Sunday, 17 October 2010

Chapter 14 Ola


Another day at the hospital. It started off much the same as any other first day of the medical missions I’ve helped on with the PCRF. Patients streaming in and out of a small, crowded room. Mobile phones going off constantly and moving around is difficult.

The chatter in the room is non stop and switches between Italian, English and Arabic depending on who’s speaking to whom. The patients who come in have mostly neurological problems, issues with their spinal cords, mobility or, in one case, a patient who had lost half of his skull and would spend his life drooling down his shirt.

Picture it for a moment.

Now imagine these patients are all children. Because they are. Some as young as a few months old ranging to teenagers, fresh faced and painfully innocent.

Now imagine a beautiful little girl. A little girl who literally bounced into the screening room. The first thing you noticed was her incredibly cheeky smile framed by dark hair and dancing eyes.

“My name is Ola” she practically screeched, unable to contain her excitement. She shook hands with the doctors and kissed the nurse.

Ciaran, colleague and brilliant photographer, had kindly lent his time to take photographs for the PCRF and was quietly snapping pictures of the Italian neurosurgery team as they worked.

“Hey! You gonna take my picture or what?” she shouted across the room to him as the entire room broke out into laughter.

She had captivated us all and was a ray of sunshine in that room.

Dr. Lorenzo smiled fondly at her as he slipped her MRI scan result out from its large brown paper envelope and held it up to the light.

He stopped. A large tumor at the base of her skull told him all he needed to know.

“If we don’t get this girl into surgery as soon as possible she will die.”

A moment’s silence, and then the room sprang into action.

What equipment was available at the hospital? How to best approach this life threatening situation?

Within moments a decision had been made. A preliminary surgery would take place the next day to relieve the pressure on the brain. Then Ola would have to be sent immediately to Florence where the team could perform the necessary surgery under the best possible conditions.

But the reality is not so easy. The hospital in Florence has to accept Ola as a charity case and send her an invitation letter before she can be granted a visa.

In order for the hospital to sponsor the €11,000 operation Ola needs to have the necessary paperwork and this could take time.

Time she may not have.

Now, it’s a race against the advancement of the tumor. The medical team and the PCRF are working on ensuring the vibrant Ola lives to see another birthday.

Please, visit the PCRF website. Read about what they do, understand why their work is so important and, if you find it in your heart and are able, donate. Help. Start a chapter in your city. Or just spread the word.

Give children like Ola a chance. You never know, you may be saving someone who will one day save you back.

(*photo courtesy of Ciaran)