Life, I have come to see is always a mixture of good and bad; happiness and sadness and positives and negatives and yesterday was of no exception...except that although the good outweighed the bad in numbers the weight on my heart and conscience does not balance out...lise 1, life in Haiti 2....
The Good: I will sandwich in order to make the bad not so bad...I have all told you about Emmanuel and the disfigurement caused to him by a falling brick in the earthquake. How I had hoped that one day the miracles (or what i thought would require miracles) of modern plastic surgery would be able to give him back the face of the little angel he is (although at times truly a 3 year old). I had also told you all how Barbie (our Physicians Assistant) had found a pediatric plastic surgeon at the Miami Field Hospital willing to operate on Emmanuel. Well Emmanuel returned to us yesterday and I am so happy to say that he now has the face of that angel..with the 3 year old attitude to match! And I have decided to post pictures so you can have a true appreciation for this remarkable little man, his mother and the wonderful surgeon at the Miami Field Hospital...(pictures to follow.. I promise!)
The Bad: I have often read about childhood malnutrition, especially in third world countries..famine, floods, other natural disasters on top of corrupt governments using food as a source of control over its citizens and I cannot truly speak of all the political/economic/logistical causes of food shortages in these countries. What I can speak of is what I have seen and until Friday night I had never seen up close and personal the outcomes of malnutrition in children.
Here's the "bad" story in the sandwich...On Friday night after a very long day for Barbie and an equally long, sleepless start to night shifts for me we had a mom bring in a child at 1030pm stating that this child had not eaten for 14 days and had been having diarrhea. As I stood and watched this young, apathetic mom essentially manhandle her son I found myself rushing to judgement..
"this is breaking my heart Barbie, she doesn't even care or maybe she does and that's why she's finally here.."
After unwrapping this poor soul from the dirty blanket he came in it was revealed that he had on no diaper and a very dirty, smelly shirt.
"how old?" "18months"
Poor little soul, crying looking at mom with a look in his eyes I have never seen before as if to say "I'm scared of you but I love you.." Possibly the worst look I have ever seen before in my life..
One of our translators talking to mom..."she wants to go but I told her she can't", my 19 year old translator is telling the 19 year old mom she cannot leave her baby because its not right...?
"how much does he weigh so we can get medications ready"
"15 pounds" 18 months and 15 pounds....my god I just don't understand..how can a mother let her child not eat for 14 days and how come it took her so long to seek medical attention..? He can not hold himself upright, no strength, nor can he walk now, not since the "illness"
"this is Haiti..some mom's do that. They don't feed their kids and then when they die, they say it was God's will.."
After all the medical interventions and crying are done I pick up the little man and mom goes to lie down. This poor soul collapses against my chest..having a place to lay his head that hopefully for the moment gives him some comfort and safety that life has left out for him so far...
I spent the rest of my night and the better part of the next morning just holding this little guy..mom more interested in the male friends/dad that came to visit...but I'm trying to reserve judgement. Beth, our midwife spoke with mom yesterday and tried to reinforce that children need to be cared for, they need to be fed, cleaned and loved in anyway possible but I'm not sure she gets it. This is the way of life in Haiti for some children Beth explains to me..how does it change? Well education about birth control, child spacing, parenting to name a few..education of young girls, changes in societies norms surrounding women and reproduction, better pre-natal and post-natal care to name a few more... This little man is still with us, eating Medika Mamba (http://mfkhaiti.org/) and the fried food he's become accustomed too with a little smattering of formula for good measure..and then he will go home to god knows what and I am struggling to not let myself go there...life just seems so unfair for some..
And although I am heavy hearted and I just don't feel like ending with something happy (because I want you to feel like me..fired up about the millions of children that die each day due to malnutrition and limited/no access to clean drinking water) I have promised I will do just that! I have also told you about Wony. A great young, talented boy who had wounds not cared for for weeks post the quake resulting in fly larvae growing in his wounds amongst other things. Last week we were worried that he had developed another infection as his eye had become more puffy..good news! Miami hopsital also operated on him and turns out no infection just a lymphatic drainage issue which has now hopefully been resolved...hopefully!
Life is sad and happy; good and bad; hard and easy and I know life must balance out somewhere along the way I'm just not sure its here in Haiti tonight...