November, 2011 was my second trip to Haiti. I was so excited to return, to see how the children at the orphanage where had grown and to be able to provide medical care to as many people as the team possibly could. During my first trip to Haiti this past April, it was like culture shock…to see the mass amount of people living in such deplorable conditions, just hours away from our posh homes and schools. This trip, I was prepared for the sites, the smells and the extreme poverty I would witness. What I wasn’t prepared for was the heart wrenching departure on our final day.
Our three clinic days were awesome, located in various areas of Cabaret, the home village to many of our translators and friends. On Sunday, thirteen surgeries were performed in the orphanage play area, this day closed off to curious little eyes. As a Nurse Anesthetist, I was at home in the surgical setting, despite the limited resources typically available to me. I wish I could do anesthesia in that location every day! One of the cases tentatively scheduled for the day was the removal of two sixth fingers on a 10-month-old infant in the orphanage. The baby had arrived at the orphanage since my last visit and I did not know him well. His mother is terminally ill and he was brought to the orphanage as a last resort before malnutrition and disease would take his life. I held him close, hearing a slight runny nose and congestion. He was not, on this day, a good surgical candidate and I postponed his case until one of our surgical teams returns again. That evening, his condition was worsening and I was thankful to have made that decision. I gave him a breathing treatment, hoping to have him improve as the team was leaving early the next morning.
As dawn broke on Monday, I waited to hear the sounds of awakening in the nursery. I crept in and cradled him in my arms….he was burning hot with fever and very congested. The tears, my tears, poured on his face as I knew the van was ready to leave for the airport. I felt so helpless as I took him outside where the team was waiting. With tears in my eyes, I updated Dr. Leo and Dr. Robert on his declining condition. We had to go…the baby wasn’t in distress, which I knew, but I also knew if I just had a little more time, I could help him. I reluctantly and very tearfully handed him back to Bonnie, the resident director, while rattling off a list of things to do for him. I crawled into the van with a broken heart, a waterfall of tears and feeling as if I were abandoning one of my own children. I leaned over to Dr. Robert and said “I hope the van doesn’t start”…just then the engine turned over and we began our departure. And then, they stopped….we had a flat tire! YES!…out the door we went, grabbing the baby on the way. I had just enough time to give him a breathing treatment and medication before I left. I still cried handing him back over, but I knew I had done the best I could. I thought about him all the way home and haven’t’ stopped thinking of him since. This little, helpless boy with the huge beautiful eyes and long eyelashes, is lucky to just have another day. There are so many children just like him in Haiti, but he has my heart forever. I can’t wait to return to Haiti to all the people there. I thank Guiga, Leo, Robert and Tammy for all their hard work and organization and for sharing this part of the world with me.