01-26-2010, 08:05 PM
Double Platinum Member
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Metro St. Louis Area
Baby born early, ill amid disaster in Haiti
I am so proud to be an American. And, this doctor works at the hospital that saved our DD2 and our DGD2. What a wonderful place.
This just broke my heart. Oh, how awfully sad.
LEOGANE, Haiti — Clinging to life, 3-day-old Emmanuel Cadet arrived at a makeshift hospital cradled in the arms of a U.S. Marine.
Born five weeks premature in a rural village, doctors quickly determined the infant had been born with a bowel obstruction. As her mother, Esther Francois, began to breast-feed, fluid backed up into the child's lungs, causing an infection. Blood and bowel contents were backing up and coming out of the infant's mouth.
Still, her blood pressure and heart rate were strong. There was hope.
"We knew things were slim, but this kiddo was quite a fighter," said Dr. Dan Towle, a pediatric anesthesiologist at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.
Doctors and nurses worked frantically Monday to keep the baby alive in a dormitory bedroom that was converted into an operating room. They inserted a breathing tube and started intravenous fluids. They kept the baby warm with blankets and a heat lamp.
Outside, her mother sat under the shade of a tree and waited.
Nothing has been easy for relief crews since the devastating quake struck the island nation two weeks ago. Emmanuel's case is another example of the endless challenges doctors face as they try to save those in desperate need, Towle said.
"It takes a while for the sick to get to us," he said. "We're limited on supplies."
The hospital was manned by Worldwide Village, a Midwest-based humanitarian group and several other volunteer American doctors. They were saving scores of patients despite lacking many basic necessities — like a portable oxygen tank to keep Emmanuel breathing should they try to transport her to a better-equipped hospital. Without the oxygen, doctors weren't even sure the infant would survive the trip.
They decided to take the risk.
Doctors asked the Marines to try to arrange for a helicopter that could fly her to one of the U.S. Navy ships anchored offshore. Staff Sgt. Brian Murphy of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit called on the radio for help.
Emmanuel was carried to a waiting Humvee. From there, Marines drove her to a nearby landing zone, where they hoped help would soon arrive.
As they waited for the landing zone to clear and the copter to arrive, Towle knew the baby was slipping away. Through a Marine translator, he told the mother that her child was very sick.
Towle performed CPR for 10 minutes while the overwhelmed mother sat next to him in the back of the Humvee, an ammunition box between them.
And then, the baby was gone.
"Obviously, she was extremely grief-stricken," Towle said.
He waited 10 minutes, then asked whether she might like to hold the child. She said no. He asked whether she wanted to take the child for burial. Again she said no. She was too poor to afford the cost.
Less than an hour later, Towle returned to the hospital. He carried the lifeless body, bundled in a blanket.
"Kudos to those Marines," he said before choking up.
After taking a moment, Towle said he was proud that health care providers from all across America had poured into Haiti to deliver comfort and support.
At least Towle and the others were given a chance to save Emmanuel. Perhaps, they can find comfort in that.
"They did everything they could," he said.
The Marines gave the mother a ride back to her village. Alone.
Sometimes we ignore the good in our hands until we've lost it. - Sophocles