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.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

In The Arms of An Angel

Peter, our premature baby, developed breathing problems yesterday afternoon. He began gasping, and although he was working very hard to breathe, he just couldn't draw air down into his lungs. Babies who are born several weeks premature often do not produce surfactant, a substance that lubricates their lungs. As a result, their lungs become stiff and this makes it difficult for them to breathe.

For 12 hours, Nurse Claudia and I took turns breathing for Peter, using an ambu bag. All thorough the night, we marvelled at the phenomenal strength of this 2lb boy; flailing and trying to suck on his face-mask and fighting to breathe by himself the entire time.

This morning, at 6:15 after a long struggle, Baby Peter lost his battle for life and flew away from us, in the arms of an angel.

His Mother was not surprised. 'The earthquake shook my belly hard,' she said, in a thin, trembling voice, that told the story of a woman shaken to her very core. We have heard that in the aftermath of this disaster, scores of pregnant ladies delivered their babies prematurely. Many of their labours seems to have progressed very rapidly, and a number of these woman suffered major hemorrhages and died.

Peter is the second preterm infant that we have lost since last month's earthquake. We really had been hopeful that he would survive. He was so strong, and he had made such good progress in the week that he was with us. He overcame hypothermia, low blood sugars, and apnoea.

As Christians, we hold fast to a particular biblical passage; 'And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,' (Romans 8:28). We trust that God sees things that we don't see, and knows things that we don't know. Yet, this is another tragedy, and another loss, and that is really difficult to deal with.

My hope at this point, after talking things through with our Director, is that one day, we might be able to obtain a CPAP machine. CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. CPAP helps premature babies with their breathing, but it is much less invasive than a ventilator. We believe that if we had a CPAP machine, and were properly trained to use it, we could save the lives of many babies, like Peter, whose only problem was that his lungs were not developed enough to enable him to survive outside of the womb.

I am praying that someone will donate a CPAP machine and come to show us how and when to use it very soon.


Lish said...

I am so sorry Susan, my heart breaks for his mom and all of you.
I had been wondering after your last post if GLA did not have a CPAP machine...if Dixie or Tom Vanderwall would mention in the GLA blog, I wouldn't be surprise if someone would donate one or the funds for one- there are so many people who want to help!
God Bless you and the staff at GLA for all you do! You are in our continued prayers

Rhyan said...

This is not at all how
We thought it was supposed to be
We had so many plans for you
We had so many dreams
And now you've gone away
And left us with the memories of your smile
And nothing we can say
And nothing we can do
Can take away the pain
The pain of losing you, but ...

We can cry with hope
We can say goodbye with hope
'Cause we know our goodbye is not the end, oh no
And we can grieve with hope
'Cause we believe with hope
(There's a place by God's grace)
There's a place where we'll see your face again
We'll see your face again

And never have I known
Anything so hard to understand
And never have I questioned more
The wisdom of God's plan
But through the cloud of tears
I see the Father's smile and say well done
And I imagine you
Where you wanted most to be
Seeing all your dreams come true
'Cause now you're home
And now you're free, and ...

We have this hope as an anchor
'Cause we believe that everything
God promised us is true, so ...

So we can cry with hope
And say goodbye with hope

We wait with hope
And we ache with hope
We hold on with hope
We let go with hope

nicnacpaddywac said...

I'm so sorry Susan. {hug}

Sleep peacefully Peter.

Carla B said...

So sad to hear Peter's mommy had to say goodbye to her little boy. He was a fighter. So sad. One more victim of tradgedy. Hugs to you and the greiving mommy.

Lish Burton said...

Susan, you don't have approve this to the "comments" if you don't want, it's meant for you to see more than your readers anyway, I just wanted to comment on the post you deleted...I understand your wish for privacy and am sorry not everyone does. While I never have seen what you look like on the outside, and probably never will, I know how absolutely beautiful you are, I see your heart poured out for the Lord, and the children of Haiti, for "your" children! I see an amazing, beautiful woman who's had her spiritual muscles stretched, tested and strengthened and through it all has continued to share her heart and shine!. I can't imagine the stress you have faced even before the earthquake and after, is just beyond my comprehension, and still you don't quit, you are such a huge encouragement and inspiration for our family and we don't need a picture to know how beautiful you are! Thank You for all you do, as always you're in our prayers!

Wendy said...

Dear Susan,
I went to see the charge nurse of our SCBU today to ask about CPAP equipment.
Do you have O2 cylinders and O2 regulators? We will organise the rest. Tell me what you have. What else do you need? NG tubes? Formula? We are in New Zealand, but will be in Haiti, God willing, in a few months. Please tell me YOUR wish list for your nursery. Regards, Wendy Stewart

Susan Westwood said...

Dear Wendy,

I can't access your profile to contact you, so hopefully, you will get this message.

We do not have oxygen cyllinders or oxygen regulators at the orphanage. Whenever our children need oxygen, we use oxygen concentrator machines.

We have pleanty of NG tubes for premature babies but we are very low on size 8FR tubes for bigger babies and older children.

Formula is also a critical need and the need will continue to be critical until imported goods begin arriving in Haiti again. At the moment, I have a lot of 22 calorie premature formula and I am using this for all of the youngest babies, even if they are not low birth weight.

We have a shortage of nutramigen (it is made partially hydrolysed milk proteins)for infants who do not tolerate either regular formula or soy.

Thank you so much for your willingness to meet our needs and reach out to our babies.

Wendy said...

Hi Susan, thanks for replying. On Monday I will go with this information to SCBU.
I am a paediatric nurse, also a midwife, and for the past number of years have worked as a midwife only.
My email is