Last Tuesday morning, Dr Ed called me from clinic. "Kez, I have a baby who is septic. I can tell you what meds to put him on, but he's probably going to die today. Can you take him?"
I said "Yes," and that's how I met Moise (Moses), my little tetanus baby. He came to me dehydrated, 10 months but weighing only 10 pounds, with a raging fever and a series of inflammed abscesses around his left shoulder. His entire body was writhing in pain, his back was arched, and his jaw was clenched shut. He didn't cry; he just lay there in constant muscle spasms and moaned.
I put an IV into Moise's arm and started him on IV fluids and antibiotics. After consulting with a doctor friend in the States, I also started giving him doses of ativan to relax his clenched muscles and give him some rest. Nothing seemed to work. I was up with him all night, giving him tylenol and ativan, monitoring his IV, and praying. Finally, Moise fell asleep at 7:30am and slept for the next 24 hours.
The beautiful part of Moise's heart-wrenching story is his family. One month ago, a 23 year old named Jackendia found Moise in a trash heap in one of the ravines near Delmas 31. He was covered in scabies and nearly dead from starvation. Jackendia took him home and with her mother, Jacqueline's help, has been raising him as her own ever since. Each day, Jackendia would sit with Moise, holding him, feeding him when he could take a bottle, and praying for him. She would leave at night and her mother would stay all night, frequently not sleeping at all while Moise suffered.
I asked Jacqueline about their decision to adopt Moise. "I have a business selling pate (fried food) in the evenings, but ever since we took in the baby, no one will buy from me. We talked about it - without my pate business, it will be very hard to provide for our family. But if I got rid of Moise just so I could keep selling pate, it would be like saying that I love my business more than I love that baby. I can't do that." She smiled confidently at me. "God will make it back up to me somehow. He'll take care of us."
Moise was supposed to die on Tuesday. He didn't. He didn't die on Wednesday either, or Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday or today. For 5 days, I cared for him here at our house, watching him improve and then spike another fever, sleep calmly for a few hours and then wake up writhing in agony again. I eventually was able to get him admitted to the best children's hospital in Port-au-Prince because my other commitments were making it hard to provide him with the amount of care that he needs. I didn't want to let him go, but it was better for him.
Jacqueline calls me every day to tell me how Moise is doing. He is still in a lot of pain and still running fevers, but he is still alive. The worldwide survival rate for tetanus is only 50%, and for one as tiny and malnourished as Moise, it seems impossible that he would beat the infection. But he has lived this far, and even if he dies tonight, he is a miracle baby. My miracle Moses.