Of lemons and lemonade

For a little while during the past week and into the start of this one, politics and its intrigues shifted from the front burner somewhat – mark you it is very much still boiling on the stove – and all ears were riveted to hear what caused the death of two young boys.

The fact that they died within hours of each other and were apparently healthy up to the point of death made their untimely passing appear even more tragic.

Whoever said if life hands you lemons make lemonade had more than a point. From disaster can come some good, and though it might be difficult to find, especially for the family of the deceased, there has to be some good lessons to be learnt from the tragedy.

A certain amount of kudos should go to officials in the Ministry of Health who sought almost from the outset to douse the flames of panic that threatened to envelop the community from which the children came. Alarm bells sounded quite early in the medical fraternity, and they were quick to respond by not only meeting with the grieving parties, but the community at large.

To say we have come a long way in responding quickly to situations that could easily get out of hand is an understatement. The timely response by emergency medical personnel when another child from one of the affected families became ill is more than commendable.

Although it was impossible to stop the rumour mill altogether and people with ulterior motives to not let the truth spoil a good story, it is a testament to the maturity of the people of the area that they waited for the results of the autopsies and further laboratory findings from the Caribbean Epidemiological Centre in Trinidad.

It is difficult to say whether knowing the exact cause of death will bring any comfort, especially, as according to the health experts, the deaths were avoidable had the children been given medical attention before the illness progressed to the stage that it did.

Suffice it to say, knowledge is never a bad thing. Knowledge always dispels ignorance. It is doubly encouraging to hear that the health officials will be digging even deeper to find yet unanswered questions.

In the meantime, their advice to parents of especially younger children is both of the common sense and instructive kind.

Since the onset of the H1N1 scare, the health authorities have been at pains to stress that hand washing is the ABC of staying healthy. Time and time again, using all mediums, they point out that the hands are a gateway to the mucus membranes, which trap all sorts of bacteria and allow them to enter the body.

In the case of bacterial meningitis, the doctors explained that the very same bacteria could have caused an earache, or the flu, which could have been cured by doses of antibiotics, which are readily available. This time it led to a deadly disease because of the time lapse within which the children were treated.

Another bit of advice, which is far from new and which parents of yesteryear practised was beefing up their children’s “constitution.” In today’s jargon it is termed ensuring one’s immune system is healthy. A healthy immune system, health providers say, will ward off almost everything life throws at you.

So in addition to practising good hygiene to include frequent hand washing and the covering of one’s nose and mouth during a cough or cold, the next most important thing is good nutrition.

It is noteworthy that we as a people have drifted far from the basic tenets of good nutrition. We have fallen victims to the fast food lifestyles of other climes. A look into most lunch bags would indicate a preponderance of high sucrose, fructose and salt – stuff that will do the immune system no good at all.

Indeed many studies carried out on the health of our school children indicate early onset lifestyle diseases and obesity. The cry has been to return to good nutrition. It seems to be falling on deaf ears. So, perhaps, this time around parents just might heed the call to insist that their offspring eat what is good for them instead of just what appeals to them.

The rest of what it needs for a good immune system is free – lots of rest and adequate exercise; commonsense indeed.

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