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, 29 January 2011


Two babies arrived from Real Hope For Haiti on Thursday. Both were in need of urgent, specialized care that very few hospitals or NGO's in Haiti are in a position to provide.

Tania is 6 weeks old and weighs 3lb 5oz. Hers is an incredible story of love and survival against the odds. Tania was born in the amniotic sack, an unusual phenomenon that almost cost the baby her life. Although she survived, her mother did not.

Tania was admitted to a poorly resourced hospital, where she experienced neglect and starvation, before developing diarrhoea and vomiting. Recognising that her condition was life-threatening, her widowed Father transferred Tania to another hospital, where the staff were unable to start an IV. His last hope was Real Hope for Haiti, a rural clinic in Cazalle, close to the family's home. By the time Tania arrived there, she was so dehydrated that her tiny veins had collapsed.

By God's grace, an experienced Paediatrician was volunteering her time at Real Hope for Haiti. The Paediatrician managed to site an intra-osseous line (a needle that is screwed or drilled into the bone marrow. It was an intervention that saved Tania's life.

Tania arrived at GLA 36 hours after Dixie Bickel received the call, asking us to accept this baby for medical assistance. Riots in Cabaret prevented the clinic staff from travelling with Tania. Without that needle in her bone, Tania would certainly have died of dehydration. This tiny girl, all jutting bones and loose skin is very fragile. Her sodium and potassium levels were dangerously low when she arrived and she is extremely anaemic. She has barely been fed since she was born and is not able to tolerate enough milk to stay hydrated, even if it is drip fed continuously via a feeding pump. We have to be extremely cautious with her IV fluids - dehydration is often over-estimated in severely malnourished children and in her present condition, too much fluid could send Tania into heart failure.

With antibiotics, her diarrhoea and vomiting has are under control and she is able to tolerate larger volumes of milk. She had a set back this afternoon, when we ran out of pasteurized breast milk and started her on formula. Tania went on to vomit, what Dixie and the Haitian nurses estimated to be around 15 ml of fresh blood. We have taken emergency measures to stabilize Tania, until we can send her blood to be 'typed and cross-matched' when the lab open on Monday. It looks as though baby Tania needs a blood transfusion.

I am in awe of this tiny baby, so incredibly weak, so stricken, and yet, surviving!

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