Milly, 14, came to the SOS Medical Centre in Blantyre in 2010 with cerebral malaria, meningitis and HIV. She was born with HIV to a poor family of six on the outskirts of Blantyre, Malawi’s second largest city. To make matters worse, the children’s father died when they were very young. Their mother struggled to feed and care for her four children on a modest income selling sand stones that she collected from a nearby river.
Milly and her siblings suffered from malnutrition and developed skin conditions such as eczema and bullous impetigo. Severely malnourished, Milly’s immune system weakened. Her health quickly deteriorated and she developed a foot ulcer which led her to contract septicaemia, a potentially deadly bacterial infection of the blood. With little money and the health facility far away, Milly's mother was unable to get her to a doctor.
Then, when things couldn’t have got much worse, Milly – then just seven years old – developed cerebral malaria, a severe form of malaria that causes the brain to swell and can lead to permanent neurological damage. Her cerebral malaria was left untreated and as a result she went into a coma for five days. Her mother was finally able to bring Milly to a local health facility where they were referred to a hospital 19 miles away. A doctor prescribed medication to treat Milly. However, the young girl’s health was so poor that she never properly recovered. Milly lost all of her gross motor skills.
“She could not sit, stand, walk or do the things she was doing before her illness. The hospital referred her to the SOS Children Rehabilitation Centre for therapy. The centre created a tailor-made rehabilitation programme for her,” says Sneed Mwafulirwa, senior technician and physiotherapist at the centre.
A dedicated rehabilitation programme
The SOS Children Rehabilitation Centre offers physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. The centre also provides clients with assistive devices such as chairs, standing frames and walking frames. Staff members treat children suffering with a range of conditions from those unable to walk to those suffering with behavioural problems.
Milly goes to the SOS Medical CentreAlongside Milly’s treatment at the Rehabilitation Centre, she received nutritional support from the SOS Medical Centre. She saw a nutritional therapist every month to address her malnutrition and strengthen her immune system. Her chronic foot ulcer was a priority for the staff to treat and heal.
“I was hopeless before Milly was seen by the SOS staff. I didn’t believe that she could recover,” said Mary, Milly’s mother.
Health care professionals at the centre assessed Milly’s needs for physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and audiology. After visiting the SOS Medical Centre for several months, Milly began making progress. She was slowly able to sit by herself and crawl. She used a wheelchair to get around, and was able to start school again.
“I am so happy to see my girl being independent again after getting used to a wheelchair and the support chair that helped her stand or sit when at home or school. It was difficult at first for her to use the wheelchair at school, but after some time she became used to it,” said Mary.
Every week, Mary goes with Milly to her appointments. The SOS team were able to provide Milly with the much-needed supporting equipment that would help on her path to recovery and she is now able to use elbow crutches to walk. Her crutches allow her to be much more independent in her mobility. Milly was treated free of charge at the SOS health facilities.
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