The hospital where I saw miracles
If you’re a mother in Ecuador you probably don’t have the luxury of going to a big expensive hospital to receive healthcare for your sick child. No, you’ll most likely go to one of the government funded hospitals in the big city where the halls are dark, the nurses overwhelmed, the bugs run rampant, and only the service is paid for but not the equipment or medicine. The parent must provide all of that, every single piece. These hospitals are crowded. The line just to be admitted winds around corners and continues outside. The stressed out parents carrying their sick children in their arms just hoping they can get a bed or a crib.
This is where I spent almost two months, two long months where I cared for my son, a little three-month old baby boy named Manuel.
I left in February 2010 for one of the greatest adventures of my life. I left my home, my comforts, my luxuries, and my loved ones, to live in Ecuador and work in orphanages where none of the above blessings exist. It was a heart-wrenching, hard, beautiful, and miracle filled experience.
Manuel got sick near the beginning of my time in South America. I was assigned to look after him in the hospital since I spoke Spanish and could communicate with the nurses and doctors in his little room. His room had four cribs total with three other sick babies occupying them and their worried moms doting on each one.
March 8, 2010
I can see the look of worry in their faces although they try to hide it. The doctor just gave them another prescription but there’s no money. It costs $10. The child needs it. They’ll get it somehow. Three-day-old clothes are still being worn; their hair is tied back in a greasy ponytail. They can’t leave. They can’t go home. Their child is in the hospital. Living out of a diaper bag that has only formula and a couple diapers in it, maybe an extra blanket or change of clothes for the child. A big jug of water and maybe some juice on the old metal nightstand. They’ve slept in an uncomfortable reclining chair for countless nights and been woken up by crying babies or the lights being flipped on when the nurses come to distribute medicine at midnight and 4 am. There are cockroaches on the floor both dead and alive. Honking horns ring from the window. At least there’s a view.
When Manuel was admitted he weighed only six pounds even though he was three months old. Ever since his birth he hadn’t been eating well and was throwing up everything he did manage to get down. The trabajadoras at the orphanage finally decided to take him to the ER when they found blood in his stools.
They didn’t have high hopes that he would survive.
They didn’t have high hopes that he would survive.
They underestimated this little boy’s courage and determination to live.
For two months I went to the hospital every day, sometimes twice, sometimes three times to be with Manuel. He didn’t have anyone else. He was an orphan. Every couple of nights I stayed through the night with him and slept in an old reclining chair next to his crib. More than once cockroaches crawled over me as I tried to sleep. I would hold him and feed him, change his diaper and rock him to sleep. He literally became my son. I loved that little boy with every piece of my soul. I had never sacrificed so much for another person, my sleep, comfort, will, and love. I got to know him in a very intimate way- I knew how he liked to be rocked, how to make his oversized diaper more comfortable, and how to bundle him in his blankets so he wouldn’t cry and so much more. I looked forward to seeing him every day and was reluctant to leave when I had to go to another shift at a different location.
This little boy had captured my heart.
He pulled through. He made it out, and slowly but surely he started recovering and recuperating enough to where his food would stay down and there wasn’t any more blood.
One Saturday night I spend with him at the hospital. It was a rough night. Manuel hadn’t slept much till the early morning and I was exhausted, physically and emotionally. I remember waking up in the uncomfortable chair and looking over to see how he was doing. He was awake. I put my head near his and just looked at his small sweet face. He looked back at me. For a few long minutes we just laid there looking at each other, my baby boy and me.
And then it happened, he smiled.
His face lit up and he smiled at me for the first time. All of a sudden it dawned on me that is was Easter morning. The impact of that glorious day more than 2000 years ago sent shivers through my entire body. I remembered the empty tomb. I remembered the words, “He is not here, but is risen.”
I thought of the special meaning those few simple words mean to me, of the hope they bring to my life.
And then I looked back at my baby. His smile. His hope. My hope for him. It was as if he knew who I was and what I had done for him. It was as if he was saying “I know you’re there. I love you. Thank you for loving me back.”
It was all worth it. Every second of sleep lost, every tear shed in worry, ever hour spent watching and waiting for him to get better. I would do it all over again.
I left the beautiful country of Ecuador one year ago today, but don’t worry, I will return to that land again. I will see my babies again….somehow, somewhere.
Dear Manuel: I have loved you since the day I met you. I got to take care of you and be your mother for a few short weeks. You mean more to be than you’ll ever know. I can’t wait to see you again, my dear boy, and hold you in my arms once more. I will be waiting for that moment till it comes.