How Do They Die?

How do they die? They die with questions.

How do they die? They die with questions. Their deaths are a bit ugly. In fact, if your stomach is easily turned by graphic descriptions of suffering, don’t read any further.

At a first or casual glance, orphans suffering with AIDS don’t really die any differently from children suffering from AIDS who are living with families. At least there is no clinical difference. That is, until you take a good look at how they die, you will never know that they die with questions.

For the doctors and nurses there is a bit more loneliness to pronouncing an orphan dead. What is his or her name? Whom do I call? Who takes the body home? Where do we bury? Who pays the hospital bill? Does anyone notice? Does anyone care?

Meningitis is one type of illness which commonly kills these children. It does not sneak upon them subtly. It ravages quickly. A child can sit, smile and talk with you in the morning and by evening he or she is wrapped in cloth or paper.

They are for the most part predisposed to these infections as they are severely malnourished, which further compromises their immune systems. Living on the caloric intake of a small cat is good, if you are small cat.

But for a growing child, it means you never grow and your body is invaded with every living micro-organism looking for a place to reproduce easily. A child’s brain is one good place for an invasion.

If the child is fortunate enough to make it to a clinic, there may be a doctor on call and maybe that doctor knows how to perform a spinal tap.

This procedure removes a small portion of fluid for examination under the microscope. That is, if the clinic has a microscope and if there is someone there who knows how to prepare the fluid and interpret the results. Interpreting the results presumes that there are antibiotics and other life saving medicines to treat and cure. Most often in Kenya, this is not the case. Most often, they die.

Read on. It only gets uglier.

The fluid surrounding the covering of the brain and spine should normally look as clear and pure as the most expensive bottled water. In a child stricken with this illness, spinal fluid can be as dirty as the pools of mud in the road after a heavy rain. In fact, it looks much like the water many of these children will drink if water can be found.

Clinically, a death from AIDS meningitis is the same from all other infections of the brain. Brain infections from tuberculosis, fungus, bacteria and viruses are difficult to distinguish. They look the same.

They can also be caused by AIDS.

It is a tortuous death, hastened mercifully for the child who is also suffering from other ailments such as dehydration from diarrhea, or severe pneumonia. The diarrhea adds the aroma of impending death, as the flies congregate and hover ready to spread the contaminates from the liquid effluent. The pneumonia adds a bit more drama to the demise as the convulsive nature of the cough, is coupled with the epileptic like writhing of the body.

The child arches the neck and back in a reflexive attempt to ease the pain caused by the tension and inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. It is involuntary and for the most part, it does not work. There is a tortured ‘why me?’ look in their eyes.

There is the torment of the severe constant headache, vomiting, dizziness and seizures eventually giving way to coma and death.

Every day in Kenya 1,400 children become infected with the deadly AIDS virus. The single most important vector for their infection is through the birth canal or breast feeding by an infected mother. Without medical intervention, a mother with HIV infection has an almost 90% chance of passing it on to her unborn child. This ‘vertical transmission’ accounts for the greater majority of childhood infections. It can be prevented by medicines at less than $10. These medicines are not easily available or affordable to many in the cities and very few in the country.

Mom dies because she can’t get treated. The child becomes infected, untreated and within the first weeks or months of life shows signs of infection. Most of these children will die. Of the estimated 200,000 children infected in Kenya, less than 10,000 are receiving any treatment.

It is actually better in most parts of Kenya to not even test for the disease. It would only serve to frustrate you because there are no drugs, doctors, clinics, or laboratories to follow the progress of the disease or the response to the drugs.

If the drugs were given away for free, most of the children would still die. They would still die from complications of taking the drugs, which are lethal for children who are starving, or who drink polluted water which is full of parasites and bacteria.

How do they die? They die with questions. Does anyone notice? Does anyone care?

Join World Gospel Mission in its efforts to minister to orphan children
in Kenya. The Abandoned Baby Center, The Least of These and A Prepared Place are vital to the welfare of many of Kenya’s orphans. We must make a difference in Christ’s name.

If they must die, at least they can die with answers that someone does notice and someone does care. Let them know that someone is Jesus.