This is Joy

Re-blogged from Kerry Nutting’s blog Of Being Occupied By Christ.

I was recently asked, “What about being at COTP brings you joy?”

Though put on the spot with the question, it was not hard for me to answer: One of things that brings me greatest joy here in my position at Children of the Promise is the opportunity I get to watch healing take place.

In January, we admitted a little girl – I’ll call her “Ella”  Though not as severely malnourished as some of the kiddos I’ve seen, Ella was visibly malnourished and dehydrated. Her daddy brought her to us out of concern because he knew she was doing poorly. Also, his wife, Ella’s mom, was really sick and in the hospital. He needed to go to the hospital to be with her and was worried that Ella would not be cared for well while he was away. So he brought her to us.

Thus began this story of healing.

Myself and a few of the other staff here took turns spending the night with Ella, waking her up at intervals throughout the night to feed her so that she would get enough fluids and calories to curb her
malnutrition and dehydration. As expected with most of our malnoursihed admits, she battled diarrhea and vomiting for a few days while her body readjusted to having a regular intake of nutrition. Before long, she was gaining weight and charming us all with her contagious smile and giggles. She moved into a room with other kiddos and nannies and continued to thrive. Health wise, within a few weeks, she was back on track. But as with most of our short-term admit kiddos, now came the task of discerning when would be the best time to reunite her with her family to ensure that she would continue to thrive.

By her dad’s description, I was skeptical that Ella’s mom would recover. His symptom report of “swollen legs, chest pain and on oxygen” sounded to me like some form of heart failure or kidney failure. Weekly, when he came to visit Ella, he brought me pharmacy prescriptions that he didn’t have the money to buy.  I gave him what I had on hand in our pharmacy and supplied him with money to get the rest. That’s one thing about the health care system here – before any health services or meds are given, they have to be purchased. So,if a patient needs an IV, whoever is with the patient must go to the pharmacy and buy the supplies and fluids needed and bring them back to the doctor to be used.

One day, dad showed up with a pile of orders requiring payment, which included tests (Xray, CT scan) and meds that added up to a pretty healthy sum of money…not outrageous, by any means, but definitely pushing the limits of our monthly community-aid budget. As I pondered how involved we were going to be able to become in this familiy’s financial needs, I kind of had my own internal crisis, a battle of reason, if you will.  Looking at the tests and the cost, I had to be realistic…would any of this make any differece? If I give him all this money, will it save her? Is she just going to pass away anyway? In which case, should the money be saved for the next person who will come to our gate asking for money who is not as critical as her?

As I talked this out with Erin, my fellow nurse who has lived here for close to 1 1/2 years, she said something to the affect of, “you have arrived.” Not necessarily a desirable place to have arrived to, but the place where, as a nurse in a third world country, I was weighing the possibilites and outcomes and deciding what would be the best use of our resources. What was realistic. How should we help? I decided that, before giving him the money, I needed to go and see Ella’s mom for myself. If she was as bad as I imagined, and on death’s doorstep (for lack of a better way to put it), I would then progress with the complicated conversation of encouraging that comfort measures be taken in preparing for her to pass away. But if it seemed as though the tests and meds could improve her condition and bring her home, then we were willing to invest in that. Again, I realize how horrible and raw that sounds, but that’s what it came down to.

Two things I’ve realized about my occasional thought process since being here:
1) I’ve become more skeptical. Appropriate or not, I am. In this story, I couldn’t help but wonder if Ella’s mom really was sick…or was this a really well acted ploy to get money from us?  But dad seemed truly genuine, plus he had legit prescriptions from the hospital, so I pushed that out of my mind.
2) I sometimes just see the medical cases and forget the personal lives behind them.  I think this can be true in many areas of occupation, not just medical, and not just in a third-world environment. I hand out the treatments, share medical advice and give directions and neglect to take in to account that they are someone’s loved one.  In this case, as I was rationalizing whether or not to give dad more money, I stopped to remember, “This is his wife. This is Ella’s mom. If she died, it would change their lives forever.”

Dad was very excited to hear that I would accompany him back to the hospital. I got a moto-taxi and made the familiar 30 minute trek to the hospital. Then I followed dad to her bedside. It was so special to meet Ella’s mom. First of all, the pure fact that Ella had both parents suddenly hit me.  Most of the time, kiddos are brought to us by grandma, aunt or sibling because mom was dead and dad may or may not be in the picture. Or dad brought them in because mom had fled and was nowhere to be found. But here, I was standing before two parents, mom and dad, who loved Ella dearly. Mom was beautiful.  Even though visibly sick, she was sitting up, smiling, and asking about Ella. Fortunately, I had thought to bring my camera with me and I had some pictures of Ella on it. She teared up as I showed her pictures of her daughter, and thanked me over and over again for taking care of her. Then, in my limited Creole, I asked about her health. Where was her pain? How was her breathing? All the while knowing that, even in America, heart failure/kidney failure (still not entirely sure what she had) was difficult to manage.

As I ended my time with them, I told them we were praying for her and then I held her hand and prayed for her (in English). I kissed her cheek, dad hugged me, and I handed him the money from COTP that he needed to cover the physician orders and pharmacy scripts. This momma needed to get better. She was going to get better.

A week or two later, I was at the hospital again for other reasons, but was able to go and visit her again. I had printed a picture of Ella to give to her. Printed pictures are a rare treasure here – she was overjoyed. I prayed with her again, and on the way out, pleaded with God to make her well and able to go home soon.

Praise the Lord, this past tuesday, I got to witness this story come full circle. Like my response to the question, this is what brings me joy: Seeing mom and dad walking together toward the pharmacy to pick up their daughter together; Seeing their faces light up at the sight of their beautiful, chubby little girl; Gathering in the pharmacy together – Haitian nannies and international staff – to sing and pray over them and say our goodbyes to Ella; Sending them home with a giant bag of supplies – diapers, wipes, formula, toys, clothes – to help in the initial days; Knowing that their family was restored.

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Not all of the stories end like this. Some kids in our care are brought to us because no one wants to care for them, so we counsel them through the process of filing for abandonment. Some were found abandoned in the streets and brought to us. Some are true orphans, no father or mother, and other extended family members simply do not have the resources to care for them. But while they are here, we love them as our own as we wait for their family – through adoption – to come and take them home, too.

-Kerry Nutting

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