No matter what country you live in, 25 kids are going to come down with their share of colds and mild fevers. The kids at Street Kids Philippine Missions are no exception, but in addition to constantly passing around coughs, they are also continuously coming down with some rather unusual ailments.
One of the older girls recently developed a bad staph infection on her foot. She thinks a cut on her ankle became infected when she went swimming in the dirty beach water. The infected area looks like a scabby burn and is about as big as a baseball. Lee said it’s very contagious, but the girl has been on antibiotics for a couple of days and no one else has come down with a similar infection.
Boils are also common because of the humidity. One boy had a big boil on his neck, and Matthew recently broke out with a few, too. Boils often just start draining on their own, but Matthew said there’s another way to suck them out with a jar and heat. However, you’re not supposed to simply pop them.
And, as might be expected, rotten teeth are another big problem in the Philippines because Filipinos eat tons of sugar. Many of the kids at the orphanage have cavities, and Matthew just took some of them to a dental clinic today.
And, of course, when you are dealing with kids, there is always the risk of injury. The first week I got here was particularly hectic. One 9-year-old girl named Jasmine who is about the size of a 4 or 5-year-old was punched in the stomach at school and kept throwing up. Lee and I took her to the emergency room. At first we thought she was punched in the head, but then someone at the hospital was able to communicate with Jasmine more effectively, and we found out that she had been punched in the stomach.
However, we still wanted to get her checked out, but they told us that since it happened during school hours we had to take her to another clinic. Jasmine threw up again in a plastic bag as we were driving to the other medical center. However, when we got there, they told us that their doctor was away, so we turned around and went back to the other emergency room. But, when we arrived, they told us that they actually didn’t have a doctor at that time either. At that point, we just took Jasmine home, and Matthew took her back to the hospital later that day. It turned out that she may have been throwing up before the kid punched her in the stomach, but we’re still not completely sure what happened. (See my end note.)
The next day, Jasmine’s older sister Jessalyn came home throwing up; only she was throwing up blood. Jessalyn is 11 and is also small for her age. Again we couldn’t figure out what happened. Matthew was trying to ask her if someone hit her, but either she didn’t understand or she didn’t want to tell us that she had been hit. She just kept pointing to one side around where her kidney would be, saying it hurt. (Actually, she has been using the word “hard” for hurt.)
So, Matthew, Jessalyn, an older girl named Analiza, and I got a ride to the emergency room in a trike (a motorcycle with a side cart). The nurses took Jessalyn’s information, and we waited for about an hour. Then a doctor talked to Jessalyn and found out that she had been hit and had developed a bruise on her side. Jessalyn told me later that a kid had thrown a chair at her.
The doctor said the incident might have aggravated some problem in her stomach. Without doing an examination, she prescribed two medicines for Jessalyn to take for the next few days. Jessalyn probably does have some problem in her stomach because over the next few days she continued to throw up blood after she ate. We think she may have some kind of ulcer even though she is so young. However, she has been fine since Saturday and is no longer on any medicine. (But, please, pray for her.)
The public hospitals don’t seem very equipped to find out what is really wrong with someone. Private hospitals are better, but a person needs health insurance to go to them, and the orphanage cannot afford health insurance when they are sometimes buying food with their last few pesos.
(On a side note, the hospital had some pretty nasty pictures of physical deformities hanging outside and on the wall. One poster was a really graphic drawing of the inside of a smoker’s body. He had a black stump for a leg, his lungs were rotten, and he had at least ten other deformities. The picture would definitely dissuade some potential smokers, but it’s an awful thing for a kid to look at when she’s in the emergency room.)
Furthermore, the public hospital doesn’t have a computer anywhere in sight, only paperwork, and when Matthew took Jasmine to the hospital they wanted to keep her overnight, but they didn’t have screens on the windows and many mosquitoes were coming into the building, so he decided to take her home.
Cebu doesn’t have malaria, but there is the risk of coming down with Dengue Fever. Healthy people usually recover from the fever even though there isn’t a vaccine, but its nickname is “breakbone fever” because of the intense joint and muscle pain a person with the fever has to endure. Hopefully, the hospital can give you pain killers to make it more bearable.
I have been bitten by dozens and dozens of mosquitoes. I don’t think our living situation puts us as at same level of risk as some people, but there is certainly still some risk. However, in my opinion, even without Dengue Fever, mosquito bites are torturous. When I first got here, I think the mosquitoes might have been attracted to my body wash. My knees looked like Appalachia. However, Matthew bought me some sulfur soap, and I think it has helped some. Still, even as I write this, I am slapping mosquitoes, and I keep trying to stop myself from scratching my legs into a bloody mess.
Another man at the church leads a hospital ministry where he visits a lot of TB patients. However, he can’t go very often because he doesn’t have anyone to help him. Everyone at the church is pretty overwhelmed with ministry duties.
In addition to injuries, boils, infections, mosquitoes, colds, and cavities, a handful of the kids often get stomach aches. Matthew and Lee think the cause may have something to do with the conditions where the kids grew up. Prescription medicine is very easy to obtain in the Philippines, and people often diagnose themselves, so the kids are really at risk of building up immunities to common antibiotics. Therefore, Matthew and Lee like to give the kids natural remedies when possible. For stomach aches, they have the kids suck on ginger.
Through all of these experiences, I have realized (as have Matthew and Lee) that the orphanage really needs an on-staff doctor. The kids often get sick and hurt, and they really need dental and medical examinations from a capable professional. Furthermore, there is always the possibility of the kids coming down with something even more serious, like TB or Dengue Fever.
A medical staff worker would not only keep the kids alive and healthy, but another person on staff would take some of the pressure off of Matthew and Lee, benefitting them health-wise. Lee only gets about four hours of sleep a night even though she’s a person who really needs at least eight. For a couple weeks, she also had a swollen foot, and when she does sleep, the heat and her cheap mattress prevent her sleep from being completely sound. Matthew also doesn’t not get nearly as much sleep as he should be getting. However, the orphanage does not currently have the money or the space to house a medical staff worker.
Matthew and Lee have sacrificed nearly all of their belongings, their nice house, and all of their time to care for 25 children and become involved in numerous church ministries. Sometimes when people in the U.S. ask them how they can help, they are too overwhelmed to know how to respond. From my vantage point, it appears that they first need prayer, then money for land and buildings so they can house more helpers. (Or, they need a helper who is willing to sleep with the kids.) Matthew and Lee’s faith is amazing, and I’m sure God will bless them, but I know that He often uses people to accomplish His work, so if you can help, please do! If not, please, pray and spread the word.
P.S. Another thing has happened before I even got the opportunity to add pictures and post this. Matthew and Lee are out at a meeting, and I’ve been here at the orphanage babysitting with a couple other people. Jasmine was in bed when she started crying hard because she had a stomach ache. Every once in a while she would arch her back and cringe. I gave her some ginger, but it took a while to get a hold of Matthew and Lee. We were finally able to contact them, and they told me to give her some Pepto Bismol. Jasmine cried for quite a while longer but finally fell asleep. About 10 minutes after Jasmine fell asleep, I got another call from Lee saying they are fine but that they got in a car accident and won’t be home for a while. So, as I write this, Jasmine is still asleep, and I’m waiting for them to come home.
When I talked to Matthew on the phone, he said he definitely needs to take those girls to a better doctor. Please, pray that we will find out what is wrong with all of them and that they would get well. And, also pray for the funds to treat them. (They are home now, and thankfully, the guy who ran into them said he will pay for the vehicle repairs.)