Winnie Brady here. I was the one who was in charge of the care of a little boy who came to our Emergency Room last week.
The little boy in question was brought in by his panicked father, gasping for every breath. The child was in a state of shock; he was fevererish. We knew we had to act fast to alleviate some of the boy's breathing issues.
We started an IV to give his body fluids that were probably lost during his bout of fever; we also hooked him up to a heart monitor, gave him some oxygen. When I examined his throat, I was shocked to see that he had a false membrane covering the back of his throat, which told me one thing: the kid had diptheria, a once-common communicable childhood disease that struck fear in people--and still does to this day.
Diphtheria is very contagious; it's also very rare nowadays in developed countries; however it still runs rampant in third-world countries; as an example, a recent outbreak occurred in the early nineties in the former Soviet Union: over 15,000 people were affected by that epidemic.
We did everything we could to lower the child's fever; we seemed to have a grip on it when the boy started seizing uncrontrollably. We gave him some antiseizure medication, then we did an emergency tracheotomy because his breathing was becoming more compromised. It was a desperate situation that we had to act upon, fast, or the little boy could have died right on our table in the E.R.
Immediately upon getting the trache tube in place, the little boy's breathing difficulties eased, and he pinked up rapidly. He opened his eyes, seemed to give us a look of gratification on his face.
We all breathed a huge sigh of relief: we saved his life in the nick of time.
The boy was admitted to the communicable diseease ward, in strict Isolation: anyone who came in contact with him was required to gown up, wear masks, gloves. Those staff members who weren't up to date on their DPT vaccinations were sent home until they got the required shots.
Incredibly, as bad as things looked for the child, it looks as though he's turned the corner: he's awake, he's not as feverish, and it appears that he's made it through the crisis, which has been nothing short of a miracle.
While the boy is still pretty sick, feeling puny, he is eating a little, trying to talk, even with the tube in his throat. Of course, we can't understand him: the child speaks only Arabic. His tired dad has been at his bedside, afraid to leave his child's side. We keep trying to tell the father (mostly through pantomime or sign language) to go to the lobby and get some rest; he refuses to listen.
I'm getting most concerned for the father. What if he collapses? Then we'll have two patients on our hands, not just the one.
I hope I don't see anything like what I saw last week in the E.R. again: to see that poor child's throat bearing those false membranes was enough to shake us to the very core of our souls. I've seen diptheria once before; that was in Africa, and the child we tried to save there died. We could not save her.
I never thought I'd see anything like diphtheria in our day and age!