Monday, January 23, 2017

Cholera Day 4: 10 babies and 11 days In Port Au Prince

Day 4: Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I got up about 6:00 in the morning and started feeding babies and changing diapers, longing for the moment when Joanne would come to relieve me and I could go home and sleep.

Annita went out to wash the dishes, and when she tried to come back in, the hospital security wouldn’t let her bring the bowls back in that we were using to feed cereal to the older babies. “No one else is allowed to feed their children inside here,” they said, “and they’re complaining to us that you are breaking the rules.”

Rules? Who would have thought? We weren’t allowed to feed our children inside the hospital? But sure enough, all the other families had their tiny little children outside in a little waiting area (the same place where I had had to put my backpack on a shelf the first day), feeding them their breakfast. You would see a parent holding a child in one hand and an IV bag in the other hand as they went to the outdoor tent where a few chairs and benches were set up. When I tried to go out a little later and bring the bowls in, with a box of rice cereal in my hand to show that we weren’t feeding anything messy, the guards stopped me, too. So we had to bring the kids outside and feed them.

Annita stopped me just after I was turned around at the door by the guard. She looked me in the eyes and put her hand on my shoulder. “Don’t be upset,” she said, her voice calm, commanding, and peaceful. “It’s not man. It’s not coming from man. It’s from the hand of God. Don’t fight against man.” Her words were so true, and instantly gave me peace.

Funny story—when I mixed up the rice cereal for the first two kids, one of the ladies sitting nearby asked me, “Is that ice?” “No, it’s rice,” I replied. It did look sort of like crushed ice, though. (It’s almost funnier in English than in Creole, which is the language the exchange took place in, because the words don’t rhyme or sound anything alike in Creole. Ice is glase, and rice is riz.)

At 8:00, I had Jackson outside in the feeding area and I just had the feeling I should call Joanne to see where she was. I was desperate to get home. I was depending on her arrival, because I felt like I was sinking, drowning in exhaustion. “Oh, I’m at Wahoo Bay,” she said. “I’m just now leaving. I’ll be there. I’ll be there. I’ll tell you the story when I get there.”

My heart sank.

Wahoo Bay? I knew she had driven Ryan back to Club Indigo, arriving there about 11:00 pm, so she must have stopped for the night on her way back.

Now I was angry. Wahoo Bay is a luxury resort. So not only was she 2 hours away, she had spent a lovely night in a nice resort while I was slaving away with the babies, losing my sleep at the hospital. I was as polite as I could be to her and hung up the phone as fast as possible, before I said anything I would regret later.

I could just see yesterday happening all over again. Roselord, who had worked through the night with me, needed to go home and get her sleep, not twiddle her thumbs all day, waiting around for Joanne. Dear, sweet Annita and Loselie had worked all day yesterday, all through the night, and were willing to work all day today, so they were going to be tired by the end of the day and need to be relieved. I was NOT going to stand for another day of “I’ll be there, I’ll be there” and treat these ladies the way Kerland and Clauciane had been treated the day before.

Something snapped in me. I was not going to stand for it. I was not going to wait around all day again. I was not going to depend on Joanne and have her not come through for me again. Until now, I had deferred to her the lead, consulting her for final decisions and allowing her to be the head of the operation. But in that moment, I decided that Heather had committed these babies to my care, and if Joanne was not going to come through for me, I was going to make sure that I didn’t fall through on them. I was going to rise up and make things happen instead of just letting them happen to me.

I strode resolutely back inside the hospital, fighting back tears. My posture of “woman on a mission” must have been obvious, because a couple of the staff who saw me laughed as I went by. I heard them and turned around to see if they really were laughing at me for the way I was walking. They were. Just for effect, I made a dramatic expression of the way I felt, pressing my lips together and balling up my fists and shaking my head. They started asking me what was wrong, and I replied that I had no words to express what was going on, and I had better go away and pray before I talked to anyone. I first went in and asked Roselord to finish feeding Jackson, who was left on the bench outside with his bowl of cereal next to him. Then I fled, went around to the back of the hospital, sat down on a cinder block, and bawled.

But a nurse named Nirva followed me out there, and she coaxed the story out of me. Then she addressed me with an authoritarian, commanding tone of voice that was not at all unkind. It was strong, like a rope to pull a drowning person back up onto solid ground, and forceful, like someone who had been there before. She said to me, essentially, “Stop crying. Crying makes you weak. It gives Satan opportunity. It causes you to focus on your problems. You need to pray. Look to God and ask Him to give you strength.”

Take it from a Haitian woman, I thought. Who else has faced more adversity and unpleasant situations? She knows. I’m only just now getting a taste of challenge, after having nothing bad ever happen to me all my life.

She continued to repeat what she was saying (as it was in Creole and I wasn't getting the whole thing the first time around), until she succeeded in making it clear. She got me back on the feet of my faith and told me the truth. "I want you to stand up and pray now, out loud. Cry out to God about it."

The truth has a forcefulness about it. I realized that I was “seeing the wind and waves boisterous” and therefore I was sinking. So I took her advice, looked to God, and asked him to give me strength. I prayed out loud until I knew that I was stably back on the grounds of faith, and I was able to pray out of my position In Christ and claim His strength and victory in this situation. I realized that it was far more important for me to learn to draw strength and grace from him than for this situation to go away or for me to get sleep.

After I prayed, I had peace. I took a deep breath, walked into the hospital, and started making arrangements for the nannies to eat and for Roselord to get home.

Joanne called me back and asked if I was mad at her. “Yes!” I admitted. She explained that she was experiencing such bad diarrhea all day yesterday that she simply hadn’t been able to make it back to Port last night. Uh oh, I thought. I told her that I forgave her and apologized for getting mad at her. I saw that the enemy wanted nothing better than for us to get at each other’s throats, and I would have no part of that. She said that Dony (her interpreter) was coming and would be there at 9:00 to pick us up. I told Roselord and she was willing to wait until then to go home.

Dony arrived at about 9:15 and gave Roselord the money she needed to take a tap-tap home. He probably brought supplies, too. I don’t remember. We were constantly running out of diapers, wipes, and formula, and needing more.

Joanne arrived about 10:00 and she was very kind, very subdued, and I was very understanding and very calm. I can’t remember now how the day went, but I know I left Annita and Loselie alone. I must have gone to Joanne’s house, where I rested and took a shower. We were supposed to bring Kerlande and Clauciane, the two nannies from Montrouis, to the hospital by 7:00 for the shift change, but we didn’t get there until about 7:40. I walked in to the hospital and Annita and Loselie were sitting in chairs, looking exhausted. Annita gave me a stern look. “I can’t get home now,” she said. “I missed the last vehicle that’s running. You have to be on time.” I apologized profusely and made arrangements for Joanne’s driver to take her home. I went with them and then went back home to Joanne’s house, where I slept in a house for the first night since I had been in Port.

Read the next post: Cholera Day 5
Start over at the beginning: Cholera Day 0 

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