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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Why Africa Needs Us

I am planning my next big trip for hemophilia humanitarian work now: Africa. In December I hope to visit Zimbabwe, Kenya and Ghana. I've been to Zimbabwe twice before, and Kenya once before. Ghana will be new to me: we started a hemophilia society there last year and I hope to see how it is developing and what help we can offer.

Zimbabwe, as you may know from reading the news, is in dire straits. My program Project SHARE could quite possibly be about the only organization providing factor. As I know many patients there pesonally, I am anxious to return. It may seem like a hopeless case to the world, but when you know people personally, nothing can seem hopeless.

I've been wanting to return to Africa since 2001, when I was last there. When I received the email below from my contacts there, I knew it was time to go again. To lose a child when it might have been prevented... it's a driving incentive to try to solve problems, engage the families, and prevent more loss. This child, Joseph, could have been one of our own sons; but he was born in a country where factor is difficult to procure. He was born just before my last visit, and now is gone, so soon, so suddenly. Read about his case:

Joseph Junior Nyang'wara was born on May 18, 2001 to Ben Onundu and Maureen Miruka. He was their only child. Joseph was diagnosed with hemophilia A, when he was about age one. This condition saw him in and out of hospital on several occasions where he would get replacement clotting factor to stop bleeding. Joseph also had enlarged adenoids that would give him breathing and sleeping problems.

On the April 11, 2007, Joseph had a bleed that led to admission at the Kenyatta National Hospital. He was treated for the bleed and scheduled for surgery to remove his adenoids and tonsils on the 16th April 2007. The surgery, though complicated, was successful and Joseph was discharged from hospital on the April 21, just in time for his child dedication in church on Sunday, April 22. However, on the morning of the 23rd, Joseph developed a bad cough that caused him to bleed. He was taken to the hospital where he was infused with factor. On that same day by afternoon, the bleeding had not stopped. He was taken to MP Shah Hospital and admitted to the ICU to manage the bleeding. It did not stop and it was found that he had developed inhibitors to the clotting factor. The bleeding continued till Wednesday morning, April 25, 2007 when it stopped and there was hope that he had pulled through the worst. But at 2 pm his blood pressure dropped suddenly and he had a cardiac arrest at around 3pm.

The text from his eulogy reads, "Joseph was a very friendly child to both adults and children. He was very prayerful and obedient. He was exceptionally intelligent and as his aunt once said, was a man trapped in a five year old body. Fare thee well, Jose, our guardian angel. Be happy as always and play about in Heaven without any limitation this time. We loved you very much but God loves you more."

His mother, Maureen, wrote to me in June and said, "I will wait eagerly for you to come and I have made it my resolve to continue to serve others, for Joseph did not go in vain. I therefore look forward to working with you on this front." Maureen is an inspiration, and potential leader for the Kenya community. If you'd like to help Maureen, and assist in our efforts on Africa, call me at 978-352-7657. For all the boys like Joseph still living, still suffering, there is much we can do.

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