We set up a primary health care program in every orphanage we serve. First. our team of volunteer medical professionals complete a thorough evaluation of the children's health needs. Second, we hire a full-time local nurse to work in the orphanage and take charge of the health care program. Finally, we partner with local health care providers to do follow-up care, specialist consults and vaccinations.
One of the main reasons that Bridges to Healing was started was because of the tremendous suffering that the founders witnessed in children who had severe, untreated parasite infections. For example, a 2-year-old boy arrived at one of the orphanages with severe neurological problems and the staff were told that the hospital believed the boy had polio. He was unable to lift his head, walk or speak. We evaluated him for parasites and found that he suffered from a parasite called Strongyloides. After treating him, this little boy transformed into a very normal toddler running around and chatting with the other children! Parasite "hyperinfection" can occur in immunocompromised children and many of the children living in orphanages are malnourished and often have other underlying health problems. According to the CDC, left untreated Strongyloides hyperinfection can lead to mortality rates up to 90%.
Any child we encounter in our work who may benefit from surgery or a medical procedure is evaluated and treated by local surgeons. We have been able to provide funding for complex pediatric neurosurgeries, neurological care for babies suffering from the Zika virus, gastrointestinal surgeries, orthopedic surgery to correct club foot and other physical deformities, and heart surgery. The children who receive this specialized care will have a much higher chance of leading a normal, productive school and work life.
Bridges to Healing provides education to orphanage staff in areas such as the importance of clean water, sanitation, and disease control and prevention. We work with the orphanages to ensure that they have clean water and that the food supply is providing proper nutrition to the children. If we find there are gaps in these important aspects of the children's health, we work to fill those needs.
Bridges to Healing has a volunteer physician who acts as our Medical Director. The Medical Director is available to orphanage staff to consult on complex cases. This sometimes involves reaching out to colleagues in the United States to review a particular child's health problem and guide the medical plan for the child.
The Executive Director of Bridges to Healing is a child welfare social worker. She works with the orphanage directors to help with permanency planning for the children. In addition, we assist orphanages in tracking down the local resources they may need to meet a variety of needs for the children including specialized orphanages that may be better equipped to handle the complex medical needs involved with a child who is deaf or blind, for example, or is living with HIV/AIDS.
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