Jennifer Doane, MSW
WHFC China Program Manager
The most powerful thing about my last trip to China was meeting a baby boy we nicknamed “Little King.” During our third day at our partnership orphanage - Xinzhou Social Welfare Institute, Dr. Matt Benz and I were doing “well baby” check on all the kids when a few nannies rushed in with a little bundle. This tiny baby had just been delivered to the orphanage after having been found by the police. The nannies were frantic and it didn’t take us long to discover why.
This baby was just a day or so old and had been born with spina bifida. He had a large, exposed bulging area on his back and was jaundiced. Dr. Matt jumped right in, checked “Little King” over and then we cleaned him up and bandaged him as best as possible given the limited medical supplies at the orphanage. Dr. Matt recommended we get a bottle into the little guy to keep him hydrated and we headed off to the hospital. This is actually where “Little King” got his nickname because this one little baby had all of us pulling for him as 6 of us trouped off to the hospital.
Although the hospital didn’t give him IV antibiotics (the infection risk was very high), he did get another check up by a neurologist and a pediatrician, a good cleaning of the area, and some oral antibiotics. While we were at the hospital, the orphanage director, Director Bai, was already making calls to get “Little King” on a list to receive surgery as soon as possible.
We returned to the Xinzhou Social Welfare Institute with “Little King” and Dr Matt instructed the nannies to take his temperature every shift and track how much he drank and urinated. The nannies were ready for this challenge –they had seen other babies like “Little King” come into the orphanage and not survive. They were doing everything they could to increase this little guy’s chances! It was now late and we had to return to our hotel. I went to bed that night saying a few extra prayers for this tiny boy.
By the time we arrived back at the orphanage the next morning, “Little King” had spiked a fever – not good. So we bundled him back off to the hospital with another plea for IV antibiotics. This time through, he was so dehydrated that they couldn’t get the IV in. Back at the orphanage there was a somber consultation with Director Bai, Dr. Matt, one of the head nannies, and me. Dr. Matt helped us all understand how serious this was for “Little King” and that he likely didn’t have more than a day or two to live unless something was done. After those words were translated, Director Bai turned and walked from the room already pulling out his cell phone. He was able to have “Little King” moved to the top of the surgery list and granted permission to send him to Beijing the next morning. With that news, the staff and nannies began planning to get “Little King” ready for his journey. Again I went back to the hotel thinking only of that little baby.
After that the updates were small bits of information but with such import. News came that he made it to Beijing. Then the he survived surgery. Then that he was recovering well. Then that he had been discharged to a closer orphanage that had a lot of experience with babies post surgery. And finally last week – the news that he had arrived back “home” to Xinzhou. For me that was monumental news as I prepare for a return trip. I will get to see this little boy that we all worried about and works so hard together for.
Dr. Matt Benz, MD
WHFC Medical Mission Pediatrician
I am forever grateful for the amazing dedication, wonderful teamwork and responsiveness of Director Bai and all of his staff in Xinzhou, as well as Susan Song our interpreter. They helped us navigate the formidable geographic and administrative barriers needed to get "Little King" to Beijing.
My thankfulness also extends to all of his care providers in Beijing. Everyone from the physicians who performed his complex surgical procedure to the nurses and staff who subsequently cared for him –they are the reason this little baby survives today.
As a pediatrician, I have learned that we as physicians are only as effective as the weakest link in our team, whether in Boston, or in a remote industrial city in China. This experience, and the very positive outcome, underscored the immense value of building strong relationships with orphanages in China as part of the fulfillment of the WHFC Mission.
Jennifer Doane, MSW (pictured above)
WHFC China Program Manager
During Jennifer's trip to China, she was joyfully reunited with "Little King" –the baby boy that rallied an entire orphanage to save his life! This beautiful boy has grown since she last saw him and is doing well. Not only are his limbs strong but he’s also babbling to anyone who will listen. Today the scars from his surgery look good and he is truly a miracle to see and hold. Check back soon for more about Jennifer’s reunion with "Little King"!