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, 26 February 2011

Cold Water To A Thirsty Soul

'Like cold water to a thirsty soul,
so is good news from a far country.' (Proverbs 25:25).

In January, I shared that I longed for life. Too many little lives had been lost in our intensive care nursery. I was weary. We all were.
Today, it is my pleasure to share good news about baby Lovely, who was admitted last week, while I was gone. Born around 13 weeks early, she was all ready 16 days old when she arrived at GLA. She weighed just 1lb 10 oz and her hold on this life was extremely precarious.

Lovely has health challenges beyond what anyone anticipated. However, over the past 24 hours, she has moved beyond stable. I am encouraged to see some signs of progress. On CPAP, and in an incubator, her tiny embattled body is resting and recovering from the stress of her first 16 days in this world.

Over the past day, I have watched her grow and develop before my eyes. Her breathing and heart rate are more regulated, her oxygen requirement is down and she is now able to digest breast milk through a tube.

She is still very frail, but if she survives into the middle of next week, the chances are that she will graduate from our NICU a few short months from now.

It was hard being gone when Lovely arrived. I really wished I could have been here with the NICU staff. When Lovely's condition deteriorated a week ago, I was able to guide the Haitian nurses through setting up CPAP, via Skype and Facebook. With Dixie's support, they did it.

'In your hands , Lord, I prayed,' partly in praise, partly in supplication.
'As always', he answered.
I appreciated the reminder. Although Lovely didn't know it, people all over the world were praying for her, and people all over the world were invested in her survival. Although she still doesn't know it, I longed for her, before I even knew her. She is cold water to my thirsty soul.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

I Wish That He Had Come Sooner

The little boy, sitting on the right is three years old. So is the little boy on the left.

Both of these children experienced neglect and deprivation. The little boy on the right arrived here at the age of 10 months. Physically, he is thriving. Developmentally, according to his teachers, he is doing very well. Yet chronic ear infections and severe allergies have left him hearing impaired and with kidney damage that is likely to be permanent.

Wadley, the spindly limbed, swollen-faced child on the left weighed less than 17 pounds when he arrived 3 weeks ago. He comes from a hard place. We suspect that he has not gained weight since his mother fell pregnant with his younger brother, 2 years ago. At that point, she would have stopped breast feeding Wadley. Clearly, she had nothing to give him in lieu of breast milk.

Wadley is extremely underweight. His growth is stunted and his hair is orange. He is weak. He is anaemic. His bones are soft from severe Vitamin D deficiency. His liver is damaged from years of malnutrition. His immune system is compromised from lack of protein, and, he has contracted an antibiotic resistant ear infection.

My heart ripples as I watch him shuffle across the nursery with a hunched back, and bowed legs. I hurt, every time I stick him with a needle; Wadley doesn't react. There is no sound from him. His nose wrinkles, slightly. Otherwise, his expression is unchanging. It is frightening to watch this lack of emotion. It is a sign of severe physical and emotional deprivation. Wadley has learned that all the crying in the world will not make a difference in his life.

Wadley's appetite is voracious. He cannot regulate his intake yet. He has to learn two things; what a full stomach feels like, and that there will be food at the next meal. He smiles, often. I am glad that he is happy here, with us. Yet I don't believe it is wrong to say, that I will be even gladder, when I see tears. Then, I will know that he is truly on the road to healing.
I wish that he had come sooner. I pray that he wont suffer permanent physical, emotional or cognitive affects from his malnutrition. Sadly, I believe that he will.

Sunday, 13 February 2011


He came to us as at 6 months of age. He weighed 8lb and he was chronically ill. Psychologically, this neglected and abused baby was not doing well, and his weight gain was painfully slow.

By October, I feared for Peterson's life, hoping, against hope, that our best efforts would be enough to to heal his embattled body and wounded soul.

Two months later, we had a breakthrough. Peterson's weight had shot up from 14lb to 18lb! He had an incredible appetite, his general health had drastically improved and he was making enormous strides in his development.

Today, he is bonding with us, and the only head shaking he does is to tease us. 'Stop that!' we will tell him, remembering the disturbed head-shaking he engaged in such a short time ago. In response, Peterson will light up from the inside and break into a devilish smile. Laughter bubbles forth, and slowly, he starts shaking his head again, keeping one eye on us. Come and make me stop, he challenges us!
Alleluia was his first word. I am not kidding. I have video proof, if only I can upload it, and at this point I can't.

Alleluia! Sometimes, tender, loving care and good medicine really are enough!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Sonia: A Reason to Celebrate

At the end of a difficult and emotionally taxing week, there is reason to celebrate:

Little Miss Sonia has been off her oxygen for 8 days. She has been oxygen dependent for the past two months. For much of that time, dozens of people in North America have been working hard to try to secure the care that Sonia needs, overseas. They are hitting many obstacles and, at the same time, coming across many new opportunities.

Those of us who are working with Sonia in Haiti celebrate that she is now stable. Please pray that she will remain healthy over the next few weeks. Many children with Downs syndrome are deficient in a particular immune protein, which, makes them very susceptible to infection. This may explain why Sonia gets so many severe infections, and why it takes so long for her to recover from illnesses that other babies bounce back from very quickly.

For now, Sonia does not leave the nursery with our volunteers. She does come out of the nursery with me and she gets plenty of love and attention from all of the NICU staff. Although she is a little bit spoiled, Sonia is a very sweet baby, and completely undemanding. She is still weak from her most recent illness and finds it difficult to suck from a bottle. Despite this, she continues to make progress in her development.

I believe that Miss Sonia will surpass everyone's expectations of her. It is highly likely that she will leave GLA, very soon. It is my privilege to love her and care for her, even if it is only for now.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Longing For Life

Francisca died in the early hours of Monday morning. She had, what I think was a severe septicaemia. Her last 10 hours were the fight of her life, a struggle, all the way to death. The Haitian staff say, if only Francisca's mother sought pre-natal care sooner.... I say, maybe if the baby had received different antibiotics....

Tania followed Francisca in death last night. In the first photographs we took of Tania, her lips were blood red, cracked and bleeding. As she became better hydrated, they healed, leaving underneath the scab, a horrifying, unatural pallor. Tania was profoundly anaemic, and died before we could obtain donor blood for her. If only we had gotten it in time. If only......

Over and over, babies pass away. I am sure that these defeats are etched into my face. Time and again, jagged breath fades, colour drains, fists uncurl, and the weight in my arms becomes emptiness. Shoulders sag, and eyes dull. Even so, we go on. We owe it to the next child, and the child after that. I long for them.

Francisca might have lived had we had a drug that would neutralize the acid in her blood. Tania might have lived had she received a blood transfusion in time. We will be taking steps to make sure that both of these things are available to the next infants that are entrusted into our care. Though the dying takes it's toll, for love of life, we have to move forward.