What do you think of when you hear the word pneumonia? Maybe fever, coughing, aches and pains come to mind…maybe a trip to the doctor is in your thoughts, maybe rest, fluids and antibiotics also come to mind. That is what comes to mind for those of us living in a place that doctors and medicines are plenty. Where we can take time to rest, recoup and get well. However, there are families in the world who don’t have that luxury and to them it simply means death.
November 12th marks the fourth annual World Pneumonia Day, when world leaders are calling for major efforts in the fight against childhood pneumonia, which remains the number one killer of children under age five. Pneumonia claimed 1.3 million lives in 2011 alone, and was responsible for nearly one in five global child deaths.
As a child I was hospitalized with pneumonia when I was 5. I can remember being confined to a bed covered in a plastic bubble for a number of days. I don’t remember much more than that, but I can still see the plastic “bubble” that encased my small space to protect me from spreading my own disease to others and acquiring more germs that might worsen my state.
That moment came and went. I survived just fine with the help of doctors, my parents and that “bubble” I had to endure. So, when my son came down with pneumonia at the age of two those images again resurfaced in my head. (funny how that happens, isn’t it?)
His story doesn’t include a stay in a bubble…but it was one of the most frightening things I have ever endured to date. He started with a cold, which added a cough, which spiked a temp of nearly 104, which when you add in his lethargic state, desire to sleep and lack of desire to eat that all showed up overnight…it became my worst nightmare. My baby was very sick and no one could do anything to make it stop! Our doctors did what they knew to do – fluids, rest, medication – but after 1 day of that and no improvement we were sent the the ER immediately. His temp would not go down, he would not drink and he was so sleepy. My worst fears were being handed to me without even asking for them…there was nothing I could do to make it better for him and I felt helpless through it all.
I will never forget our arrival in the pediatric unit where the nurses wanted to start multiple IV’s in his tiny little arms. His little veins were so hard to find and they kept poking and poking and poking and the more they poked the more he screamed. He was so scared and so sick. He had to have those needles work so he could get the needed fluids and medicine into him faster so his little body could mend. But they just couldn’t make it happen! After new nurses arrived and the needles were in, he was able to rest, and so was I. I prayed the medicines would work fast and my baby would return to me soon.
We spent two days in the hospital. And when I say we, I mean we. He slept directly on my chest for two straight days. His body temperature slowing dropping back to normal and his color returning to his original tone. It wasn’t over from there – even though we were out of the woods for the worst of it. For years he fought with respiratory issues and illness induced asthma. I am grateful that he has outgrown both by the age of 9, but the fear that existed every time he started to cough, sniffle or sneeze was something I hope no mother has to live through – ever.
Looking back at that 3-4 day ordeal that stretched out over two weeks of recovery, I can only think of those mothers who don’t have those resources in their reach when their babies become ill. Pneumonia claimed 1.3 million lives in 2011 alone, and was responsible for nearly one in five global child deaths. (Some of those right here in the U.S.) But we have a chance to help lower that number TODAY! According to a Pneumonia Progress Report released today by the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) at Johns Hopkins, 75 percent of all childhood pneumonia deaths worldwide occur in just 15 countries, demonstrating the impact we can have with targeted efforts. The report also notes that none of these countries have reached the 90 percent coverage targets for key pneumonia interventions recommended in the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia (GAPP).
So, today, on World Pneumonia Day, I ask for your support. Here is a link to multiple resources and ways that YOU can help save lives by being an advocate for children around the world: