Since I returned from my recent trip to China at the end of October, my thoughts have been with the newly abandoned babies in the hospitals. As I walked through the huge wards of critically ill children, rooms overflowing with dozens of children in every possible space, I realized just how strong orphaned babies with medical needs must be.
When possible, we have a caregiver stay with a hospitalized baby 24 hours a day. Although this is a very difficult job for the caregiver, it’s so necessary for the baby as many Chinese hospitals depend on family members for a child’s daily care, like diapering and feeding, not to mention doing the patient’s laundry, hanging it to dry in the hospital stairwell or outside the window, and acquiring diapers and food from the store. There are no breaks for a caregiver with a sick baby except when that baby is so ill he or she is transferred into Intensive Care.
When a baby is in Intensive Care, a caregiver is not permitted to stay with them as there simply is no room. The baby is alone in a radiant warmer (open bed with heater and monitors), an incubator, or an open bed.
When we send abandoned babies to the hospital for treatment, we know that they will often be in Intensive Care until they are strong enough to move into the general ward where a nanny can then stay to care for them.
Our LWB nannies know how to “lay the love” on these babies. It breaks my heart when a baby like Little Joe remains alone for an extended amount of time. Joe, who born with his intestines outside of his body, was abandoned and not found until his intestines had begun to dry up as an result of exposure.
Little Joe is a strong soul. He has held on through abandonment and exposure to the elements, endured several surgeries, and struggled to get his digestive system to work. He has made steps forward and backwards in his valiant efforts to eat.
Last month, I walked into the Intensive Newborn Nursery in Hefei and viewed nursing stations surrounded by dozens of critically ill babies in incubators and open beds, many on ventilators and hooked up to multiple monitors and IVs. I knew this was a very busy place with little time for snuggles or an extra moment to be spent with an abandoned baby.
I had to walk the entire floor, past 60-80 critically ill babies, before I finally saw Little Joe. He was in the very last bed on the floor, the farthest from the nursing station. Past the children on ventilators and open beds, past the open beds with healing babies — there he was in the back corner, next to a sunny window, all alone in his incubator.
“Little Joe” sprang to life when he made immediate eye contact with me. He was no longer just a picture in an email or on Facebook. He was REAL. Tiny body, swollen belly, dry lips but also an intense gaze. I had the feeling he was asking me, “What took you so long?”
I asked to hold him, but they requested that I leave him in the incubator. So I lifted him and held him inside the incubator, giving him a gentle rock and telling him about all the people who were rooting him on from around the world. Too soon, I had to set him back down and move on, but I silently promised him that there were loving nannies just waiting to hold him, kiss his sweet cheeks, and tell him that he was a beautiful boy. He just needed to keep his food down and try to eat more.
Perhaps some part of Little Joe was encouraged! This week’s report included the news that Little Joe has gone from eating just 2 ml every 2 hours to 40 ml (just over an ounce) every 2 hours. He is heading in the right direction, and I hope that he can feel the energy of everyone cheering him on. He really needs people to join his team of sponsors as well!
Little Joe is not the only baby in the hospital right now. Baby Tony will soon be on his way to Shanghai for open heart surgery. Since he was abandoned in August, Tony has struggled with pneumonia and respiratory infections. His orphanage asked if we could take him into a Healing Home in October, and recently it was discovered that he has a congenital heart deformation called severe coarctation of the aorta, a condition that is most likely contributing to his lung problems.
Tony has been fortunate to have a caregiver stay with him in the general ward of the hospital. Now he is headed for surgery and a stay in the PICU, where, like Little Joe, he too will be alone. My thoughts and prayers will be with him and a candle lit until he is safely back in his nanny’s arms.
Brent has just returned to the Heartbridge Healing Home from Shanghai, where he was diagnosed with laryngomalacia and received his second stage surgery for anal atresia. For months now, Brent has struggled to get enough nutrition and oxygen, and we hope that improving his nutrition and digestion will help build his strength so that he can avoid more hospital stays.
Like all babies, Brent needs a loving touch to grow and thrive. I am thankful for each and every one of the caregivers in our Heartbridge and Anhui Healing Homes. They provide the best loving arms along with skilled caregiving these children need and crave.
Please help us continue to provide caregivers for the hospitals and loving arms for these children to recover in by donating to our General Medical Fund. Donations for Little Joe, Tony, and Brent are essential as we cannot help them without your support. Their lives absolutely depend on it.
~Maureen Gealey is LWB’s Medical Supervisor and Exchange Director