Wednesday, February 15, 2012

ICDDR,B - Cholera Hospital

Earlier this week a friend at the embassy arranged a tour for a small group of us to ICDDR,B (International Center for Diarrhoeal Disease Research Bangladesh). Below is from their website's "about us" section. They are world renown in their research, development and success in battling cholera. They are also now assisting with AIDS and several other diseases. Their facility and staff were nothing short of amazing.

About us

ICDDR,B is the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh - an international health research institution located in Dhaka.
Dedicated to saving lives through research and treatment, ICDDR,B addresses some of the most critical health concerns facing the world today, ranging from improving neonatal survival to HIV/AIDS. In collaboration with academic and research institutions throughout the world, ICDDR,B conducts research, training and extension activities, as well as programme-based activities, to develop and share knowledge for global lifesaving solutions.
ICDDR,B has a mix of national and international staff, including public health scientists, laboratory scientists, clinicians, nutritionists, epidemiologists, demographers, social and behavioural scientists, IT professionals, and experts in emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, and vaccine sciences. The Centre has a cross-cultural environment, with 95% local staff including researchers, medical officers, administrators, and health workers, and 5% international staff primarily from academic and research institutions engaged in global health research.
Since 1978, the Centre has shared its knowledge with the world, training more than 27,000 health professionals from over 78 countries. Courses provide practical training in topics such as hospital management of diarrhoeal diseases, epidemiology, biostatistics, family planning, demographic surveillance and child survival strategies.
ICDDR,B’s activities are supported by about 55 donor countries and organizations, including the Government of Bangladesh, UN specialized agencies, foundations, universities, research institutes and private sector organizations and companies that share the Centre’s concern for the health problems of developing countries and value its proven experience in helping solve those problems. The Centre is governed by a distinguished multinational Board of Trustees comprising 17 members from around the globe.

The tour took us through the process of when a patient arrives until being discharged healthy. We also visited the ICU and cafeteria facilities. No payment is collected for their services, and any family members (1 per child patient) are fed and given a place to sleep until their loved ones discharge. People sometimes walk or transport days to reach this live saving facility. There are visiting hours and a long line outside waiting.

The hospital sees on average 400 patients per day, in all stages of illness. There is no limit on how many the hospital can service, as they will continue to set up beds in office areas, parking lots, sidewalks. Just before the monsoons or during outbreaks, their numbers jump drastically.

The majority of patients are very young children, accompanied by a parent, grandparent or family member who cares for them during their stay. The hospital is working very hard to encourage breast feeding of infants and toddlers, as there is not ample safe drinking water, people cannot afford to pay for water or for the fuel to boil water. But sometimes, due to other pressures on the mother (other children, spouse, work, difficulties) there are problems to continue breast feeding. Bangladesh society also values males as the most important family members, so when it comes to food portions, women are at the bottom. Already, the majority of Bangladeshis are malnourished, but pregnant or breastfeeding mothers are even more neglected. ICDDB, R is working to educate the population about this huge problem with proper nutrition and to explain that if they want to keep their children alive, they must change their mentality about men coming first during these crucial years of life.

By the end of the visit, the kleenex tucked in my pocket was tired. At least a half dozen times throughout the tour, I did everything in my power to fight the tears pooling in my eyes back into their ducts. On all but one moment, while in the Intensive Care Unit watching a teen aged mother at the bedside of her infant, I succeeded in holding myself together. There is no limit to the degree or sheer volume of disparity one sees in this country. The tour through the facility, though amazing and positive, was still also very somber and humbling. Most people here have seen so much pain, hunger or difficulty in their lives, that it seems they barely show emotion any more. Or they have just built up such a tolerance or realistically their lives just don't have the time or moreover the energy to waste on emotion.

While many scenes were difficult, there was not a moment I failed to notice the care given by the staff and especially the family members to the ill. We passed so many young mothers nursing their children, spoon feeding them medicine or porridge, rocking their babies to sleep or just sharing their beds sleeping beside their small children after hours of exhaustion from battling the illness or the journey to arrive at the hospital. There were mothers or grandmothers who shared smiles with us, children who cooed and leaned for a touch (that we HAPPILY returned), women who giggled and pointed to my nose piercing and said "like Bangladeshi". It was nice to have happy moments between the difficult ones.

If you have children, and you've spent even one night awake with a tired child, a sick child, fighting a fever, juggling a night of vomiting or diarrhea or teething, you as well as I, know how exhausted you feel. The daylight or the moment of sleep cannot come soon enough. You wonder how you made it, at times you feel hopeless or helpless watching your child in pain or discomfort. It is a feeling no parent wants to experience.

Now imagine, if you can even fathom it, that same sickening feeling, but to also combat it with hunger, you have little or no food to give or no good nutrition.

Now imagine it with unsanitary conditions, you have no running water or the water you have is unsafe to drink. You cannot afford the fuel for a fire to boil bottles, nipples or the water to mix with formula. You cannot even put a cool rag on their head or wash your child's face with clean water.

Now imagine it in discomfort, you have no fan, no air-conditioning, or you have no warm blanket to cover your child. You have no soft bed to lie them in.

No imagine you have no money, you eke by from day to day, but now you lose the little work you did have, because you must care for your sick child. But here, you have some hope, as though you cannot pay for help for your child, if you can just make your way to the ICDDR,B hospital, they will do their best to return your child to good health, help you support them and do so without payment.

They are helping so many, both here in Bangladesh and abroad in areas like Somalia and Haiti, to battle cholera and save lives. ICDDR,B is an amazing organization and one I feel fortunate to have seen first hand.
Above is the one photo I have of us before our tour. I would never have taken my camera out inside, 
as I cannot imagine someone snapping photos in my face if I were trying to save the lives of our children. 

1 comment:

  1. It's so incredibly painful to witness what true poor and suffering really is. I to humble myself when I worry about things like "did I pay the credit card on time" or "will we have the money to budget a vacation" - because these are luxury worries. Not necessities, not life-saving. We don't worry about the basics. My little guy has been sick, and of course I've been worried - but very blessed to have fresh milk to feed him, warm bedding to snuggle with him in, and safe warm water to bathe him in. I can't imagine life without him, and it's heart-wrenching to realize how many mothers lose their children because of hunger or disease.