Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A smile is the same in any language.

Every Tuesday morning a small group of people gather at the casualty entrance to Nkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital, a local government hospital in Durban, KwaZulu Natal, laden with a car load of bags, boxes, cases and trolleys.  When the full complement have arrived, we traipse along echoing corridors to the paediatric burns ward where we don hospital scrubs, disinfect with ‘doctor’s soap’ and get to work.  We gather any little patient who is not confined to bed and play. 
Our playmates range for six month old babies to 10 or 12 year olds but the majority are preschoolers.  All of them are there because they have suffered serious burns by some means; boiling liquids, open flames, electricity or chemicals.  Sadly some of the injuries are the result of abuse too.  These children are not all local and have often been referred here form other hospitals around the province to receive specialised care.  This means that their families are not nearby and cannot always sit at their bedsides all the time of even visit daily. 

We start with about half an hour of music.  Each child selects an instrument or two and the band starts up.  Some children get into the swing easily and happily bang on a drum or xylophone but others may be shy, a little overwhelmed or still too ill and so they take a bit longer to get involved but in a short while we can normally guarantee a lot of singing, some smiles and laughter and sometimes, even some dancing. A firm favourite is the duck calls. These little bamboo instruments cause much laughter when they provide sound effects in the songs.

We then move on to playing.  As we don’t know the ages of the patients in the ward or the state of their health before we arrive, we carry toys for all ages and take what is appropriate on the day. We have building blocks, stacking cups, dolls to dress, crayons, cars, and books and are gradually building up toys that are fun, educational and good for dexterity as they help in the physical therapy.  Older children love to play “Timber” (Jenga) which is good for concentration, fine movements and laughter when everything goes crashing down to the floor.

There is of course the very serious side too.  These children have all suffered serious burns; most have undergone surgery for skin grafts, and all have endured a lot of pain and trauma. Infection and septicaemia are a constant concern so all toys are sterilised every week.  If it is not possible to submerge a toy in disinfectant then they are thoroughly wiped down with disinfectant before use.  Crayons and paper are only offered to children who are well on their way to recovery.  When we have enough personnel available we try to spend some time with children who are confined to bed either as they are too ill tor have recently had skin grafts and cannot move around too much.  We take a few toys or books and distract or entertain a child for a little while.

Why do we do it?  It started because one of our number was involved with a family whose child was burnt in a shack fire and she saw the need.  After discussions and negotiations with the hospital authorities, she got permission for us to start our weekly visits.   We are very aware of the serious nature of the work going on around us on the ward.  The staff is wonderful; the dedicated doctor who cares so deeply for the welfare of his little patients, the administrators, the amazing sister in charge and her team of wonderful nurses.  The treatment is often painful and the outcome is not always successful but their compassion and care are inspirational.  As long as we can provide help to them and a little relief or joy to the children we will be there.

Although some of us speak isiZulu, language is generally a barrier but we are learning and music and laughter cross all boundaries and a smile is the same in any language. 

If you would like more information regarding these visits or you would like to donate towards this cause, either toys or money, please email for more information.

Editors note: This is a guest post and not always the opinion or view of the blog or its owners and related parties. As a result no action can be taken against such parties

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

No comments:

Post a Comment