“I would strongly recommend this hospital— to explain how they welcomed me and treated me. I will always encourage people to come here,” said 23-year-old Hermitha Jean. She recently gave birth to twins in the St. Damien Hospital’s Maternity Ward. We met her today to discuss her little girl’s progress.
Due to difficulties during pregnancy and a pre-natal infection in both twins, one of the babies died just eight days after birth. Today, Hermitha is here wearing a hospital gown in the neonatology section, as she is every day, to nurse little Saïka Jean.
According to this new mom, she is blessed to have been referred to St. Damien when her water broke and she went into labor because the doctors here saved her life and the life of her surviving baby. Mom and babies could have died for lack of medical treatment which Hermitha could not afford. As soon as her water broke, she went to the nearest hospital where she was told that they could not admit her because she had not been a patient during the pregnancy. She was, however, still required to pay the consultation fee of $20. Still going through labor, she was referred to Doctors Without Borders. They too were unable to help her and referred her to St. Damien.
She had once heard about St. Damien but she did not expect anything different than what she had endured at the other hospitals. When she arrived, they took her in and treated her with dignity. She spent three days in bed before having the babies. After 21 days in the hospital, little Saïka could not be sent home with Hermitha because she was still fighting the infection and suffers from low birth weight. The doctors’ prognosis is that the baby will do fine since she is starting to gain weight and the infection is beginning to get under control. Hermitha seems happy when she tells us the good news: “Saïka is going home next week.”
Hermitha’s pregnancy was a particularly difficult one due to the circumstances of her life. Because she could not afford pre-natal care for herself, she had no idea that she was carrying twins. Her boyfriend and his family refused her any help. Her own family denied her any emotional or financial support because they were ashamed of Hermitha’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy. She became a pariah to everyone she knew. All alone without family or friends, hungry and with severely edematous legs and feet, she cried constantly and prayed steadfastly. Penniless and lacking the proper nutrition to nurse the growing fetuses, she fell into depression and begged God to bring on a premature birth because she could no longer bear the agony. The doctors told her that her babies were due in April but she delivered in January—she was in her seventh month of pregnancy. To be exact, the babies were born on January 13. By the time this story is published, little Saïka will have had her 1 month birthday. Acknowledging the miracle that God performed in her life, she does not harbor any resentment for her family or her boyfriend’s family.
For Hermitha to get to St. Damien Hospital, she must take 3 tap-taps (Haiti’s transportation vans) at the cost of 10 Haitian dollars each day (approximately $1.25 US). In addition to the cost of transportation, she must also find the money to pay for diapers and baby wipes. Almost every day, she arrives without breakfast and yet must extract milk for the baby. As hard as it is for Hermitha to find the money for food, diapers, baby wipes and transportation, she is grateful that these are the only expenses required of her and she knows without a doubt that if St. Damien Hospital had the diapers and wipes, they would provide them to her daughter for free. She ends our conversation with a poignant remark: “Were it not for St. Damien, I would have died.”
Given her remark, it is easy to understand why her story is that of a miracle.