In Septemeber 2008, I traveled 6000 miles to Haiti's Kenscoff mountains. My mission: to care for some of the orphaned and abandoned, the sick, malnourished and premature infants of this beautiful but beleagured Caribbean nation.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Baby Youlene

At 3pm last Monday, there were whoops of joy in the NICU when 'Mama Youlene' burst into the room with a a sunny smile and an enthusiastic 'Bon Swa'.

She had gone home 3 weeks earlier with her premature baby. Youlene was born at the end of July weighing 1lb 10oz. Everyone was amazed when they baby survived and thrived with minimal medical intervention. After 4 months at the orphanage, the fiesty infant and her mild mannered Mama had all our hearts.

Youlene's Mama was pleased to be back, but as I looked down at the yellow-skinned baby and noticed her laboured breathing, I knew this was not a social visit.

The baby was always crying at home, her mother told us, and the family thought she must be hungry. Four days before, they had decided to give her infant formula. Youlene didn't know how to feed from a bottle, so her Mama cut the end off of the teat so that more milk would get to the baby. Youlene coughed and spluttered. Her eyes wattered and she turned blue. She eventually caught her breath but didn't seem so well after that.

She had aspirated milk into her lungs and was developing a pneumonia. When the baby was unable to feed, her Mama brought her back to GLA. By the time Youlene made it up to the NICU, she was working very hard to breathe. Her respirations were 80/minute. Her nostrils were flaring and the muscles under her ribs were being drawn deep into her chest with each breath. Her heart was beating 200 times a minute and she was jaundiced. Youlene was extremely sick.

We gave her oxygen and nebulizer treatments and we sited at IV. She was given a strong antibiotic and fluids through the line. She was producing a lot of secretions and needed suction to keep her airway clear and physiotherapy to help move the mucous from her lungs.

The Haitian staff were desperately disappointed. They liked the 18 year old girl they affectionately called 'Mama bebe' ( the baby's mother.) She had always been cheerful and eager to help the orphanage staff when she was here. She had soaked up any advice they offered and had been loving and attentive towards her little girl. When the young Mother left with Youlene, they had every faith that the baby would do well.

Mama Bebe was scolded by the head nurse for 'drowning the baby with milk' and the nannies shook their heads in dismay. They felt that she should have known better. She loves her daughter dearly and would never intentionally harm her. Unfortunately, once Mama Bebe left our property, she was surrounded by ignorance about infant care and nutrition. She absorbed that ignorance. If she had known better she would have done better.

The baby's condition was precarious in the first 24 hours after she was re-admitted to our NICU, but she responded to her treatment and has gradually improved over the course of the week. Her oxygen requirement is much lower now and she doesn't need suction or physiotheapy. She is feeding well at her Mum's breast and the IV has been taken down. We are all very relieved and excited to see her big round us follow us as we go about our work.

On Thursday afternoon as Madam Bernard turned on the nebulizer machine, a look a realization crossed Youlene's face, she pouted, threw back her head, clenched her fists and let out an angry cry. She hates her nebulizer treatments! There was fond laughter from everyone. Our little lady is intelligent and strong willed and we are glad!

We are hopeful that Youlene will make a full recovery. Please join us in praying that she will not suffer any lasting effects from her pneumonia. Malnutrition, poverty, illness and lack of access to health care make Haitian infants fragile. This baby is more fragile than most, but she is also very blessed.

1 comment:

BSC said...

I'm so glad that Youlene is doing better. Your empathy and understanding towards Mama bebe is a good reminder to us all. To look past the obvious and see the reasons behind the behavior. Thanks for sharing.