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.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Baby Jivenson: Knocking on Heaven's Door

Baby J (Jivenson) passed away on Tuesday night, in the midst of a fierce tropical storm.

I do not know the details, but I can tell you that when I left GLA at 11am that day, Jivenson was peaceful. Now his peace is eternal, and I honestly am so glad, knowing that he is free forever from the storms and the turmoil of this world.

The hospital staff who delivered him sent Jivenson home to die. I feel honoured that although we lost the battle for his life, he made it to our gate, and we were at least able to try. He was warm, safe and comfortable at GLA and, in the end, our loss was his gain.

Please continue to pray for the staff who have cared for this Baby since I left GLA. I saw dread and despair on the faces of my Haitian colleagues when they met Jivenson on Monday. Child deaths are all too common in Haiti and these ladies have seen too many.

I am very mindful today, of the thousands of Haitian babies and children who die long and painful deaths from starvation. I remain hopeful though, that we will be able to 'save' the next one that comes our way.

Have a merry Christmas. I experienced delays at each of the three legs of my journey home due to a of the snow and ice in New York, Amsterdam and Scotland. However, I had strong tail winds blowing in my favour and made up lots of time in the air. As a result, I made each of my connections and arrived home on time.

The temperature in Bridge of Allan dropped well below zero over night. At 8:30m it was still minus 9 degrees centigrade outside. So it looks as though I am in for a white Christmas this year, 'in' being the operative word; at these temperatures I wont be going anywhere! My brother and sister have gone out shopping.I thought they were insane when they announced their plans, but apparently the trip is 'essential'.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

An update on Baby J

Baby J, who I wrote about last night is very sick this morning.

He has a severe cleft lip and palate, along with other birth defects. He also has Kwashiorkor - a protein defficiency that causes immune suppression and fluid retention. He had not been fed since he was born, 15 days before arriving at the orphanage.

He has a very bad eye infection and is having problems with his breathing. Young infants tend not to survive Kwashiorkor. Very often, they go into multi-organ failure and die.

If he tolerates the feeds we are giving him, there is a chance he will live. I leave him with God today. In the hands of our loving Father, who knows all things and wants what is best for Baby J.

Thy will be done.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Seeing Jesus

Baby J arrived at GLA at 11 am this morning in a critical condition. He was born 15 days ago at a hospital in Port-au-Prince.

'They said this would sort itself out,' his Mother told me, pointing to the gaping holes where her baby's nostrils should have been.' J's Mum is very young, very petite and softly spoken. In a barely audible voice, she explained that this was her fist child, and that he had only been able to take drops of breast milk since he had been born, two weeks ago. It was immediately obvious to Dixie Bickel and myself, that this little one was not be able to suck.
He has a severe bilateral cleft lip and palate; there are abnormal openings - gaps - between his nostrils, lips and palate. He was born this way- the bones and tissues of his face did not fuse properly when he was developing in the womb, and the results, for him, have been catastrophic. When he got here, his life was slipping away. His oxygen saturation (measured across the skin surface) were just 60%, his heart rate was irregular, and he was very cold.
'What are you thinking?' I asked our director.

Dixie barely paused. 'She [the baby's Mother] has come for help. I think we need to take him,' she replied. We both knew that while his chances of survival were poor, he would certainly die if we turned him away.

And so Baby J is upstairs in our NICU. He is on oxygen and we have put a feeding tube down to hydrate him. He has warmed up now and his heart is beating strong. He is tolerating milk feeds and cries when we disturb him.

J's lungs are clear but he has lots of secretions in his upper airway and his heart sounds are not normal. He has six fingers on his left hand. The fifth and sixth are abnormal and the fifth finger on his right hand is also abnormal. It is highly likely that he has other abnormalities that we can't see. The obvious issues are enough to kill him.

Honestly, I don't know if this little man will live, but one thing is for sure; we will do all that we can for him. Baby J is suffering less tonight than he was this morning. It is our privilege to be able to tend to him, because Jesus said that what ever we do for the least of the least, the poor and the weak, we do to him. Jesus was born for this baby, he is with him and he is in him. I see that and I feel it.

Please pray for the NICU staff and for Dixie as they care for J over the Christmas holidays.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Will They Take Her?

Due to a shortage of funds, GLA is currently only admitting infants who are premature, sick or very malnourished. Although this Baby doesn't fit into any of these categories, we made an exception, and took her in.

She has an older brother whose adoption was completed earlier this year. He has left GLA and is now living overseas with a new family. We are hopeful that his family might consider adopting our new girl. We said 'yes' to her and we pray that they will be willing and able to say 'yes' as well.

We are thankful that she has arrived in good health. She is 10 months old and weighs 14lb, so she is little for her age. She is also a little bit sad to have been separated by her Mum. This is not entirely a bad thing; it means that she was loved, and that she was attached to her mother. Most psychologists believe that infants who bond with a primary care-giver during the first year of life, stand a good chance of bonding with other people, later in life.

Baby A is seeking comfort and reassurance from her key nannies, and I believe that is heart-healthy and good. Since I will be leaving for two weeks over the Christmas holidays, I have been careful not to promote any attachment between this baby and myself. She needs consistency just now, and I am sure that she will benefit from being in the care of Haitian ladies; they have a better chance than I do of holding her, rocking her, and talking to her as her Mother would have. Surely, that is a better balm for her sorrow, than my well-meaning, but foreign ways.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Essential Medications Arrive at GLA

At GLA, we are blessed to receive many medications for our children. Often, these are donated by people overseas, and brought to us by the volunteers and adoptive families who visit the orphanage. These visitors keep us well stocked with many of the medications we use every day. For example, in the year I have worked here, we have never had to purchase a bottle of Infant Tylenol (paracetamol syrup) or a tube of antibiotic ointment. We really appreciate this - a tube of triple antibiotic cream can be bought for $1 (US) in North America; we would pay $10 or more for a similar product in Haiti!

However, donors are not able to keep us supplied with all of the medications that we need for our children. In these cases, Jean Bell, a former Registered Nurse who now works at the GLA USA office, does her best to purchase the drugs we need at a discounted price.

When Dixie Bickel, Director of God's Littlest Angels, returned from Colorado on Friday, she carried with her, many useful medications. The little lady on the left ("Ti Fi") will benefit from a heart medication called Digoxin. Jean was able to source this drug in syrup form. This is very fortunate for Ti Fi, since digoxin is only available in pill form in Haiti and it would be impossible to measure an accurate dose of this drug, to a baby, using adult pills. There is a very fine line between a dose of Digoxin that will successfully treat her heart condition and one that would be toxic, so it was vital that we find some paediatric syrup for our baby.

Now it is in our hands, and we are hopeful that Ti Fi will soon enjoy a better quality of life. At the moment, she is often breathless and she gets tired when she sucks from a bottle. Her heart works so hard, all the time, that she needs to drink high calorie milk formula in order to gain weight.

Ti Fi will need to to take her medication twice a day. She really doesn't like medicine, and so she will purse her lips together and shake her head. It will take coaxing from two of the NICU staff to get her to open her mouth and swallow her medicine. Afterwards,we will cheer and give her a high-five, and she will smile, and she will forgive us, until next time.....

Donate to GLA, so that we can continue to provide medications and other essential supplies to our children.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Angels Watching Over Us

There was a sudden explosion of splintering glass behind me, and even before I turned around, I knew that something catastrophic had happened.

Vivianne, a much loved GLA employee who has lived here since she was a teenager, was on her hands and knees, bleeding heavily. There was broken glass all over the floor, and razor sharp shards still hanging from the sliding door that separates the computer room from the waiting area.

The scene seemed to play out in slow motion. As I advanced towards Vivianne, who was too stunned to to notice the shards above her head, she got up onto her feet. For some reason, she was (mercifully) unable to stand upright. She remained bent over at the waist, as though frozen. I reached her and gently guided out of the doorway. Out of harms way, she was immediately able to stand up straight.

Vivianne was badly hurt. She sustained three deep, jagged lacerations to her face, and another just millimetres the inner corner of her eye. She had several other lesions on her wrist, legs and foot. She had pierced 3 veins, and, one shard had struck a few inches from her carotid artery.

Steeve, the Bickel's 14 year old son, was also injured. Fractions of a second before Vivianne collided with the glass, he has seen what was about to happen. He instinctively reached forward, but of course could not pull her back. his head was sliced by a shard of glass in the doorway. I shuddered hearing that. Had the remaining glass come down on Vivianne and Steeve at that point, it would have sliced them like a guillotine.

It took a surgeon almost 3 hours to close their wounds. Ten stiches for Steeve, and dozens for Vivianne.

It was 3am in the morning before, cleaned up, dressings applied and medications given, Steeve and Vivianne were in their beds. Beyond exhaused, I posted a Staus update on Facebook.'

'Susan Westwood is thankful for the Angels that guarded those we love last night'.

Yes, today we are all thankful beyond the word, that this horrible accident did not end in tragedy. Had one of the shards severed an artery.....Had the remaining shards been dislodged while Vivianne and Steeve were in the doorway....

Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers as they heal. Pray specifically that Vivianne face will not be badly scarred, and that the sutures that were used to close the wound on her foot will hold - they are under a lot of stress because of the width of the wound and its location. Today, she had no sensation in her right foot. We are hoping that as the inflamation subsides, the sensation will return.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

A Moment of Insight

One baby stared at the Christmas lights that had been stung up the stairwell in amazement. Then, utterly transfixed, he reached up.

Our Christmas preparations are well underway at GLA, Yesterday, we decorated the main house, where the nurseries for children under the age of two are located.

Baby A is 11 months old and he is celebrating his first Christmas. He is seeing the tinsel, all of these pretty decorations and the lights for the first time. As I watched his astonished expression, I experienced the epiphany; Jesus, light of the world. Conceived by divine love. Pure, holy and self-sacrificing. A tiny baby, born in a stable over 2000 years ago. Such an inauspicious beginning. As I watched the little ones gazing at the twinkling lights, I thought to myself, had it not been for the star of Bethlehem, even the wise men might not have known. And we should all stand in awestruck wonder, just like A.

Vivianne and I were putting the finishing touches to the Christmas tree on the second floor, just as the babies were waking from the afternoon naps. It is a very special tree, decorated not with baubles but with baby bibs, rattles, pacifiers, and bottles! And as our little angels traipsed out to see their tree, I was aware of a strange physical sensation -like a slow moving current moving within me and all around me. A warmth.

I closed my eyes for a few seconds. Opening them again, everything seemed to be just as it had before. Crawling and toddling, wiping sleep from their eyes, our little angels came, and stood, and stared. One baby, who has just turned two and is very sick clapped his hands together and exclaimed 'Bravo!' So delighted and so sincere in his praise!

Yes, the pharmacy cupboards to my left, the cold tiled floor under my feet, babies all around me. Everything was just as it been, but I was different. All of a sudden, everything was so much more precious. There was so much more love in me than there had been a moment ago, for Jesus and for these little ones, and, so much hope for their futures.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

What a difference a week makes!

For the first few days after he arrived, our new boy didn't have the energy to do anything but eat and sleep.

The week following admission is a time to stabalize severely malnourished children; we keep them warm and observe them carefully. They are treated for dehydration and any infections that they have, and, we introduce feeds. Children are offered small amounts of milk formula every 2-3 hours. More often than not, they are past the point of feeling hungry. They tend to have poor appetites and they are unable to tolerate anything but small amounts of food or liquid.

Yet from the day he arrived, this boy has defied all of our expectations. A week after he arrived at GLA, he has gained 2.5 lb.

Pulling faces at us!
He has enough energy to play, to crawl around the NICU, pull himself into a standing position, and HE can even walk for short distances, holding the hands of his nurses and nannies.

We would have expected a child of his age to be sad and withdrawn on entering the orphanage: this boy is neither. He smiles and giggles. His eyes are full of hope. And not only is he ready and willing to accept affection, but he reciprocates it.....

We got our first smile from him on Thursday. Friday was the day for our first giggle. On Saturday there was a kiss, a hug, and an invitation to play ball.

As I experienced this miracle, I found myself wondering what our new little man was thinking. If his heart could speak, what would it say?

I believe his heart would say, 'I am whole. For I am loved and I love.'

"We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another." (Luciano de Crescenzo).

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