It’s the end to another very long day. We started early, but we saw so much I don’t even know where to start. From the collapsed hospital with the child clinic or the repaired well with dozens of children who had never seen a camera before to the school being built up in the foot hills, basically the back country, where a little girl wandered out of the jungle naked and no one knew if she was another abandoned child or simply a little girl who was lost in the woods.
Since the hospital was the first stop, that would be a good place to focus.
After the rollercoaster ride that was our drive downtown, we arrived at the hospital and went through the section that was still crumbled from the quake. It was hard to believe that all this rubble was still there. The entire second story of one section was gone, and you could see the rebar and remaining pillars still standing, but the smaller pieces were still there. One of the main spiral staircases was still covered in debris and a large section of the wall and ceiling was crumbled and sticking into the stairs. Glass broke on every step that I went up. To be honest, once I got to the top, I was a little worried my weight would bring it down so I shot what I needed fast.
We continued on and saw a few more areas that were destroyed then moved on to the area that was being rebuilt. What is going to become a large wing is still under construction with welders sitting on top connecting beams and workers pouring cement down below. The hospital, just like any, will treat anyone with any ailment, even with their limited resources but has a section dedicated to children suffering from some of the worst illnesses you can imagine; severe infections, tuberculosis, epilepsy and AIDS. It felt like the list just went on.
It was a room with about 15 beds in it and children ranging in age from ten years old down to less than a year old.
The two smallest babies had IVs in their arms, and it was an old-school approach to it. Both arms had to be tied down to the bed to keep them from pulling out the IV. It made total sense, but it didn’t make it any easier to see. One little girl looked like she was just hanging on by a thread as two of the three nurses tried to give her an injection of what I assume was more antibiotics. Her eyes just darted back and forth, not looking at anything. Just seemed to be mindlessly moving from left to right. Not even crying because she was so sick and tired.
Another young girl that was 3 years old, but was so malnourished and sick she looked like a 1-year-old, just rocked back and forth in her crib moaning. I was told it’s what’s referred to as the orphan’s moan. No tears or real expression, just the constant moan and self-soothing rocking.
One of our workers approached and simply reached out and touched her arm. The little girl opened her eyes, looked up and almost immediately stopped moaning. All she wanted was the touch of another person. She reached up, and as she was held, she snuggled into the worker’s arms and closed her eyes.
The lack of attention wasn’t the nurses' fault. There were only three of them there in a room with more than a dozen sick children. They couldn’t just drop everything to hold a sick child. They need more people. 15 children and babies to three nurses.
There was also an older girl there suffering from severe epilepsy and had an uncontrollable shake throughout her entire body. She was severely injured and had lost her entire family in the quake. It was assumed they perished in their home when it fell over, crushing everything inside, since their bodies were never found. She had all of her faculties but suffered from this constant shake and seizures. I couldn’t help but wonder what her future was in a country where individuals could barely sustain themselves, let alone someone suffering from such a major disability.
It was a feeling of overwhelming helplessness. There was such a huge need, what could any of us do make a real difference?
I know I’m not doing this story the justice it deserves, because it’s been hard to find the words. For me, today was a game changer. All we witnessed put things back in perspective to say the least.