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, 26 July 2009

Blessed Be The Name Of The Lord

My mind has been drifting up the mountain to Kenscoff all weekend.

Our premature baby died on Friday morning, too small and too weak. We called her Papa to the NICU and he was present when her heart stopped for the second time. We could not start it again, and the decision was out of our hands. As Dixie removed the tubes and expressed her regret, the Papa put his head in his hands and wept. There are few things more devastating that a Father's cries.

.What will be in that Manman's mind, I wonder, when she undoes the sheet, to reveal the body of her tiny infant. Will she groan? Wail? Tear at her clothes? Fall to the ground? Will she rock her and sing? Refuse to believe? Or, will she hold everything back? I can only guess. I can't really know, but, my mind is drifting off to Kenscoff, to a 26 year old lady, who loved this tiny girl so much, that sick and weak though she was after a difficult pregnancy, she sent breast milk to the orphanage every day, because I told her it was the best thing for the baby and that it might help. Now, Manman's breasts will be full of milk. They will be heavy and they will ache. And perhaps Manman will be left with the insubstantial weight of the baby we called Gabriella in her arms, even after the infant has left them. Grief is like that.

These past three months have been tough in the NICU. Not a single week has gone by without a crisis. First Jonathon, then Baby S. A baby with septicaemia; so sick that we almost most her. A 6 month old who developed bloody diarrhoea and stopped breathing. An HIV positive boy with recurrent pneumonia. Now Gabriella. I try to be positive but in all honesty, I am feeling the strain. We are on an emotional roller-coaster here. Most of our babies do not have mothers. We are not just nurses and nannies to these little ones and by the same token, they are so much more than patients or charges to us. We carry an incredible weight of responsibility in our hearts, and it is really hard sometimes.

"Dee Dee", ready to catch a flight to the States with Dixie, early this morning. She was extremely ill last month with septicaemia but is now well enough to travel for surgery to correct her club feet.

Gabriella died at 8:30 in the morning. Within the hour, another infant arrived in a critical condition. She came from another orphanage in our area. This 11 month old baby was relinquished by her birth family two months ago. She has been refusing to eat for sometime. She developed watery diarrhoea and was so dehydrated when she got here that she was going into shock. We started her on an IV and antibiotics, but she is still refusing to eat. Perhaps she is missing her Mum. Perhaps she is not feeling well, but this baby must eat in order for her gut to heal. If she is not eating by tomorrow, I will have to site a feeding tube. Please remember her in your prayers. We do not know her name and so we are calling her "Fifi" for now. When she is better, she will return to the orphanage she came from.

I am so glad that Fifi made it here and that she arrived when she did. She is being lavished with love and attention. She is not the only one who will be healed.

Then Job arose... and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said:
“ Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the LORD. (Job 1:20-22).

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

What a week!

What a week....

It began with the very great honour of preparing Baby S for her marathon trip to Indianapolis. She was escorted out of Haiti by a former volunteer, Anna, who spent a month at GLA, getting to grips with the skills she would need to transport this high-care baby from the orphanage to her host family in Indiana.

We estimated that it would be a 16 hour trip, door-to-door, but of course, Anna and Baby S were sent on their way with enough feeds, medicines and supplies to accommodate potential delays and all kinds of other eventualities. What if Baby S dropped her temperature? I sent a thermometer, a make-shift cap and a hot water bottle. What if she vomited all her feeds? She would need oral rehydration solution. We packed some. What if she choked and couldn't clear her airway? All we had to offer was a bulb aspirator. What if she had a prolonged seizure? We hoped she wouldn't.

When the time came to wave off our precious girl, I knew I probably would never see her again. There was indescribable relief, joy, and celebration, but also a twinge of grief and anxiety. How Baby S would cope with 3 flights, and the changing altitudes was a great unknown. Regardless, we waved her off with smiles and optimism. After all, Baby S needed hope.

Less than a week later, Baby S has come through her surgery and is showing some promising signs. We are still praying for a miracle of healing and we believe that God will continue to show himself in her life.

Later that day, we re-admitted a recent NICU graduate. This 7 month old boy had bloody diarrhoea and a high fever. He was vomiting and dehydrated. We started an IV and antibiotics. Twenty-four hours later he was shaking violently with fever. By Friday morning, he was in a lot of pain. He began having seizures and he stopped breathing. It took almost two hours of resuscitation to get him breathing again. Amazingly, by the end of the morning, he had stabilized. All of our babies are special, but the ones who cheat death become more precious than any words could tell.

Sunday brought yet more drama. On the way home from church, I took a call on Dixie's Cell-phone. A Tiny baby had arrived at the gate. We were grateful for the heads-up. When we arrived home, we found a 2lb 1 oz girl in the NICU. That is just 900 grammes!

She had been born at 7am that morning. Mum is in her mid-twenties and had been hemorrhaging for the past 8 days. She delivered her baby by herself, at home. As Mum left the orphanage early in the afternoon, one of the nannies, who was observing Manman from the pefect vantage point of the NICU balcony, commented that she looked weak, as though she would faint. Sure enough, as I walked outside, this poor lady's legs gave way from underneath her.

The orphanage Director started an IV on her on the ground outside the baby house, because that is where she fell. She was ably assisted by myself and two of the ladies who work in the kitchen. This is Haiti!

Meanwhile, our newest charge, who was profoundly hypothermic, had been bundled into an incubator and started on oxygen. It was clear from looking at her that she was extremely premature.

Baby Gabriella's skin is very pink, slightly shiny and almpost transluscent. The cartilage in her ears is so soft that her ears fold easily, and do not recoil very well. Based on these, and other signs of her physical maturity, we estimate that this tiny baby has a gestational age of 27 weeks. That makes her almost 3 months premature.

Today, Gabriella is in a stable condition, but we are all very aware that this could change on a moment. The next 10 days will be critical. God, preserve her immature organs and protect her from infection. We are all rooting for her.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Someone Watching Over Them

This week, God has been very much present in the NICU at GLA.

One baby who developed a high fever last month and became extremely ill with septicaemia and seizures has been recovering slowly. The feeding tube is out but this little one remains weak. She developed a respiratory virus a few days ago. We nurses had all been so incredibly relieved to see signs that she was getting better and it was worrying to see this fragile baby get sick again, at a point when her resistance to infection was still so low.

Thankfully, our precious girl is improving. Her breathing is slower and less laboured and she is no longer coughing and wheezing as much as she has been. Tonight, one of the Haitian staff praised God out loud for this baby's life. The little lady in question has limb deformities that will require surgical correction. In the few months she has been with us, she has made tremendous progress in her motor development, As soon as she is strong enough, she will be going to the USA for the treatment she needs and deserves. Yes, it is certainly down to him that she has overcome so much.

Last week, we received the crushing news that although we had a surgeon who was prepared to perform Baby S's surgery free of charge, his hospital would not provide the care. Had God spoken? We knew that we could not continue to aspirate cerebral spinal fluid from this baby's head indefinitely. We were at a point where we had to decide either to continue searching for a Doctor and a hospital who would agree to treat our baby, or give up and begin providing palliative care. There was one key question in my own mind: what areas of Baby S's brain were active, and could anyone give us an indication of what her future capabilities might be?

Before that question was answered, a third surgeon, practicing in Indiana, heard about Sabrina and he accepted her case, on the spot, without reservation! This absolutely brings us to our knees!

I can not over-emphasise the urgency of getting this baby out of Haiti. Despite aspirating cerebro-spinal fluid every other day, her head is growing by a centimeter a week. There is a huge amount of pressure inside her head. She is unable to feed, she is vomiting and having seizures. She is also having frequent episodes of hypothermia. Please pray that the hospital administrators will be blessed with merciful hearts, and that they will expedite all the necessary paper work so that GLA can proceed with the US visa process. Time really is of the essence.

So many doors have opened for this little one. Surely, someone is watching over her

Baby S: The Angel sleeps. Isn't she pretty!