“ We’d reached the nowhere land, between Myanmar and Bangladesh, when her labour began. It was a long and exhausting childbirth. Shortly after her mother died from an unquenchable bleeding, but before she died, she pleaded with me to take care of her daughter, and so I did. ”
#MedGlobal volunteer physician Dr. Barbara Held shares the story of a Rohingya patient and an incredible woman that touched her heart:
A woman came to us with a three months old girl suffering from fever. The little one only weighed 2.5 kg. We use a tapeline to measure the thickness of a child’s upper arm when we first evaluate them. For all children up to the age of five years the measurement should be at least be 12 cm. A measurement 11 cm is considered critical, and anything under 11 is a sign of severe malnutrition. This child’s arm measured only 7.5 cm. Her skin was full of wrinkles as if the baby had shrunk away and did not fit into its hull anymore. Her face was gaunt like that of a very old woman. Surprisingly her eyes were still vivid, even though they looked a bit sorrowful. When I asked the young woman, with the child in her arms, if she could breastfeed the baby sufficiently, and she told us her story.
“I am not the mother” my interpreter translated. “I met her mother, when we were fleeing. She was highly pregnant, and I had lost my baby son when the military torn him away from me and thrown him into a burning house. So she comforted me and I helped her when she was struggling under the burden of her pregnancy. When we had reached the nowhere land between Myanmar and Bangladesh her labour began. It was a long and exhausting childbirth and she died from an unquenchable bleeding shortly after the baby was born. Before she died, she pleaded with me to take care of her daughter, and so I did. It was another woman who shared her precious breastmilk with the girl, portioning it out between her 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 still I saw her shrink instead of grow. She just just seemed to be vanishing. Today she became so weak and tiny. Somebody told me about the hospital here, so I walked the whole day, until I found it.”
Fortunately the fever of the girl was not too high, and the examination did not reveal any acute findings other than the severe malnutrition. Nevertheless, the baby was in a life-threatening condition, and we organized a transport her to a Red Cross that has an intensive care unit especially for children.
My interpreter told me, on the running sheet the name for the girl said “abandoned child”. He was very upset about this and 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”, I said. So with great solemnity he wrote down her name and said he would be proud to be Fetimeh´s godfather now and that he would always have a special relationship to, and responsibility for, that child.”