October 26, 2007
When you enter the supply room of the Missionaries of Charity, it’s easy to miss the little things. There’s a table pushed against a wall with metal trays of random supplies including bandages, alcohol swabs, and half-used vials of IV meds. There are notebooks and ledgers containing each child’s name and treatments, xrays stuffed in files, and a clear glass paperweight. Hidden away behind all this chaos is a little index card box. The box is decorated with magic marker: a tiny rainbow and delicate script carefully spelling out, “Things I’m Learning.” I wanted so badly to open this box and discover the secrets written there. But in a way I have my own box, and I’m adding treasures to it each moment I’m here. Here is what is written on my heart today:
Jen and I spent about an hour and a half with a little girl this afternoon. Her name is Jennifer. Sister Rose Martha asked Jen to start an IV because she was dehydrated and listless. Jennifer is 9 months old and weighs 13 ½ pounds. Her lips are covered with weeping wounds from malnutrition and her skin hangs on her tiny frame in loose folds. Jen tried to find a suitable vein as I held her, but each time the needle pierced her skin the vein would disappear like smoke. We tried so many sites with the same frustrating results. And all this time Jennifer’s eyes burned right through me. She lay almost perfectly still.
This is Haiti.
You see a problem and the solution seems deceptively simple. You come to offer help and find that the solutions pour through your hands like water. I’m thinking of Jen and so many others in Haiti who fight so hard to make a difference. I’m playing the picture of days upon days with no discernible movement forward. I can’t describe the sensation of falling, of slowly sinking into something dark and terrible. But something pulls you on because the alternative is unthinkable. If you do nothing there is no hope at all. So you keep searching for the vein.
We never did get an IV started for Jennifer. Jen decided to insert a nasogastric tube to get her the fluids and meds she needed. Slowly, her little body animated. We handed her to the room mother, gathered our things, and left for the day. It would have to be enough. This is what I learned today. This is what is written on my heart.