Nixdminx
The life and times of a happy go lucky blogger in London
#blogladesh our visit to the children’s wards
Categories: blogging mums

What does it take to be authentic and genuine? It’s not just a matter of being yourself, sometimes things find you that resonate and make you reconsider not just who you are, but what you think and feel and say, and write. And of course what you do.

Bangladesh is one of those rare experiences that makes you re-examine and question humanity and as you try and go to sleep, yourself. First on the agenda is the assimilation of this place which is hot, busy and chaotic. How do I even begin to make sense of all this? Well, I can only try to explain in my own words and through the images I have captured.

I think these photographs are achingly beautiful. There is a not so far reaching parallel between them and fashion photography; vibrant, captivating and almost mesmerising. But captured in these frames is something far away from the flotsam and jetsam of such modish image creation – it is the shock and awe of powerlessness, I invite you to look and read on.

The young girl in the photograph is Yasmine.

I met her in Dakha on the day we arrived in Bangladesh. This was a drop in visit to some children’s hospital wards organised for us by Save the Children. As we walked around the Ad-din Hospital yesterday, our hearts pounded, tears were choked back and we began to understand the enormity of the poverty and child suffering in Bangladesh.

‘Who am I going to speak to?’ I thought, ‘where do I turn?’

The beds were sparse, the bedside tables empty bar water and pills and the heat was oppressive. We were eyed with curiosity by a gaggle of young nurses in long white coats, Mothers sat on the beds with their children who lay without covers in the humidity.

A young child with pneumonia gasped for breath, another boy with an undiagnosed illness sat with his Mother crying – he had a liver problem but they did not know specifics – a very young child, the sole survivor of triplets was finally getting some help in the hospital.

Another Mother sat with a very undernourished and undersized baby who she had wrapped in a shawl – a clear message that she should be protected from the camera lenses – we respected this motion, no words were needed.

This is where the lucky children come if they are sick. Many don’t make it to hospital because they can’t afford the fees or the transport or both. At Ad-din they receive free care and many improve – we met some who were well on the way to recovery and they told us their stories in detail. The children were small for their age and by that I mean height and weight. They were recovering from their immediate illnesses but it was obvious their problems run much deeper than that.

When I noticed girl around the same age as my daughter and possibly half her body weight, I was shocked to the core.  All my defences crashed down as I beheld her weakened frame.  This was Yasmine, very tall and shockingly thin, she had something about her which made we want to know her story. Her bones jutted angularly as she sprawled listlessly on the bed and she was surrounded by women of varying ages.

Sharmin, from Save the Children, our interpreter began to talk to the women and ask about Yasmine’s condition.
‘Jasmine has had TB.’ She said.
I’m ashamed to say I nervously took a very small step back while the three letter acronym ‘BCG’ popped into my mind.

‘Of course, I’m immune’ I thought.

And that’s when I felt the urge to cry – was it pity, tiredness, self pity?

‘She took some medicine for the TB, antibiotics and it reacted badly with her, she is on another medication now.’ Continued Sharmin.

I could see sores on her legs and marks on her body, her Grandmother showed them to me.  The Doctor joined us and read through her notes. Jasmine’s Mother died when she was four years old, and she was in the hospital today with her with her Stepmother.  I was very moved by the display of female solidarity that surrounded Yasmine.

All the while I was thinking ‘This could be my daughter, what if my daughter and I were here in her place?’  The desire to help in some way was overpowering.

The funny thing was that as we continued talking, she sat up and I was able to talk more with her family through the help of interpreters. Then Annika, from Save the Children, sat next to her and began chatting with her.  Someone brought over a colouring book and crayons, she began to fill in the shapes and then sang with Annika. It was quite surprising how animated she became in such a short space of time. And many of the other children were energised by the novelty of our appearance. We left a bag of colouring books and pens for them which was a welcome addition to the ward. The walls are decorated with murals painted by Save the Children but there is little else to distract and engage the kids.  Small as it sounds, these were the things we were advised to bring and the effort paid off.

As the heat became almost unbearable in the ward, there was a brief power cut and then the monsoon rain bore down. It was a dramatic finale to the afternoon. We left the ward with much waving and smiling between us all and some very high energy children who were on the mend scampered around.

My thoughts remained with Yasmine, and they still do.

You probably want to know how it feels to walk around a children’s ward and feel helpless. It crystallises why we are here. I won’t say it’s easy. It is hard not to feel like we’re making a grand imposition – there are video cameras, verbal consents for photos given, consent forms to be signed, the camera flashes were going off and multiple conversations were happening all at once. We are after all the giant Westerners who’ve come to poke about and scratch the surface more than just a little bit. But the three of us are all Mums – we knew the inner turmoil of these other Mums who were for all intents and purposes poised with serenity in vigilance for their children.

The children we met are
Yasmine, 11 who I’ve already mentioned.
Sanjeeda, 16 months, recovering from malnutrition – quite the liveliest character we have met so for
Wasima and daughter Rahima, 3 the triplet who had been in for five days
Shama, 2.5 years whose Mother Rupa had brought her in with pneumonia

You can see all of our photos on the flickr blogladesh group so please feel free to drop by.

Keep up to date with our Blogladesh trip by following my team-mates blogs too – Sian at Mummy Tips (@mummytips), Josie Sleepisfortheweak @porridgebrain and Liz from Save the Children (@lizscarff and @SaveChildrenPR)

And MOST IMPORTANTLY make sure you come and sign our petition and Press for Change, either via facebook or on the Save the Children website.  That’s how all of us can help.

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8 Comments to “#blogladesh our visit to the children’s wards”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Josie George and nixdminx eva keogan, Northern Man. Northern Man said: RT @nixdminx: #blogladesh New Post: visit to children's hospital – slightly delayed due to bad internet connection & soul searching http://bit.ly/arRp1h [...]

  2. Livi says:

    Such powerful photos.
    I can’t really think what else to say!

  3. Bumbling says:

    Yes, you are imposing on them. But you are doing good. These are pictures I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Tears I wouldn’t have cried, and donations I wouldn’t have made.

    xx

  4. Sally says:

    Eva

    This is such a thoughtful post. I have already signed the petition and made a donation but just wanted to say I think it’s a great piece of writing. Really made me think about your experience and what it means to everyone you’re meeting.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Sally – I don’t often get praised for my work so cheers and also great that you’ve made a donation which is over and above what we were asking. thank you x

  5. Something tells me this isn’t going to be a once-in-a-lifetime visit. And if my child were ill I suspect I’d want some acknowledgement, and your powerful, beautiful images are showing that you, and others, care.

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