One of life’s greatest blessing is the smile of a child, the other is for this child to reach age five.
It was a Saturday, exactly at 4.50 am, when the nurse came out to break the news. ‘I am very sorry, we did our best. She had lost too much fluids,’ she announced. In her hands was an infusion bag containing some yellowish fluid. Her other colleagues pushed their way out, too, through the narrow space as if to catch a glimpse of the response.
It never went lightly. With her breasts cupped in her palms, Elizabeth cried so loudly that one could hear her from the ends of the clinic. No amount of comforting words could console her. She had lost her baby, their long awaited princess.
I was on a night duty in another ward just adjacent to the kids’ ward where this happened. I was much interested to know more (I would tell you why). I enquired from the dad who would not speak initially where they stayed. I closed in on him after an hour and later and followed up, only to arrive at my destination without a tissue. I needed one. I couldn’t hide my emotions, tears rolled down my cheeks, like the faces of those I met.
‘Papa Nurse’, a voice called from behind, it was Elizabeth’s husband, Johnny, looking much more worried than the last time at the clinic.
We sat under a neem tree and had quite a long talk. Johnny narrated to me all that had happened. Grace, their only child was just 4 years old. He really loved his daughter and would throw her up every evening he returned from town. He would buy her something nice any time even when sales were bad. She wouldn’t hesitate to rush out and share with her friends.
On Friday, the day before Grace died, he had rushed home because of a call he received that the girl was very weak and couldn’t help herself.
Grace had returned home that Friday earlier from the community school she attended, with reports that she was passing loose stools. Before reaching the hospital somewhere at midnight, she had passed about ten of them. Though not required of a man to shed tears per customs of their community, Johnny couldn’t hide his. He kept on weeping as he saw me off.
It was unusual to ring so early the next morning. It was Johnny. He wanted me to meet the family as I requested earlier. I arrived not long after the family had returned from the cemetery to bury Grace. They quickly settled, and waited patiently to hear what I had to say.
The meeting and the message were neither short nor long, but here is what I shared with them:
Playing with friends and pets, nose wiping, helping their kid siblings, picking food, sharing sweets, visiting the ‘loo’— just some of the types of exciting moments kids love to have. But these moments can be the last, as they can bring along millions of germs with them.
Though most parents and guardians forget to advise their kids to wash their hands, Kids don’t always listen when they are told to wash their hands before eating, after using the toilet, or when they come inside the house from playing. But it’s a message worth repeating and rewarding — hand washing is by far the best way to prevent germs from spreading and to keep kids from getting sick.
First Line of Defense
Germs can spread many ways, including:
- Touching dirty hands
- Handling wastes such as faeces
- Through contaminated water and food
- Through droplets in the air released during a cough or sneeze
- On contaminated surfaces
- through contact with a sick person’s body fluids
When kids come into contact with germs, they can unknowingly become infected simply by touching their eyes, nose, or mouth. And once they’re infected, it’s usually just a matter of time before the whole family comes down with the same illness.
Good hand washing is the first line of defense against the spread of many illnesses — from common cold to more serious infections, such as pneumonia, meningitis, bronchitis, the flu, hepatitis A, and most types of infectious diarrhea.
Washing Hands Correctly
Here’s how to fight those germs away. Teach this routine to your kids — or better yet, wash your hands together often so they learn how important this good habit is:
Wash your hands in warm water. Make sure the water isn’t too hot for little hands.
Use soap and lather up for about 20 seconds (antibacterial soap isn’t necessary — any soap will do). Make sure you get in between the fingers and under the nails where germs like to hang out. And don’t forget the wrists!
Rinse and dry well with a clean towel.
To minimize the germs passed around your family, make regular hand washing a rule for everyone, especially:
- Before eating and cooking
- After visiting the toilet
- After cleaning around the house
- After touching animals, including family pets
- Before and after visiting or taking care of any sick friends or relatives
- After blowing one’s nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After being outside (playing, gardening, playing with the pets, etc.)
Don’t underestimate the power of hand washing! The few seconds you spend at the sink could save you unusual trips to the clinic.
I returned home fulfilled. The thought of my ‘wonder boy’ my six-month old baby had motivated me to go that far. The onus was not only on Johnny and his community to ensure the best hand hygiene among themselves but myself too as I father my son to reach age five.
As we celebrate Handwashing day today,Let’s all do this; Tweet #HelpAChildReach5
»Learn, Talk, and Teach more about hand hygiene NOW!
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