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, 29 November 2009

In Gratitude....

On the 26th of November, we celebrated American Thanksgiving here at GLA. Many of the visitors asked whether we celebrate this holiday in Scotland. Of course, we do not; Thanksgiving pays tribute to the Native Americans who helped the pilgrims survive their first winter in a new and strange land. I do not share in that heritage, yet I have been very much in the spirit of the season this week.

I am thankful, of course, for the abundance of rich and delicious food we enjoyed on Thanksgiving day. Turkey, delicately seasoned and cooked to perfection, fluffy mashed potatoes, green bean caserole, cranberry sauce, and pumkin pie. Yum! And at the end of the day, enough lefteovers to feed everyone all over again on Saturday. And an entire uncarved bird, still sitting in the fridge at the main house today!

Yes, we are trully blessed, and the poignancy of this blessing is all the more apparent, because the abundance comes immediately after the arrival of a new baby. Aged around 18 months old and severely malnourished, he weighed all of 14lb 1oz the day he arrived.

This frail baby is ravenously hungry, devours almost everything we give him, and then looks for more. The wonderful thing about this is that he will, in all likelhood, recover from his malnutrition very quickly. He is gaining weight all ready and the change in him is visible. Less loose skin, and, the hint of a double chin. But oh, how I wish he had never known the agony that starvation brings.

By the time this photograph was taken, just 3
days after he arrived, this tiny boy had all ready
gained 10 ounces.

His mother is 17 years old and pregnant. She has lived on the streets for several years, and is in a difficult place today. She is very sick, she has nothing and no-one in her life but this little boy, and, knowing that she cannot provide for him, she is now faced with a difficult decission; should she leave him here, just long enough to revover from his malnutrition, or must she give him up?

How glad I am that I have always had a home, parents who loved me; a place where I belonged. I never had to wonder where my next meal would come from, or if it would come at all. I had everything I needed, and so I did not have to do degrading things to survive.

This baby is all his mother has. If she decides to keep him, I cannot condemn her. If she gives him up, my heart will ache for her and I will be in awe of her sacrifice.

'This is the child for which I was praying, and Yahweh has granted
me what I asked of him. Now I make him
over to Yahweh for the whole of his life.' (1 Samuel; 26-27).

I don't know that I have Hannah's kind of faith. Please join me in prayer for our new boy, and his mother. Pray that God would touch both their lives, and give thanks that GLA is here, and that tight though our finances are, we were able to say yes when we got a call about a toddler boy who desperately needed us. It is thanks to the generosity of friends and strangers, that GLA can continue it's ministry. I am so grateful for their gifts.

If you feel led to give, click here.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Memories of the power outage

Two weeks ago, we lost power at the main house. The second and third floors were affected, meaning no lights, no refrigerators and no electrical appliances in the nurseries.

By the grace of God, we had no sick babies at that time; no-one needing oxygen or an incubator, no real crisis. Dixie's teenage sons were real troopers. On their own initiative, they strung extension cords upstairs for us.Thanks to their hard work, we were able to light the nurseries for the smallest babies with desk lamps and we had a source of power to drive our nebulizer machine.

I will remember that as the week that the night nannies and I played Florence Nightingale, doing our evening rounds in the big nursery by torchlight. A few of our little ones are scared of the dark but they all giggled and oohed aahed as I made light patterns on the ceiling for them. The memories are fond, and untainted by worry or anxiety.

I will also remember suturing my first knife-wound by the light of a lamp, that week. A neighbourhood boy came for help after he got into a disagreement with his 12 year old sister. His poor Grand-mother sat with her hands covering her face the whole time I was cleaning and anaesthetising and suturing.

A few days later, when he came back for a check-up, I asked him how he and his sister were getting along. His family at home had beaten her, he told me. Did he think she deserved that? Did it make him glad. No! He shook his head back back and forth rapidly, as though trying to shake of the memory. Why not? Because she is his sister, that's why not. It was touching to hear that.

Over the past few months, we have only admitted children whose cases have been critical. It is taking up to 2 years to process adoptions and with donations down and space at a premium, the staff here have a responsibility to guard the well-fare of the little ones that are all ready with us; to ensure that we do not have to compromise on the quality of care they receive.

This gorgeous baby boy (don't be fooled by the peach tones!) came just before the power outage,
at a little over a week old, and weighing 5lb 13oz. His Mother had died shortly after he was born. He was dehydrated, jaundiced and showing signs of weight loss. His family could not afford to buy infant formula and so he had received only water since he was born.

Baby N's case was therefore critical and he was admitted right away. A few days after he arrived he developed a cold and began having diarrhoea and vomiting. The NICU nannies and our head Haitian nurse were very clear about what they wanted to do for this little one.

The previous week, we were blessed to have a nursing mother come to visit her adoptive son, here at the baby house. The lady's birth son had not travelled to Haiti with her and so she was expressing milk, so that she could maintain her supply during her trip. She donated the expressed milk to us, to be frozen and used to help any fragile baby we thought could benefit from it.

The Haitian staff wanted me to thaw some of this milk for Baby N. This is quite remarkable because Haitians are not fans of giving a mother's milk to an infant that is not her own. The ladies here, though, have seen a great many premature infants thrive on breast milk, while others have struggled to tolerate formula. They had seen that Breast milk was easier to digest, and they were very open to hearing about the immune boosters in 'Mummy milk.'

After just two days of being fed breast milk, Baby N was no longer showing signs of illness and he was gaining weight. What a precious gift this Mother has given to this sick, orphaned baby! We really are so grateful to her.