Rescue a Malnourished Child in Guatemala

 
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This infant is originally from a town called Santa Lucía Cotzumalguapa in the department of Escuintla, Guatemala. His mother is 19 years old and dropped out of school after 8th grade because her father no longer wanted to help her pay for her education. She left home because she decided to start a family with a young man from Colombia. The relationship was going really well until the father of the infant started hitting the mother every day. She got tired of being beaten every day so she took her baby and left her husband.

The mother did not eat well while she was pregnant with this little baby and was beaten by her husband which caused him to be born prematurely with anemia and delayed development. She did not have support of her father because he did not want her back in the house and her mother passed away from uterine cancer. After a year they detected that the mother suffered from mild malnutrition and the baby suffered from severe malnutrition so the mother took her baby to the health center in Escuintla where she was referred to Casa Jackson Nutritional Center.

Currently this infant is progressing in his treatment. His weight has improved a great deal and he now has his level of malnourishment is now moderate. Every day his health is improving and so is his mother’s because she also receives food every day.

His mother is thankful for the support of Casa Jackson Nutritional Center and everyone that donates to the project to help support families and children in need.  

Story of Madeline

 

Rosa , originally from the department of Escuintla is 28 years old and been dealing with the difficulty of raising her two children, 14 year old Rosa and Madeline who is 1 year and 9 months old. Rosa was never able to receive education due to the lack of economic resources in her family growing up. Partlyduetolack of education, Rosa becamepregnant at theage of 14. Because of her pregnancy, Rosa’s parents disowned her and threw her out of their home without leaving her any resources. Rosa then went to live with the father of her child, Rene.

 

After living together for a time and despite the economic difficulties that they faced as a couple, Rosa became pregnant with Madelin. During this time, their family lived on Rene´s salary. Rene was working every day as a fisherman. He did not make much, but what he did make was enough to feed his family. One day in late 2012, Rene got ready to go to work and said goodbye to his family, not knowing it would be the last time he would see his wife and daughter. That day, Rene did not realize that his fishing boat was in poor conditions, and as he was working alone on his boat, the motor had mechanical problems and he remained stranded in the ocean, with no one around to help him. No one is sure exactly what happened, but Rene drowned that day.

 

Because of this terrible loss, Rosa was unable to deal with her grief and became depressed, lost interest in taking care of the child she was pregnant with, stopped eating or taking vitamins. When Madelin was born, she weighed only 5 pounds, and was breast-fed for the first 6 months of her life, and would not drink any other type of formula. Not knowing what to do, Rosa returned home to her parents who decided to open their home to her again.

 

Rosa did not realize how sick Madelin had become and that she had become malnourished, but when she became sick with diarrhea and came down with pneumonia, at which time Rosa decided to take her to the local health center. When she saw that Madelin’s systems persisted, Rosa took Madelin to the National Hospital of Escuintla, where they diagnosed her with pneumonia and severe malnutrition.

 

Once Madelin was discharged from the hospital, her mother thought she could take Madelin home. However, the hospital social worker referred Madelin to Casa Jackson Nutrition Center with a court order for nutritional rehabilitation.

At intake at Casa Jackson, Madelin was in a very delicate state, very unanimated, she made hardly any movements. She was unable to sit up, much less stand up, and she did not tolerate our formulas or baby food. She continued this way for 3 months.

 

After this time, Madelin was injected with three shots to improve her immune system, and this together with the nutrition that she was receiving finally started to show results. Shortly after, Madeline began to crawl and walk, and engage in activities appropriate for her age. Her mother received support through donations of food and clothes for herself and her other daughter. Right now, Madelin has reached a stable weight and a better diagnostic appearance than when she was admitted to Casa Jackson.

 

Despite the difficulties that Rosa faced, she never gave up taking care of her daughter in Casa Jackson and she hopes to return to her home and find work again in the fishing industry and continue to see her smiling daughter which gives her hope to live each new day and hope of a better quality of life.

Gene and Sue Jackson of Dickinson, North Dakota, USA, founded Casa Jackson in October of 2008. The Jackson’s, who had offered their assistance various times to ANA as volunteers, were impacted by the statistics of malnutrition in Guatemala and the lack of appropriate and available resources to help the children and families desperately requiring treatment and education. The Jackson’s then donated the necessary funds to renovate an abandoned guesthouse and convert it into the clinic that it is today.

Infant malnutrition is one of the most serious health issues affecting Guatemala. According to statistics from UNICEF, Guatemala has the third highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world. More than 1 of every 3 deaths that occur during childhood can be attributed to the lack of adequate nutrition. According to government statistics, almost half of all children under the age of 5 are malnourished. Children from indigenous families are twice as likely to be malnourished than non-indigenous families – 8 of every 10 indigenous children are malnourished while 4 of every 10 non-indigenous children are malnourished. 

Chronic malnutrition results in stunted growth, developmental delay, impaired thinking skills, a higher incidence of learning disabilities and other ongoing health issues. The impact on the indigenous community, those most affected by poverty and social inequality, simply cannot be taken lightly. Several studies have shown that children that are properly nourished during the first 2 years of life make at least 30% more per year than their malnourished peers. In other words, children that start out as victims of poverty and malnutrition often become adults affected by these same ailments and when they have their own children the destructive cycle continues.

While some of the above statistics can be attributed to poverty, Guatemala still has a higher rate of malnutrition than other countries in the region with similar (or worse) access to social services and with a lower medium income.

In order to successfully eliminate the problem of malnutrition in Guatemala, affected families need immediate access to quality medical care, for example, extensive education with respect to the causes, signs and symptoms of malnutrition; the serious long-term implications of chronic malnutrition; proper nutrition through the life cycle; the importance of non-contaminated food and safe drinking water, etc.

Inpatient Care:

a) All placements at Casa Jackson are voluntary. We lack the legal authority to admit children for treatment without the permission of both parents (and single mothers) despite their medical needs.

b) We maintain a small clinic of 20 beds in order to maximize the level of attention that each patient receives.

c) Casa Jackson treats patients from birth to 5 years of age.  

d) The patients live in the house under the care of the nurses 24 hours a day. (There is 1 nurse per shift – morning, afternoon, and night).

e) The pediatrician makes rounds from 8am to 10am every day. The majority of the patients arrive with various infections which include parasites, skin infections, and respiratory diseases. These patients are isolated from other patients until proper treatment has been administered so as to not spread the infection.

f) The nutritionist comes Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays from 8am to 10am, and Tuesdays from 2pm to 4pm. The nutritionist calculates a special diet for each patient to satisfy their unique caloric and nutritional needs. Moreover, the nutritionist takes the weight and height of the patients two times a week to closely monitor weight gain and growth rate. This information is then utilized to make any necessary changes to the diet of each patient.

g) The duration of stay for each patient varies considerably depending on the health of the child and also the preparedness of the family to welcome them home and provide them with proper nutrition. The average stay is 1.5 to 3 months.

h)  Patients come to Casa Jackson in 3 different ways:

1. Word of Mouth – Concerned families hear of our program through other parents or from our efforts to spread the word and bring their child directly to Casa Jackson. We have an “open clinic” policy and families can arrive from 8am to 10am Monday to Friday for a free evaluation.

2. As References from other Health Organizations – After receiving treatment for various ailments at other health organizations, many children come to us in order to continue recuperating from malnutrition at Casa Jackson.

3. Child Protective Services of Guatemala – In situations where a child has been removed from their home due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, etc., a judge may reference the child to Casa Jackson if he/she suffers from malnutrition.

i) We ask that the parents visit their children on Tuesdays and Saturdays. This quality time is essential to overall health and healing. During this time, the parents can feed their children, speak with the pediatrician, the nutritionist, and with the nursing staff, and they can learn more about the dietary needs of their children. Unfortunately, many families live very far and don’t have the resources to come and visit more than once or twice a month.

Patient Dismissal:

a) The pediatrician considers a patient completely rehabilitated (free of infections and other health concerns) and that he/she is ready to go home.

b) The nutritionist informs the staff when the patient has reached 100% of their optimal weight for their stature. (A slight decrease in weight is expected due to the transition and adaptation period for both the child and family.)

c) The director decides if the family is prepared to provide a safe environment and adequate nutritional care for their child or if they need more education before dismissal.

 

Ongoing Care after Dismissal:

a) Each family receives a water filter. Due to poverty, many of our families drink untreated water from rivers that are utilized by the community to bathe, wash laundry, and wash dirty dishes. The supply of water filtration and education about food safety helps to prevent the contraction of parasites when the child returns home.

b) If the family lives in a house with a dirt floor, a service team from ANA often builds a house with a cement floor, which also considerably reduces the risk of contracting parasites and bacterial infections.

c) From time to time we hold a reunion and invite the families most affected by poverty and malnutrition. In 2009 and 2010 we invited 75 families and gave them all “solidarity bags” provided by MAGA and SESAN – these bags contain milk, rice, beans, and other nutritional goods. These provisions are an important incentive for participation.

1. During these gatherings we offered education on different topics including, prenatal care and nutrition, breastfeeding, food safety, personal hygiene, etc.

2. We took the weight and height of each child in order to monitor their development, growth, and nutritional state.

d) The children return to Casa Jackson for their follow-up appointments with the nutritionist; eventually the appointments are reduced to once or twice per year or as needed.

Social Work:

a) From first contact with each family, our nutritionist works extensively in order to identify and eliminate the unique causes of malnutrition in each home in order to avoid a reoccurrence of the problem.

b) We educate each family on proper nutrition and teach them how to get the most out of the resources they have to correctly feed and care for their children. 

CASA JACKSON – A GIRL NAMED KIMBERLY

Here at Asociación Nuestros Ahijados we are aware that many things can be either easy to do or delicate to accomplish, but there are no impossible tasks for us this is the reason why we hold our breath every time we know one of our kid’s health is in danger. We know we must do our best, since parents and family are trusting us to help them save the child. This was the case of Kimberly.

It took a long road and a lot of talking for Sirian Magaly Ruiz to decide to bring Kimberly to Casa Jackson and it was even harder to convince her to leave her daughter with us. She just couldn’t understand how delicate she was or how much she could harm the baby’s health if Kimberly wasn’t given immediate attention. The day Kimberly was brought to Casa Jackson we were all a little scared for three reasons: she was very tiny, she was sick, and the worst of all she was not taking any food; it was impossible to get her to eat. There was a point when we even thought she might die and as a matter of fact, if her parents would have taken two more days to bring her in, she wouldn’t have made it.

Did we give up? Absolutely not! The baby was intubated in order to be administered with a special nutritional substance that would start her recovery process. She was fed through tubes for three days before we could give her a bottle. At a year and nine months and a weight of 14.45, we could only hope for the best.  

Our staff’s effort started paying off immediately; Kimberly started gaining weight and developing skills much faster than we had all hoped. She is now characterized as being the only baby who doesn’t like to be fed by anybody but herself. She’s very playful and caring with volunteers, staff members and even other babies.

Kimberly currently weights almost 20 pounds and her parents are really grateful for what Casa Jackson was able to do for her. As we said at the beginning of this story, there might be hard situations for us but we never say no to a task.

Amarilis is the daughter of Efrain Miguel and Maria Miguel Francisco, who live in Comunidad San Vicente Guanagazapa in the state of Escuintla, Guatemala.  Amarilis is the youngest of four and has 3 older brothers;  Francisco Antonio Miguel who is 12 years old, Moises Estuardo Antonio Miguel who is 8 years old and Diego Miguel Francisco who is 6 years old.  

The Miguel Francisco family has very few resources and presently they live with their in-laws because they do not have the necessary resources to construct or even rent their own home.

Taking into account that they are a farming family and work is seasonal, Maria has shared that they don't have the most basic resources like water, plumbing or even electricity.   Nor do they possess any type of furniture, they sleep on the ground and their clothes are stored in sacks.  Maria has an iron skillet that she uses for cooking; however, it belongs to her mother-in-law.

Maria has also shared that she finds herself in a desperate situation and recently, her daughter was admitted to Casa Jackson due to complications of malnutrition.  However, she is worried for the well-being of her other children because they are still at her mother-in-laws home that they share with her two brother-in-law's who treat the children very poorly.  They are very unstable men who regularly smoke marijuana and abuse drugs; she is tremendously uncomfortable and is fearful that something could happen to her children living there.  They do not contribute anything to the household, only her husband does, and the little food that he is able to bring home , her brothers-in-law and their friends with whom they do drugs, eat.

Maria has asked The GOD'S CHILD Project for its help in order to build a small house on a piece of land that her father left her so that she will be able to take her children from this environment and for the well-being of her family.

She is very Grateful to Casa Jackson and to the entire association for all of the help that it has given her daughter.

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Organization

Project Leader

Patrick Atkinson

Antigua, Sacatepequez Guatemala

Where is this project located?

Map of Rescue a Malnourished Child in Guatemala