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, 26 June 2011

Glowing With Pride

There are some exceptional children in my nurseries. Although I all ready knew this, my instincts were confirmed this week by assessments that were performed by a Doctor of clinical psychology. Among her findings:

Kelly, a NICU baby who has struggled with anemia since his premature birth, is developing better than expected, considering his level of prematurity.

Baby Sarah, born 5 weeks prematurely, and growth-retarded in the womb, battled pneumonia, possible septicemia, and electrolyte abnormalities in her first weeks of life... the word superior was used to describe some areas of her development for her age. We expected that it would take several months for Sarah to catch-up with other babies, her age.

That same adjective, 'superior', was used to describe baby Frantz, who, at not even a month old, was holding his head up, smiling and and batting toys with his arms.

Whoever said I was a biased judge where these little ones are concerned may have had a point. The psychological reports seem to suggest though, that my assessments are also accurate, valid and reliable, despite the bias. :-D

I am very excited to watch these babies grow and develop but I am equally excited by their personalities and unique strengths here and now.

I am also glowing with pride, and I don't believe that there is anything wrong with that.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Praying For Strength and Character

This has been an emotionally draining week at the main house.

On Tuesday, two of our oldest children were transferred to GLA's toddler house. There was a brief transition period, that we hoped would make the impending move less of a shock to the girls. These transfers are always hard. The children become very attached to us, and we become very attached to them. We pray that our little ones will adjust quickly to their new environment, so that they can continue to thrive there.

The day that the girls left, 6 month old Rosena was diagnosed with Malaria. This is a serious infection, caused by a parasite that is transmitted by mosquitoes. Although GLA is not in a malarial zone, Rosena came to us from an area that is affected by Malaria. I was extremely anxious for this tiny girl. Malaria can be life-threatening for babies. Their bodies can not tolerate the anemia and inflammation that the disease causes. Thankfully, with medication, Rosena beat the infection. It has left her anemic, and therefore tired and vulnerable to infections. She has to be strong, to have survived so many serious threats to her health in such a short time. She has a vibrant streak to her personality.

On Wednesday, we discharged Kervens. It was wonderful to see his mother walk out of our gate with a fat, healthy, beautiful baby boy in her arms, but our joy was short lived. Two days later, we received a call from Kervens' mother: he has a high fever and he was vomiting and 'shrinking' in front of her. I was reluctant to re-admit him, at a time when Cholera is raging though the slum area in which Kervens lives. Couldn't his Mother take him to a local clinic instead? Unfortunately, she all ready had. The staff there had given medications for fever, and had sent the baby home, but Kervens was becoming sicker

8pm: He arrived at GLA with laboured breathing, severe dehydration, and a high fever. His heart rate was dangerously high. Looking down at the sunken, unfocused eyes of the baby, lying limp on his Mothers lap, my mind was numbed by a sense of shock. How could it be that this was the same baby I had sent home 2 days ago

It quickly became apparent that Kervens was suffering from pneumonia. It took three hours to stabilize him.

This morning, when I went into the isolation room to review him, Kervens was bright, alert and cooing up at me from his crib. My emotions were mixed. I was glad of course, and feeling triumphant that I had been a part of two victories this week, against diseases that kill so many Haitian infants. At the same time, I couldn't help despairing that the babies families had not been able to access medical care for them in their home areas. The Kervens and Rosenas of Haiti deserve this, and so much more.

I can't impact the glaring injustices I see, but for Kervens and Rosena, and for all of my babies, I pray that the profound and repeated traumas they have endured will give them strength and character, instead of disabling scars: beauty for ashes.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Broken Flower Pots

On Friday, we welcomed a new arrival. Didley comes to us from Cabaret. Although his mother believes that he was born at a gestation of 7 months, our assessment of him suggests that he was actually born at 39 weeks. Didley's mother is in her late 20's and Didley is her fifth child. She hopes to complete her schooling, but she is overwhelmed, and she believes that giving Didley up for adoption will be a life-saving and life-altering thing.

I checked up on him this afternoon. Didley appears to be strong and healthy. He is a beautiful baby boy. Since his birth-weight is a little bit low, we have started him on a milk formula that is specially formulated to promote growth and weigth-gain in low birth weight babies. Didley is in an incubator, so that we can observe him closely throughout the day and night.

May you live the life your birth mother dreamed for you, little man!Out on the NICU balcony, Kervens, Rosena and the other babies were enjoying the warm rays of the afternoon sun. Kervens has doubled his weight in the three months since we admitted him. You are a miracle I told him - a feisty one, and a chubby one but definitely a miracle! His Mother notices that he is much smaller than our other babies, which makes her anxious. I have explained to her that Kervens growth has been stunted by malnutrition, and it is going to take several months, maybe a year to 18 months until he catches up with other children his age. He is adorable though, with his round cheeks and dimpled thighs. He is doing so well, that we are planning to discharge him home this week.And my little darling Rosena, snoozing in a car seat..... They say her stomach is never full. She can certainly pack it away. I am so proud of her for that, and secretly, I think the nannies are too. 'It's your Godmother, Susan who spoils you,' they tease. 'Every time you see her, you cry and you tell her its feeding time,' and, ' You have no respect for schedules, Rosena!'

Well, I am sure I saw 'spoiling' listed under the duties of the God-mother on the job description. And I am sure also, that Rosena should be allowed to eat just as much as she wants! She is filling out nicely. After three weeks of treatment, she was a healthy weight for her length. We will continue to offer unlimited, high calorie feeds, to help restore her depleted mineral stores and to promote catch-up growth.

We have a great formula, for these babies, I thought to myself, chuckling. Plenty of fluids, excellent nutrition, and a healthy dose of sunshine. Then, like wilting flowers, in broken pots, transferred to a beautiful garden and rich soil, they flourish. It is love though, and not rain that showers down on them.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

A Safety Net for Some of God's Littlest 'Angels'

A sibling set was admitted to GLA's main house this week. 22 month old Kimberlie was brought to the orphanage along with her two month old brother. Their Mother told the administrator's assistant that she had 4 children at home and she couldn't provide for them all.

Did the mother understand that this was an adoption orphanage, Patrick asked her? Yes, the mother replied. The children's mother was tall and pretty, but Patrick noticed that she was quite thin. She seemed timid for a lady in her late 20's. Patrick had to keep asking her to speak a little louder, so he could hear the answers she gave to his questions.

The children were well dressed he thought. The little girl was chubby, but awfully short for her age. Her hair was beginning to turn orange. She was getting enough food to maintain her weight, but not enough to grow. The orange hair, and the dry, dull, flaking skin are signs of mineral deficiencies.

Her mother told Patrick that Kimberlie was not thriving any more. She had stopped growing over the past few months. As for the baby boy in her arms, she couldn't afford formula for him. Jamesson was losing weight. He had an eye infection, but was otherwise healthy, his mother said.

Patrick asked whether she had any relatives, who might agree to care for her children while she worked to support the family? The children's mother shook her head. Her parents were elderly, the children's fathers were not involved in their lives, and her extended family were not supportive. She has been a market trader before the earthquake, she said, but on the 12th of January, 2010, she lost everything she had.

Wasn't it possible that she might be able to get back on her feet, in time? Would she consider placing these children in a Haitian orphanage for a few years? Kimberlie
and Jamesson's Mother, though, had given this a great deal of thought over the past few months. Her older children were in school. She could provide a decent standard of living for these two children, but never for four.

The current debate about the ethics of international adoption, versus investment in long term development is academic to Jamesson, Kimberlie and their Mother. It will be years, decades even, before Haiti is re-built, and single Mothers like her can make a decent wage.

Upstairs in the nursery, it quickly became apparent to us that these children were sickly and malnourished. Clearly, Kimberlie had spent a lot of time in Doctor's offices. She screamed and put her hands over her chest when she saw my stethoscope! When she saw the light we use to see inside the children's ears, she screamed louder, and covered her ears with her hands, shaking her head, 'no'!

Kimberlie has an ear infection that we are treating and she seems to be feeling better all ready. Her brother's eye infection is also improving. Jamesson shows some developmental delays, probably from malnutrition.He is weak and unable to even hold up his head. He is gaining weight by the day though. Soon, God willing, he and Kimberlie will be stronger and healthier. None of the nursery staff question their Mother's decision to give them up for adoption. Haiti's children need safety nets. Too many children fall through the gaping holes in this country's infrastructure, and are lost.