Boy's story

Boy on arrival

Boy came to Sarnelli House is January 2008. He was 4 years old and looked like an old man. He comes from a poor family, his mother has AIDS and was sick and unable to care for any of her family. He has an older sister and she for a while stayed at Sarnelli House helping to take care of Boy, however when she was found beating him she was sent back home. Boy has AIDS which he contracted through his mother at birth. He was frail like a little bird, under 10 kg, dirty and never able to stay clean with a snotty nose and a hacking cough. His world had been turned upside down and he looked so sad and confused most of the time. At other times he was like a cornered animal lashing out with his tongue and fists at anyone who tried to get him to do what he didn’t want to do, like taking a shower. He swore at the kids and staff, and his remarkable vocabulary prompted the kids at Sarnelli to tease him just to learn some new swear words and to see how his behaviour would affect the house mums.

Boy was taken to hospital soon after he arrived and he had many admissions over the next 6 months. His CD4 count, which is measured to monitor the aggressiveness and the response of the HIV virus to the medication, was incredibly low, which made Boy susceptible to many infections. He was started on ARV medications a combination of 4 tablets morning and night, which wasn’t something he wanted to take. There were problems with vomiting and difficulty swallowing so many tablets. During his hospital admissions he seemed to settle down emotionally, there was always a house mother with him, and he was able to get some one on one adult attention, without having to compete with 60 other children of all ages and sizes who did their best to stir him up and see him lose his temper in frustration and rage.

Boy plaster on three limbs

Eventually after a few months Boy’s little body started to respond to the treatment and he began to develop an insatiable appetite and regained the energy to run away from his tormentors and to seek protection from the house mothers and the older kids. He was always hungry and ate triple what the other kids ate. Whether this was a reaction to his previous life where he undoubtedly went hungry many times or to his medication it is unclear. He began to ride bikes, climb whatever he could climb, he became like an inquisitive little puppy discovering something new every day. In the trips in the van to the hospital he would squeal at every car and truck that went past and point and yell out at every foreigner he saw. He would run smiling and laughing up to the house mums who arrived for work, wrap his arms around their knees and look up as if they were his reason for living. He blossomed. But Boy had a few more trials ahead of him.

Boy developing an appetite

He was and is still incredibly strong willed and it took much coaxing and things often ended in a tantrum on the floor if his will was thwarted to the great delight of the other kids. He had been complaining of sore knees for a while and the staff put it down to the fact that he was a now a bit of a hypochondriac coming up and showing the slightest spot or scratch and wanting immediate attention. He was taken to the university hospital, but they couldn’t find a cause. One day a few weeks later he was seen guarding his left wrist and on closer inspection he had a lump on his wrist. He had had a fall off a bike a few days previously and it was thought it was just a sprain. Off he went to the local hospital for an xray, just to be sure. The xray showed a mass in the bone and he was admitted for a biopsy of his bone. He was fasted for 12 hours had an IV inserted and was so hungry he called out for food. The next morning waiting for the operation, he was discharged home and the operation was cancelled. He was sent home and fed! The hospital rang up not long after and said take him to Udon Thani where there is a specialist orthopaedic hospital and fast him from eating again. So he went through the same process IV inserted and fasted. The operation was also cancelled, and a referral given to the university hospital. After a 2 hour drive, he was admitted to the hospital and finally operated on, had biopsies taken from both wrists and his legs. Unfortunately for Boy he was diagnosed with TB in his bones. The other hospitals would not operate because they feared his AIDS and were ignorant of how to manage the infection in the operating rooms.

Boy came home about a week later with lots more medication and an intramuscular injection he had to have daily for 6 weeks. He became an absolute soldier about the pain of the daily injection and pulled his trousers down himself for it, and bravely did not flinch. He had plaster on both arms, and a leg from toe to groin, to protect his bones that were weakened from the TB infection. He didn’t really mind the plaster casts as it meant less showers and he now had a weapon he could use for protection and revenge. As Boy wielded his plastered arms indiscriminately, a grudging respect and envy could be seen in the faces of the children, as they kept a wary distance from him. 6 weeks later he went back to hospital and came back with the other leg in plaster. Despite his restricted mobility he always managed somehow to make contact with water and his plasters eventually became soggy and filthy.

Showing his art work

Finally all plaster casts were off and he was a free boy. Regardless of his scars and the extra TB medication he has to take for a full 12 months, he remains a normal 5 year old boy with definite likes and dislikes. Much to his delight and surely as a result of his constant requests to go to school with all the other children, he now attends Rosario School and is in Kindergarten. He is one of the regular kids now in his school uniform and backpack. Despite a few hiccups with toilet accidents – coming home with hard dried poo in his undies, coming home with no undies on at all, coming home the dirtiest of all the children, and always eating something usually left over in his bag or given by a bigger kid rather than wasting it, he seems to have adjusted to his new life of academia.

His weight is increasing, a sure sign that the ARV medications are working for the moment and he is called Fat Boy by the children, and his CD4 count is now at a safe level. He still has to have 3 monthly check ups and blood taken, and take tablets at 6am and 6pm for the rest of his life, but he is almost unrecognisable from the frightened, cornered little boy who arrived a year ago.



Picture of Boy (in 2015)

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