Thursday, August 25, 2011

One Life

There is a saying—“One death is a tragedy, but a million deaths is a statistic,”—that is depressingly true from a PR point of view. Once when I was teaching English 110 at a community college, I talked some about Haiti, including the depressing maternal and infant mortality rates, the low life expectancy, etc. I got empty stares from my class.

But then a couple of days later, I talked about a sick child whom John was working with in Haiti. The class was spellbound as I described Mariella’s struggle for life against the ravages of malnutrition and diarrhea. “What can we do?” they asked.

Some of my recent blog posts seem a little vague to me, so I thought I’d focus on a particular child, Fernandez, pictured above. I had the opportunity to spend some time with Fernandez at the Sisters' malnutrition program in Cite Soleil. The Sisters are concerned about Fernandez because he is three years old and only weighs 18 pounds. Sometimes he is interested in eating, and sometimes he isn't. Although Fernandez has recently had a clear chest x-ray, many members of his family have tuberculosis, including his twin younger siblings and his grandmother.

For the most part, Fernandez's affect is flat. But he allowed me to pick him up and we walked around for a little while. He's kind of like carrying a small sack of potatoes; he's dead weight with no muscle tone, due to lack of protein. When I picked him up, there was no catch under his arms, of the muscle tensing, as he isn't strong enough.

But the good news, is that when I pulled a cheese and cracker out of my backpack, he ate it. And then another one. And then another one! I put him down and we walked around for awhile, until he spotted his mother and wanted to be with her.

The next day, I saw Fernandez scooting around on a small tricycle. He smiled and waved at me. A little while later, he came over and I picked him up. We walked around some more, and then I noticed Fernandez's head starting to bob, and conk, he was out. I sat down in the courtyard, and he napped on my lap until his mom came to retrieve him.

So though Fernandez is poor, with its frequent health problems, and lives in Cite Soleil, he has a couple of things going for him: he is enrolled in the Sisters' malnutrition program, and he has a mom who really loves him.

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