Sunday, 30 November 2008
This baby was admitted almost a month ago. This photograph was take a few days after he arrived. He was 8 months old and weighed 9lb 8 oz but almost a lb of that was "water weight." You can see that his face is puffy and that his hair is yellow and very sparse. There are many areas on his body where his skin is light due to loss of skin pigment. His growth is so stunted that he is wearing newborn clothes. These are all signs of Kwashiorkor ( a type of malnutrition that makes children swell.)
No-one knows exactly why some malnourished children develop kwashiorkor and others do not. Scientists agree that lack of protein in the diet is one of the main causes of kwashiorkor but it seems that liver damage and deficiencies in particular vitamins, minerals and fats also contribute to this type of malnutrition.
The baby was sleepy when he came in but he seemed hungry and he was not showing signs of serious illness. Our first priority was to start re-feeding him so that his blood sugar would stay up and so that he would get the fluid, salts and nutrients he needed. We soon learned that the baby could not suck from a bottle. He hadn't had any milk since Mum had died when he was a few weeks old. His Dad had spoon fed him maize porridge ever since.
We started him on folic acid and iron supplements and within a few days, we started to give him a richer milk formula.
This little man had been very hungry at home. He had sucked his fingers so often and so vigorously that two of his finger nails had come off. The area around the cuticles were red and hot. Knowing that babies with kwashiokor are very vulnerable to infection, we started him on antibiotics right away.
The second photograph shows him 10 days after he was admitted. He is alert, he is beginning to gain weight.... and he is still sucking on those fingers. I suppose old habits die hard!
I am pleased to say that he is recovering well from his malnutrition. Although he is still very little for his age, he weighs over 12lb and is quite chubby. He is a happy baby, with lots of personality and a very cheeky smile.
Only time will tell whether he will fully recover from the effects of kwashiorkor. Some children have permanent issues with learning and concentration following an episode of severe malnutrition.We are stimulating this little man with toys and I am encouraging him in his development. I am very glad that he is doing so well just now and I enjoy having him in our room.
Posted by Susan Westwood at 13:40