A parent’s nightmare

By: Joel Ruiz Butuyan - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | June 02,2022 - 08:00 AM

It’s every parent’s nightmare: a child suddenly becomes very sick and ostensibly on the brink of death. It happens at midnight, and the nearest city where the big hospitals are located is 40 kilometers away.

My family went through this nightmare two days after the recent elections. It was a very hot day, and there was no electricity in our town. We have a small generator that can only run basic appliances like electric fans and lights, but not an air conditioner. Just like every child his age, our three-and-a-half-year-old Gabriel has a low threshold for the heat, and he’s prone to get sick during sudden weather changes.

We noticed that Gabriel had a low-grade fever that afternoon, and he was not his usual hyperactive self who loves to run around. After dinner, our son went to bed in his own room, and my wife and I retired to ours. Close to midnight, our son’s Mama Sonia barged into our room carrying Gabriel, and she frantically informed us that our only child had suddenly turned limp and was losing consciousness.

As I carried Gabriel in my arms, I noticed foamy saliva coming out of his mouth, while his whole body was limp. My wife concluded that he was having a convulsion because of a high fever, so we gave him a quick bath to lower his temperature.

We then rushed to the municipal hospital, and while Gabriel was placed on a stretcher, he was unconscious but his whole body was shaking. His temperature was at 38 degrees Celsius, but his oxygen level had dangerously gone down to 61 from a normal of 95. He was given oxygen and medicine to lower his fever and prevent seizures.

When the trembling stopped and his oxygen level went up, we were brought by ambulance to a big hospital in Tuguegarao City. After two days, our son was discharged, and he was back to his normal playful self.

The doctor informed us that Gabriel experienced febrile convulsion caused by a high fever. After sharing our ordeal with friends, I learned that the emergency we went through is a common, harrowing experience among many families, rich and poor alike.

It will be a huge help for parents if the Department of Health can come out with simple flyers and online sites that list down the common medical emergencies for babies and kids, and the home remedies to follow if there’s no immediate access to a doctor, clinic, or hospital. It distresses me that online sources have conflicting opinions on whether or not a quick bath should be administered to kids suffering from convulsions. It’s also disturbing that only foreign private websites offer online advice for medical emergencies.

Filipino parents who experience medical emergencies with their kids have the choice of either rushing to the nearest doctor or hospital or administering home remedies that are passed down by word of mouth. With many of our people living in rural areas with no easy access to doctors or hospitals, and with some passed-down remedies based on folk practices of albularyos and faith healers, it should be a priority for our public health officials to disseminate reliable and scientific home remedies as easily and as widely accessible as possible. New parents must be equipped to deal with medical emergencies so that tragic loss of life or permanent disabilities may be avoided or minimized.

A little over a week after our son recovered, I woke up to the totally insane news that 19 kids and two teachers were massacred inside their school by a gun-crazed teenager in Texas. This is the 213th mass shooting incident in the US this year, and it’s only June. It’s also the 27th school shooting in the US this year. I read through the stories of each child victim, and I could not imagine the grief of each parent.

For all its military superiority and advanced culture, the horrible failure of the US to protect the lives of its children exposes the wretched reality that primitive minds thrive and rule in its midst.

No parent should have to bury a child. It’s an adage that every nation must live by if it wants to ensure its survival.

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