Friday, July 10, 2009

Babies, Bars and Birthdays

Jerry at physical therapy Carmielle

Carmielle and Annabelle

In the malnourished house
The first communion group

Last Sunday was many of the children’s first communions in Kenscoff, so I spent the night in the orphanage and walked down the mountain with them to the church in the morning. It was about a 40 minute walk to the actual town of Kenscoff for mass at 9, and a steep, dusty, hot hour walk back up afterward. They had a little party for the children, and they were all very excited to have been given their own soda and piece of cake. They were adorable in their white dresses and dress shirts, and loved being apart from the rest of the children for their party. After the communion, the kids in Kay Christine had prepared a little dance performance to the soundtrack of Mama Mia. Even the kids in the wheelchairs were spinning around and having fun. Some of them had memorized an entire little routine, where others were just bouncing around and enjoying themselves.

Robin (the volunteer coordinator) turned 33 on Sunday, so we had a little cake and cookie party for her at the retreat house in Kenscoff. On the way back down to Petionville, we stopped at a bar for a beer to celebrate her birthday. I use the term very loosely, because it was basically just a cement house with a barred window they handed the beers out of. We sat in and around the truck, and drank the beers while chickens ran around out feet and the bar owner’s children sat with us.

I had been to the hospital for Emilie’s funeral, but have never really gotten the chance to see all the rooms and visit the babies, so I took the morning on Wednesday and looked around. St. Damien is the only free pediatric hospital in Haiti, and the new site in Tabarre was opened in 2006 so it’s very new and impressive. The day started with mass at 7 with Father Rick, who was in town for the first time since I’ve been here. He has to travel an insane amount to raise money for the hospital, and left again the next day for another trip. The mothers were being led in from the gates carrying their sick children to sit outside for the morning prayer and then were led inside to the waiting room. Only a certain number of children are seen a day on a first come first serve basis, so many had been waiting at the gate all morning.

I first visited the malnourished house, with sick children staying there to regroup for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. There were a few very adorable babies in their cribs who seemed to be doing well with the help. I spent a lot of time in the abandoned baby room (the tap tap room) playing with the kids. The oldest girl was Annabelle, who is 2 years old and was only recently abandoned by her family. She was in a fire, and lost all the fingers on one hand and about half of her scalp and was left in the hospital for her injuries. Besides her scars, she is perfectly normal and healthy, and is actually very spoiled by all the visitors and nurses who love to pick her up and play with her. She got very frustrated with me when I put her down to go hold some of the other children. Evelin was another little girl, who has quite a few neurological and sensorial problems. She’s blind (born without eyes) and is very difficult to communicate with, usually just content with sitting, kicking and making noise by herself. We’re going to take her into the pool this Saturday to see if some water therapy helps her at all. My favorite little girl was Camielle, who is very tiny for her age, but otherwise perfect and very sweet. She’s probably about 15 months, but looks a lot younger and loves to pull on my hair. I visited the other recovery rooms and played with the children- some were recovering from surgery, others were there for long term illnesses, some were in wheelchairs or completely bedridden and several were abandoned. They were very happy to see visitors, and kept having me take pictures and show them what they looked like.

I’ve been working a lot with certain children in their physical therapy sessions, taking them into separate rooms and working on their extension and muscle control in their hands. Jerry is my favorite little guy, who was born with a brain tumor and had some brain damage from it. He is 4 years old, and can walk if he is holding on to something, so I walked with him in his walker and played catch with him and some other children. They are all so happy, but many of them are extremely stubborn and would rather play then concentrate on their therapy! The kids from the school are still on their summer vacation, but the summer program starts on Monday and that’s when I’ll start with them in the pool. On Saturday, some of the kids from Kenscoff are coming down to swim and we’re bringing a few of the babies over from hospital to see how they do in the water.

Besides that, I’ve just been continuing meeting all the kids, observing physical therapy and helping out where I can. I found out that I can go to the Dominican Republic in September to renew my visa which expires every 90 days. The bus is only about 80 bucks round trip, and I’ll get to see a lot of the country this way! I’ll stay, I hope, with the NPH house there where a friend of mine from college will be volunteering. Then there will be home in December for Audrey’s wedding for that renewal, and I suppose I’ll have to figure something out for March.
Love and miss you all!

1 comment:

  1. Those babies are so. friggin. cute.

    I'm jealous of your therapy experience for sure!!! Someday I'll know what I'm doing :)