by Leslee Sell, NVM Intern Nurse
“So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts its mouth” Job 5:16
I hate injustice. Hate it. It makes me feel out of control and reminds me how out of control this world is. I’ve seen a lot of injustice in my mere 2 1/2 weeks in Haiti. My angst with injustice is amplified by the fact that so often here it is experience by infants. Completely helpless infants.
Hanging in Chambrun!
This week in the clinic has been busy. Of course the only thing I have to compare it to is last week when we were incredibly slow thanks to Tropical Storm Emily that miraculously dissipated at the border of Haiti. The doctor last week joked that she sends all storms to the U.S. because “they can handle it.” Because when it storms in Haiti, people die. Injustice.
But back to this week. We’ve been busy. My first patient on Tuesday was Jean Clif. He weighed less than 3kg at 1 month old and had a 102.2 fever. After weighing him and taking his temperature I quickly scurried off to find my lifeline, Aubree. Per her instructions, I stripped him naked and dripped infant tylenol into his mouth. It was one of my greatest joys to feed him 4 oz. of formula and wipe his hot little body with cool cloths. He gulped that formula down so fast! Thankfully his temp came down quickly and we didn’t have to put an IV in him. The little peanut pooped on me twice for my efforts, but it didn’t bother me in the least. I was in love. I reluctantly sent him home with his mom after the doctor saw him and diagnosed him with jaundice. You know how they treat jaundice in Haiti? Sit in the sun. Injustice.
Wadline. A malnourished baby that comes into the clinic and to our mobile clinics! She is gaining weight!
Also Tuesday in the midst of being focused on Jean Clif, my attention was suddenly drawn to the baby Shelli was triaging. (It had been such a crazy day we had to pull Shelli in to help!) This poor baby’s face was completely purple and mottled and horrifically swollen. Her eyes looked swollen shut and her lips were so puffy I don’t know how she eats. The doctor tried to figure out what was going on from the mom but it just didn’t make sense. Apparently she had been hospitalized for a month but for what we couldn’t figure out. The doctor said it might be something auto-immune or leukemia. I won’t forget her face for the rest of my life. We sent her and her mom off to get tests and her records from the hospital. There was just nothing we could do for her right then. Injustice.
I'm a total sucker for big brown eyes!
I think the patient that really did me in came in on Wednesday. As I was triaging in the morning, I came across a name I recognized. I exclaimed to E’tienne (one of NVM’s nurses) “I think Nashka’s back!”. Nashka and her brother Dashka were both in the clinic several weeks ago, before I came to Haiti. I looked at the pictures on Facebook before coming of these tiny twins and I fell in love with them! They each weighed less that 1.5 kg at their first visit to the clinic. I went out to the waiting area and called Nashka and her mom back. E’tienne and Aubree came over to check Nashka, now a month old, and to ask about Dashka. Nashka’s mom told us that Dashka died. Presumably on the way to the hospital. As I held without a doubt the smallest baby I ever have, all I could think was “God, please don’t let this baby die here in my arms”. She was so small and lethargic – Aubree literally asked me once if she was breathing. She didn’t have a fever, but her little body is so malnourished that her feet are swollen from a lack of protein. Aubree looked at me and said, “We are putting an IV in her, and we have to get it”. After was seemed like hours of looking for a vein and trying to get her to drink 2oz. of formula – E’tienne and Aubree both stuck these teeny tiny little veins. All to no avail. Even the doctor attempted. And then Nashka threw up the ounce and a half we had managed to feed her. I think that’s when my heart broke and little thoughts of hopelessness crept into my mind. Injustice.
My heart cries out, WHY? Why is it that when there is PLENTY to go around, some still get completely screwed? And even more so, why is it a helpless baby? How can people with SO MUCH do nothing for those with less?
In the end, the doctor instructed Nashka’s mom that she needed to be taken IMMEDIATELY to a hospital. She needs IV fluids and probably a feeding tube. My distress over Nashka was compounded by the fact that her mom repeatedly asked for stuff in the midst of us working over her daughter. Food, water, my phone. I wanted to look at her and tell her to focus on her daughter who needs her right now. I’m ashamed of myself for that. I find it so easy to judge, especially in another culture where I can’t speak the language and rarely know the whole story. I don’t know when last Nashka’s mom ate or drank. I know nothing of her situation. I don’t know where Nashka’s dad is during this crisis. I know that she is only 15 years old and that she has already watched her son die. Even if Nashka’s mom neglects here, she still deserves my love and attention because she is loved by God. And part of the injustice that exists in Haiti is that women like Nashka’s mom are uneducated and lacking in self-esteem.
It is during weeks like this (well, all the time really) that I have to focus on the fact that God is sovereign. He is a God of love, and justice, and mercy. And that, in the end, He has OVERCOME injustice.
I don’t know what will happen with these three babes. And I may never find out. But I do know that I trust my God and these three will be in my prayers.
My heart is steadfast, oh God,
my heart is steadfast.