a seizure and his mother got worried. She brought him to a small health centre in Ziralo province of eastern DRC. Once there, a very pale Mulume tested positive for malaria. A blood test confirmed that he was also suffering from anaemia due to the disease.

The nurse at the health centre referred Mulume to MSF’s new hospital in Kusisa.

Blood transfusion

Now Mulume is laying on a bed in the emergency room at the hospital.

My colleagues and I arrange new blood tests. They show that his blood count is so low that he is in need of a blood transfusion. In anticipation of that, we start the treatment for malaria with intravenous Artesunate – a drug used to fight the illness.

He is six months old but weighs only 3.5 kilograms, which would usually be the weight of a newborn baby."

Fortunately, we find a donor whose blood is compatible with Mulume’s so that we can start the transfusion.

In the past, patients in Ziralo province had to travel a long way to get to a hospital, but thanks to the newly opened facility at Kusisa, Mulume can now get malaria treatment and a blood transfusion within a few hours.

Baby Bahati

The next day, when I do the rounds with my colleague, a Congolese doctor, Mulume is already feeling better.

He has eaten some breakfast and has now received three doses of intravenous Artesunate for malaria. Also, his blood count has risen after the transfusion. So, we change his treatment to tablets. He will need to take them for three days to get better.

A mother feeds plumpy nut to a child suffering with malnutrition. Photo: Diana Zeyneb Alhindawi/MSF

A mother feeds Plumpy'Nut to a child suffering from malnutrition. Photo: Diana Zeyneb Alhindawi/MSF

In the bed next to him is little Bahati.

He is six months old but weighs only 3.5 kilograms, which would usually be the weight of a newborn baby. He is so thin you can see his ribs.

Bahati’s mother has walked for eight hours to get reach MSF’s hospital in Kusisa.

At home, they don’t have enough food which, in combination with illness, has left her barely able to breastfeed her son.

After examining, measuring and weighing Bahati we can tell that he is suffering from acute serious malnutrition. He is also showing signs of pneumonia, so we start treatment with intravenous penicillin.

Recovery

After one week of treatment for pneumonia and malnutrition, Bahati already has more energy. Now, he gives me a steady look and answers me with a smile when I smile at him. He has already gained a few hundred grams. 

After one and a half weeks at the hospital, he has gained even more weight and can be discharged.

We give his mother enough Plumpy’Nut – a peanut butter-like paste used to treat malnutrition – to last for a week until they will have to come back for a follow-up visit. Bahati eats it with a good appetite.

In DRC, you do not say “Goodbye” when you leave. Instead, when Bahati and his mother leave, we take each other’s hands and say "Tutaonana" which means "Until we meet again" in Swahili.

My assignment for MSF is now almost over and it is time to return home to Sweden.

After six months, I say "Asante Sana" (Thank you very much) and "Tutaonana" to Congo!

 

To read this post in the original Swedish, please click here.

 

 

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