Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Monday, January 03, 2005

I went with Jean and Claire today to visit a child who had been in the orphanage in Shanxi Province. She had spina bifida as a baby, and had thus developed a habit of standing on the side of one foot. She gets around quite well, but cannot walk. A non-profit organization has sponsored her treatment. She's lucky. Most of them don't get that. Of course, I take my hat off to those organizations that are trying to help as many kids as they can. I just wish there was a way that we could spread the help out to more people. I continue to remain convinced that the old adage "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" applies, very aptly, to children in the countryside. Most of the handicaps I have seen are much more severe than they would have been if there had been early intervention. What happens is that when a handicapped child is born to a very, very poor family, they take the baby to a doctor, and the doctor tells them what needs to be done, and how much it is going to cost. Of course, the cost is just not livable, so they take the child home and do the best they can. But in a totally agrarian community, a child who cannot help with the farm work is dead weight. Eventually the burden is overwhelming, and the child is abandoned. No birth certificate, of course, because nobody wants to take responsibility. So the child has no identity. And the handicap has progressed beyond the point of remediation. It's all so very preventable. But somehow people of good will must be involved with the problem of poverty at the village level. That way, if a problem like this came up, the family would have somewhere to turn, and the child would receive treatment when it could do some good. I am still haunted by the face of that sweet little girl staring up at me from her crib. Her legs were permanently crossed. She spends her entire life lying on her back. She would have had a very different life if she had had access to pre-natal corrective surgery. Still handicapped, but much more mobile, and active, and able to live.

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