11.02.2009

By Beth McHoul

It's a national holiday today - "The Day of the Dead".

Not much traffic on the Day of the Dead so I got up thinking it would be a great day to run hills. Not as much foot traffic and vehicles to navigate around would make for a better run.

Just as I was crawling to the coffee pot and swallowing Excedrin for a brewing headache I noticed John had visitors. One of them was Oriel, a guard at the girl's home. He is our contact into Simone Pele where we do monthly prenatals.

Simone Pele is an inner-city ghetto. From time to time folks from this area connect with us and we have had several adoptive kids from that area and a few that come for an occasional clinic we have.

One little guy and his mom that showed up at a clinic was 9 month old Jean Peter and his mom Eugenie. He was skin and bones, failure to thrive and in respiratory distress. We had 3 doctors on site that gave him wonderful care. Mom and baby would come back and forth to our child development clinic and each week he would have another infection of some sort. Troy and Tara got him on Medika Mamba - which in his case did not help. Even with instruction, Mom did not seem to be consistent in giving it to him. He did not gain weight. Mom just didn't know how to parent. A few weeks passed and Jean Peter ended up at Sisters of Charity. I searched for him there hoping to get him one on one care in a family situation. The sisters told me he had been discharged and was on outpatient care for Tuberculosis.

Good I thought - he is getting care. I'll see mom at Simon Pele and work out a plan.This morning, around my table, Oriel said "Ti Swazo" (Little Bird) had died. Matter of fact, such is life and death in a country that celebrates the "Day of the Dead". A baby gone. A teen mom who never knew how to be a mom.

This is why our child development program is crucial. We teach moms to breastfeed, get medical care early, feed their families nutritious foods on their budgets, hygiene, and so on.

Jean-Peter was cute, he responded to love, he hung on but died shortly after his first birthday. I cried through much of my run. I counted 13 trash piles on my run, a few of them had grown men picking through them.

Our ambulance vehicle will take us into Simone Pele monthly. We will continue to teach pregnant women and young women how to better care for their bodies and families. We want to work to prevent these kinds of situations where babies end up dying after being sick for most of their short lives.

Jean Peter, "Ti Swazo" touched several lives but in the end he died. We loved him, we tried to make a difference but it wasn't enough. We'll keep trying, we'll keep teaching, maybe preventing the next death. That's why we are here.

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