Recently I was invited to visit a home for moms and babies to assess a couple of children with special needs. Of course, once I got there I had to see all the rest of the children as well and the pleasure was all mine.
Home of the Swallow is a home in Chiang Mai for impoverished mothers with no support, pregnant teens, and other at-risk mothers. It is a place where the mothers and babies can live together, while supporting the mothers through parenting classes, skills training, as well as nursery care for when they go to work. Eventually, they do find housing arrangements outside the home, but continue to be a part of the community as they wish.
One of the kids has athetotic cerebral palsy, and has so much potential for development! The other has either a congenital myopathy, spinal muscular atrophy, or some other congenital neuromuscular disorder. The others were all healthy but incurably cute – they just wanted the American doc to check them out, and the moms and staff had all kinds of questions. Health care in Thailand certainly isn’t the worst I’ve seen, but for those of a minority status or very poor, few options exist and those options are on the bottom tier of care.
The director of the home (staff and administration all Thai) was also interested in discussing how to incorporate better health maintenance and preventive health care at the home as well as instruction for the mothers. Sometimes the mothers are infected with HIV or have other infectious diseases which make people somewhat uncomfortable in a shared living arrangement. Would I please help give some training in this regard? The director has a lot of experience in this area and is able to say everything I would say, but she would like the authority of a physician discuss these issues to give more weight to the information.
I look forward to being more involved with these “Swallows”. I hope to help the kids with the special needs get all the care they need in order to achieve their highest potential. Helping the staff and mothers and children stay healthy will go a long way toward everyone achieving their potential for well-being.
Next time, however, I plan to bring along Thai medical students and/or residents for their enrichment as well. As I develop relationships with local organizations I hope to establish opportunities for them to serve in their community.