Since last January I have heard stories of the destruction from the earthquake that shook the little nation of Haiti. I have read reports; I have seen pictures; I have seen videos; but I have never seen it with my very own eyes. I knew it was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. I have seen poverty all over the world, so I knew the kind of things I would see…at least I thought I did.
As we entered the blue-tarped, open-air clinic, the smell of bleach barely blankets the smell of human waste. Before entering, everyone has to wash their hands and step in bleach to prevent the spread of this deadly disease that is wiping out thousands of Haitians. And you have to repeat that process every time you exit and enter a new wing.
Cholera is a killer. The bacteria can kill a human in six hours if they don’t get a simple IV.
A volunteer nurse for Samaritan’s Purse, Stacey Brown, recently wrote on a blog post about the reality of cholera.
I watched as people rolled over to hang their heads over the side of their beds to vomit. Sometimes it makes the bucket, most times it adds to the already soiled ground around them. Others who had the strength squatted at the bedside, the sound of running water erupting out their bottom. Still others lay on their beds with holes, too frail to squat.
“Pride has no place here. Cholera has taken their dignity.”
I held six-month-old twin boys, who are now orphans because of cholera. Their birthdays might have told them they were six months, but they resembled preemies. I looked in to the grandmother’s tired eyes as she cradled one of the boys wondering how she was going to take care of her five children and now these two boys. Her face looked hopeless. As I held one of the little boy’s hands, I knew they were FIGHTERS. I knew in my heart that God has a very special plan for those boys.
A few beds down there was a little girl who had battled all night. A nurse was there holding and loving on her, because her mother had left her there while she went to get food and had not returned. That was 24 hours ago. All alone and tired, her weary eyes looked dead. No spark.
There were two fathers watching over their babies. One had just beat cholera at our clinic and when he returned home, he found his baby had diarrhea and vomiting. He walked nine hours through the night to get his baby to our clinic. The other father beside him had just lost his wife, and with no time to cope he was there holding his baby who was fighting to live.
As I looked across the children’s wing, I saw the barely clothed children, some silent because they have no more energy to give, some screaming because of the pain. I sat and thought that I live in a society where kids are covered in Burberry and Gucci every day, and the biggest concern for a mother is what color Uggs to put on her child’s foot. This week I visited Corey’s grandmother in the ICU, and I looked around her room and just thought how lucky we are to have amazing health care right at our fingertips. But these mothers in Haiti are lucky if they make it to our clinic and get simple fluids into their child before cholera kills them.
We can watch on TV, but it’s the stories that make it real. They are reality.
It is when I saw these men and women, boys and girls, fighting to live that I realized I was not prepared to see what I did.
There were times this weekend I just cried, and I sat in silence as I watched what these weary people were going through. These people have battled one fight after another.
And it’s not even close to being over. It’s just the beginning.
Please know all pictures were taken with permission from the families.