In Septemeber 2008, I traveled 6000 miles to Haiti's Kenscoff mountains. My mission: to care for some of the orphaned and abandoned, the sick, malnourished and premature infants of this beautiful but beleagured Caribbean nation.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The Dreaded Pox

A month ago, we admitted a 15 month boy with severe malnutrition. His bony arms and legs were covered in pimples. We thought he had scabies.

I was alarmed to see the little skin coloured bumps spread, grow and change a few days later. By the time he was diagnosed with Chicken Pox, many of our babies had all ready been exposed to the virus.

Most children in the developed world who get chicken pox scratch furiously and are thoroughly miserable for a week or so. Occasionally, someone gets infected spots and will be treated with antibiotics. A few children with lesions in their mouth or nappy area might need local anaesthetic creams or sprays to make the more comfortable. Every now and then a child will be too sick to eat or drink and they will need IV fluids. It is a rare thing to come across a child with more serious complications.

Here in Haiti, many children are underweight and anaemic. For them, chicken pox can be more serious. Ester is one of the Haitian nurses who works at God's Littlest Angels. She vividly recalls having chicken pox as a child. She was was extremely ill and her Aunt feared she would not live.

The Director and the staff at GLA received the news that we had a case of chicken pox at the orphanage with varying degrees of of dread. The last time they dealt with a chicken pox epidemic, over 60 children contracted the virus. It was quite the challenge nursing all of these sick children at once!

The children who had been directly exposed to the boy with chicken pox were quarantined. We hoped that this would limit the spread.

In the weeks that followed, I found myself laying in bed at night worrying about our frailest children. I had worked here for a few weeks but all ready, the children had my heart, and I didn't want any harm to come to a single one of them.

When I was awake, my mind was in overdrive. I was on a mission: I was determined to fatten up the thinnest children and I started some of them on multi-vitamins and iron. I began treating the most vulnerable children for parasites. It seemed inevitable that the virus would spread, and I wanted to give every baby the best possible chance of fighting the pox.

I also wanted acyclovir in case any of the HIV positive children became unwell. Acyclovir is a medication that it is used to treat certain viral infections. It must be started as soon as the first lesions appear to effectively treat chicken pox.

I scoured the orphanage for the medication. I was checking the smallest and frailest children daily for signs of illness. I was also checking children with confirmed cases of chicken pox for signs of complications.

Despite my fears and anxieties, I have not seen the raging epidemic I expected, and no-one ha been too sick. Some were very very spotty, most were not. One child had an infected spot. She has completely recovered.

We have gone through several bottles of calomine lotion, and I gave piriton to children who remained uncomfortable. Many thanks to the Scottish nurses who donated bottles of this liquid anti-histamine before I left for Haiti. The children at GLA really appreciate it.

As for the malnourished boy who brought the chicken pox with him, he flourished in issolation, where he got one-on-one care.

I thank God his for keeping his and on our babies, and pray for all the Haitian children who do not have access to the loving and competent care, the sound nutrition and the the medical services that our angels enjoy. Without all of this, I am sure the outcome could have been very different.


Anonymous said...


my husband and i were just there during the pox scare...thankfully our son was okay when we arrived....thank you so much for caring for these children and your determination that something like chicken pox will not become the life threatening virus it could be...thanks again form the bottom of our hearts


BSC said...

you are there for "such a time as this". I'm filled with praise for your gift of love to the wee ones at GLA.

Jaime said...

Yeah! Praise God the epidemic you feared did not come. We will continue to pray that all the pox are GONE for good, and that your TLC helps these children thrive. Our children are at the Toddler House, but still I want to say thank you for caring for these sweet, needy babies. God bless you!