About 350 children seen, one emergency, and a long ride back and forth. The day went well, with a lot of children seen. We had 3 Haitian pediatric residents with us and a local doctor as well.
Here's the story of the day: a woman comes to the clinic carrying a limp child, about 1 and a half years old, large head and with cerebral palsy. She says she found the child yesterday in the street in a pile of garbage. We take the child, rush him to the back room, start an IV, give fluids, antibiotics and he looks better. The local doctor takes off to find an orphanage that is willing to take the child. He and I both suspect something is not right. From the way she was holding the child, the way she looked at him, the way she got him to eat, said a lot. I get an interpreter to help understand the events of yesterday. Where did she find the child? Had she ever seen the child before? Did she have any idea who the mother could be? I did find out that she has 10 children and that she lives in the street. The local doctor returns and says that the orphanage is full and that the child with cerebral palsy would be too difficult to care for. We both talk about our suspicion and go talk to the mother. We tell her that "we will help her and her child." She says thank you. We all know now what the real story is. We gave her the opportunity to say what she couldn't say. We didn't shame her, nor humiliate her. We didn't judge. By telling her that we would help her and "her child" we told her we knew he was hers. She had tired to find a way to find care for him, beyond what she could provide herself. She was willing to give up her child, but could not bring it on herself to openly tell us that she was giving him up. The story was made up. We got the local pastor, got her tied in to the church, set up continuing medical care for her with the local doctor, got the child started on a nutrition program, gave the child needed medicines, and she left with the child as she had come. As a mother.
In a world such as ours, with poverty and hardship beyond description, people will do desperate things. We helped her without taking away her dignity. She had the best interest of her child at heart. She was not abandoning him. She was trying to find someone who could care for him and give him what he needed with his disabilities. We gave her a sense of dignity, and the child a chance to have a life. How good of one, is yet to be seen.
I ask the question over and over again: for what purpose are we here? And after today, it becomes clearer. To serve those who have nothing, who out of desperation will give up their own children to insure their children will have a better life. To realize our own short comings and our inadequacies. But above, all to give those who have not, a chance to have their dignity and to be recognized as persons, not forgotten, but embraced for who they are. It makes me wonder why it is sometimes so hard to do. It wasn't today. Let's hope it's not that hard tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after that...
In all things give thanks,