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, 19 February 2012

A Roll Of Thunder

I have a baby who is sick, so sick.

We drew some blood from her a couple of weeks ago. Although the results are not in yet, I know, deep down what they will show - that the HIV virus is winning the battle over this baby's body

At first glance she is pudgy, but a closer look reveals loose folds of dry, scaling skin. Yes, she has laid down some fat, but her muscles are wasting. Despite a high-protein, high calorie diet, this frail baby has been fading before my eyes. Ten days ago, her feet became puffy. She was in the early stages of kwashiorkor (protein-energy malnutrition). This is the form of malnutrition I dread the most. The puffy feet were a sign that this baby was not absorbing protein. If her blood protein levels were low, so low that her soft tissues were swelling with fluid, surely her immune system (it's cells are composed of proteins) had taken a hit. Oh Lord.

She is on one antibiotic for a chronic ear infection, another to prevent a severe form of pneumonia that often kills people with HIV, and a third for diarrhoea that she suffers from because her immune system is compromised, and because  the antibiotics she takes to combat the infections that have gotten past that compromised immune system have disrupted her normal gut flora. She has thrush in her mouth and is on long-term medications for that. She is on lots of nutritional supplements. Despite all of this, she is having fever spikes every other day. 

For now, the right medications, the right minerals and quality nutrition have reversed the kwashiorkor. She has gained 1/2 a pound this week, but this baby has a long road ahead of her. The baby's paediatrician and I are working in the dark, feeling our way forward, guessing at the facts, and experimenting with different approaches to the illnesses and conditions that afflict this little one. The lab results we need urgently, labs that will guide other diagnostic tests and treatments take 2-3 weeks to be processed.  Governmental and non-governmental agencies do fund HIV programmes, but usually, not for babies. The thinking in this resource-limited climate is that a child isn't proven to be HIV positive until they are at least 18 months old. 

I am praying that my little girl will survive until she is 18 months old, but that is not a given. 

I am endlessly frustrated, ever aware that the best I can give her is so much less than what she deserves. I can hold her dry, burning body, and coax her over and over to drink an enriched formula, or to have just one more spoon of medical peanut butter.In the back of my mind as I do that, I know there is no Pediasure left, and the high protein formula I do have will last maybe another two weeks, if I ration it. I will have to be creative with nutrition. 

She sees me come through the door and starts yelling to be picked up. She wants a Mummy. I can love her and I give her extra attention, but her birth mother chose adoption for her. Honestly, for this baby, a life in a loving family, in a country with a developed health care system is her best chance of living and thriving. I wish it didn't take so long to unite these children with their forever families. Orphanages, even good ones do not hold a candle to a loving family. 

This weekend, I heard rumblings. A roll of thunder in the distance. A rumour of political things that are happening, that might have a significant, and negative impact on Haitian adoptions. I am anxious about what this might mean for my baby girl, and for others like her. 

I love you, angel. I pray that my loving you will strengthen both of us. That loving will embolden everyone who fights the corner of the Father's forgotten children in Haiti. That loving will imbue the key decission-makers with godly wisdom, and with mercy.



Marie said...

Praying...for everything from healing to being able to get more formula.

Twinsplusthree said...

praying she finds the perfect family as quickly as possible!

Anonymous said...

In 2005-2006 I lived at an orphanage in Northern Haiti. We had several babies younger than 18 months on antiretrovirals- provided by an HIV program at a Catholic mission hospital. I'm so sorry the meds arent available in your area. Shocking.

Kola said...

what a story. this touched me very deeply. please keep us updated on her progress