Miss Dottie

Miss Dottie’s life so far has not been easy. Dottie’s mother and father are both dead from HIV/AIDS and Dottie first came to Sarnelli House when she was 16 months old as she had no one to care for her. She was terribly sick with skin infections, TB and she was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. It has taken months and years to treat her infections that have been a result of her immune system wiped out by AIDS and she has been forced to swallow many new and awful tasting medications. Dottie has been a regular visitor to Srinagarin Hospital in Khon Kaen and the Infectious Diseases Team are still managing Dottie’s treatment. Srinagarin Hospital is 2 hours drive from Sarnelli House and the regular visits in the van with a favorite house mother, despite all the tests, needles and examinations are an excursion that Dottie now looks forward to as she gets a day off school. Dottie has been prone to unremitting painful herpes infections of the mouth and skin as well as many gastro infections which caused diarrhea and her stomach to bloat.  She is no stranger to hospital admissions either and she has been admitted regularly to Nongkhai Hospital over the years. In hospital Dottie has the luxury of having the undivided attention of one house mother without having to compete with 40 other kids needing love and care, and incredibly she would smile no matter how sick she was, knowing she was being admitted to hospital with the house mother of her choice.

Perhaps because of Dottie’s unfair start at life she could let out a bellow when she was thwarted and so she earned the nick name Baby Buffalo and the name stuck. However now Dottie is 5 years old and she becomes very indignant when she is called Baby Buffalo as buffalo in Thailand are considered slow and stupid.

Dottie in 2008

Dottie was slow to talk hence the bellows and she has no front teeth as they rotted away, but she now talks with a lisp which sounds very cute and she can still bellow when she wants her own way. She is an undeniable force to be reckoned with at Sarnelli House in fact she runs the place and has a mafia like network going on where the staff give her small baht coins when she asks or to get her to comply with taking her medicine and now she doesn’t accept any coins, only 20 baht notes. She has a personality that knows how to get round anyone namely Fr. Shea, and she can go from being smiling and giggly to being stubborn and obstinate in a minute.

In May 2009 Dottie started school, and as the youngest child at Sarnelli House with 40 other older brothers and sisters she had finally managed to achieve a little independence, and off she went in her new school uniform in the cattle truck to school.

Toward the end of last year it seemed that the doctors had found a balance with her Anti Retro Viral (ARV) medicines and her immune system was finally responding. Dottie was even able to take the awful tasting medicine without vomiting or crying and is now insisting that she is big enough to take tablets like the other kids.

Dottie in 2010

In January 2010 Dottie’s luck changed just as things were improving for her. She hadn’t needed to be admitted to hospital in the last 6 months, however as a complication of HIV/AIDS she developed foot drop in her left leg and was unable to walk on it.  This is still being investigated and it is unclear whether it is reversible. She has had numerous nerve block injections and on December 13th she is scheduled for surgery at Srinagarin Hospital. Dottie has adapted well to her setback and has graduated from a wheelchair where the kids had to pay for the privilege of  pushing her around, to walking and running on her good leg using her left as a balance and she is still attending school.

Dottie in 2010

In her young life Dottie has faced many challenges both physically and emotionally and there are more to come, yet with the support of her big family at Sarnelli House and those around the world who also support Sarnelli House she will be surrounded by love whatever her future holds.