Two-year old Mohamed survives diphtheria thanks to 24/7 treatment
"My son was sick”, said the father of two-year old Mohamed from Balukhali refugee camp in Ukhia, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. "People came to the camp and said it could be diphtheria. They advised that I take him to the clinic where the doctor after examining him confirmed he had diphtheria. I felt sad and shocked.”
Community health workers conducting door-to-door visits saw that Mohamed was sick. They told his parents to take the boy to the nearby diphtheria treatment centre run by Samaritan’s Purse. When people arrive at the centre, doctors do an initial check for diphtheria symptoms in the waiting room. Patients suffering from other illnesses are referred to relevant health facility.
Those who may have diphtheria enter a triage tent where their throats are checked.
If they are clinically diagnosed with diphtheria, they enter the “red bed” ward to receive treatment.
As patients recover, they are moved to “orange bed” wards. Doctors say the biggest challenge in these wards is keeping children entertained as they recover their energy.
Dr Andrew Doyle, Medical Director, Samaritan’s Purse Diphtheria Treatment Centre in Balukhali said he received a phone call at 4 AM from doctors that Mohamed was critical. Dr Doyle rushed to the treatment centre where he and his team worked hard to keep Mohamed’s airway open. “Four to six hours later, he was smiling and eating. Then 24 hours later, after he had completed his 48 hours of antibiotics he went home, perfectly normal.”
The treatment centre has been running since 31 December 2017 and has already received more than 540 patients. As of 11 January, 170 were admitted for diphtheria.
Administering diphtheria antioxin is an intensive process requiring the doctor to remain many hours at the patient’s bedside. Doctors have been put on a roster at the treatment centres to provide care 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
WHO provides diphtheria antitoxin to the clinic. Doctors here have been trained by WHO which is helping sharing of best practices among clinics so they can learn from one another. Information sharing is key, as most local and international doctors have never seen a case of diphtheria before. Samaritan’s Purse is one of the partners on the ground responding to the diphtheria outbreak among Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar.
Mohamed’s father says he is happy to see his son smiling again. He hopes his son will grow up, get education and take a profession if his choice.