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The gift of life

10-year-old Gift was very sick when he arrived at the Kamuzu Central Hospital in Malawi. He had travelled with his family from a small village 80km from the hospital.

When Gift arrived, he was too ill for doctors to even get him on a scale. Doctors could see that he was extremely underweight for his age.

Gift’s tummy was distended, it was clear he needed an operation. The surgeon found that his tummy was full of pus and his bowel had become matted together. The medical team suspected Gift had a leak in his intestine, but he was too ill for them to investigate further. All they could do in the first operation was to insert a drain in the hope they could drain out some of the infection from his tummy.

In the next operation the surgeon found the source of the leak in Gift’s bowel. The team made a stoma so that faeces would stop leaking into his stomach. Gift was so malnourished and had so much infection in his body caused by the leak, doctors thought it was extremely unlikely that he could survive.

Two days after the second operation, Gift became sicker, his tummy was swelling again and the surgeons had to do a third operation to investigate – they found another leak, this time higher up in his bowel. Surgeons had to create another stoma. High stomas are difficult to manage even in well resourced hospitals. On the ward in the Kamuzu Central Hospital there can be one nurse to 30 patients, at night it can be one nurse to 60.

It was difficult to prevent faeces from leaking around this stoma, and Gift was not gaining weight. Gift became depressed and was not interested in food. The medical team managed to borrow a tablet and he watched Finding Nemo in the hope it would cheer him up, but he was fading away.

Doctors managed to get Gift into a wheelchair and his mother took him outside so he could feel the sun on his face once more. The next day the output from his bowel stopped being quite so liquid. The team managed to get him onto the scales. At 10 years old he weighed just under 2 stone, the weight of an average two-year-old.

Slowly Gift turned a corner, he began to put on weight. His body is still extremely thin, but his face has begun to fill out. His father is a farmer and earns very little money, his mother has four other children. The family had to find the money to buy eggs every day to try and help Gift to put on weight. His mother says:

' At home we cannot afford eggs every day, they are expensive but we knew that Gift needed to have them, the hospital offered to help us buy them also.

‘Gift has had multiple surgeries and we have been at the hospital for two months to support him. I have my 11-month old baby with me, but I am having to try and keep in touch with my four other children who are 80km away. I thank the doctors so much for saving Gift’s life.’

The surgery that Gift needed to save his life was complicated. It needed the right equipment and a skilled paediatric surgeon to carry out the operations. All of Gift’s surgeries were carried out in the KidsOR operating room in the Kamuzu Central Hospital.

Gift has now returned home with his family. He is gaining weight and the terrible pains in his tummy have stopped. He is once again taking an interest in playing with his brothers and sisters.

Soon he will return to the hospital and the medical team will join his bowel together again. This is a complicated operation and the outcome is not certain but the doctors are hopeful that the next surgery will be successful.

We hope that Gift will now have the most precious gift of all – A life to look forward to and a childhood to enjoy.

Children like Gift can only be saved if there is a trained paediatric surgeon and an operating room for them to work in.

Can you help us to help more children like Gift? With your help we can give more children just like him the operations they desperately need.

Gift with his family

Gift with his family

Gift has now returned home with his family. He is gaining weight and the terrible pains in his tummy have stopped. He is once again taking an interest in playing with his brothers and sisters.

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