What started out as a dream of a few nurses in 2010, has now become a full-fledged reality in saving lives in the Nehemiah Vision Ministries Nutrition Clinic. The NVM Nutrition Clinic is now a stand-alone clinic at the NVM Health Center. Through the generosity of church partners and donors, a dedicated space has been created for the Nutrition Clinic. This will provide the opportunity to not only see more patients, have a play area, & also to have a community education area to teach and share information on nutrition, breastfeeding, and other children’s health issues.
The NVM Nutrition Clinic averages anywhere from 30 – 50+ patients in the program at any given time, and the children are admitted based on where they rank on the Malnutrition Charts.
“We’re serving severely sick kids,” says Brooke Smalley, lead nurse and director of the Clinic. “These children come to us, and they’re just skin and bones – they don’t have the energy to sit, they are weak and lethargic. They don’t even have the energy to talk. All they do is cry.”
Children are admitted to the Clinic based on their arm circumference – measuring at the left upper middle of the arm and then charting that against the Malnutrition Chart. If the evaluation indicates a severe status, the child is admitted immediately.
Due to how severely sick these children are – it is very costly to provide the life-saving care they need. “Just putting it honestly, it’s expensive,” says Smalley. “So when we are looking at dollars and cents, and the amount that we have available, we are going to treat the highest-risk population in order to save as many lives as we can.”
How the Nutrition Program Works
Once a child is admitted to the nutrition program, it is a requirement for them to be seen at the Clinic every two weeks to monitor their progress and overall health. The first goal is to move these children out of “crisis mode” with the ultimate goal to see weight gain at each appointment. Some of the children are so sick when they are first admitted that it takes some to move beyond their underlying illness, and get to the point of being able to use the nutrition for weight gain. Their progress is measured over weeks and months until these outcomes are achieved:
-15% gain in bodyweight
-Standard deviation of -1 on the height versus weight scale
-Complete reduction of swelling (from kwashiorkor)
“Sometimes, within 3- 4 weeks, you don’t even recognize the child anymore,” remarks Smalley in describing the progress of some of the children. “The moms come in and say ‘my kid never had the energy to play and now they do’ and I say yes, that’s what we were praying for!”
The Story of Johnny
Johnny was born on April 7, 2011. He was 17 months old when admitted into the NVM nutrition program. When he arrived he weighed 12.74 pounds. When Johnny graduated from the program 4 months later, he weighed in at 22.6 pounds. Johnny is one of five other children in his family. The others are 7, 9, 11 and 13 years old. His mother sells charcoal at a street market and his father is a farmer. Once Johnny became sick, he was no longer able to walk and he had no energy to play or run around like a normal 17-month old little boy. Once he started to gain weight, his energy returned and he started walking and talking. He started to play and had such a sweet personality.