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Haiti 2014 - Day 3

Day 3: I can hardly find the words to explain the range of experiences and emotions from today. We woke and had our usual morning of tea and peanut butter toast and visited with everyone before they left for their various assignments. The student midwives arrived and began their morning circled around the table with song and prayer. Heather and I took a moto taxi to Azile House, the nourishment center for starving children and hospice care for men and women. The same nun was still in service that was there last year and it was truly lovely to see her. It was also family visit day and the day they accept new admits so there was a line of mothers holding their babies wanting to save them and a waiting room full of mothers waiting to see their little ones. The Haitian workers would bring the children out one by one to see their mothers and then when the children returned to their cribs they were sobbing after leaving their mothers arms. It was very hard to be present for. We held children of all ages and sizes, some laughed but most were so malnourished they were just listless in your arms. We fed babies bottles and toddlers bananas. The children's arms and legs were emaciated and their bellies swollen. One had measles, one had HIV, one was severely burned, they all had the same cough. It reminded me of the cough all the children had at Zeke's orphanage. Azile house is very difficult for me. I cry  every time I go. To see these young little babes begin their lives with such suffering and to know they will return to their homes and the hunger and poverty cycle will continue. It just tears at my heart.

 We returned to the midwives for Haiti house about 10:30 and got ready to go to the school. We loaded 10 suitcases into the land cruiser and picked up Mindy at the hospital on the way. When we got to Rivage school it was filled with children and they were so happy to see us all. We spent a little time in the classroom then headed to Oaxanne's house behind the school. We unloaded the backpacks and tried to organize the clothes by size on the floor. We set up the shoes as well and gave the excess supplies to the teachers. They lined up the children in groups of 10 and brought them over. We got each one a backpack and fitted them with clothes. Each child also received a tootsie pop. The children in the most need received shoes and underwear. We took lots of pictures and video. When all the backpacks were given out we took group photos and I shared with the students the story of Brandon from CDS who emptied his savings account to help the children. They all clapped and cheered his name. The kids love to be held and gave hugs and kisses. They all really loved Heathers blond hair.

On the way home our driver Ronell stopped us by his mother's house to see his 25 year old sister. She was born born a healthy baby and then had diarrhea for 3 weeks when she was 5 months old and was never the same. Her head began to swell and she could not talk or walk. He was hoping we could help her. His mother is getting old and it is hard for her to lift her and care for her every need. He wondered if she went to the hospital in the USA could they help her. She had the sweetest smile and was very happy but non verbal and had muscle rigidity. It was difficult for her to pick her head up. Her head circumference was literally two times a normal head. My guess is that she had severe hydrocephaly and maybe the diarrhea was coincidental. I do not really know but took some pictures and told Ronell I would ask some doctors in the USA to look at her pictures and see what they think. There is such suffering everywhere you look and you see this beautiful older woman in her wood shack caring for her 25 year old daughter and they were both smiling and just lovely. 

We went back to the MFH house for our 2 pm meal and got ready for our hospital shift. We rode on another mototaxi to the hospital and when we walked in one mom had just had a baby and another was pushing. An amazing midwife from Maine who is here for a year was helping the woman pushing. She was having trouble getting heart tones, so I helped her move the patient side to side and then to hands and knees. They baby's heart tones were dropping lower so we had her roll back and push the baby out. The baby arrived but had no heart beat and was not breathing. I began to resuscitate the baby on the mothers chest but got no response. I then clamped the cord and moved the baby to the counter with ants crawling around on it and began chest compressions while a nurse was bagging the baby for respirations. After one minute the baby still had no response. By the second minute I had gotten a heart beat of 100 and stopped chest compressions and took over bagging the baby. We bagged the baby for 15 minutes before she took her first breath because the heart rate kept climbing. Finally the baby opened her eyes and began to breathe on her own. We wrapped the baby in gauze and took it to the peds ER. They started an iv and gave her oxygen through a nasal canula. 

The day continued with a woman who had been in labor for three days, a woman hemorrhaging from a miscarriage that needed a d&c, a woman with pre-eclampsia, a couple of "normal births", another birth with a woman with pre eclampsia who nursed her baby with a smile. Another woman came in and birthed her baby with snug shoulders and a tight cord and her baby did not breath but at least had a good heart beat. I only had to bag that baby for a few minutes till it started breathing on it's own. I went to check on the baby in the peds ER that I had resescitated earlier.  At first the baby looked well but later in the afternoon the baby had seized but responded well to phenobarbitol. The baby probably has some level of brain damage from oxygen deprevation and I wonder what their life will be like because we "saved" that baby. There are no resources to help that family or child. The entire day was busy on the maternity unit. There was a mom with aids whose baby died and a mom whose placenta abrupted and her baby died and a mom who came in with eclamptic seizures whose baby died. A 15 year old girl was also brought in seizing at 33 weeks and had a c/s and her baby survived. And all the other units were full, postoperative, postpartum and antepartum. 

Even with all the third world madness there were tender moments. A woman swaying her hips in the hall in labor while her family gave her water and food. Many mothers nursing their babies. The woman who had hemorrhaged from her miscarriage got moved to the floor because the bed was needed for a birth. I found her literally squatting in a corner and Heather and I found her a bed and helped her move in her very weak state. She was appreciative. With tears in her eyes she grabbed my hand and said merci many times. It was such a small moment of compassion but I know it meant a lot to her. These things are all hard to see but I feel so connected to real life here. I appreciate mine so very much but the level of disparity is unfathomable. 

By the time we got home at 8:30 we felt wasted and a cold shower never felt so good. I had a Haitian beer and two hard boiled eggs for dinner and sat around the table talking with amazing women from different parts of the US, including a nurse midwife from Illinois and an AIDS community case manager RN from Maine. The hardest part about this trip is that the internet is not really working. I'm having trouble accessing my email and Facebook and more importantly FaceTime with the kids. I miss the kids so very much. I want to rock zeke to sleep and read cosy stories and have cuddle time and read with Skye in my bed. Can't believe it's only Monday. I'm counting down the days till I get home.

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