Malnutrition Program Saves Lives at St. Damien Pediatric Hospital

The successful treatment of a malnourished toddler demonstrates the three phases of St. Damienís malnutrition treatment program.
April 10, 2019 - Haiti

Wood is now recovery in the care of NPH Haiti, here pictured at Day 45 in the St. Damien Malnutrition Care Unit.

Denia is a 28-year-old mother of three boys: a 6-year-old, a 2-year-old, and an 11-month-old named Wood. The family is from Gwo Cheval in the southeast region of Haiti, a five-hour drive from St. Damien Pediatric Hospital.

A motherís eye detected that Wood was not well. Denia noticed swelling in parts of his body and immediately took him to a doctor. When the local doctor was not able to help Wood, the toddler was transferred to St. Damien for further tests.

At our hospital, doctors diagnosed Wood with severe malnutrition, septicemia, and abscesses on his head. He was transferred to the critical care unit, where he spent 15 days being treated for the full spectrum of his medical aliments. For Wood, and many other children who suffer from malnourishment, treatment rarely ends after just two weeks. Children with severe malnutrition are usually hospitalized for six weeks and treated on a schedule based on national protocols. But due to the seriousness of Woodís malnutrition, he spent four months at the St. Damien Malnutrition Care Unit.

The unit treats children from many areas of the country. Patients first receive a special liquid formula made of mild multivitamins and oligo elements. Fortified peanut butter is administered, as well. According to our own protocols, St. Damienís malnutrition program has three phases to best support a patient through recovery.

Phase One: Stabilization

St. Damienís provides transfusions to the patients, if needed, and immediately works to rehydrate the patient. Intensive feeding also starts immediately, using trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, mebendazole, folic acid, and zinc cream. Therapeutic milk is also given.

Wood is currently in between stages one and two. He has stabilized and his swelling is disappearing.

Phase Two: Transition

The focus in phase two is on regaining weight. In Woodís case, however, he was 5.72 kilograms upon arrival to St. Damien, but much of that weight came from his severe swelling. After 40 days in the malnutrition ward, he now weighs 5.5 kilograms, but this decrease in weight is not worrying doctors, who say his body needed to slim down to prepare for regaining healthy weight going forward. Wood will need to weigh at least 6.8 kilograms before transitioning out of the malnutrition ward.

Phase Three: Recuperation

Children receive peanuts, cereals, pasta, and counseling to help address both their physical and mental health following their time in the malnutrition ward. The outpatient program runs for about six weeks and provides patients with food packages comprising dried energy milk, peanuts, cereals, and pasta fortified with a mix of vitamins and minerals that are designed to counter the specific biochemical effects of malnutrition in children. Dedicated professionals also provide counseling to parents as they prepare to head back home with their children. Patients remain in this third phase until they have regained the necessary weight to be classified at a healthy level.

Woodís mother is thankful to St. Damien, saying that after seeing how much he has improved, she knows that the hospital helped him survive.

Childrenís names have been changed to protect their privacy.

Denso Gay   
Communication Officer

You may be only one person in the world, but you may be all the world to one child.
—Fr. William Wasson




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