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, 21 November 2010

Sorrow, and a Beautiful Experience

Erick died late on Thursday morning. His blood sugar dropped and there was a faint smell of decay emanating from him. Although I knew that he probably would not survive, I had hoped that he would. He was hungry, and eager to eat and he was very alert, right up to the moment that he stopped breathing. I am haunted by the memory of his startled eyes, fixed on me, and that look of alarm giving way to absolute trust and wonder, as I help him close, and spoon fed him. I am very glad to have been given the chance to hug Erick and rock him in those last hours and minutes. The suddenness of his death, though, has left me stunned and despairing.

Woodley and Geraldine, who came to us last week from a local orphanage, no longer have diarrhoea, but they continue to vomit. Geraldine became hypothermic on Thursday morning and wasn't able to tolerate even an ounce of milk, every hour. On Wednesday night, I gave medications to help with the vomiting, and the worker from Geraldine's orphanage, who has been staying with her, syringe fed Geraldine 20 ml of oral rehydration solution or formula every hour. By the morning, Geraldine was dehydreated and her caregiver was exhausted. Geraldine needed glucose, fat and protein to bring her body temperature up, as well as fluids. An IV was not going to be enough.

Previously, the only option that would have been open to us would have been to put Geraldine on a warming bed, start an IV and give her very small volumes of milk. Last week, though, I received a feeding pump from the latest shipment of relief supplies. This made it possible for us to rehydrate Geraldine rapidly, by giving oral rehydration solution through a feeding tube, at a consistent rate, controlled by the pump. Most children tolerate this method of rehydration, even if they vomit the fluids that they drink.

Once Geraldine was rehydrated, I was able to begin feeding her. I set the pump to deliver formula at a slow rate, round the clock. She quickly stabilized and was able to rest for the day, while receiving all of the liquids and the nutrients she needed to recover. Geraldine has gained a pound since Thursday

'Miss Susan, will you please give me something......a gift.' her nanny asked.'
'What kind of gift?' I asked, feeling slightly suspicious.

' A photograph, Miss Susan?' the nanny asked softly. A photograph of Geraldine, and that machine that is giving her milk.' The nanny shook her head and smiled. 'I have never seen anything like that before, and the nun who is in charge of our orphanage doesn't believe me when I tell her what is being done for Geraldine.'

I nodded, and we both smiled.

'Will you please give me a photograph, so that the nun can see for herself? This is a great thing! It is a beautiful experience!'

Sometimes, I look at children like Erick, Frandline, and Geraldine, and I experience a pang of guilt. I feel guilty that my babies and I are so blessed, while they are not. We can turn on a tap, and clean, pure water flows out: their families struggle to haul filthy water from contaminated rivers and streams. I can chose almost any type of formula for my babies and they can drink as much as they want, and often as they want: theirs will go to bed hungry tonight, hoping for something to eat tomorrow. When my babies are ill, I have medications, IV supplies and oxygen right here: there is no Doctor in their village and there are no medicines. A hurricane whips through Haiti. We are untouched, while they drown in flood waters, and die in houses, crushed by landslides.

As Geraldine's nanny spoke, though, my guilt faded away.The love of God was poured into my heart. I understood, deep in my soul, that while poverty and misery broke the heart of our Lord, he wanted to bless his children with good things, and I was to rejoice in our blessings.

As I send up prayers of thanksgiving, to a God who has provided all of our needs, my heart aches for the children who are hungry and cold, those who are without shelter, for the sick and the dying, and for bereft mothers, grieving the loss of precious children they could not sustain.

We are under the shadow of his wing, but my little ones are no more precious in God's sight than the other children of Haiti. I am keenly aware that we are blessed, and I am glad for all that we have to share with children like Geraldine. I am glad that we are able to give them a beautiful experience.


Jennifer said...

I check your blog daily and am always touched by what you write. I pray for all of the babies in Haiti daily. Thank you for sharing, what you do is amazing.

Jennifer from CA

Anonymous said...

Can you post a picture of the pump with the make, model, etc. I think I may be able to get you another one. God bless you for all your hard work.

Genevieve Thul said...

What can I do to help? I am an R.N. in the states - could I canvas for feeding pump donations? Do you need feeding tubes, syringes for the pump, Kangaroo bags? Let me know - I will try my hardest. Your stories touch me more than any I have read to this point - because i have a connection to the orphanage (Susie Schuelke) and also because you write from a nursing perspective. I long for the day that my family can re-enter the long-term missionary field. Thank you so much for writing.

In His grip, we are,
Gen & family

Cheryl said...

Susan, thank you so much for writing. You help us to understand (if only slightly) what happens in the nurseries at GLA.