At last! Babu is given a chance to survive
At last! Babu is given a chance to survive

Babu*, an 11-year-old boy, was brought to us at Tansen by his family after visiting several other health facilities, each of which sent him on. His problem was severe: painful spasms, all over his body every few seconds. His trunk would stiffen suddenly and his back would form an arch with a jerk and his face grimaced strangely with pain, as it too cramped up. Even his jaw clenched tight with every spasm, and eventually he was barely able to open his mouth to sip water. The diagnosis was evident in each facility he visited: tetanus. This disease is rare these days because of effective vaccination. Babu’s family felt sure he’d been vaccinated, but it’s possible the vaccination was not stored properly before he received it. Either way the deadly disease was obvious. Almost half the patients who get tetanus die – unable to even breathe or swallow safely.

For many weeks he patiently lay in a darkened room at the hospital, receiving infusions – these measures that helped but could not completely stop the painful spasms. With good nursing care, family attention, medical help and great bravery on his part, the disease finally began to lose its grip on him. After nearly two long months he was able to return home with his family.

Babu’s experience reminds us that, in a COVID era, there are other diseases we must prevent, if possible, with vaccination. It also reminds us that United Mission Hospital Tansen is often the ‘last chance’ for patients with problems that are likely to take a long time and that other facilities cannot manage – like those with burn injuries, or complex bone fractures, or Babu’s problem.

*Name changed

Steve Pickering
Anaesthetist, UMHT

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