WRITTEN BY: KATHY FULTON, December 2017
Yesterday at the clinic was a “typical” day. It started with my trying to copy some data from our server. Seems like an easy task. IT folks are hard to come by here, and with the way things are networked, inavailability of the proper cables, and my lack of tech savvy, let’s just say I had to put that one back on the back burner.
Then I tried to untangle an accounting snag I had. I stared at my numbers, tried various permutations, told Mark I didn’t think I had the accounting prowess, and then was suddenly inspired to try something different. It worked. Success!
I decorated for the monthly staff birthday party, then sat down to my desk to write a report from a recent speech therapy evaluation. After frequent knocks on the door from a wide variety of folks with a wide variety of requests, I decided today was the not the day I would be able to finish that report.
Eventually the line of patients dwindled, so I went downstairs to host the party. At that point, a tap tap rolled in with a load of patients. The clinic participates in a malnutrition program in conjunction with another nonprofit, and the health department in Haiti, and USAID. Eleven small mountain clinics are manned by local Haitian nurses, who identify severely malnourished children and refer them to this program. From there, children are sent to many clinics throughout Haiti that have agreed to see the children, monitor their progress, provide education, and supply families with Plumpy Nut (a fortified peanut butter with research to back its effectiveness with malnutrition). It is a great program, but there there are not enough places in Haiti to send the kids in need, so our particular clinic is always stretched when the families come, trying to see more children in need than our resources would suggest we could.
So, the families filed in. One of our nurses in charge sent for me and asked me to take pictures. I told her I never take pictures of anyone without permission first. She assured me she would get permission first, and explained that we need to make sure people in the US know the depth of the need so they would be moved to help fund the program. We need another nurse or two to run the program, to see more kids. I started to take pictures of some of the kids and moms she had spoken with. One caught my eye in particular. A beautiful little girl with an older woman, her grandmother? The little girl was too weak to stand without help. This 4 ½ year old weighed 13 pounds, 29 inches tall. Thirteen pounds, 29 inches. She was the same age as my granddaughter. My granddaughter, who is 40 pounds, and 44 inches tall. The comparison haunted me, and left an indelible image in my mind.
I thought about this child’s life, and the difficulty with which the parents must have in procuring enough food for their children. I thought about what her living conditions must be like. I thought about how long the family journeyed that day to try to get help for their little girl. I thought about the injustice of the chasm between the “haves” and the “have nots”.
It would have been wonderful if the clinic had the capability to keep her under our care until she became stronger. Again, the layers became apparent:
o At this point we were not open 24/7 and did not have the capabilities to keep this child overnight, which threw us into another layer of seeking care. Since this little one is but one of several at the clinic, which child from that group would we choose? The child who was the same age as our granddaughter especially touched our heart, but what about the 22 others? There were 5-6 of that group who were similarly malnourished. Which one would we choose? And the next week, when another batch comes in, and the next week, and the next week…
o If the arrangements could be made for other kind souls to care for the girl until she regained her strength, what would that look like? Would they care for only the girl, without her family? What if the girl passed during the time they kept her, without her family at her side? How would that feel to the family? This particular question came to mind because we have lived through a similar scenario in the past, when a Haitian child was taken to the US for life-saving surgery. After the surgery, she did not recover, and passed while still in the US, without her family by her side. In that case, the father thanked us profusely for the quality care her child received, though her life could not be saved. The mother, however, blamed those who tried to help for her daughter’s death and grieved deeply for years after. How would I feel if I were that mother?
o If arrangements could be made for others to care for the whole family, rather than just the one child, what would that look like? “Family” in Haiti has a different definition that in the US. “Family” here means mom, dad, kids, cousins, grandma, grandpa, aunts, uncles… How many family members would we be able to find care for? To help this one child. While the others are not chosen. Important for that one, for sure, but the situation continues on…
So I continued on that clinic day, taking the pictures our Haitian nurse requested, trying to maintain my composure, praying for more resources to make a positive impact for these precious ones. Just another typical day.
The story continues…
As of January 15, 2018, the Church of God Hospital in Haiti opened its doors 24/7. The malnutrition clinic continues, and emergency care is now available around the clock.
The public has a special opportunity to learn more about this medical ministry during an evening of fun and purpose at the Bare Toe Ball on April 28th, at Madison Park Church of God from 4-7. Tickets can be purchased at missionhaitimedical.tickets.qtego.net.
Want to make a difference each month? Our Malnutrition Program costs $500 a month. We currently have supporters for half of this amount monthly, but are in need of more support to ensure that this program can continue. If you would like to help with this need you can make a one time donation at https://www.missionhaitimedical.org/giving/ or email email@example.com to give a monthly gift for this program.