It's not easy for me to write about the hard parts of Haiti. I find the stories of fun and progress and cute children much easier to report to the world. But the reality is that Haiti is hard sometimes; in fact, it's hard most of the time, and to ignore that is to write partial truths.
This week has been hard. Very hard.
It started with Thabita, one of my sweet youth group girls. She and her sister, Diamanta, lost their father to a stroke. I called her as soon as I heard the bad news and all I could do was cry with her as she begged me to "Do something, Kez. My family, me, we are all broken. What are we going to do now?"
On Monday, just days after Thabita's loss, one of the women who lives in Cite Brian, the little concrete houses behind the abode house, brought an 18 month old girl to clinic. We'd seen her already and sent her to the hospital because her illness puzzled us. They wouldn't admit her. So on Monday, Roselande lay in Grace's lap, breathing that shallow, raspy breath that I've only ever heard just before death. We rushed her to hospital and she was dead within 20 minutes of arriving. Later that morning, a neighbor took me to the little red house where her body lay wrapped loosely in a white sheet. I knelt beside her, cried and told her I was so sorry. Outside, her family wailed in Haitian mourning custom and the curious neighbors whispered about the white nurse who cried for the baby.
We have been helping to coordinate care of a tiny hydrocephalic baby named Samuel for the past 4 months. Neurologists examined him in Port-au-Prince in Octobor and sent him back to the orphanage to die but somehow he hung on until Wednesday morning. Though we knew that we should rejoice that his suffering was over, it was still incredible difficult to watch that infant-sized coffin go into the ground and to hear the women who cared for him say, "It feels like we just lost the battle."
We thought we'd cried as much as one can cry in a week. We were wrong. Thursday morning brought us a week old baby girl whose mother had died, leaving her and 2 older sibling behind. The grandmother was hoarse almost to the point of being mute from all her wailing and mourning. And minutes later, Oscar told me that Erilien, a 17 year old boy who'd come to clinic 3 weeks ago with probable tuberculosis and HIV, had died.
Five deaths in a one week period. It's not supposed to be like that.
We don't fear death in Haiti as much as people sometimes do in the US; it's a part of life here. But as nurses, we feel responsible in some strange way for every person who's ever come through our doors, and when one of them dies, we grieve not only the loss of life, but also the failure to preserve it. This week, the grief was overwhelming and it was paralyzing. I have avoided our clinic since Thursday and I dread walking back into it on Monday. If I'm not in clinic, perhaps no one else will die.