Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Hope.

One month ago yesterday, it was Saturday. A Saturday that left a deep scar forever etched on my heart. I was walking through the kitchen with the phone in my hand and I received a message from my nanny who was in the hospital with one of our babies who had pneumonia. The message said, "Jenna, Esperanza (Hope) and Isaias are here in the hospital too, and the news is that Esperanza just died." I gasped loudly as I finished reading those last words. Geoffrey looked at me annoyed and asked me why would I make a noise like that. Surely he thought I was exaggerating something that was not important. I couldn't speak. My hands were trembling. I was at a loss for words. I quickly wrote her back asking her what did she mean. Typing could not get me the information fast enough. I called her.

Her name is Norma. She has been working for us for over a year now caring for our babies. At times I have doubted her and her dedication to the work. At times I thought she didn't work as hard as some of the other nannies. And at times, she would surprise me and go above and beyond in a way that no one else has. She respects me as her boss. I respect her as a wonderful nanny. She is 20 years old and has no children of her own, but she is amazing with our babies. Not everyone has the gift to be able to care for someone else's babies, up to 6 at a time, and still stay sane and kind. She had already spent 72 hours straight in the Coban national hospital, sleeping each night on the filthy floor beside the crib of our baby. They wouldn't let her leave for the first 2 days to get food and all she could eat was bread. She never once complained. She just wanted our baby to get better and cared for him as if he were her own.

As Norma answered the phone her voice was shaking. She was trying not to cry. She knew she had to relay the information to me and that the information was going to devastate me. I asked her what happened and she said she did not know. She said all she knew was that all the doctors and nurses went running to the crib where Esperanza was and that they were all there for a long time and then they covered her body and left. I asked her if she could get closer to see what was going on and she said every time she tried to walk away from the crib where our baby was, the nurses scolded her and told her to go back. When she tried to ask what was happening, they scolded her and told her not to worry about it. I told her she had to go get information. She had to find out. I suppose I had a tiny, little hope that Norma was wrong and that my Esperanza had not died. I told Norma to tell the nurses that Esperanza and her twin brother had come to live with us last year and lived with us for 6 months and that they were perfectly healthy when they left. It had only been 4 months. What had happened? I quickly sent two photos to Norma's phone, one of each child that I took on the day that they left us, the 28th of February. I sent her a message and told her to show the nurses the photos in case they didn't believe her.

Isaias on the day he left us in February 2017.

Esperanza on the day she left us in February 2017.

On the day we said goodbye.
Still shaking, I told Geoffrey why I had gasped so loud. And then I left to go sit in my office by myself and wait for Norma to respond to me. After 10 minutes or so she finally sent me a message saying that Esperanza was still alive. She had had a heart attack, but they resuscitated her. They said that they didn't think there was any hope for her and that at any minute she would die. The reason her and her brother were in the hospital is because they had been starved. They had been neglected food and treated like dogs. They were never bathed, their diapers never changed. And they were now dying. Both of them.  I told Norma to ask them what we could do to help. Is there anything we can do? She went and asked them and the doctor told her to tell me to please come to the hospital to talk to them because their family was not willing to do anything. I called Celeste, our psychologist, and she dropped everything to go with me. I couldn't face this alone. We drove straight to the hospital and told the security guard who we were and he let us in. We went up to the second floor where pediatrics is and found Norma. She was so relieved to see us. As I approached the desk of the nurses, one of the doctors waved at me sweetly. I recognized her. We are friends with her family. She is a sweet and selfless woman and she just happened to be the doctor on call that night attending to Esperanza.

She took me over to Esperanza's body that lay lifeless. She lay there naked with only a blanket to cover her hips and legs. The only sign of life was her chest rising and falling with each pump of air that the nurse by her bed pumped into her mouth. Her body was covered in sores and wounds. Her eyes were only half open. This little body, this little girl had experienced nothing but suffering her entire two years of life. How is that fair? Her mother died giving birth to the twins. Her father went away to work for weeks at a time. Her 10 other brothers and sisters were left in their little, dirt floor shack, in the middle of no where, to fend for themselves. Her oldest sister was 14 when Esperanza and Isaias were born. She was just a child with no experience in caring for an infant. The twins were taken from their home on a regular basis for malnutrition and all the horrible infections that come from such extreme malnourishment. Three times they were taken to the hospital's malnutrition ward and three times they recovered and were sent back to their father's house. The fourth time the hospital finally notified the authorities and sent the twins to us. They arrived with sepsis, diarrhea, and at 14 months old they were unable to sit or crawl, unable to talk, unable to stand or walk. All they could do was lay there and hold their bottles. When they would see the other babies getting their bottles they would scream furiously and hit whatever was close to them. If the baby was within their reach, they would hit the baby and try to fight the bottle out of his hand. They fought for their food as if it was a matter of life and death. For them, since the day they were born, it had been. So many times in the first few weeks of them living with us, I thought to myself that these children act just like the street dogs. Begging for food. Fighting for food. Inhaling it and wanting more until no more would fit in their bellies. But they recovered. Oh, how they recovered beautifully with us.


Isaias the day he arrived in our home in 2016.

Esperanza the day she arrived in our home in 2016.

My eyes filled with tears to look at my baby so destroyed. And then I remembered Isaias. I looked for him and saw him sitting on the lap of his now 16 year old sister. I walked over to him. He was almost out of it. He was so skinny. His misshapen head could not hold itself upright. He made eye contact with me. I kneeled down and said his name. With all his effort, he reached his arms out towards me. I scooped him up and held him against my chest. He said, "mama" and then he looked over towards his sister's body and said, "nena" (that is what he always called his sister). Tears flooding to my eyes, I looked at his sister and asked her what happened. How did it get this bad? She didn't respond. She didn't care and it was very obvious. I loved on him for a moment as the doctor explained to me that Esperanza had had a 12 minute heart attack that afternoon. They thought they had surely lost her, but she revived. She told me she did not have much hope for her and that the baby in my arms was going to have a hard time recovering as well. I asked her what we could do. She told me that the only thing we could do is get her to a place that had a mechanical ventilator, because by hand there was almost no chance. We resolved to try to get a helicopter flight as soon as we found a hospital with an available mechanical ventilator. I gave Isaias back to his sister and told Norma to use our money to start buying him all the food he wants and formula, too. I went over to Esperanza one last time and our psychologist and I laid our hands on her body in front of the nurse who was ventilating her and we prayed. I couldn't pray much. I didn't have words. The only word that readily and easily came out of my mouth was the name of Jesus. "Jesus, Jesus, please Jesus, just be here," I whispered over her body. Tears falling onto the bed sheet. The nurse just looked at me. I thanked her and said, "Lord-willing." She nodded her head in agreement and Celeste and I left.


Out in the parking lot we immediately got on the phone to call hospitals. What were the chances we would find a public hospital with an open ventilator in the country? What was the chance we could find a helicopter that could come that night? There was almost no chance and time was against us. Time was completely against us. I drove toward the house, Celeste calling and calling. We called Rudy and Geoffrey so they could be looking up information and calling as well. We were about 5 minutes down the road and we had an incoming call. Celeste hung up on the person she was talking to to answer the incoming call. It was the doctor. She was calling to inform us that Esperanza had just passed and was no longer alive. I pulled over to the side of the road where Celeste and I tried to hold it together as much as possible while we wept. Jesus had come. Esperanza was healed. Esperanza was completely satisfied and there was nothing more we needed to do. Jesus was there.

I drove the rest of the way home silent. I walked in to the house crying. I got my pajamas on and got in bed. As I sat there I remembered that, no, I was not finished. We still had to save Isaias. I called Norma and asked her to convince the sister to allow her to care for Isaias for that night. Norma did just that and told me that the sister handed him over with pleasure and left. I went to the nursery here at Casa Gloria to break the news to our other nannies before going to sleep. We cried together. They told me that while they were in the hospital with our baby, they saw the sister and the stepmother who were taking care of Isaias and Esperanza. They heard them cursing at the twins in their language, the same language of our nannies. They listened to them threatening the babies and watched day after day how they were not buying them food or bathing them. They watched as the stepmother tried to force food in Esperanza's mouth and Esperanza spit it back out. They saw the stepmother react by hitting her in the mouth. With that, I called Norma and told her that I was going to send our social worker first thing in the morning, Sunday, to try to find the father. We were going to do what we could to be the ones to nurse Isaias back to health.

Flory, our social worker went first thing in the morning. Norma had spent the night going back and forth between our baby and Isaias. She bought him all the food he needed. We sent lice shampoo and clothes and diapers to him. I sent another nanny along with Flory having faith that the father would give us permission. We were also going to ask for Esperanza's body so she could be buried with and by people who love her. Flory offered "our assistance and help" to the father who readily agreed that we could be responsible for Isaias and buy all his medicine and food and care for him while he was recovering. What he didn't know is that he would likely never again get custody of his son. Flory asked about Esperanza's body and he declined our offer and said that he would be burying her.
With that fixed, we focused all our time and attention on Isaias who stayed at least another 8 days in the hospital. Mision Vida Nueva paid for a full-time nanny to be there at his side and give him all the care he needed. We took total care of him until he was enough recovered to be transferred to the malnutrition ward.  From there, a nanny was no longer permitted to care for him. So we left him in the hands of God and the hospital.

Isaias stayed one month there in that ward. I sent Tita to visit him two days ago and upon arrival the head nurse told her that he was given leave that morning. He was completely recovered and stable. But they had tried to get an order of protection for him and the judge declined to help. So they called the father and he was on his way. I told Tita to call every person in authority she knew and not leave until this was fixed. I told her to convince the people in charge at the hospital that if they sent Isaias home with his father, they would be sending him, once again, to his death.

Today, two days later, we just received a call that Isaias was being given his order of protection and custody was being granted to Casa Gloria. We rejoiced and we praised God. We can't wait to welcome him back home again. And next Tuesday, with Isaias, we will have a memorial service, a celebration of Esperanza's life. We won't celebrate the life that she had, because it was the worst kind of life that one could imagine. We will celebrate her, a beautiful work of God, and we will celebrate the LIFE that she has now. The life she has in the arms of my king. The life she never had here. We have so much to celebrate. Our Hope is in Jesus!


Esperanza after her first month living in Casa Gloria.

Isaias after his first month living in Casa Gloria. 

Our family, Esperanza and Isaias on my lap.


Saying our goodbyes as the two went back to live with their family.

Esperanza giving her very last hug before she left this world.