Her Name Was Miguerlene.
I knew and loved her for 91 hours and she changed me forever.
On Thursday night a local orphanage called me to check on 2 children they had just received. I arrived, and they brought her out of the back bedroom, a tiny face, body, skin and bones, dressed in a winter coat, soiled diaper and pink socks. It took just seconds for me to realize that she was very sick. I knew that if she stayed at the orphanage she would die, probably that very night. The director agreed for me to take her home with me and try to find a hospital that would admit her in the morning.
When we arrived at home Miguerlene was bathed, weighed and checked over. It was too late for us to get her to any hospital and so the nurse and I set about getting her as stable as possible. She refused any type of food and would gag and vomit when we put anything other than water in her mouth. She tiny feet were puffy and swollen and the rest of her body was emaciated. Her eyes were dull and the whites had a yellowish tint. We decided to place a feeding tube to try to get some nutrients into her and during that process I caught a glimpse of the fighter we had on our hands. A light came on in her, and she was very much alive! She batted away our hands and challenged the entire process. I hated that we had to hurt her but I knew that it was the only way that she would have a chance to survive.
Once the tube was in Miguerlene gagged and cried and looked at us with pleading eyes, eyes that still had that light of life. Oh, I could do nothing but cling to that light and hope.
All through the night I very slowly gave her pedyalite and tiny bits of high calorie formula. Early on Friday morning Miguerlene began vomiting and having bouts of diarrhea. Around 6am she had a small seizure. By 8am I knew that she needed to get to a hospital as soon as possible, even though I was pretty sure no one would admit her. This is Haiti and a lot of things are hard for a foreigner to understand, healthcare standards being a huge one for me.
We set off for the first, closest hospital and when I walked into the waiting area several nurses came out and glanced at her before telling me that their doctor was at the clinic across town. I would need to take her there. Back on the motorcycle we went, dodging in and out of traffic Miguerlene had a second, much larger seizure.
By the time we arrived at the clinic she had vomited yet again and had fallen into a fitful half-sleep. There were several people in line ahead of me that were there for check-ups and I waited, all the while wondering if this baby was dying in my arms. 25 minutes later we were seen by the doctor. When I unwrapped her from the blanket I held her in he shook his head sadly. He saw what I knew. After a short examination he told me that she was too sick. She was dying and they would not admit her to the hospital because it was not “worth it”. The only hope he gave was to take her to General Hospital in Port Au Prince. Even though I knew he was right I couldn’t just accept it, instead I went to 3 more hospitals in town, each one telling me the same thing. She was too far gone. No one would admit her.
As a last hope I took Miguerlene to a clinic staffed by several American nurses. One agreed to try one more time to get an an IV in her. The whole time she was getting it ready I struggled, was I really doing the right thing, fighting so hard for a “lost cause” was I only making it worse, was I just prolonging the pain of her life? I knew that I had to try. As Dana attempted the first line several of the Haitian staff members came in the room to see Miguerlene. One of the men looked at her and his eyes filled with tears. She’s smaller than my baby, he mumbled, his daughter is less than 3 months old.
After several tries it was clear that an IV wasn’t going to work. All of her veins collapsed as soon as they were poked. Miguerlene was fading. Their Haitian doctor came in for one last exam and told me what everyone else had. Miguerlene was dying. He told me to take her home, call the orphanage and let her go. I prayed, now that we had our answer that God would take her quickly. Dana agreed to let me stay at the clinic until they closed so that I could be with them when it happened. 5 hours later when they locked the doors Miguerlene was still alive in my arms. She had perked up a bit over the course of the afternoon and had ended up drinking more than 100ml of water by choice. Each drink was followed by a bout of diarrhea but she was trying. I had no idea what God’s plan could possibly be in this, I carried her home to wait again.
I intended to ask my neighbor to call her pastor when we got home to have him come and pray over Migureline but when I got home there was a man waiting outside the door. He was a local pastor of a small church and he had come to welcome me to the neighborhood. I have no doubt that God sent him to us, His promises were still clear, even though they were surrounded by a fog of doubt and fear. He said a beautiful prayer and blessed Miguerlene. He prayed that God would heal her and not let her die, he prayed for her infections, then he prayed that if God chose to give Miguerlene the ultimate healing and bring her home, that he would do it quickly and take away her pain. After he left Miguerlene drank 30ml of water and kept it down. About an hour later, over the course of 45 minuets I gave her 6oz of pedyalite through her NG tube and she kept that down as well. Again, I wondered, cautiously hopeful, if God was going to give us our miracle.
Throughout the night on Friday Miguerlene began vomiting again. She had several small seizures and slept deeply through it all. Saturday morning she vomited again followed by another bout of diarrhea. I don’t know how there was anything left in her body to get rid of but she was finding it somewhere. As I took her out of the bed and laid her on a towel to bathe her for the day the most amazing thing happened, out of nowhere a butterfly appeared and landed on her shoulder. Throughout her entire bath and diaper change the butterfly stayed. I didn’t know what it meant but I knew that God was giving me a sign. A butterfly symbolizes new life, somehow or another Miguerlene was going to have a new life, I just had to wait and see how God would provide it.
Around 2pm on Saturday it became clear that there was nothing more we could do for baby Miguerlene. Because her feeding tube was so uncomfortable for her I took it out and prayed that God would boss her little heart. If there was even a fraction of a chance that she would live it could only come from him. I held her and waited. Instead of the death that I was so convinced would come Miguerlene began to struggle, she fought against the arms that held her and she sat up. A few minuets later she pointed to a bowl of food which she promptly ate. Then she did her princess point again, to a cup of water. She drank it greedily and we all waited for it to come back up, it didn’t. In fact she kept it all down and then went on to play for several hours. I knew then that she was going to make it, I just knew it. Miguerlene was going to live. She slept all night and didn’t vomit or have diarrhea once.
On Sunday morning I woke up both kids and we all sat down for breakfast. Again, Miguerlene refused to eat. I tried eggs, avocado, peanut butter, nothing. She drank sips of water but gagged over pedyalite. When I was able to finally get her meds in her she vomited profusely, there was blood in her vomit and at that moment my heart sank. Just a few hours before, convinced that we were going to get our miracle, I had gone through and pulled out several weeks worth of clothing for our baby girl, I knew now she wouldn’t need it.
After the vomiting Miguerlene became weaker and weaker. Around 5pm she lost consciousness. I called a friend of mine who is a nurse to come and she tried one more time to get an IV in her, at that point she didn’t even bleed when poked. She never once stirred or cried. None of her veins were good and a line couldn’t be started, instead she decided to place a new NG tube and try to give her fluids that way. Again, Miguerlene didn’t so much as stir. The tube was placed but it was painfully clear that it would do no good. at 6:45 when I checked her I knew that she would die soon. Her eyes were wide open but unseeing. She wasn’t moving but she was moaning softly. Soon after the gasping began. She would breath normally for several breaths and then stop, finally she would gasp and breathe again. Over and over, I listened to her heart, it beat strong still. Sabrina and I took turns holding her while we sang and prayed. She vomited again, violently, she was so close to free. So close and yet so far. For the next 2 hours she held on, fighting. Her blank stare told me she could see something I couldn’t I longed for her and I longed for myself. She was going to the place I live to be called to.
At 8:37 Miguerlene finally gave in and let go. To tell you the truth by that point I was so relieved for her that it overshadowed the grief. She was finally free, finally home.
The thing about Miguerlene’s story is that honestly, there was no happy ending that we strived for.
She starved for over a year, was beaten by the people who were supposed to take care of her and left by her beloved mama, with strangers. She was poked and prodded and messed with for days, she was sick and miserable. If she had lived she would have gone back to all of those things.
Instead she died, and now she’s free but the death that I witnessed was violent and scary. She didn’t close her eyes and go peacefully, it wasn’t Hollywood nice. A pain filled life, a pain filled death. Swept up into her Daddy’s arms, free of the world that she spent much too much awful time in.
Miguerlene is another baby, out of the thousands who died of malnutrition in haiti. The infections it causes are not pretty, no one should go through that, let alone a helpless baby. Hopefully, because of the work of Espwa Berlancia there will be less little ones who will suffer the same fate.
Because Miguerlene changed my life I’m even more inspired to change others.
Because Miguerlene died I will live and love harder.
Because when I close my eyes, I see hers and I long for the visions that she had on that night.
Because of Miguerlene I am reminded that it’s ok to be raw and real and that just because one life ends doesn’t mean that the rest shouldn’t go on striving in passion.
Because of a baby, named Miguerlene I am a different person than I was 5 days ago.