It was the last day of outreach for the Introductory Primary Health Care (IPHC) team when five-year-old Tony came to see them on his own. He was aware that the team was in his village, and when boiling water accidentally spilled onto his body, he knew he needed to find them for help.
“He found us right after it happened; we knew because his burns hadn’t even started blistering,” said team member, Dexter Bird. “Through the translator, we found out that he had been cooking himself a meal because his mother was unable and his father was gone.” He had no one to help him and that’s when the boiling water spilled. The burns covered the skin between his lower abdomen and upper thighs, and the second layer of skin had already begun coming off in some areas. Tony was in danger of dehydration and hypothermia and ran a high risk of infection as well. Without the team being in the village, his chances of dying were extremely high.
That morning, the team hadn’t even set up their clinic, but had taken the morning off to pack their things and prepare to leave the village. They were about to leave when Tony showed up at their door.
Team leader, Casey Unruh, began treating Tony’s burns. “It was so numb that he could not feel the pain. He wasn’t even crying when he came to us,” she recalled with compassion in her eyes.
“We did what we could, giving initial care, then took him to a health centre in a nearby village, Malalaua, for recovery,” Casey said. The team had already been planning on traveling the 30 minutes to Malalaua on their way back to Port Moresby. Had that not been the case, they wouldn’t have been able to take Tony to the health centre. Circumstances could have been much more grim, but the health care team was in Tony’s village at the perfect time.