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, 22 January 2012

God Speaks

On Thursday morning, I went on a cleaning spree. As I worked at a slightly feverish pace, wiping down and organising NICU supplies, I felt the eyes of the NICU staff on me. The behaviour they were observing looked an awful lot like 'nesting.'

'You do know Susan, that now you've done all of this, God will send you a baby?'
'Of course I do,' I replied, in an even, matter-of-fact-tone 'He will send a baby very soon, just one, though. Not twins this time, and I need to be ready.'

The next morning, our director came upstairs with news. A 3 lb baby had arrived at a clinic in Cazale. I nodded. The baby had a twin brother who had already died. Yes, oh my, so that was why I would not be receiving twins. The surviving infant was not doing well  Did I want to go and collect her?

'Yes', I did.
 A nurse shook her head and smiled. 'I've been told God doesn't speak to people.'
'He does.' After all, the day before, he had whispered to me about a baby, and now, I was going to find my baby.

Wideline was born 5 weeks ago, approximately 6 weeks early, to a mother with a previously undiagnosed heart condition. Unable to produce breast milk, the young mother had fed Wideline and her brother watered down porridges, along with other family foods. The babies lost weight and became sick. When Wideline arrived in Cazale, she had  watery diarrhoea and was severely dehydrated and anaemic. A visiting paediatrician gave some fluid through a needle that she placed in the baby's bone, and then managed to start an IV in her scalp.

Wideline's Mother, bloated, sick and exhausted had been counselled that further pregnancies would probably kill her. Wideline was alert, but her temperature was low, and that was a worrying sign. The mother was not well enough to stay at GLA, but her father asked to be allowed to ride in the back of our truck. He had to see where we were taking his daughter. She was his only child.
'Of course'.

I placed Wideline on my chest, under my scrub-top. She warmed up, began crying and sucking on her fists. She drank an ounce of formula milk. Although she settled after that, her breathing became very laboured during the last 30 minutes of the ride up the mountain to GLA.

Bedside tests at the orphanage showed that the baby had very high acid levels in her blood. This, together with her anaemia were life-threatening. The baby was showing early signs of heart failure.

As the first of three drug infusions was in progress, there was some good news: although the blood bank in Port-au-Prince was closed, Wideline had the same blood type that I did, and my blood had recently been screened for infections.

She received a mini transfusion within the hour. It got her through the night.

Using an IV pump  that we received just a few weeks ago, we were able able to give Wideline two further transfusions of my blood the next day. It was wonderful to see the baby, who was at that point so  pale that our Haitian staff said she was white, not Haitian, take on a lovely rosy glow.  She was started on very small feeds, just two millilitres every three hours, but her gut was so fragile that she was not able to tolerate even these tiny volumes of formula milk.

Wideline receiving her second transfusion of Blood in GLA's NICU
At this point, Wideline benefited from another donation, this time a donation of  breast milk that was given to us a year ago, by the mother of a three month old baby, named Fannie. Oh, how thankful we are! Wideline, as sick as she was, was able to digest the milk that Fannie's mother gave to us. We also gave Wideline some pre-digested fats intravenously while we gradually increased the volumes of her feeds.

Nutrition is absolutely critical to stabilising the tiniest victims of malnutrition. I stood by Wideline's incubator for hours, watching her breathing, observing her movements, and charting trends in her heart rate, temperature and blood sugar levels. I wanted to know how much urine she produced. How often her bowels moved........

Although her anaemia was severe, her malnutrition could not be classified as severe, since her weight was almost normal for her length. This poor baby though, had been undernourished both inside and then outside the womb, at a time when her tiny organs were underdeveloped. Now her body was embattled. I hoped Wideline had arrived in time. A very experienced nurse once told me that all the training that a well resourced NICU in the developed world might provide, could never prepare a medical professional to care for a baby like Wideline. It was true. Babies like Wideline did not exist in North America or in Europe. I had tried, several times, to tap into whatever expertise existed, in the care of very young babies, with life-threatening malnutrition. It seemed that if such expertise existed, no-on was sharing it.

Wideline did stabalize. Today she is hungry, That means that she is moving out of the stabilisation phase and into the recovery phase of her treatment.

Please pray for continued improvements in Wideline's health, and pray with confidence, knowing that God already has an interest in her survival. If he didn't, he wouldn't have spoken to me about her.


Anonymous said...

such a beautiful story!

Marie said...

Thanks for the beautiful story of God speaking to you! I can't wait to meet you and Wideline...if possible. My group and I arrive tomorrow excited!

Becky Harding said...

I'm praying for your new little Angel:) we were just at the Rescue Center two weeks ago and heard about all the wonderful work you-all do!!

Twinsplusthree said...

Thank you for your tireless work for these tiny babies. I will pray that God will give you the energy you need and that the baby will keep showing signs of improvement. Thank you for taking the time to share your heart.

Joyce said...

What a great story! You're a wonderful storyteller! I kept reading faster & faster to find out what happened to her. Thanks! Love you!