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, 28 November 2010

A Sobering Thought

We have an outbreak of Vomiting and Diarrhoea at GLA's main house - the first since our new water treatment system was installed. Symptoms are developing over a course of 2-3 days. The diarrhoea is severe and oral rehydration alone has only been sufficient treatment for a few cases. Today, I have several children on antibiotics (including 4 newborn infants) and two on IV fluids.

Sonia was so dehydrated that I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get a working IV line into her. Thankfully, IV fluids and antibiotics helped her recover rapidly. This baby had had a difficult two weeks. She had a respiratory infection and was on oxygen for 10 days. She came off of the oxygen on Thursday and went up on an IV the same day. She had her echocardiogram last week and we are waiting for the results, and hoping that they will reveal something that we can do to relieve Sonia's symptoms. Her breathing has been laboured ever since she came to GLA and she gets very tired when she sucks on her bottle. We suspect that these difficulties are related to a heart condition.

I was worried when Maudlin developed diarrhoea and vomiting. His mother received no antenatal care, and as I result, the pregnancy continued, unmonitored and he was born showing signs of significant, intra-uterine compromise. He weighs less than 4lb. He was unable to tolerate his milk feeds and he was jaundiced. In the developed world, we take few chances with sick newborns, and in countries like Haiti, where low birth weight babies, like Maudlin, are born very weak, and with immune systems are compromised by malnutrition from the time they are in their Mothers' womb, we take even fewer chances. Maudlin was always going to be susceptible to infection during the neonatal period. I was concerned that this infection had the potential to overwhelm him.

Maudlin was started on IV antibiotics right away. Over the weekend, he has been able to tolerate continuous feeds of a milk formula that has been specifically developed for infants with gastroenteritis. This formula is easier to digest and has higher levels of specific nutrients that have been proven to shorten the course of diarrhoeal illnesses. Maudlin's milk feeds are being delivered through our new feeding pump. If we didn't have it, Maudlin would have needed an IV, and without the nutrition from his milk, he would have taken much longer to recover.

I received an anonymous message from someone who would like to try to obtain another feeding pump for GLA. You can click here to see the make and model of the pump that we currently have. I would cetrtainly appreciate another pump - it is always useful to have back-up equipment in a country like Haiti, where there are no technicians on hand to fix faulty medical equipment.
Meanwhile, tiny Bobo is struggling with a bad cold. He is unable to drink from a bottle and is on oxygen and receiving tube feeds. I really hope that he doesn't catch gastroenteritis on top of this.

I was talking to Dixie Bickel, who is currently in the states, a few nights ago. I was worried. A few days before, we had received news that the Baptist Mission Hospital had received it's first confirmed cholera case. The hospital is just 5 miles away. As I struggled to keep up with the sick kids I had, it was painfully obvious to me that if we received a single case of cholera, we would not be able to contain the spread of the disease. Lack of space would make that impossible. Dixie shared my anxieties. We are in the process of implementing a very strict cholera prevention protocol and we are trying to obtain a several dozen doses of DUKORAL, an oral vaccine against the strain of cholera bacteria that is causing the current outbreak in Haiti.

Pray with me that by God's grace, these measures will protect our staff and children from this life-threatening illness. These past 10 months have been filled with incredible trauma and grief for all of us at GLA. Through it all, God never left us. He has protected us. He has faithfully provided. He has blessed us beyond anything we could even think to ask of him. We take none of that for granted. We know we can't afford to.

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