Fearing for the lives of young patients

When his mother brought little Fouday, who was only a few weeks old at the time, to Ola During Children’s Hospital (ODCH) in Sierra Leone, he was already unconscious. He had been gravely ill for days, his mother told to Claudia and Silke, two paediatricians from Cap Anamur. When children are hospitalised too late, their illness or disease often leads to their death. The two doctors hurried to diagnose his affliction and found that the boy was suffering from life-threatening meningitis.

Sierra Leone, a West African nation ravaged by civil war and Ebola, is one of the countries with the world’s highest child- and mother-mortality rate. Cap Anamur has been supporting the ODCH since 2009. The hospital is in Freetown, the capital. Every day, about 220 inpatients are treated in addition to the patients in the accidents and emergencies department, which most of the time is terribly overcrowded. More than 90 % of the children are below the age of five. There are not nearly enough doctors. Cap Anamur sends experienced pediatricians to Sierra Leone and provides life-saving medicine.

Furthermore, Cap Anamur-doctors work together with the young local doctors to ensure that medical care is accessible for as many children as possible. To do this, they assist the young doctors’ examinations, discuss diagnoses with them, assist with lumbar punctures or ultrasound examinations and supervise treatment. We also offer further training for local doctors and students.

Fouday was treated in intensive care and constantly monitored. The ODCH doctors and nurses fought for his life for days. Claudia and Silke discovered that the little boy was infected with meningococcal meningitis. Knowing the pathogen, they were able to treat the boy effectively. Fouday was unconscious for several days, and several times the condition of his respiratory and circulatory systems became so critical that he needed to be resuscitated. Then the little patient suddenly awoke. Having got through those difficult days, he recovered quickly and finally left the ODCH after a few weeks. He had suffered no apparent sequelae.

“We often meet children who were once seriously ill and were receiving inpatient treatment once again on the day of their release from hospital. It’s always such a joyous and touching moment for us,” said Cap Anamur-pediatrician Claudia.