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.

Monday, 26 September 2011

An Update About Bobo

Bobo took a turn for the worse last Wednesday and had to be started on oxygen.

His breathing was laboured and he had a dry hacking cough. Our Paediatrician was glad that he was all ready being covered with an antibiotic.

To her consternation and mine, though, no amount of oxygen would raise Bobo's pulse oxygen levels (measured across his skin's surface up to normal levels.The balance of gasses in his blood suggested a long standing problem that was keeping his oxygen levels low.

Despite covering as many bases as we could, Bobo remained lethargic over the next few days.I was concerned on Friday, to notice a very variable heart rate. More bedside tests showed another problem - Bobo had low calcium levels and his body was trying but not successfully compensating, by making his blood more alkaline. Under alkaline conditions, calcium is leached from the blood, into the bloodstream, where it is needed to help control heart rhythm and other vital processes in our organs.

Despite giving calcium and vitamin supplements at the highest doses, Bobo has gone on to develop muscle tremors - another sign of calcium deficiency. We have added in a magnesium supplement, to see if this will help Bobo to absorb the calcium in his diet.

Today, he looks much better and is behaving more like himself -looking around, cooing and cooing in his bumbo. He has an abundance of very facial expressions that we were treated to this after noon. What I really want is a smile,I haven't seen one of those from him in several months.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

There Are No Angels Here

Our newest arrival, 14 month old Dawensley came to GLA just over a week ago. A beautiful, cherubim boy, with clear skin, bright eyes and thick, black shiny hair, he needed almost constant physical contact from either me or his nanny in his first hours at GLA. Inwardly, I groaned.

It is relatively simple to secure the trust and confidence of a child whose home environment has been lacking. They find adequate food here, along with shelter, and clothing. They are allocated a key care-giver, who they quickly identify as a mother figure, and the children attach to these ladies. Of course, children who have been severely neglected may not have the capacity to trust us for a very long time. But if they have not been too deprived, they sense that things are looking up in their lives, and as they settle into the routine of the orphanage, they are usually contented enough.

Dawensly had a bad ear infection, but other than that, he had clearly been well cared for. He had also been avery  loved.We could see that! Now, separated from his mother, I was concerned that he would experience as long-lasting sense of loss. I prescribed an antibiotic, together with regular pain-killers, hoping as I did so, that they would make Dawensley feel better and that he would associate feeling better, with his entry to the nursery, and that this assiociation would inspire the trust Dawensley needed to feel, to make a good adjustment.

Thankflully, that was just what happened. As soon as Daawensley started to feel better, he slid down from my lap, left the safety of my arms, and toddled off to explore the toys that were scattered all over the nursery balcony. In no time at all, an assertive, and forthright personality emerged. Clearly, I was dealing with a toddler, secure enough to identify a friend or too among the 24 other toddlers, and to share his food among the other children, friends or not, when he he'd had his fill. Does that make him sound like an angel boy? Don't be fooled - the sharing is a choice. He shares because he can. This is more about having the upper hand than being a sweet angel. Sorry if I just burst your bubble, but there are no angels here!

The great thing about this, in my mind, is that Dawensley is obviously happy here. On his third morning at GLA, he ran to greet me at 7am with a 'hi' and a wave. If I didn't know better, I would have thought he had been raised at GLA, I thought to myself. I'm glad that Dawensley was cherished at home. It has given him a security and a spirit to go forward with. I hope that whenever he looks back, it will be with a smile.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

A Blessing For Our Fragile Angles

We really didn't need a reminder, that many of the tiny lives entrusted to us are fragile. This week though, we were reminded of just that when three children who arrived here either significantly malnourished, or with underlying medical conditions, needed special medical care.

One baby had to be started on IV antibiotics, after developing a severe ear infection. The infection has affected the glands in her neck, which, has become stiff and painful.

Another baby had to be treated for a urine infection. She was very lethargic and unwell and we were concerned about her. Naika is a year old, very pretty, very spoiled and definitely back to her usual self, now that her antibiotics have taken effect. She believes that she is a genuine Haitian Princess and if my observations are anything to go by, her nannies believe that too!

Faland was started on IV fluids on Friday, after developing severe diarrhoea and becoming dehydrated. Faland suffers from recurrent sinus infections and mild
asthma symptoms. She is recovering in the NICU today.

Even before these children became sick, I was anxious about our medical equipment. With 3 oxygen concentrators and 2 incubators malfunctioning, as well as our only warming bed for preemies, I was worried about our capacity to care for critically sick infants. I lamented that we needed someone to come and service our equipment, urgently. It didn't seem likely that anyone with the knowledge and skills needed to do this job in Haiti would arrive, so imagine my surprise when Mardochee's adoptive Father came at the beginning of the week, and told us that he specialized in servicing medical equipment!

Within days, he had most of our faulty equipment in working order, including the 30 year old warming bed! I have told Mardochee's Father to plan on staying for a week, when he comes to take Mardochee home to Canada at the end of the adoption process. Medical equipment does not stand up well to the heat and humidity of Haiti, but the repairs that Mike made has extended the life of several critical pieces of equipment. This is a great blessing to me, and especially to our babies - the ones that are in our hands now and the ones who will come over the following months and years.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Two Sick Babies

GLA's NICU has been busy this week.There is a nasty viral infection going around the nurseries that is making some of the babies very miserable with sore throats, and congestion in their lungs.

On Tuesday, Miss Sonia was struggling with this cold and had to be started on oxygen. Sonia, though, was not sick enough to stay out of trouble trouble - chewing on the oxygen cannula (it was supposed to stay in her nostrils!), tearing the oxygen probe off of her toe (she ate that too), pulling the tubing off of her oxygen machine and detaching the cord from her pulse ox probe. Although I made a great show of admonishing her, I was secretly pleased that she was feeling well enough to cause trouble.

'Young lady, if you don't leave those tubes and wires, I'm sending you down to the office on portable oxygen for a time-out!' I told her in what I think was a fairly convincing tone. I didn't want to scare her, but I did wag my finger for effect ;-) Sonia seemed to consider my words very seriously for a few seconds.....and then her face lit up a smile and she extended her arms for a hug! She got a hug but she was also told that she was not off the hook. Sonia has a stubborn streak and a lots of winning ways. She quickly winds the nannies and nurses here around her little finger!

Before her heart surgery, simple colds lasted for up to a month, and lead to pneumonia, heart failure and several weeks on CPAP and oxygen. This time, after a short course of steroids, Sonia was off of her oxygen in two and a half days. Heart surgery really has changed the course of her life.

On Wednesday, Bobo, our 12 month old baby who weighs around 7lb and who has several birth defects, returned to the NICU severely dehydrated and needed IV fluids. He is a very frail infant, who quickly destabalizes. Although he is recovering well from his current illness, I see signs that his condition is deteriorating. He is very delayed in his development, and seems to be regressing in some areas. He has the virus that is going around the nursery and he sometimes needs suction to clear secretions that get stuck in his throat.

The great thing about having medical capabilities is that we are able to treat children right away, at the orphanage instead of sending them to a hospital in the city. Our medical programme is expensive but it pays dividends for our children, who get the care they need, provided by staff that they know, in a familiar environment where they feel safe and loved. If you have access to medical supplies and would like to help keep us stalked with essential items, please visit this page on main GLA blog for an updated list of the things we need.

Please forgive any 'typo's'. GLA's internet is telling blogger and other websites that they are being pulled up in Germany. As a result, the spell checks on those sites are German!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

You Prayed. God Delivered

At God's Littlest Angels, we have suffered several losses this year - babies who were born too soon, who got here too late, babies we couldn't heal.

Sarah survived. Born 5 weeks early, she was growth retarded in the womb, acutely malnourished and very weak when she arrived at the orphanage. She battled pneumonia, septicaemia and a viral infection in her first weeks with us.

I was told that if she survived, she would almost certainly be developmentally delayed, since her brain growth had been compromised in-utero

I asked people to pray. It was a great comfort to me in those days, when Sarah's life hung in the balance, to know that so many of you were praying, especially my own family and my Dad's Catholic men's group at home in Scotland.

Four and a half months later, Sarah is healthy, thriving, beautiful and alert. She is also developmentally advanced for her age! And just so we are clear on the matter, this is not my opinion. Sarah is healthy and thriving according to her Paediatrician and developmentally advanced according to the Psychologist that assessed her

'You can tell she is just so bright!' a vistor remarked recently. I nodded, yes, in a matter-of-fact way. It is not in my nature to ooze emotionality, but joy and mirth were bubbling just below the surface.

You prayed. God delivered. Sarah beat the odds and I am so thankful.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

A Landmark Day For a Special Baby

Bobo came to us ten months ago in a malnourished state. He weighed 4lb then. Yesterday, he turned a year old, weighing in at 7lb 5.5oz!

Bobo has several congential malformations. His vision, hearing and brain development are affected and he also has narrow airways and problems with his digestive tract

Despite 7 months of loving, dedicated, one-on-one care from Miss Vicky, we really haven't seen the improvements in his general health and development that we had hoped for. Bobo receives high calorie, pre-digested feeds every 2-3 hours, round the clock, but he is still a falure-to-thrive baby, who doesn't grow or gain weight. He has low muscle tone, and is unable to hold his head up for more than a few seconds at a time. Not only have we not seen any improvements, we have seen some signs of deterioration in his condition - increased irritability, strange, unexplained fevers and loss of his sucking reflex.

Honestly, I didn't expect Bobo to live to be a year old. Honestly, I don't that Bobo will live to celebrate another birthday, but then, I am not the one'in the know' on these matters

'Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.' (Psalm 139:16).