Once again I'm writing to you all to thank you for your ongoing support of our child nutrition and health projects in Guatemala.
I thought I would take this update opportunity to reflect on something that we haven't talked about in a while. Although we talk about the need to fight the overwhelming rates of child malnutrition in Guatemala frequently, what we haven't mentioned is how poor nutrition is just one of the many health challenges that children in Guatemala face. One of these that we face in our work everyday is the lack of primary care (pediatricians). Not having pediatricians means that children do not receive the normal "well child" check ups that we take for granted in the developed world. Consequently, if a child has a serious medical condition, it may not every be picked up, since there is no one around to pick it up!
To give you an idea about how this plays out, our experience has been that about five percent of all the children we see in a new nutrition program will have a serious medical condition. Even though our "in road" to communities is the nutrition programming, we are also committed to providing comprehensive health care, and so we always do our best to help out those children who need more than just nutrition.
One case that we are currently managing is quite typical. This is a 1 year old boy with Down's syndrome who was brought to us for the usual reason - "not growing." However, with just a quick physical examination, it was clear that something more was going on. He had a very loud heart murmur and signs of heart failure. We quickly obtained a heart ultrasound, which confirmed that he did indeed have a heart defect that was going to need surgery. Although he was certainly malnourished, the heart defect was really the major reason that he was 'not growing.'
Fortunately, we have an excellent collaboration with a group of pediatric heart surgeons who can make this happen. Therefore, over the last few months, we have been managing the child's heart failure with medications while he recuperates nutritionally. He should have surgery within the next few weeks and go on to be a much healthier child afterwards!