© Rhian Gastineau/MSF
At 6 pm I’m driving back to the compound. I’m tired and hungry and my mind is elsewhere. The wipers are on full but I can still barely see out of the window due to the rain lashing against it.
Mohammed our driver tells me that we just drove past a child having a seizure by the side of the road. I didn’t see him. We turn back at the next opportunity and after a few hundred meters I see a child standing by the side of the road, leaning to his right side.
We put on gloves, lock the car, and go to talk to a group of people who are standing near the child, watching him. No one knows who he is; they tell us he had two convulsions and fell both times. A lady goes in to the local eating spot to see if anyone knows the kid. People are reluctant to approach unconscious people lying on the road for fear of infectious diseases.
We go back to the pick-up truck and radio for a car (the truck only has two front seats). We walk up to him and I see that he’s a boy no more than eight years old. He has some sort of right-sided weakness and his right arm is held taught against his body. Recurrent seizures can cause this.
His eyes are wide with fear and confusion
His clothes are soaked through from the rain and he has gravel stuck to his face where he fell. He does not speak and his eyes are wide with fear and confusion. I think he probably has epilepsy.
Mohammed explains to the child that we’ll take him to a local clinic where we can give him medicine and find his family. I put my hand on his shoulder, although he can’t really walk, with the weakness becoming more evident as he tries to move his right foot.
I decide to carry him, pick him up, and place him into the back of the Land Cruiser. I climb in after him.
He can’t really sit up and keeps leaning over to his right, so I place my arm around his shoulders to keep him steady. His head is bowed and his head jolts up in confusion at me as we pass over every bump and pot hole.
I pass posters telling people that epilepsy is a medical illness, and nothing to be frightened of
When we get to the clinic I carry the child out the car.
As I walk up to the doors I pass posters telling people that epilepsy is a medical illness, and nothing to be frightened of.
The community health officer is climbing on to his motor bike. He tells me he knows this boy, that he has epilepsy, and that he has medicine. We agree to follow the community health officer in the car and take the child home.
Five minutes later we are standing at the doorway to his home. He enters with the community health officer, and as I’m walking away I turn to see the silhouette of a child being helped by an adult to pull the wet t-shirt over his head.