Monday, February 16, 2009

The Saddest Day

Today started out fairly abysmal, moved to bad and then picked up when I returned home.

After breakfast, Madame Justine came to the guesthouse to tell us that the grandmother of the 6 day old was at the clinic and was requesting to see me so she could give me the baby. I'm not sure if the staff at the clinic led her to believe that I was interested in taking the baby but I think that it was hard for them to understand that there is a long process involved in adopting from Haiti and you can't just take a child on a whim. Madame Justine asked me to come tell the grandmother that I was not taking the baby. It was heartbreaking, to put it mildly, as the grandmother was imploring me to take her. As someone who wants to adopt and knows how dire the situation for orphans is in Haiti, I was devastated to tell her (through the translator) no.

I then went with half of the team to Rainbow of Love orphanage. The orphanage has a ward for disabled children and adults. There were about 27 residents there. Most of them were wheelchair bound, two of them were just laying on mattresses, and a few were laying or sitting on a matt on the floor. I believe the major diagnosis was cerebral palsy.

When we arrived the children in wheelchairs were sitting in a circle, no one was interacting with them at all. One girl, Esperance, who has hydrocephalus, was laying on a mattress and I went over to her and sat with her and held her hand. She was not communicative, but she did look at me and hopefully she knew I was trying to reassure her.

This is Pierre. He loved the camera and was really excited to see himself after pictures. The staff said he is really shy, but I had no problems getting him to interact with me.

I came there as support for the rehab team. While they were making adjustments or doing complete overhauls to the resident's wheelchairs I would hold the children. I was also able to sit with a couple of toddlers on the matt while they were positioned on their stomachs so that they could practice lifting their heads up. I know that the staff there is doing the best that they can, but it is sad to see children with pressure ulcers on the back of their heads because they just lay on their backs all day. Most of the residents had contractures and it was hard to see them unable to straighten out their legs and arms. The therapists were able to work with many of the residents, but some of the older ones were only able to have their chairs fixed with foam padding up so that their skin wasn't coming into contact with metal.

Baby Moises loved being held and cried whenever someone tried to put him down. Here he is with Gail, our team leader.

There were a couple of girls, Sensia and Alanda, who were able to walk and tomorrow the therapists are going to return to the orphanage and give them walkers and braces to help with their gait. Here are Sensia and then Alanda.

They will also begin caregiver training in the hopes that the nannies will be able to understand the positioning, proper feeding techniques and why these are important. I believe they have had 3 residents die within the last year of possible aspiration pneumonia, which could be avoided if the residents have their heads positioned correctly while they are being fed.

After we got home I found out some great news about the baby. Gabe, one of the doctors on our team, went to the clinic today and the baby was taken back to the clinic to see her as the grandmother said she had a cold. Gabe said that the baby returned with her aunt and uncle and that they told her they would be taking care of the baby and had no idea why the grandmother was trying to give her away. Our suspicion was that there is still a lot of superstition surrounding special needs children and that possibly the grandmother wanted to draw away bad spirits from the family. Regardless, the baby has a home and that news greatly lifted my spirits.

A hard day with a semihappy ending. Tomorrow almost all of the team will be traveling to an outreach clinic where we expect to see 200 patients. I'm sure I will have plenty to talk about as the team that went to outreach today told us tales of the interesting maladies they saw.


BenBen said...

Those are some cute kids. Keep up the good work! I'm glad all those finance execs got their bonuses for 2008 because that would have been devastating for these kids to carry the burden of knowing there were CEOs in the world suffering.

Smiths said...

I didn't realize that you would blog form Haiti-thank you for that. I feel so touched and overwhelmed with joy knowing I have two healthy kids sleeping upstairs, and you are out there giving as much love as one Melanie can to some kids that really deserve it. Incredible.