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.

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.


nicnacpaddywac said...

Susan, i cried reading this. Bless that generous mama!

Wish their was a way i could ship you guys some more breastmilk!

Rebekah Hubley said...

That is so cool!!!! Thank you "C" for your amazing donation!!!

Susan... is there any way to get Breast Milk down to GLA???? Other than the way it just happened??? Wouldn't that be great to have a stock of it for sick preemies!

Catherine said...

Susan!!! Another mom just told me about your blog!!! I am so happy to have helped out! What a blessing for me to hear how soon the milk was used and how much it helped! WOW! I just wish I could have left more for you. Thank you for allowing me to donate it to you.