A clinical officer called the pediatrician to “come quickly” to the emergency department. When she walked in, she saw a little boy, leaning forward and breathing three times faster than normal. His oxygen saturation was reading 53%, and he looked as if he had been sick for months.
His mother spoke only a tribal language, so an aunt translated and told the pediatrician that the boy had been breathing hard all night.
The pediatrician listened carefully and could tell air was barely moving through the boy’s lungs. She turned to order medicine to treat what might be a severe asthma attack, and one of the emergency clinical officers (ECCCO) handed her the medicine before she even asked for it.
“Thought you might be about to order this,” he said.
The child improved dramatically with the medicine, but the minute it was finished, he would quickly worsen again.
The doctor asked mom more questions. She said he had not been able to lie down for 10 days.
The boy’s admission deposit was paid with the Needy Children’s Fund, and he was quickly transferred to the Pediatric ICU. A radiology tech rolled in the portable X-ray machine purchased from donations received the previous year. As she pulled up the X-ray, she gasped.
Not asthma, but a huge tumor, was laying over the airways and making it almost impossible for the boy to breathe.
The intern, ICU nurse, new pediatric surgery fellow, and the doctor quickly rolled him down to the CT like they were in a movie; six providers running with a small boy gasping to breathe. By some miracle he was able to lay down for 45 seconds while the team viewed the images to confirm the diagnosis and rushed him back to the ICU.
As they ran down the hall, the surgery fellow looked at the pediatrician, and said, “I love this place.”
“Why?” she asked.
“Because you all seem to refuse to accept that anything is impossible,” he replied.
She laughed in agreement. Thirty minutes later the consultant surgeon came. The team did a biopsy of the tumor at the bedside, knowing that treatment needed to start immediately and could only happen with an appropriate diagnosis. They also knew that sedating the child with general anesthesia was dangerous.
The pediatrician held the boy’s hand while the surgeons numbed the skin, and his aunt calmed him as the medicine began to work.
Chemotherapy medicines were started to shrink the tumor, and over the next 12 hours he began to improve. A visiting pathologist, who happened to be a lymphoma specialist, examined the biopsy. The next day, in this little corner of the world, the team had a diagnosis, treatment started, a child weakly smiling, and a family with answers.
From the door, to X-ray, to CT, to biopsy in less than four hours…and diagnosis in less than 24.
Again, proving the impossible can happen in Kijabe.
“Why do you treat these children like your own?” the aunt asked.
The doctor gently talked to the aunt about the reasons for her hope in Christ, knowing that ethnicity and religion made this a unique and sensitive opportunity.
Taking care of this boy was the culmination of so many things: the excellent ICU, successful clinical officer (ECCCO) training, the newly-purchased portable X-ray, hard-won proper nursing ratios, pediatric surgery fellowship, the pathology tissue processor and Needy Children’s Fund made possible through Friends of Kijabe donations and the doctors at the top of their fields, choosing to serve in Kijabe.
This healing was dramatic, but just one of the hundreds occurring each month in Kijabe.