Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Home for the Sick and Dying Children

We started the morning at Home for the Sick and Dying Children. No photos as the sisters running the orphanage do not want the children exploited.

The original building was destroyed in the Jan. 2010 earthquake. I was told, miracously, when the quake started within 30 seconds the sisters were able to get all of the children out of the nursery just seconds before the roof caved in. Standing in its place are large tents where the children were housed the past year following the quake.

Now there are 5 areas of the orphanage. The cooking and food storage area, church, school and courtyard and two level nursery. As the nursery is built on a sloped area, you enter on the 2nd floor which is where the healthier children are kept. Three rooms with children ranging from 2-5 - my best guess. These were the lucky ones that had graduated up from first floor. Healthy enough to stand up in their cribs and walk around when you took them out. But not necessarily healthy enough to go back to their moms - if they had one.

As we walked in, the kids would stand up in their cribs and reach out hoping for you to grab them. Three rooms with about 12-15 kids/room. The sisters do a great job here but are simply outnumbered to give them the immediate attention we would give our own back home.

Some of the kids were already out as they were being visited by their moms. Moms that loved them to come visit them daily but recognized they do not have the means or environment to support their needs.

Here is where I grabbed two little boys - one I don't remember the name and Alexendre. Only knew Alex's name by the ankle bracelet with 2-1/2 hand-written on the label with the drop off date - Feb. 2011. We, many of my team members and myself, took children in our arms outside to the church/chapel where the school children (grades 1-4) were having a Spring carnival. It was so hot - we were all sweating with soaked clothes holding these little hot water bottles but many including Alex refused to be put down. My other little guy was a little more adventurous and after 15 minutes was ready to go walking around on his own. However, thinking Alex was to hot hanging onto me, he would always start crying when I suggested setting him down.

So I held onto him and decided to walk around and check out the rest of the nursery with him in my arm. We went downstairs to 1st floor. This is where the sicker babies are kept. Two rooms with about 10-20 kids in each room. Probably 6-8 of them with IV drips attached. Maybe about half of them strong enough to stand up in their crib.

While holding Alex, I noticed the smallest baby in the nursery back in the corner on her back rocking back-and-forth - crib #16. Appeared to be turrets. Feeling so bad for her, I placed Alex down in the empty crib next to her - first time he didn't cry over that move. Picked her up - holding the back of her head from limping backwards and lifted her to my chest. She stopped her continous movements and reached up and rubbed the 4-5 day beard growth of hair on my face. Amazing she still had the strength to lift her hand to my face. She felt so fragile - probably not weighing more than 3-4 lbs - having had 4-5 lb twin girls myself - she felt lighter than they were.

I was suddenly overcome with the smell of a dirty diaper so started to place her back in her crib to do the diaper check. Thats when I realized her diaper had actually fallen off in the crib and the smell was coming from the mess all over my arm. The sister in the room felt worse about than I did - rushing over to apologize in Creole while wiping my arm off. I offered to help wipe up baby #16 and clean the crib but the nurse insisted upon doing it - I must not have looked experienced at this.

It was lunch time so I picked up Alex., a bowl of hot cereal, and took him out to the courtyard to eat. Amazing how quickly he devoured the entire bowl. Having a full stomach and new level of energy, this was the first time he let me put him down and he proceeded to walk on his own.

It was time to leave the nursery at noon as this is when the sisters don't want visitors so they can get the kids down for their nap. Something else we all respect as parents.

We came back later that day at 3:30 to assist with dinner. Visiting at this time was alot noisier with all baby's that could, standing up in their crib crying for dinner. I made it a point to grab the first bowl I could find and seek out baby #16. She wasn't on an IV but I didn't have much confidence she would have the ability to chew and swallow. But as I lifted the spoon to her limp head and tiny lips, the human will-to-live took over and she proceeded to eat and swallow. My co-mission team member Spencer and I were back alone in this 12-15 crib nursery with only 2 bowls. Seeking Spencer's confirmation that feeding more than one baby with the same spoon seemed like an ok thing to do, we went for efficiency. I held #16 in my left arm - placed the bowl down on an empty crib and fed #16 and 2 other crib standing babies next to her at the same time.

It was near the end of this feeding time that I decided to check the ankle bracelet on #16. I've been calling her #16 as I couldn't make out the hand writing of her name on the bracelet. However, I could make out here age - 40 months. This 3+ yr. old that only weighed 3-4 pounds and had survived this long?? I don't remember her exact drop off day but do remember it was 2011. I cann't imagine her environment before arriving in the care of the orphanage.

We did receive alot of downpour rain Monday night when we arrived. While sitting in our dry comfortable guest house and hearing the rain hit our metal roof, I thought of all the discomfort this rain was placing the tents and shanty dwellers in that we had passed between the airport and house. I was told the Sisters of the Home for Sick and Dying Children had families crawling over their gated fence that night to escape the flowing waters going through the lower elevation neighorhoods to take shelter in their sole roof only covered church/chapel.

Mark Smith
Healing Haiti Team Member

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