Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Vacuous Opossum

Vop's got Kwashiorkor's Disease. Thus, my first conscious thought about my new daughter: "Fuck, she looks like a vacuous opossum!"

KD is characterised by lethary (ergo, the vacuous-ness? vacuousity?), swollen belly from liver enlargement, ulcerating dermatosis, hair and teeth depigmentation.

The name comes from a local dialect in Ghana and means"the sickness the baby gets when the new baby comes".

Vop was only breastfed until her birth mother died in a car accident when she was five months old. I have no evidence she was ever wetnursed by another member of the village.

KD is pretty much malnutrition caused by too many carbs and not enough protein.

Welcome to the predominant diet in PNG... ALL carbs and almost no protein. Villages such as where VO'P comes from exist on taro, kau kau, pit pit and the VERY occasional chicken or pig.

Imma guessing the village orphan, raised by the 'mad' grandfather got served last when protien was on the menu. Welcome to the patriachy that is PNG.

Vop's KD issues are compounded by her chewing of buai, or betel nut.

Buai is chewed here in PNG by almost everyone. The streets are awash with blood-red spit of the buai kai kai. It's disgusting (sorry, cultural mores against spitting are the hardest ones to get over, I find!). Not only does it stain the teeth bright red, it is claimed by the PNG Medical Society that chewing betelnut kills over 2000 people in PNG a year. The medical society has called for the chewing and selling of betelnut to be regulated. It is used for sing-sings and other rituals, but is more widely chewed because it allays hunger.

Long tern buai use causes teeth decay and eventually several forms of mouth.tongue/oesophageal cancers.

 (Pepsodent ran an ad campaign in Southeast Asia like they would in any other part of the world - one that focussed on whitening teeth. It was a dismal failure. I'll blog about my reaction to "Guard precious whiteness" another time)

VOP's teeth are pitted and stained, striated with bilirubin, and chipped to the point of looking pretty feral.

Hence the Opposum reaction.

Victims of kwashiorkor fail to produce antibodies following innoculaton against diseases, including diphtheria and typhoid. So even if she's had the vaccines, it probabaly didn't take.

Dealing with her KD is going to be a major part of our early parenting.

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