I visited LA Kitchen, in part as a pediatrician, to learn about a career resource for my older foster-care patients. Transitional age youths are 16 to 24 years old and often age out of the system with a limited ability to support themselves.
Working in South LA, I see a lot of children living on the fringes and whom, at times, society wishes they could forget. Many of the kids are poor, hungry, mistreated, immigrants and minorities. Some are also homeless.
But these children are part of our community and they need us to look out for them. I tell their stories hoping that they won’t be forgotten.
Four out of every five homeless people are sober. Drugs are one reason why many people end up homeless, but they aren’t the only one.
Whenever I tell my story, people are always amazed at how easy it is to unravel a seemingly secure life.
Years have passed since I took care of 16-year-old Andy, but I’ll never forget him or his story.
As he sat in my exam room about half a decade ago, Andy, whose name has been changed, told me that his mom had kicked him out of the house when he told her he was gay.
He was 14.
Children living in high poverty neighborhoods—a disproportionate number of whom are children of color—are more likely to die from child abuse.
My patients in my clinic in South Los Angeles are children from high poverty areas. However, regardless of where they practice, pediatricians have a critical role in the recognition and prevention of child abuse.
The second week after school starts, kids with respiratory illnesses—everything from simple colds to asthma attacks—fill my clinic. As a pediatrician I expect this.
But this year was different. Many of the kids had atypically high fevers and body aches with their coughs and congestion. They had influenza.
I was in a terrible car accident shortly after my 18th birthday. I had three surgeries that were supposed to help relieve my pain. They didn’t. OxyContin, an opioid pain-relief medication, was my best friend until it was my only friend.
As Sofia’s pediatrician, I couldn’t miss her mother’s overwhelming signs of postpartum depression. It’s a threat to the wellbeing of babies, their mothers and families.
Nationwide, depression affects 10 to 25 percent of all pregnant women during the perinatal period, defined as three months before pregnancy to one year after giving birth. Across California, the rate is about 20 percent, and in Los Angeles County, it’s 26 percent.
Nearly all of my clinic patients in South Los Angeles live at or below the poverty level and many struggle to put food on the table.
Recognizing that too many kids go hungry, the California legislature passed The Feed the Kids Act, Senate bill 138, which goes into effect on January 1. This program will provide school meals to some of the state’s poorest kids.
Last summer, 20-month-old Jasmine was nearly comatose when she was brought to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance. It turned out the toddler had eaten cannabis candies that looked like Tootsie Rolls at her grandparents’ house.