Robendji Saurtilive clings to her mother as they wait for Robendji’s time for surgery. In the recovery ward at Hopital Universitaire de la Paix, a sense of community has formed among the mothers.Photos by Jennifer Browning.
By Jennifer Browning
PORT-AU-PRINCE–While the fans keep the air from being completely stale, the recovery room is still hot. This is where the waiting takes place. The mothers and caregivers sit here with their babies waiting for a nurse to come in and call their child’s name. And after surgery, this is where they wait for their baby to recover until it is time to go home.
Most recovery rooms are quiet, but as you walk down the hallway you can hear babies crying, mixed in with chatter, and sometimes the voices of mothers singing prayers. While other recovery rooms in Haiti offer observations of voluntary individual isolation, walk into the mother’s world of wait here and you will see that these mothers have created a sense of community.
Some of the mothers who were brought in through Healing Hands of Haiti attended a workshop offered by the organization. During the workshop, the organization informed the mothers how to care for their babies after surgery. So maybe a small bond was created through the workshop, but look into this room and you will see that this bond has grown.
While Rosaline’s little girl, Phoebe, was in surgery, Rosaline held Vigiline’s daughter, Semia, as if Semia were her own. It is a common scene here.
When these women go home with their babies, most won’t have the comfort of this tiny community. Because their children are different, these mothers usually face prejudice and criticism from those in their community. It isn’t easy being the mother of a child with special needs.
Rosaline’s four-year-old daughter, Phoebe, who suffers from spina bifida as well as hydrocephalus, were referred to Healing Hands for Haiti. The organization made sure Phoebe saw the surgical assessment team when they were here doing surgery consults in September. Rosaline said she is happy that her daughter has had surgery.
“I learned my baby had [hydrocephalus] since the baby was four days old,” she said, “but no one would help me out. After being referred, we were taken in without judgment.”
Vigiline and her daughter Semia sit across from Rosaline and Phoebe. When crying begins to fill the recovery ward, the two women begin to sing prayers in unison. For them it is their way to comfort the babies, but it also comforts each other because they know for now they aren’t alone. Vigiline said she is very happy and more comfortable that Project Medishare is here.
“The surgery would never have happened,” she said, “because we couldn’t have afforded to do the surgery without Project Medishare’s help.”
Semia just had her surgery this afternoon and is doing well. As the nurses brought Semia into the room, Vigiline raised her arms to sing in prayer. When the nurses told her that Semia would be all right, Vigiline looked across the room at Rosaline who smiled and nodded. It was a small gesture, but it might be just enough support to get Vigiline through this experience.