Saturday, January 07, 2006

The tears remain

We write a lot about bird flu here, but only occasionally pause to acknowledge the immense personal suffering it has caused. Once was upon the death of a ten year old Vietnamese girl, almost a year ago. Today is another time.

Parents of four youngsters, aged 11, 14 and 15 have now lost three of them to bird flu in Turkey and a fourth is ill.
The mother wailed as the white shroud bearing the body of her 11-year-old daughter was lowered into a simple grave yesterday, her third child to die in less than a week from bird flu. An imam in a surgical mask and rubber gloves read prayers.


Zeki Kocyigit said that when he took his four ailing children to Van, "It was really hard for them to breathe.''

Mehmet Ali, 14, died first, on Sunday. Then, his 15-year-old sister, Fatma, died Thursday. Hulya, 11, died yesterday and was buried beside her siblings.

A fourth Kocyigit child, 6-year-old Ali Hasan, is hospitalized in Van, but he has improved considerably and is no longer on a respirator. (The Star)
A colleague once remarked to me that for a parent, the death of one of their children was "off the scale." Yes. This is heartbreaking. And it is one story of many in this disease that has had an unusual predilection for the young.

As numbers mount, the human faces will melt back into statistics. But as Irving Selikoff once said, "Statistics are people with the tears wiped away."