By Kim Wiese
Wednesday morning, September 17
Monday night, we witnessed a torrential storm that nearly shut down the clinic. We were pondering what life must be like for the Haitians in all those strong rains when a man walked into our clinic, soaked to the bone and carrying a newborn his friend had delivered along the side of the road. She followed closely behind him. The staff here rushed new Momma into the hospital room, as she’d not yet delivered the placenta. We took extra care with her and gave kudos (along with some dry clothes) to the man who had the good sense to bring her in to see us. Just as we finished, we realized there were two more women waiting quietly – preparing to give birth. That’s when we lost our electricity. Typically, the generator kicks in, but the battery had died, so we stood there completely in the dark. We all scrambled to find and then loan the staff our headlamps. When it became clear that we might not see a birth for several hours, we opted for some sleep. We went to bed sans electricity, though the rains had calmed a bit.
Throughout the night, we heard noises, cries and at one point, even a little screaming. However, discouraged by the commotion and the darkness, we chose to stay put. When we woke, we discovered that in fact, four babies had been born during the night (two more women arrived after we went to bed). So, we had five little babies at the clinic, which we gently placed and then photographed in one long row. We all laughed and had a good time celebrating new life with those Moms. Within 12 hours of delivering, all five families walked out the door together, happy to be rambling down that sun-kissed road.
After lunch, we drove to visit a school being built four miles away. There was a little commotion when we stopped; a motorbike ran into an open door of our truck. The bike flipped over and a teenage girl was burned on her leg by the motor. We rushed to treat the wound, ever thankful that one of our team members had the good sense to bring a first aid kit on this particular journey, and that the injury the young girl sustained wasn’t more serious.
After chatting with the work crew witnessing the school’s progress (albeit slowly), we fashioned a game plan for our last few days. Then, we walked back to the clinic, slowly and heartened by the good cheer and marvel the kids expressed upon seeing so many “blans.” (Translation: white people). A few were shocked, spooked even, when “blans” spoke to them in Creole.
Upon arrival back at the clinic, another storm brewed; larger, still – as we realized there was yet another woman in labor, this time with TWINS. First, I was heartened to learn of the twins, as I happen to be one. But the joy was quickly replaced with worry, first for the Vuner, the mom, who was distressed in labor and then then for the babies — upon discovery that they were premature (just 28 weeks), both were breech and each weighed less than two kilos or four pounds. Upon delivery, we moved Mom to another room so the staff could work on the babies. First out was “Joan,” (in honor of “Joan of Arc”) our spirited little fighter. Then, there was sweet little “Jacob,” (a good Christian name) who, due to a very difficult delivery, came out a little battered and bruised. The ladies from our volunteer group named them, for as soon as Mom realized they likely would not live, she wanted nothing to do with them. To others, this might seem heartless, but in Haiti, it’s called survival.
Vuner is a beautiful woman, just trying to make her way. She lives near the church and struggles to care for her teenage daughter, Joulien and son, Dade (who is 5) while her husband lives far away, trying to earn a living.
Throughout the night, we took turns holding, and caring for little Joan and Jacob. Early on, Dr. Leo contacted the Red Cross, to see if they might be able to provide assistance, given this was an “emergency situation” with two distressed babies. We learned that they were recently gifted a helicopter “for the people” and thought they might be able to help. For those few precious moments, we held visions of hope. However, we were informed that while there was indeed a helicopter, the Red Cross had neither a team to pick up the babies nor any available neonatal support.
Disheartened again, we set out to make little Joan and Jacob comfortable. Oxygen helped them breathe and Cindy put a feeding tube down each of them. Julien (their sister) spent time with us, holding her little brother and sister. Followed by Dade (brother), Mawdn (aunt) and Jouzlen (cousin). Even Sonia, Mom’s close friend. But, no Mom. We fed all of them and conveyed messages of courage and strength, all the while also trying to communicate deep, deep regret.
Jacob lived just four and a half hours. He passed peacefully, in the arms of our group. We passed him around, ever so gently to say goodbye, and brought his family in, as well. Still no Mom. Why focus on death when life is hard enough. Little Joan came to bed with us and slept with Cindy. She made it until about 5:50 a.m. and struggled for every last breath. Our little fighter, right ‘til the end.
We may never understand why God gives or takes away, though we trust in His higher plan. Yet, we know one thing for certain. Those two little precious babies were loved during each and every moment of their short little life.