Dr. Mallory Chavannes and her team were able to see about 650 children in the towns around Gracias, Honduras when they went on a medical mission in April carrying 10 Physician Travel Packs provided by HPIC.
Of all those children, two stood out in her memory. Dr. Chavannes wrote about these two little boys, aged 12 and 7, in her post-trip report to HPIC.
“Looking at them, you would have thought they were 8 and 3, considering how small they were. They had been abandoned by their mother and were in the care of their father and grandfather,” Dr. Chavannes wrote.
“They had a very rare skin condition called Xeroderma Pigmentosum. This is a genetic condition which affects the skin, depriving it of its natural protection. It places the children at higher risk for cancer from sun exposure. They also are prone to skin ulcerations and corneal abrasions.
“Infections of the skin ulcers can be very problematic. They actually had been lucky to see a dermatologist in Gracias, but they could not afford any therapy. In Canada, they would have been treated with high dose retinoic acid or with 5-FU.
“However, it just so happens this year that the Physician Travel Packs came with multiple bottles of replenishing eye drops. We usually do not have many indications to use these in paediatrics. However, these were perfect for the boys!
“We managed to find a garbage bag and filled it with eye drops to protect their eyes from corneal abrasions (which can lead to blindness). We also gave them tubes of Polysporin and antibiotic cream to protect their ulcerating skin.
“Combined with sunscreen from our own personal supplies, these boys had enough medication for at least a year to protect them from the sun, keep their wounds from getting infected and protect their eyes.
“It really felt like a miracle that we had the chance to meet these boys and to actually provide medications that they needed,” she wrote.
“This trip would definitely not be the same without the donations of medicine from HPIC’s donors,” Dr. Chavannes wrote in her report. “For some of these children, it is obvious that the timeliness of our presence, combined with the antibiotics, is a life-saving event. It is clear that a young baby affected with pneumonia can suffer severe consequences. Also, considering how difficult it is to fundraise and buy medication at full price for these kinds of missions, it is indispensable to have organizations like HPIC combined with donations from companies for us to be able to deliver care abroad.”