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Out of Africa—A mother's journey*

Kissoon, Niranjan MD

Pediatric Critical Care Medicine: January 2011 - Volume 12 - Issue 1 - p 73-79
doi: 10.1097/PCC.0b013e3181ce74ef
PCCM Perspectives

Objective: To outline the journey of a mother of a critically ill child in her quest for care for her infant. This article outlines the barriers faced, disappointments, and the indignity of poverty. Questions and commentary relating to the care of the critically ill in resource-limited environments underline the issues she faces. Critical illness is very common in the developing world with most childhood deaths occurring in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. These areas are handicapped by limited access to critical care and intensive care facilities. This paper is not intended to review preventive strategies and simple inexpensive treatments that may prevent diseases and diminish critical illnesses.

Data Source: Experience obtained from a sabbatical in Africa.

Study Selection: A literature search with the following terms was conducted: intensive care, critical care, emergency care, children, developing countries, severe pneumonia, ventilator-associated pneumonia, nosocomial infections.

Data Extraction and Synthesis: Abstracts that seemed to relate to the care of critically ill or injured children from the developing world were then reviewed and relevant aspects were discussed.

Conclusion: Critical illness is common in areas of the world plagued with minimal resources to deal with its ravages. Parents try to do what is best for their critically ill children, but navigation of systems and lack of resources are daunting propositions. On any given day, this story or versions of it occurs in many parts of Africa and in low income countries in general. I saw similar scenes several times daily in Uganda and Kenya and, although the issues are slightly different in South Africa, failures of healthcare processes resulted in similar adverse outcomes in all areas. This is a mother's story.

From the Acute and Critical Care Medicine, British Columbia's Children's Hospital, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

The author has not disclosed any potential conflict of interest.

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©2011The Society of Critical Care Medicine and the World Federation of Pediatric Intensive and Critical Care Societies