final days in Haiti


writing from the comfort of my uncle's air conditioned kitchen in Jupiter, FL

Thursday night - Friday morning, night shift: l'opital St Terese Hinche, Haiti

As life is lived in the streets, so it is at the hospital.  The hospital is a series of covered concrete walkways around the central courtyard, with the wards and rooms leading off of them. The rooms are all open so you can hear everything that is going on all the time.  The laboring women wander the walkways, occasionally stopping to lean on the railing, or squat with the pain, moaning, breathing and snapping their fingers, family members and strangers look on, or lie there on the ground asleep on sheets or thin mats.  You hear the cries from the pediatric ward, screams from the labor rooms as babies are pushed through, the occasional church group wanders in to pray for someone or other at the hospital.  There is little or no sense of privacy or personal space.  People often carry their cell phones with music playing, no headphones, it gets to be a competing cacophony of sound here.  Often things don't quiet down until 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning, come 6 everyone is awake and it starts all over again.

The bats and gheckos are working hard tonight on our behalf.  The gheckos scouring the ceilings of the walkways and the labor room, and the bats sqwooping in through the walkways.  There are rats scurrying around through the courtyard and the occasional dog wanders in looking for food while giant cockroaches wander about. No one seems to be bothered by all of this except me, everything here is just surviving it seems in whatever way it can.

Maria and I had a good final night at the hospital, we were 3 for 3 with our deliveries tonight, all alive and healthy.  1 boy and 2 girls, including the long awaited arrival of Filomen's (1 of the Midwives for Haiti midwives that Maria, Dina and i have become close to) cousin's baby, after a 2 day induction for a post dates a 6 lb bay arrived covered in vernix, not looking a day over 38 weeks, I guess dating ultrasounds are wrong in Haiti as well.  We fianlly got some formula for on e of the premies born the day before, the poor little guy had nothing to eat but a little sugar water since his birth around 4pm on Wednesday afternoon.  I was very frustrated and angry to learn that after telling the mother the night before to send family members for formula, that the day time staff had not told her what kind to get or seemed concerned at all that her baby hadn't eaten (she and i had been trying to hand express colostrum from her consistently since the birth but for whatever reason, the medications, the premature birth, with a woman who had successfully breastfed 2 babies previously we were unable to get anything from her).  We gave her careful counseling about how to prepare the formula, how to properly clean the bottles and how to store the milk, how often to feed him and how much to give at a time, she very happily syringe fed her baby and told our translator that she thanked god for us for caring about her and her baby.  We talked about her milk coming in and that i was hopeful as with the woman from the week before that even though she has no expressable colostrum now, that i am still hopful that milk will come in, she was as well.  She told me that when she got home and could bathe in the herbs which are traditional helpers for milk supply here, that things would get started.  We had also been led to believe that this baby was going to be transferred to Cange today for further support and no one could give us a good explanation as to why that hadn't happened and again it was too late at night for it to happen now.  I am starting to think about raising money to have a full time ambulance for Midwives for Haiti to transfer babies as needed, anytime of day, so that's something i want to start looking at the logistics of, because as we all now just by having the stuff doesn't mean it will get used or used properly.

Maria and I both got to sleep a bit throughout the night which is always nice and right around dawn, just when we thinking about packing it in for the day and heading home our translator came in to rouse us because a baby, born by cesarean the day before, was having a hard time breathing.  She was in the pediatric ward and was definitely working hard, it sounded up in her upper airways rather then down in her lungs so Maria stayed with her while i went to get a delee from the storage room.  We heard she hadn't eaten since early the day before.  Both Maria and I had since this before, especially with cesaran babies, i put the delee down to her stomach and suctioned out  5 or 6 mls of yellowish fluid, she immediately began slowing her breathing down and within a few minutes was happily suking on my finger and looking desperately for the breast.  This was a great teaching moment for our students who were looking on as well as for the pediatric nurse.  The parents were of course delighted, the father kept thanking god for us.  It's easy to feel a bit like a rock star in situations like this, such a simple fix with such profound benefit.  We certainly didn't save her life, she would have eventually thrown all of that up but it did  reduce her stress and discomfort as well as ease her parent's great concern.  I left her with her mom nursing vigorously with her father proudly looking on.  It was a great way to end our time at the hospital this year.

The rest of the day was busy with a party thrown for the students at the Midwives for Haiti house, we sang to them and they to us.  We hugged each and every one, wished them luck and told them we would see them again next year.  That evening we spent time with the girls at Maison Fortune, gave them each a necklace, a hair tie and hugs, we told them we would miss them and see them next year.  Of the two little girls who I have bonded with the most this year Willmene disappeared after i said goodbye and Loveness followd me to the gate, sorrowful, telling me she loved me and would miss me, I responded in kind, my heart a bit heavy.  It was a lovely night trying to make them realize that they are all special and loved. 

 We woke up at 4am Saturday morning to head to the airport and home. It was a beautiful drive up and over the mountain under a full moon and watching the sun rise.  It has been overall, a great trip.  There have been some challenges both for my head and my heart along the way, but I will miss it here and I am looking forward to coming back. I am also looking forward to my own bed, to my sweetie and my cat and cool nights snuggling with them both.  Thanks everyone for following along and I will keep you up to date on developments of future projects and trips.

Lots of love