Thursday, May 22, 2014

Chikungunya in Haiti

Looking for a reading for Noon Office later today, I went to check some of the excellent blogs I know in case there might be a good meditation on today's office readings. I want to find something on not being anxious. "Consider the lilies" (Matt. 6:25-34) was the gospel reading for Morning Prayer, and it's always good to hear.

25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? (Matthew 6:25-27)
I know it, I've experienced it, and I believe it.  And lately it has also made me sad thinking about Haiti in that context.  We don't provide for each other very well sometimes.  Then I also remember that many of the people I met in Haiti could teach me infinite amounts on this particular passage. God is certainly there.

While considering this along with the lilies, I arrived at my Blogger reading list. Right near the top, I found this post title:

NPR Story - Chikungunya in Haiti - part 2

As I soon discovered, the writers of a blog I follow, Livesay [Haiti] Weblog, were interviewed by NPR for their coverage of this disease, and one of their patients, Emma, was included in the final cut for the broadcast. You can listen to it here:

NPR reports:
Transmitted by mosquitoes, the chikungunya virus causes rash, fever and excruciating joint pain. It has no cure. The good news: It's rarely fatal. Epidemiologists say the virus is headed to the U.S.

Lovely. On so many counts. As though Haiti needs this. As though anyone does! I gather from news elsewhere on the internet that they've had a few cases in Florida, but they expect the effects to be worse in Haiti.
“Longer term, some increase in the levels of joint pains and arthritis-like illness in the population can be expected, given the patterns in Africa and Asia, and given what the French islands are reporting,” said Dr. James Hospedales, the executive director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). “This may be the real ‘legacy’ of ChikV that we will see in time.”
And in post-earthquake Haiti, where 300,000 people suffered injuries during that country’s devastating Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake, people could be at higher risk, Hospedales said.
“From the literature, the persistent arthritis-joint pain following ChikV infection seems more frequent in the presence of pre-existing joint damage, fractures,” he said.
Yes, I took a photo of a mosquito.
I really did.
We were well acquainted.
Haiti 2009

You can read about the Livesays' experience with the interviews here: The NPR coverage is brief and factual.  The Livesays' posts make it real.

Sad to say, one of the doctors down helping them has now come down with it herself.  Here is an excerpt:

If I have said it once I have said it a thousand times.  There is no predicting tomorrow on this half of this island in this part of the Caribbean. 

One day you are stitching up wounds and placing IUDs and taking care of very sick babies and being interviewed by NPR while celebrating your birthday and the next day you are in pain, in bed, a victim to the newest mosquito borne illness.

Dokte Jen went from all of that activity to having a fever and pain in a matter of hours. Not a very nice post birthday hangover at all...

In the next day or two you can watch the NPR feed for a story on Chikungunya in Haiti, you will likely hear Emma (first photo) speaking about her case and her baby, Fritzlene.  You will also very likely hear Jen's concerns about the virus that now has her lying in bed in  a lot of pain.

I want to share one other thing with you.  Emma is a rock star Momma.  Life has dealt her an insanely unfair hand. I so want her voice on NPR and I want people to know she is an incredibly smart woman with more moxie than most of us dream of having.  This 25 year old is tougher than tough.  Right now she is pulling herself up and out of her unfair circumstances. She knew Fritzlene was sick before a single symptom showed.  She is a Mom in every sense of the word. We sometimes hear that poor folks shouldn't have babies and people make comments that are disrespectful and hurtful.  I know for many that sounds absurd. I wish I was exaggerating. There are some that think forced sterilization of the poor makes perfect sense.  There are some that believe material poverty equals stupidity or no right to a free life. We watch materially poor women provide for and love their babies well every day. Like us, they are not perfect mothers, but they are doing the very best they can with what they have and that in and of itself earns my respect and props.

It is safe to say we are all nervous about this virus. Thankfully it is not fatal. Unfortunately it cannot be treated (Malaria can be treated) and only supportive care can be done to try and make patients more comfortable. We don't have time to be sick and we hate seeing the mommas and babies that already have so much on their plate forced to add yet another thing to overcome.

There is also a follow-up post:

Here's what they have to say about their latest experience with it at their maternity center:

For newborn babies it seems much more difficult to tolerate.  Emma's baby had it at two weeks of age, but we now have two five day old babies with it. New babies that have not established a solid nursing pattern are at a higher risk. Tonight the Maternity Center transported a baby girl (born early morning last Saturday) to three hospitals.  Thankfully, the third hospital was able to take baby Anna.  At least three of the Maternity Center staff-members have had it and there is a collective holding of our breath as those of us still doing fine all hope to be the ones that don't get it. 

It is rainy season, our area is low lying and we frequently have standing water and thicker mosquito population. We don't know what to expect long term, but in the short term we are so sad to see pregnant women and babies suffering from this disease and we feel a lot bit helpless as we watch it spread so quickly. 

I am sorry to admit that I hadn't been following this and praying about it. I need to do that. As Jesus says, anxiety won't get us anywhere. Prayer, on the other hand, is powerful. Will you join me?

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