One More Haitian

January 26, 2011

Joegodson and Paul

There’s another Haitian in Haiti. Her name is Joenaara.

She is six hours old. She is lying with Antonia on the bed that her Dad Joegodson built a couple of months ago. She is feeding from her mother’s breasts. That is calming her down.

She complicates the telephone conversation from Canada, because she has a lot to say and she’s saying it forcefully. Joegodson thinks she had been hoping for something better. Joenaara arrived to find out that she is Haitian and that her country is facing multiple crises. There you go …

Antonia went through a tough night.

Yesterday, a friend of ours called Joegodson from Switzerland. She is a doctor who had entered Haiti, along with some colleagues, independently of NGOs. She and her fellow doctors were working directly with the poor, like Antonia and Joegodson, who really need support these days. She knows us from our reflections here. She had contacted us after Deland’s death to offer condolences and to let us know that she and her friends would soon be arriving in Haiti. Unfortunately, before she could meet with Joegodson, the UN authorities had already ejected them from the country. The UN wants doctors attached to NGOs approved by the occupation. Hopefully, we’ll be able to explore this issue in the detail that it deserves in the future.

Yesterday, she called Joegodson directly, realizing better than anyone abroad the state of the medical services in Haiti and the needs of the poor. She is not constrained by NGOs. She can speak independently.

Joegodson and Antonia were enormously thankful. She gave them the support, over the phone from thousands of kilometres away, that they haven’t been able to find in Port-au-Prince. She listened to Antonia’s current condition and advised them what to expect. Especially in light of Antonia’s increasing anxiety about her imminent delivery, the doctor’s call was perfectly timed. Only hours later, Antonia went into labour.

Joegodson and Antonia were surprised at how quickly the event took place. The labour pains began only a few hours before the delivery. Antonia’s mother, sister and brother-in-law responded quickly to Joegodson’s call that Antonia was having stomach cramps. That was about ten o’clock last night. Antonia’s mother, having considerable personal experience with childbirth, recognized that Antonia was in labour.

Antonia was feeling weak. She could not find the strength to help the baby into the world. Moreover, since this was her first pregnancy, everyone decided that it was best to make sure that it proceeded in the presence of medical experts. Medecins sans frontiers is known to have medical experts on hand and their clinic is close by, in Saint Louis de Gonzague in Delmas 31. Most importantly, they offer free help. Joegodson and Antonia had planned to go there when the time came. In the past, that clinic helped expectant mothers.

So, after considerable difficulty finding a car that was working, Antonia and Joegodson and four members of her family drove to the clinic. (It was Frederique who found the working car. A guy who lives in a tent near Frederique and Manouchka has a car that still functions. He was happy to help.) Once at the clinic, with Antonia accelerating towards delivery faster than the car that had carried her, the staff informed them that their specialty was now setting broken bones. They don’t assist in childbirth and wouldn’t accept Antonia. To enter the Medecins san frontiers clinic, Antonia would have needed to break her arm. Things were already complicated enough.

So, the car continued along, aiming for a hospital in lower Delmas. However, only a short distance from the clinic, as they passed the Imperial Cinema, Antonia gave birth. They carried on to the hospital where they woke up a doctor who came to the car and cut the umbilical cord. Joegodson helped Antonia to a room. Medical staff bathed her and, a few hours later, they headed back home to Delmas 33 with Joenaara.

Everyone is coming by this morning. Right now, Joenaara is sleeping. (When we started writing she was feeding. See how quickly things change.) Joegodson and Antonia want to thank the Swiss doctor who cared enough to call from Europe. They wish she had been allowed to stay in Haiti.

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