International help for Children's Medical Work

Ever since its foundation IHC had brought over individual children for special treatment as well as parties of children for recuperative holidays.   The total number of these probably amount to over a hundred but below are some accounts of those I was personally involved with which gives a good idea of the work being done.   During the late 70s and 80s the cost of this type of work became prohibitively high and it was because of this that rather than bring children over we began to send money out to specific small projects in places where we could help.   Thus several of the current Margaret McEwen Trust projects listed on a previous page were started in this way as IHC projects.

Urte Gomec (written in 1962)
Turkey, once the heart of an empire stretching from the Indian Ocean to the walls of Vienna, has recently been the scene of a petty revo≠lution in which the army overthrew the existing government, and successfully took control of the country. Some people were imprisoned and many others lost their money-amongst them Urte's father, which is why we were asked to help this little boy.   Urte was paralysed with polio when he was two. His parents, who had waited five years for a child of their own, sacrificed everything including their house, to give him the very best treatment. But in the political chaos they lost all their money, and so International Help for Children were asked to help.   Urte was sent to Queen Mary's Childrens' Hospital at Carshalton, where he was put in a ward with five other children. He has some toys and all the hospital staff keep him happy with regular visits.    Above his bed is a large picture of his father. As treatment takes eighteen months, he has now forgotten how to speak Turkish-much to his parents embarrassment when they visited him, but he will soon learn again when he gets home. home.   The treatment follows the " Sister Kenny" method, in which the posture of the body must always be maintained in such a way as to prevent semi≠paralysed limbs growing at different rates. The children have a strap around their waists which holds them supine on the mattress, and their feet are firmly fixed to a board at the end of the bed. Even when sitting they must be strapped to the chair.   There is a schoolmistress who comes to the ward every day to give simple instruction. The children receive two hours or more of physiotherapy daily, but in spite of the difficult life they all seemed very happy.   Urte is now getting much better. He can use all his limbs to a certain extent, and there is a good chance that he will make a complete recovery.

 Tato (written in 1962)
In Greece, as in Sicily, there is terrible poverty amongst the rural people.   Much of it has resulted from the Greek civil war communist attempt to seize power, which, although it ended in 1951, has left an indelible mark upon the country. The story of Tato is typical of the country's suffering.   Tato came to us in 1959 at the age of ten.   He had lost the sight of one eye, and the other was failing-the result, not of an accident, but of starvation. He had keratomalacia, a condition due to gross deficiency of vitamin A. The family were indeed terribly poor and probably lived off bread alone. Fortunately, in Moorfields Hospital the damage was arrested, and he can now see quite well out of one eye.

Maria Myrodia from Greece - (1963)
In 1963 we were asked by Lady Norton and the Anglo-Hellenic Association if we would arrange for a Hole-in the-Heart operation at Hammersmith Hospital. It concerned four year old Maria Myrodia of Athens, who was lying very ill, without hope of recovery. Her parents were not well off, so the money for the flight to England was provided by a Greek garage owner who knew the family. At Hammersmith, after a week's tests and examinations, the Surgeon-in-charge decided the operation could only be done in two parts, and asked I.H.C. if they would be prepared to bring Maria over a second time. Four weeks later, having recovered from the first operation, she went home much improved. This year the surgeon was visiting Greece and called to see her. He later wrote to I.H.C. to say that she was ready for the second part. Maria will shortly be arriving in England again.

Anna Maria Ascione - (1964)
Anna Maria Ascione came over from Naples aged eight and a half in 1955, and was taken to Moorfields Eye Hospital for removal of a large cancerous growth over the left eye. Every two years Anna (provided with free air travel by an anonymous Italian donor) has come over for further treatment and check-up. Recently she has spent nine months attending the Plastic Surgical Unit at Queen Victoria Hospital East Grinstead, and is now recovering from a squint operation. The eye is so much better that it is scarcely noticeable if she wears glasses. The surgeons at Moorfields and East Grinstead obviously feel that the results are a great achievement for British surgery. Anna is eighteen years old and will be returning to Naples again in the near future. As a special celebration treat she was taken to the Beatles film (by her own request). The total cost of the hospital beds over the period she has been here amounts to £600, All professional fees were donated.

Yasar Gerkesli - from Ankara (1968)
Early in October a request was received from Turkey for a drug called Methotrexate to help prolong the life of a little boy with leukaemia. The request came to us from Save The Children Fund, who themselves had boon contacted by Public Services International.   Some two weeks passed during which time an official medical report was being prepared and then eventually reached me on the 17th October.    I managed to obtain 300 tablet from Lederle, the company who manufacture them.    Although they had none in their London Office, they went and collected some from the wholesalers.    Contact was then made with the Turkish Embassy who said they would be able to send it through diplomatic channels on the next plane to Ankara.

Argyro Moysiadou (1970)
This girl, who is particularly intelligent and attractive, was born without legs but is otherwise physieally pe:rfect. She is most anxious to follow a career which will enable her to earn a living but at the moment she is using artificial legs made in Athens which cause her pain and discomfort. Lady Stewart (our contact in Athens) has therefore asked us to arrange for Argyro to see a specialist at Roehavyton hospital.   If two artificial legs can be made for her at the special Limb Fitting Centre, costing aprroximately £300, Aglyro will face a much happier future.    She has already finished growing so these limbs can be used by her for many years. It will be necessary for Argyro to stay at least 8 weeks in London and we expect her to arrive in September this year.    Through the kind efforts of our Richmond Committee we are hoping to find a family to offer hospitality. Although Argyro will occasionally need a wheel chair, her knowledge of  English and her charming personality will make it much easier to find a suitable family.    Also our Richmond Commiittee is most favourably placed as regards Roehampton Hospital and the daily journey should not involve any problems.

Demetrius Cacayannis  aged 11  (1970)
He suffered a serious spinal injury two years ago when he fell off a parapet. He not only damaged his spine, but suffered internal injuries which caused him to be incontinent for a considerable period. Gradually his condition improved particularly because he is a very intelligent and cooperative child.   He can now walk with the aid of 2 sticks but he gets tired very easily.   His parents although of Greek extraction are refugees as they had been abducted to Albania as children and later taken to Russia where Demetrius and his sister were born.   Eventually they managed to get back to Greece where over the last eight years they are trying to rebuild their lives again.   Mr Cacayannis health is very bad and he therefore cannot work so the family depends on the mother's earnings as a home help to a very rich Greek family.  It was this family who paid for the return air fare to enable Demetrius to come to London to be examined by an orthopaedic specialist at Great Ormond Street Childrens' Hospital.   In order to save the heavy cost of a National Health Bed accomodation was found nearby in the Italian Hospital. The specialist was willing to see Demetrius at this hospital and to carry out tests and X-rays to see if anything further could be done to improve his condition.    After a week of intensive medical examinations and tests, the specialist came to the conclusion that an operation would be too risky and might even make matters worsc. He felt that in the circumstances everything possible, from a medical point of view, was being done for the boy and advised regular physiotherapy, to help him  increase his mobility. The cost of these examinations has been approximately £100.   Lady Stewart (our contact in Athens) hopes that she can provide special transport to enable Demetrius to follow the physiotherapy treatment in Athens which at the moment is too difficult because of the distance from the home of the Cacayannis family and the treatment centre.

Mumaje Jackson from Tanzania, East Africa (1970)
For the first tine IHC has been asked to take a medical case from Africa.   Mumaje is 14 and suffers from serious heart disease.   He has been under the care of Dr Joseph Taylor who is British and who is in charge of the hospital at Dodoma.   He approached us asking if we could save the boy's life by bringing him to London.   The operation he required could only be performed in this country.   Mumaje's father is a simple farmer who has faced famine this year and his crops have been ruined.   There are 4 other children in the family.   Mumaje himself is a. bright and intelligent boy  and in spite of his heart condition, the headmaster of his school says he shows great promise.  A surgeon has been found at Charing Cross hospital who will give his services free together with his team which consists of 22 people.   In addition 20 blood donors with the same blood group as Mumaje will have to stand by ready to give a pint of fresh blood.   Sadly despite our efforts to help this boy he was one of the few children whose treatment in England was not successful and he died a few days after his operation.   Of course any heart operation carries risks which were clearly greater in the 1970s than they are today.

Manju Gupta from Lucknow (India) 1970
Last July vie received a request from the Uttar Pradesh Council for Guild welfare to save the life of a girl who needed a major heart operation which could not in any circumstances be carried out in India.   Her father was blind and the family had to rely on the mother's earnings as a canteen worker.   We therefore approached Mr Baimbridge, heart surgeon at St Thomas' Hospital who had already operated on two IHC medical cases - always donating his fees.   We were very pleased when for the 3rd time he agreed to treat yet another case and Manju was offered a bed in the first week of September.   As she could not be done under the NHS £300 was required for this bed.   Communication by letter proved to be very difficult, letters taking 2 weeks to reach Lucknow and the same time for a reply to return to London.   This created special difficulties and owing to lack of information the bed booked in September had to be cancelled.   Although telegrams to Lucknow cost £2 .10/- a time we felt that the urgency of the situation demanded this expense and once more a bed was booked this time for the beginning of December.   On Monday December 1st a telegram arrived at 9.00am to say that Manju would be arriving in London at 10.15am that morning.    Manju, who is 17, had never left her town before and had never been in an aeroplane.   She travelled from Lucknow  to London. via  Delhi, entirely alone, with only a. smattering of English and fully aware that sne was to undergo a dangerous operaticn.    This was carried out on December 9th and proved to be 100%  successful.   On January 2nd, only four weeks later, Manju flew to Lucknow  (her return fare having been paid from Indian sources).   Her picture appeared in the Guardian, The Evening News, The Evening Standard and she gave a short recording on the BBC South East News.

Ifeoma Ume-Ezeoke, aged 10, from Lagos, Nigeria. (1971)
We were visiting Father Borrelli to organise the summer reception of his urchins when we met an Englishman, Mr. Donovan, who very kindly provided transport in his own car which he had brought out to Naples. Over the years Mr. Donovan has kept in touch with IHC and recently he accepted a position with Christian Aid in Lagos where he was immediately involved in the heavy tasks that are facing so many relief teams there. Mr. Donovan somehow found time to bring to our notice the plight of Ifeoma, who was very seriously burned following an accident in her home two years ago. Money for her fare to come to this country by air, accompanied by her 21 year-old aunt, has been raised locally, but the cost of plastic surgery and hospital fees as a private patient are totally beyond the resources of her family, who are former Biafrans. Following lengthy negotiations and coping with a good deal of red tape in order to obtain a visa, it looks as though Ifeoma may arrive in London before Christmas. She will be treated at the Italian Hospital where a St. Thomas's consultant will operate free of charge. The fees for a private bed at this voluntary hospital are much less than at St. Thomas's. Thus an Anglo-Nigerian-Italian effort will we hope result in a better future for Ifeoma. Fortunately another of her aunts is living in London and will look after her niece when she is convalescent. Our Finchley local committee have promised to take a keep. interest in the child and to help in any way possible.

Udak Okon aged 10 (1971)
Uduak was a Turrkish girl suffering from paralytic polio who was brought over to England for specialized treatment.
I visited Uduak on February 24th at Penhurst, Chipping Norton, which is a special home for handicapped boys and girls. It was most encouraging to see the improvement in this child, especially in her general attitude. She is obviously much happier and more contented and she is busy and interested in what she is doing. Uduak showed me her stamp album. . A member of the staff has carefully written out a heading for each stamp collection according to the different countries and Uduak undoubtedly thoroughly enjoys this hobby. If she receives duplicate stamps she organises exchanges with other children. There are several coloured little girls staying in the Home, and Uduak is accepted as a member of the family by everyone. Some of the British children are very pathetic cases, especially those who have most distressing physical handicaps and yet mentally are very alert.   From the medical point of view Uduak:'s progress is slow and at the moment the wardens are persuading her to follow a rather strict diet to try and reduce her weight.    Uduak has a special chair which she uses with great skill but she cannot take rnuch exercise and so she is inclined to put on a lot of weight.    In addition, her intake of drugs, including cortisone, is quite considerable and this again tends to make her rather fat.   Her drugs alone cost £23 per annum and now an orthopaedic surgeon at the Nuffield Institute is consulting with his colleagues to see if an operation could be performed to give Uduak mobility, If such an operation takes place only the bed will have to be paid for, as the surgeon and his team will waive any fees.  .There is no doubt that Uduak's future is much brighter, especially as she has settled down so well, and this I think is due entirely to the excellent atmosphere in this children's home and the devoted care of the staff.    It is an education and an experience for anyone to visit Penhurst to discover the type of work that is being carried out there so quietly and yet so efficiently, thus giving hope not only to Uduak but to the other little residents, who come under the care of the National Children's Home.

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