AN overwhelming response to the plight of a Vanuatu girl found close to death on a remote island has opened up options for her recovery.
Following a story in last week’s NZ Weekend Herald, more than 330 people have donated more than $50,000 via a Givealittle page set up by round-the-world sailors Nicole and businessman Tobias Janke.
It means a nurse can fly from Europe to Vanuatu to care for Micheline Warri full time for a few months if they can’t find a hospital in a western country to take her.
The Jankes have dedicated themselves to her recovery since finding 10-year-old Micheline last month unresponsive in a mud-floor hut on Pentecost Island, 190km due north of Port Vila.
She was, dehydrated, malnourished, had extensive infected skin sores and third-degree burns on her legs and feet.
They arranged for her to be flown to Vila Central Hospital where the Weekend Herald first met them. On arrival Micheline weighed just 19.5kg and her blood count was dangerously low.
“It is a short-term issue to survive and a very big one about what next,” Tobias said at the time.
Micheline’s weight has increased to 25kg, she is now able to eat and drink without any assistance and is strong enough to be taken outside in a wheelchair for short periods.
But the Jankes said her long-term prospects depend on the quality of care she gets during the next few months.
A nurse in Switzerland, who is skilled in treating burns patients and has done aid work in Africa, has agreed to come to Vanuatu at the end of November for three months if needed.
Also since the Weekend Herald reported Micheline’s story, a hospital in New Caledonia has offered to take her for one month at a cost of $50,000.
And the Jankes are discussing the possibility of Micheline being treated at Auckland’s Starship Hospital with Ronald McDonald House.
“It would be nicer to spend the money donated by so many New Zealanders here in New Zealand,” Nicole said. “And we can visit daily, do voluntary work. But if that is not the case we are very grateful for the offer from Noumea.”
Tests revealed Micheline has the rare genetic autoimmune disease Pemphigus Vulgaris which is even rarer in children. It causes painful blistering on the skin and mucous membranes and if untreated can lead to death.
Micheline’s mother did not receive modern treatment for the disease and died five years ago.
Micheline had lain untreated in the hut for four months.
“They believe in black magic. They thought she is bewitched … but there is no doctor on the island. They can’t really see a way out.”
The Jankes believed that if Micheline fully recovers her condition can be managed but it is most likely she would live permanently in Port Vila with relatives to be close to a hospital.
The Jankes need to decide soon on whether to engage the nurse.
“This is an incredible milestone for us in securing additional continuous medical care while we are still working to get Micheline into an overseas hospital,” the Jankes said on the Givealittle page.
A pressure air mattress loaned by a doctor in Vanuatu had helped. While most of her skin was getting better, a ‘massive pressure sore at the bottom of her spine has become a challenge as it is not improving’.
Tobias has stayed in Port Vila while Nicole returned to Auckland with their girls for the new school term.
Watching the donations pour in had been wonderful and emotional, Nicole said. The unexpected journey they have found themselves on was also ‘an amazing lesson’ for their daughters Marlene, 6, and Juliane, 5.
“They see what a good life they have and also see how it could be and the best thing is they see how many people are helping without wanting anything back.”