These days, you might be hard pressed to find a moral issue that isn’t hotly contested by some group. Pick your subject and you have two or three deeply entrenched sides. I did however find one. If you look across countries, cultures, languages and orientations of all sorts, everyone seems to instinctively know that you shouldn’t hurt kids. Unless you are a psychopath, it is good to take care of kids and it’s bad not to. Even an atheist could argue that this behavior is probably part of our DNA programming as humans and directly linked to our survival as a species. Granted, like almost every other moral, the edges of this one are slowly being chipped away.
“It doesn’t count if it’s a kid from a neighboring country.”
“Oh, it’s not really a kid yet.”
We might stop and ask ourselves; if our society loses this moral, what else is left? What else beside the hell of a society built on the cult of self? Thankfully, however, for most people, children of all varieties are still precious and well worth the sacrifices we make for them. For most, helping children for their own good resonates with our deepest understanding of what we know to be true, beautiful and good. This is especially true in Karen culture.
IF kids are important, then the first year of life is arguably one of the most critical parts. Without doubt, it is the time that a child is most dependent on others for even its most basic needs. Often in the US, we think of meeting these needs more in terms of convenience/ inconvenience. In the jungle, reality presents another harsher side … if you can’t meet those needs, babies die. In fact, the risk for a baby in Karen state, Myanmar, dying in the first year of life is 15 times higher than for a baby in the United States. Many of the babies in the developing world who die in their first year, actually die right at their beginning.
More specifically, over the last 3 days, a team from Samaritans Purse has been at the Ther Ray-Dau Pae clinic teaching our staff and students how to manage the first couple of minutes of a baby’s life. The central issue during these initial moments is simply to get the baby to breath. Not only is this crucial to life, getting babies to breath within the “golden minute” is important for the health of brain cells that will accompany the youngster for the rest of his life. Appropriately the course is named “Helping Babies Breath”. It was designed by the American Academy for Pediatrics and trains anyone who might attend a birth. While the course material is simple, it is presented in a way that the participants have plenty of time to practice actual techniques and algorithms on realistic “baby-quins.”
There is something special about helping a stunned little newborn take its first breath. My last time was in the jungle with one of our nurses Carolyn. During the last two minutes of the delivery, before the baby was out, the placenta, the baby’s only oxygen supply, started to detach. The baby was born … pale, limp and still. The complete attention of everyone in the curtained off section of the room was focused on the little lifeless form on the floor. Quiet. Waiting. Listening. For many deliveries in the jungle, that’s all that happens. There aren’t any other options. Either the baby will breath or he won’t. But a little knowledge here goes a long way. After rubbing with a clean towel to dry and stimulate, Carolyn gave a few artificial breaths with a bag and mask. On a hallowed rough-cut wood floor in the middle of nowhere, we became witnesses to a small, but wonder filled miracle. Pale changed to pink. Limp limbs begin to move. And quiet transformed into life affirming screams. The relief in the room was palpable.
It’s a great blessing for us to be able to help kids, of all sorts and sizes. It’s a great blessing for us to empower others to help kids. In my own experience, whether you help a newborn to breathe, quiet a crying baby, take time to make a toddler smile or encourage a teenager … a little bit of their youthfulness is infused back into your spirit. Although Jesus never said it exactly, I bet he’s ok with the concept … “Blessed are the kid-carers, for they will become like kids.”
Dr. Mitch has run several medical programs in remote places. Enjoy’s exploring new worlds with enthusiastic experts in their fields…anything in medicine, science, history, art, music, engineering, philosophy, multimedia, IT. He has recently conceded that he’s not likely going to get to go to the moon in his lifetime. But Antarctica is still on the list.