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.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Joyful Beyond the Word

On Saturday, I met a baby at the gate. Dixie Bickel, our orphanage director assessed him moments later.

The baby weighed 2lb 10 oz. He was emaciated and parched: dehydrated to the point that his life was slipping away.

He had been one of a twin, born two weeks earlier, just a few miles from our gate. Mum explained that she had taken the babies to a Doctor, and that she had been told that since the boys were sucking at the breast, they would be OK.

She estimates that the twins were two months premature. Of course, babies born that early are not strong enough to suck at the breast. Jonathon's twin had died earlier that morning.

Jonathan was so cold that his temperature would not register on the thermometer and as we worked to stabilize him, we had to be honest with ourselves and with his Mummy; the baby's body was shutting down. He was suspended between this world and the next by a thread and although we were doing all we could, we couldn't promise that he would live.

Jonathan received oxygen and warmed IV fluids and he was placed in an incubator. Over the next three hours, his heart rate persistently dipped below normal limits , and for the next three hours, Miss Esther and I had to stimulate him constantly to keep that tiny heart pumping.

Although his vital signs stabalized, we had a very hard time getting the babies temperature up that afternoon and I continued to guard my heart.

Later that night, Jonathan got upset after a heel prick, and sucked vigorously on my finger to calm himself. I offered him a very small feed, which, he took gladly.

The next morning, our little man was alert and taking regular feeds. Almost 24 hours had passed since he arrived at our door, and I finally let hope into my heart.

'This baby wants to live,' I told the nannies. I think I will take his picture now.' They laughed, and asked why I hadn't taken his picture the day before. My Kreyol failed me; I didn't know how to tell them I thought it was undignified to photograph a dying child. I just told them I didn't want to take his picture until I felt confident he might live.

'Mme John (Dixie) told us that if he lived one day, he might live all the days of his life,' they said, looking at me expectantly.
'Yes, I told them, he might live to be a very old man!' And there was more laughter, joyful and spilling from the heart.

If I tell you this baby is infinitely precious to us, I'm sure you will understand, and, maybe if I tell you we are delighted when he looks our way, or that we go a bit ga ga every time he does does something cute - a sneeze for instance - you'll understand that too.

There are no words to express what is in our hearts; joy just doesn't come close. For my part, I can only say that in a situation in which guarding my heart meant restraining hope, I am awestruck, and so very thankful to be witness to this miracle of survival. All thanks and praises must go to God, through whom all things are possible!

I can't upload a photograph of our new baby; I have a new camera and I haven't installed its CD ROM on my computer. Unfortunately, the CD ROM is in Scotland (whoops!)


Cheryl said...

Dixie send out a prayer request for this baby. I am so glad to hear that he is stable for now and is a 'fighter'. Could you please say 'hi' to Esther from myself and my daughter Kristin? Tell her we will be back in July/August.

nicnacpaddywac said...

You may well be able to find the "drivers" online - not something i know much about but i will know someone who will if you need it!

Lisa said...

Your words paint the picture for us. When Dixie sent out the prayer request, I read it and immediately thought, I sure hope Susan is there to help take care of this baby.
Please keep us posted.