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First of all, we would like to thank all of contributors for the mission. We could not have done it without you. The last week has been insanely busy. We are now back in Canada. But really, the mission never stops. We are already organizing actively for next year!
Sometimes on these missions, things inexplicably fall into place in such a magical way that we are left to wonder if everything is truly just a coincidence or do miracles happen? One of these moment definitely happened during this trip. This was a sad story over all, but we hope that we made a small difference in these children's lives.
I was sitting at my desk, seeing a family of 5 children. From the corner of my eyes though, I could see that Dr. Gorodzinsky was in a sticky situation, to say the least. He had in front of him two absolutely beautiful little boys. They were quite small, and I could not help but eaves drop. To my surprise, the elder was 12 and his younger brother was 7. However, I could not have given them more than 8 and 3 respectively. They obviously had something wrong with them though, because their skin looked quite abnormal, and the elder boy had ulcers around the mouth and his corneas were opaque. He could not see a thing, and the light bothered his eyes.
Their grandfather had brought them to see us. The story was that they had been like this since birth. They had been seen by a dermatologist, but they could not afford creams and therapy for the boys. They tried to help protect their skin from the sun by wearing long brim hats and long clothes. Their mother had abandoned them. Their father was trying to do his best, but he had trouble making ends meet. Their grandfather was quite involved in taking care of them.
Dr. Gorodzinsky and myself looked at each other. "I know what this is, but I do not know how to treat it. It is a rare genetic condition called xenoderma pigmentosum. We should probably take pictures of the boys and send them to a dermatologist in Canada for advice". Dr. Gorodzinsky walked away trying to find someone with an internet connection. But we are in the mountains, far away from the city. There was not even a cellphone network, and no electricity.
As Dr. Gorodzinsky was away, I ended taking pictures of the boys with my camera (not that it would be very useful). I thought to myself it was too bad I had left my iPad at the hotel, because I have some medical books in there that may have been useful... As Dr. Gorodzinsky walked by, I fumbled through my through my phone, looking up randomly at my books. Lord behold, The Herwitz Pediatric Dermatology was not only present on my phone! It was open, at pretty much the most appropriate page!! Can you believe my surprise, as I do not recall ever uploading these books to my iPhone!! And not only that, we read all about Xenoderma Pigmentosum, we also had all the palliating therapies present! Of course, the specific drugs that can sometimes be used (5FU, Retinoic Acid) were not available, but the rest of the recommendations were simple. We had sunscreen, from out own personal stash. We had eye drops to avoid corneal abrasions in the wonderful Health Partner International Canada boxes. We had antibiotic cream for when the ulcerations get infected. We had corticosteroid creams. We could actually help these children.
In a large plastic bag, we put as much medication as these two children could take, so they would have enough supplies for a while. Their grandfather was quite happy to give them some relief. They stayed a little while longer with us, and then went home in the afternoon. Imagine just how perfect everything lined up in order to have these children see us on that day and have our physician know what the disease was and to randomly have the "bible" of paediatric dermatology textbooks on an iPhone opened around the same pages as necessary at the time? This just felt so incredible!'
So it is hard to tell which powers are actually in power when moment like that happen. Whatever it is, we sure hope that the boys will benefit from it for a while and that it made their hearts a little lighter.