#MedGlobal volunteer physician Dr. Barbara Held shares the story of a Rohingya patient and an incredible woman that touched her heart:
“A woman came with a three months old girl suffering from fever. The little one only weighed 2.5 kg. We use to measure the thickness of the upper arm with a tapeline. For all children up to the age of five years it should at least be 12 cm. 11 cm is critical, everything under it is a sign of severe malnutrition. So this is a very effective and simple tool to use. The little girl´s arm only measured 7.5 cm. The skin was full of wrinkles like the baby was shrinked and now the little body did not fit into its hull anymore. The face was shrunken like of a very old woman. The eyes were still vivid, but they looked kind of sorrowful. I asked the young woman with the child in her arms, if she could breastfeed the baby sufficiently. Then she told us her story.
“I am not the mother” my interpretor translated. “I met her mother, when we were fleeing. She was highly pregnant, and I had lost my baby son, when military had torn him away from me and thrown him into a burning house. So she comforted me and I helped her, when she was struggeling under the burden of her pregnancy. We reached the nowhere land between Myanmar and Bangladesh, when her labour began. It was a long and exhausting childbirth, and shortly after the baby was born, her mother died from an unquenchable bleeding. Before she died, she pleaded me to take care of her daughter, and so I did. Another woman shared her rare breastmilk for the girl and her own baby, but a few days later I lost her. When I reached the camp, other people gave me rice water for my new daughter. She drank it greedily, but anyway, I saw her shrink instead of grow, just vanishing away. Today she became so week and tiny. Somebody told me about the hospital here. So I walked the whole day, till I found it.”
The fever was not too high, and the examination did not reveal any severe findings other than the severe malnutrition. Nevertheless, the baby was in a life-threatening condition, and we organized a transport to the Red Cross, that has an intensive care unit for children.
My interpretor told me, on the running sheet the name for the girl said “abandoned child”. He was very upset about it. He said: “We Rohingya people have no rights, no papers, no official existence. But at least we have names! How did her original mother call her?” “Fetimeh”. So with great solemnity he wrote down her name and said he was proud to be Fetimeh´s godfather now and would always have a special relationship to and responsibility for that child.”