We recently received a 10 days old baby girl from the university hospital in Port-au-Prince. The people call it General Hospital. The little girl named Neila, weighed 1.8 kg (4 lbs). She had been born by C-Section due to the mother having eclampsia (high blood pressure and extreme swelling). When she was born she was having trouble breathing and so she was rushed to General Hospital and then 10 days later sent to us. We started an IV, put her under bilirubin lights because she was jaundiced, and watched her. Mama was with her and papa visited. They are a local family and we hire the papa’s brother frequently to do iron work for us. Neila’s uncle finally remembered that we had a NICU and asked if we could take Neila. General Hospital nursing staff also called us the day before and asked if we could take Baby Neila, and of course we said YES! GLA gives NICU care for preemies free of charge. We provide medication, IV solution, oxygen, treatments and any monitoring and we insist that the mother stays and learns how to care for their tiny babies. The receive 3 meals per day and a place to sleep.
Baby Neila’s heart rate stayed between 170 and 210 beats per minute. This is extremely high and we could not figure out what in the world was going on! There was part of the history missing. We checked her hemoglobin and it was 5! It should be 12! No wonder she was having trouble breathing and heart rate was so high! Yesterday, papa was here all day while I gave baby Neila two blood transfusions. As we talked, he told me that saddest story and my heart hurt for him. I also got so angry at the circumstances surrounding Neila’s care in general hospital before coming to us.
This is the story the papa told me…
Neila’s mama is 32 years old. Neila is her 3rd baby. Her other two are 12 and 6 years old. The mother developed complications of eclampsia and her blood pressure was very high and she had extreme swelling of her body. The doctor performed an emergency C-Section at 10 PM that night, came out of the delivery room with Neila wrapped in a blanket and told the father that he needed to go right away with the baby and find a hospital that would take her. She was having trouble breathing, she was blue. They had nothing to offer her at that hospital. The father took off and went to one hospital after another asking them to take her. He went to six hospitals before General Hospital took her. Most of the hospitals had no doctors. Some had no bed for her. Other’s would not even let him in since it was so late. One hospital had him sit and everyone came out to look at her, and finally the doctor who had been asleep came out and looked at her and told the father that their NICU was full and they couldn’t help him.
The father said he was sure that she was going to die before he found
someone to help her. Finally, he arrived at General Hospital and they accepted Neila into their NICU. But then, there were big problems with her being at the hospital. The papa said that the doctors, residents, nurses, and interns at GH has not been paid by the government for 6 months. There are no supplies for the staff to care for the children. Parents have to go outside of the hospital to try and find medications, IV fluids, needles, tape, bandages, and everything else they would need. The doctors write a prescription for everything. It is so sad that the doctors have nothing to work with at the hospital and even more sad that the government does not put enough value on the health care in this country to make sure the doctors and nurses who work for the government are paid on a regular basis!
The father said from 10 pm until morning, there were no nurses or doctors in the pediatric unit. The doctors told the father that they don’t get paid, why should they work so hard? The father said he told them that they took an oath and taking care of the children should not all be about money!
The ten days that Neila was in General Hospital, the papa said 8 preemies died. Some died without a doctor there. Five other children died in the regular pediatric until and were laid in the hallway waiting for someone to take them to the morgue. My heart was broken listening to him tell his story. The lack of respect for the children and their families. The lack of respect from the government toward their own hospital and staff. The lack of good medical care for the poor!
Papa told how he had to sleep with the medication he had bought for Neila wrapped inside his shirt because people would come in the night and steal medication from the beside of children and either use it for other children or sell it back to the parents. He also told about having to go out at 2 AM in the morning to try and find oxygen for her because her tank of oxygen ran out and was empty. Amidst sounds of gunshots and fear of being robbed, he found someone to sell him a tank of oxygen so that Neila could breath. This is crazy that the family must get supplies like this! It has always been this way but it is absolutely NOT a good way to run a hospital!
While at general Hospital, they ran a blood count on Neila. They told the family that she was anemic. Knowing that, they sent her to GLA but did not tell us any information about Neila or give us her blood count. On arrival, her heart rate was running 150 – 175, then it went from 175 to 200! We thought she was septic, had an infection in her blood, and so the pediatrician started IV antibiotics. At General Hospital the staff had stuck poor Neila every where. There were no veins for me to stick her. Finally, I put an IV in her scalp.
When our pediatrician saw her, immediately she drew some blood to send to the lab and her hemoglobin was 5! We did not have time to get blood from the Red Cross and getting blood from the Red Cross is very difficult here, so we drew blood on the mother and sent it to the lab and they were a match! I drew blood from mom and gave it directly to the baby just 7 ml at a time! This is not recommended but she was getting worse and worse and we did not think she would live the day without some blood! Today she looks much better. She was even pinker last night and her heart rate was down to 170 from 200 earlier in the day.
Last night, I was a little overwhelmed by all of this. I had a good cry and then I got mad! I was angry for all of the babies that died! I was angry at a government who doesn’t seem to care about the health care for the poor. I was angry because a lot of doctors get their education at General Hospital and now have nice private practices and seem to forget their roots at General Hospital! I was angry that a major hospital in Port-au-Prince does not have supplies and you have to be afraid for your child while they are a patient there!
The father said he guarded Neila, day and night, because there were reports of people trying to steal babies out of the hospital. I do not know if this is true but this papa feared for his daughter’s safety!
I wish the Haitian government would force all of the Senators, Deputies, Ministers, and their families to use General Hospital, I bet it would change quickly into the best hospital in Haiti! Most of them use private hospitals or go to the USA for health care!
Don’t get me wrong, there are great doctors here in Haiti and some of them are working at General Hospital! I understand they feel unappreciated by the government. I understand too that they have children of their own to send to school and they need to feed their families. But there has to be a good compromise and the people need adequate health care!
Somebody needs to fight to change this. We need a government who cares more about health and education than new vehicles and things that profit them. We need things to change now so that 8 babies don’t die in 10 days in a hospital in Haiti. General Hospital is bad but in the outlying rural hospitals are even worse.
Please pray for the poor of Haiti and that health care and education become the number one priority of the Haitian government!
Help us continue to fund our NICU for the babies who need care. Our care is free to all families with preemies. Your donations make that possible so please make a donation today.
Lord, let me walk in this man’s steps, let me take his burden, send me Lord to comfort him…..send me…..please send me.