The Marie Ange Post.

For several days I have been thinking about how I would tackle the subject I am writing about in this blog post. Can you believe this is my 4th blog post in just a week's time. I should get a prize for blogger of the week or something at least. :) 

Okay so here it is. Claire and Marie Ange.

As you know, Claire and Marie Ange were the first mom and baby admitted to our facility. They were referred by COTP (our old stomping grounds). COTP had taken tried to help Marie Ange through their mamba and formula programs and then eventually took her in for two week's time. Then when we were ready to open our doors they  referred her to us because of the mom's attachment to her. So, in mid-May they entered our facility. We had ups and downs, and faced many battles. She was even hospitalized at one point during her stay. She would gain weight and then she would lose it. And we struggled with the fact that the hospital didn't want her to start on meds she needed for her condition unless she could be cleared of TB (tuberculosis). Gosh, rough life huh? If Marie Ange was started on these meds it could change her life significantly. These meds would keep her from being hospitalized for things like a simple cold. Just right before Amy and I headed back to the States for 3 weeks Marie Ange was finally cleared for TB and was able to start on these meds. She was ready to go home. Claire felt comfortable heading home, and she was especially excited to start her business.

While Amy and I were in the States we found out, unfortunately, that Marie Ange ended up getting really sick and was hospitalized. Luckily, our on the ground staff was able to provide transportation and kept an eye out for her while she was in the hospital. Amy and I didn't think she was going to make it. Honestly, I was preparing to send money down so that we could help with funeral arrangements. Marie Ange's weight dropped to 3.6 kg which is a little under 8 lbs. Can you imagine a 22 month old baby weighing less then 8 lbs? I can tell you that it's rare even in Haiti. 

Shortly after Amy and I returned to Haiti we met with Claire and Marie Ange. Marie Ange had gained some weight since her hospitalization and the amazing part was simply that she was still here.

We planned with Claire about returning to Second Mile; what would that look like?; and when? 

Now here are some things I have been struggling and battling within myself. Here I am, being completely honest... 

Last Monday when Amy and I saw Marie Ange I was so frustrated. I was frustrated because she wasn't gaining weight and I could hardly bare to look at her skin and bones. I swear the clothes added on 5 lbs, at least. Claire had mentioned her business was doing extremely well which I was happy about until I learned about a couple of purchases that she made with her profits. I was frustrated when she told me she purchased a new bed for almost $60 especially when I had already told her she could return back to SMH where she has a bed with her name on it. Claire mentioned she was putting $2.50 in a "sang" each day. A "sang" is almost like a bank account. Many Haitians don't believe in putting their money in an official bank account because they can too easily withdraw money, making it hard to save. So instead, they participate in groups called a "sang." These can consist of neighbors, co-workers, family members, or friends and they are led by a sang leader, the person who collects money from all the participants. Depending on the group, you will put money in this pot either daily, weekly, or monthly. The sang leader collects the money and will distribute it to one person in the group each month. The idea of the group is that you can never take your money back and you never know when it will be your month to receive the money. So, it functions like a savings account with a lock on it.  Since Marie Ange is so sick , I didn't find it wise for Claire to invest money in this group. She needs to have access to her money at any given moment for medical bills, hospitalizations, meds, and formula. I was so irked when Claire told me she ran out of formula the day before she visited us and wasn't sure when she would be able to purchase another can of formula. We pressed her. She said she could probably by a can the following Monday. 8 days later!! The last can of formula cost us roughly $9 which is the equivalent of about 4 days worth of money Claire was putting in the "sang." At this point in our discussion I'm having a hard time not grilling Claire for purchasing a bed when Marie Ange's needs are so clearly evident, to me.

August 20th - 4.8 kg 
A follow-up visit with Marie-Ange where the plan was made to return to Second Mile
Dadou, Amy and I decided Claire needed some tough loving. Amy emphasized how Marie-Ange's body won't be able to stand the next sickness she may have and Dadou and I talked with her about the "sang" and what she needed to do with the profits of her business. We stressed that Marie Ange needs her right now and that as soon as she gains weight Claire won't have to worry about all these extra expenses of formula, hospital stays, etc. The talk went well. That's when we decided she would come to our facility two days later and that she would figure out how to bring a can of formula, even if it was just a small one, with her. We worked out all the details with the "sang" and what she needed to sell in the next day to purchase a can of formula. 

Wednesday arrives, the day Marie Ange and Claire were to be picked up and driven out to our facility. It turns out Claire had received a call from her aunt who asked her to go and stay with her for a couple days. Her aunt lives out in the country approx 1 1/2 hours away from the city. So here is the second time I was livid and extremely extremely frustrated. I was pacing. I didn't understand. We needed to be picking up Claire and Marie Ange that day to come to our facility, but Claire insisted they needed to go. She insisted she would be returning to our facility as soon as she got back from her aunt's house. Amy and I didn't think Marie Ange could survive the trip let alone survive the week. We had a bad, sinking feeling. Dadou and the employees were disappointed Claire and Marie wouldn't be arriving that day. Everyone was nervous.

After Amy and I put our heads together. We decided we would offer to watch Marie Ange while her mother left for the country. Her mom said yes. So that's what happened next. Marie Ange came to stay with us on Wednesday night.

Here's where it all turns around. 

Claire shows up with Marie Ange in hand. Marie Ange was nicely dressed. Claire had packed all of her medications (over 10 bottles), along with clothes, blankets, toothbrush, comb, etc...etc... and lastly a can of formula. I couldn't help but slightly smile. At that moment, I was significantly less irritated. I melted a bit. 

Claire started to rattle off all the different times Marie Ange needed to take her medication. She promised to call frequently to check on her. I melted even more. 

Marie Ange stayed with us for three nights, and those were 3 very long nights. Marie Ange doesn't sleep through the night like most 2 yrs olds do and she requires a whole lot of attention. It took Amy and I taking shifts during the day/night to fully meet all of her needs. Two of us! I felt bad because one night I was extremely sick and Amy had to do most of the work!

Babysitting at Jenn and Amy's apt.

We are happy to say in just 3 days she gained a pound. When you are 2 years old and weigh 10.5 lbs we celebrate even the 1/2 pound achievements. Everyday, for all of us, is a celebration. It means Marie Ange is still here. 

When I look back and really evaluate the situation this is how I feel:

I don't think Claire is doing a bad job with Marie Ange. I think Claire was dealt a very difficult hand. I think about the day I was sick and wasn't able to move, but I had Amy there. It makes me think about the times Claire is sick, but instead she has no one. I don't think Claire is a bad person for purchasing the bed. I think she was excited about how well the business was doing and felt like she deserved a bed for her and her baby. Whoever thinks…"hey I got a bonus so maybe I will finally buy a bed" …no one. And I don't think she's a bad person for investing in the "sang." I think she was honestly thinking about Marie Ange's future in a different way then I would think about it. I especially don't think Claire is a bad person for heading out of town to visit her aunt on a moment's notice, because to tell you the truth when you don't have a whole lot of family and one suddenly calls then you better make that a priority.

It is evident that this mom loves her child and we want this mom to have an opportunity to keep loving her child.

So here's what we decided. Marie Ange and Claire will be returning to our facility on Monday. Two days of each week Amy and I decided we will take Marie Ange for the night, if Claire started to seem exhausted. This will be good for two reasons… Claire can catch up on sleep and she will be well rested to run her business the next day at her house. Everyone will pitch in, and we will do our very best to make sure Claire knows we are her family and we are all in this together. I think this may be what we had in mind when we named the organization, Second Mile.

Update: Claire and Marie Ange returned our facility on Monday, and we have already seen an significant weight gain! Marie Ange now weighs 5.7 kg. Claire seems healthy and well rested! We couldn't be happier with the results of Claire and Marie Ange. Thank you for all your prayers.

Taken Tuesday, Sept 10th