August 14, 2019
By Kim Mukerjee, MD, MPH
Medical Director of the New Orleans Children’s Health Project
As a pediatrician and a human being, it’s painful to think about what six-month-old Noel has already been through.
Just two weeks before he arrived at my clinic, the New Orleans Children’s Health Project (NOCHP), Noel had been detained with his mother Adriana at the border on their way to the U.S. from Honduras. They were held in the notorious “icebox” detention centers where children and adults are crammed together and forced to sleep on concrete floors with flimsy foil blankets. These inhumane conditions are ideal for sickness to strike the most vulnerable, including babies like Noel.
On their second day there, Noel developed a fever. Adriana told the staff, but they said he was only teething and his temperature was never taken. After they were finally released, they eventually arrived here, in New Orleans.
Their journey from Honduras was arduous and difficult, but it wasn’t until their arrival in the United States that Adriana had to seek care to save her baby’s life. Noel’s cough and fever became frighteningly worse and Adriana rushed him to the hospital. I can’t imagine what she went through: scared for the life of her baby and worried about her other five-year-old daughter she had to leave behind in Honduras.
Tests revealed that the baby had numerous viruses including the flu, which caused him to develop a very dangerous pneumonia.
Thankfully, the doctors at a local hospital referred Noel to my clinic for a follow-up appointment. I’m proud that recently-arrived families know that our clinic is a safe space where they can receive high-quality healthcare for their children, regardless of their ability to pay, and emotional support and comfort through these incredibly challenging circumstances.
As soon as I saw him, Noel was wheezing. But like a typical six-month-old, he was playful and grabbed excitedly at everything around him. He was doing much better than before. Babies can quickly become sick when they have pneumonia, so it was important to make sure he was getting better with the medications. In order to keep him healthy, we also gave him three immunizations to strengthen his immune system. But it is vital that he receives ongoing care to track his development, and that he has urgent access to medications if he becomes ill again.
I know that this family, like most of the recently-arrived families we care for, can not afford the essential medications that their baby needs to recover and thrive. What makes our clinic such an essential resource for these children is that we are able to fill in the gaps. We step in to make sure they receive the care that they need, no matter what. Thanks to supporters like you, our team at NOCHP is able to ensure that Noel has all his medicines and can continue growing and developing like every baby should.
Recently, my team and I have seen an increase in the number of children like Noel who are settling in the New Orleans area. They need our help now. We give our all to ensure these children are healthy because we believe this is what every child deserves. But we need you. Will you join us in ensuring these children have the healthcare they desperately need?
Your donation today will be used to hire additional staff for my team, and to replenish our emergency fund that provides hundreds of children with essential items such as medicine, clothes, food, and furniture like cribs and beds. Please give today.