I don’t know what it is, but ever since I’ve been back, something has been different. Some sort of change which I can’t quite put my finger on yet. I’m having a harder time opening up to people. A harder time sharing my thoughts. It’s almost like an uncomfortable feeling of heartbreak. I’m doing a whole lot more observing and am reluctant to jump into things as I would have so easily in the past. Maybe this is me growing up. Or maybe this is me protecting my heart. Whatever it is, it’s different. With challenges come change. And this is definitely a change I wasn’t expecting.I wrote this story while I was in Haiti, but something in me hasn’t wanted to share. It felt too vulnerable. That is, until now. Thanks to Jaime, Trish and Mandy (my Haiti buddees!) for helping inspire me to share some more. So here’s some of what we witnessed…..
There’s something special about Haiti. Something else, that can’t be explained. You can just feel it. A tingling sparkle of sensation. Like a warm blanket of hope all around you. Wrapped around everyone’s spirits. You can literally feel it in the air. Perhaps it’s the energy of a higher power, perhaps. For a country that has suffered so much, perhaps it’s a power out of our grasp to provide a necessary glimpse of hope. Whatever it might be, I experienced the thick of it. Call me crazy, but I know others can relate. Because we not only felt it, but we became a part of it. Seeing it with our very own eyes. Embedded in my memory, I will never forget.A van pulls into the gates in front of triage were I am standing. The driver runs to the passenger side, opens the door and out slumps a cold, pulseless, cyanotic looking young woman. Three of us glance at each other thinking the exact same thing. There’s absolutely no way. But, in this magical instant as we glance at one another, something else takes over. Something else is present. We grab a stretcher, lift her up and initiate CPR as we run this lifeless being into the ER. CPR continues, an airway is established, lines are started, drugs are pushed. 5 minutes in maybe? “Stop CPR” shouts the doctor running the code… Hopeful fingers are planted on her cold neck, wrists and groin. “Do we feel a pulse?“. Silence. All you hear is the nervous amount of hope in the air. And then… To everyone’s surprise. We do. A femoral pulse. You can see the expressions of shock as we look around the room. CPR is resumed. You can sense the excitement and hope in the air. Then, you’ll never guess, spontaneous breaths. She starts to slowly and periodically breathe on her own. More lines, more fluids, more drugs, more hope. Lab values improve, more spontaneous breaths are taken. This girl is a fighter. She is not giving up.
She was visiting from Europe to volunteer with an organization, just like myself. She was medi-vac’d to Miami the following day wrapped in the Haitian spirit of hope. The spirit of Haiti was within her too. It’s impossible to ignore as it literally is all around everyone who steps foot on this magical land.
Who knows how long she will survive, or what her outcome might be, but all I know is that I’ve witnessed something unexplainable. Perfect timing of the car pulling into the gates perhaps, but I’d like to think it was more. Something else was present that day. Something that I will never forget.
A few nights later, another similar story. Its 4am on a quiet, star filled, warm breezy night. A 2 hr old baby is brought into triage – blue and barely breathing. Instantly and instinctively, a mask is placed over her face and breaths are given. There is a tiny glimpse of hope. After probably 15 breaths or so, it’s agreed amongst the team that the hope is gone. This baby will not make it. She realistically has only a few minutes to live, maybe half an hour if she can fight for that long. So the team who was on that night wrapped her in a cloth, took her up to the roof where you could clearly see the star filled sky, and took turns holding her. Comforting her as she took her last breaths that were far and few between. And then…. Close to 30 minutes later. A cry. Movement. This is impossible? A light was shone on her. From blue to pink. Her previously fixed pupils were reacting to light. She was moving and starting to cry more, and more, and more.
She was brought to the neonatal ICU with a new name. Etiole – meaning “the stars” en francais. Only a few hours later, when we were starting our shift, she was one of the most liveliest of the neonates. The one with the most fight in her. Wiggling away, pink and healthy as can be. How could this be? Something else. It had to have been something else. Thats the only way to explain it. Something else was definitely present that night, thats all I know for sure.
Who knows what will happen with her as well, but I hope this little orphan is able to grow old enough to hear her story. To hear the story of how she received her name. The story of hope that surrounds and lives within the Haitian people. The tingling sensation of hope that I felt with my very own spirit. A miracle perhaps. Perhaps I just witnessed another miracle.
I want to dedicate this post to these two souls who did not make it. After returning home, we found out that they both had passed away a few days later. It hit a lot of us pretty hard. But at least we all can remember the overwhelming feeling of hope. What an indescribable feeling. Which as I write brings goosebumps to my body, of a new found sense of ‘something else’. Something more. Something that intrigues my spirit. Something I don’t think I can get quite enough of or ever will.
Thanks for allowing me to share,
Smile with your heart.