It was Sunday; Waffle Sunday!
I had decided to stay behind on the ship and have a lazy Sunday. Halfway through breakfast, I’m informed that a boat has just pulled up to the ship with a very sick looking child. I leave my breakfast; give the leftover waffles to the boys and clear instructions not to eat my plate :)
I walk up to the sea-door, and there he was, on his mother’s lap. He looked bad. He was very skinny, pale, very lethargic and irritable. Right away I knew that he would need to go to Kikori Hospital, but I agreed to see him. I did a basic assessment and tested him for malaria. Something had to be very wrong for him to be in such a poor cognitive state.
The patient ended up having a clear sounding chest, no fever and tested negative for malaria. I was pretty much out of grave options for his condition. He had been vomiting for a week, not taking anything down, not even breast milk. Stools were yellowish… little to no diarrhea… no history of TB in the family.
I decided to treat for worms just in case and send to the hospital anyways. We made him some oral rehydration beverage and I had his albendazole and tinidazole (deworming tablets) crushed into jam. I fed him the first spoonful; it went down properly. I fed him the second; the child cried. I gave him a third spoonful and saw something white in his mouth. I must have had a funny look on my face because dad knew right away to stick his finger into the child’s mouth to reach and pull out a 15cm long Ascaris worm!!! Unbelievable! I’ve seen this on photos, thought it was pretty gross… but to see it live, with my own eyes was absolutely disgusting! The worm wiggled its way up to feed on the jam I was feeding the child! Ascaris worms are swimmers! The reason why this child was so unwell is probably because the worms have made their way up his brain!
I never stressed so much the utmost importance to reach the hospital to any parent. I explained how the worms could make their way into their child’s brain and that in order to find a worm this big, swimming up into their child’s mouth meant that the child was probably infested with hundreds of them… The father thanked me, put his family back in his dugout canoe and paddled towards Kikori Hospital.
I washed my hands 3 times and went back to my breakfast. As I was sitting there, enjoying my waffle when Jess told me: “That thing was so big, you could use it as a bait to fish with it!” Ummm Life in Papua New Guinea!
Here are a few photos, straight off google (I didn’t have my camera with me…) please don’t watch while you’re eating! ;)