There was no indication of Davi’s microcephaly, which was caused by the infection toxoplasmosis, before he was born by cesarean on Aug. 15 2011.
“He was a newborn who was suckling, eating, sleeping the same as any other baby,” his mother said, cradling him in her arms. “Except that, over the months, we saw other children would begin to notice their parents and look them in the eye. So, over the years, we began to realize that our child might not be able to do this.”
Today, Davi cannot yet walk, talk or eat solid foods. Sà, a dentist, and her husband, Cleitson Antônio Alves de Carvalho, a businessman, pay R$5,000 ($1,292) a month for physiotherapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy, which they say is crucial to his development.
Like most people of means, they have private health insurance on top of the state-supported health plan. But their private insurance pays for only a third of Davi’s therapy sessions, which he attends six times a week. In their town of Salgueiro, in the interior of Pernambuco state, the public health service would only pay for one treatment every two months, they say. The family sends Davi to a private school and has also paid for their home and the school to be adapted to his needs, with specialist chairs and baths.
They say the therapy has helped. “Before, when we walked into the room, he would keep looking at the same spot,” she said. “Today, when we enter the room, his eyes are already looking for us.”
The greatest challenge, though, is prejudice. Other families sometimes prevent their children from playing with Davi out of a suspicion that his microcephaly is contagious, his parents say. If there is a silver lining to the outbreak, Sà hopes it will be a heightened understanding of microcephaly.
“The whole world looks at him with pity,” she said. Yet, she says, “I find so much joy in the small victories … I am very happy with my son. I can laugh, be happy, play, have fun with him. I would not even ask God to heal my son, no. I would not ask him that.”