Saving the Baby who Became My Son

The following true account was written by “Denise*,” a former Casa Mojanda manager, who moved to Ecuador in 1999 from Canada

The day is clear and sunny, and the anticipation of the upcoming festivities of the night helps clear my mind. I must find a rosary for my goddaughter Lizbeth’s baptism. My roommate and I leave home at about 10 am and walk to the Iglesia San Luis in the main square of Otavalo. I enter into the church and see a very old woman holding what looks like a child’s doll. I ignore her for the moment and ask the secretary to see a nice rosary. The old lady approaches me and says “mira, mira al bebe muerto.” Look, look at the dead baby. I take the small doll from her arms and realize that it is a baby, very small and almost dead. I turn to the secretary and ask her “why have you not helped this lady?” She says “we have we called the morgue. The baby is dead.”

But the baby is not dead. He has a heartbeat that is slow and faltering and his breathing is shallow. But he is breathing, yes. I rush across the park holding the baby in my arms, my friend and the old lady in tow. . . I reach Dr. Sonia Garcia’s office to find that she is not there. I ask my friend to call Diego of Casa Mojanda, so he can contact Dr. Sonia. I start to do assisted respiration with the baby. His eyes open . . . I can see him fighting… fighting to live . . . In the interim, the old lady is now trying to take the baby back from me, a crowd is forming around us, but no one understands what is happening. I shout to a young indigenous woman to please tell the old lady in Quichua that the baby is alive and we can help him. But maybe the old lady does not want our help . . . Dr Sonia arrives and we rush to her office. She tells me unless this baby goes to a hospital very soon he will die.

The old lady grabs up the baby and we start to argue over the baby. I finally let the baby go and follow behind the old lady. At this point some children appear. They are the baby’s brother and sister and they want the baby to live. I follow them to where they are living . . . As I enter the room, the smell of rotting flesh hits my nose . . . A woman of about forty years is lying in bed . . . She smiles at me and we talk . . . Yes I may help them . . . But NO – I may not take the baby to the hospital . . . I call a taxi driver and Diego once more. I ask them have Jose Maria – a volunteer from the Foundation Guaguacuna of Spain – to meet us at the Mojandita clinic . . . Mother, children, friend and baby get into the cab and speed off to the clinic. . . I am continuing to help the baby breathe . . . His colour is bad, his skin does not rebound when pinched . . .I see that he is slowly leaving us . . .

We get to the clinic, Aida, and Marie José take the baby. They try to administer a little bit of sugar and water . . . the Mother insists that she has no milk . . . but when pushed opens her shirt and a pump is applied and milk flows . . . the baby . . . too weak to suck, merely lies on the table. . . blank, limp . . . But you can see when he opens his eyes a desire. . . CPR is given on the way to the hospital . . .

Nurse Maria Jose, takes charge! We get back into the cab and head for the hospital . . . when we reach the hospital we find it severely lacking any supplies . . . Again Maria Jose takes over and gets a IV into the baby . . . explains to the staff that she is in fact a neo-natal nurse from Spain, here for a month as a volunteer . . . An incubator is brought down, baby is weighed and measured . . . 0.9 kgs 32 cms long. Baby goes upstairs and Aida, myself and Maria Jose talk to the mother . . . She does not want her baby. She does not want to help. Maria Jose insists, pressures and coerces and we win . . . the Mother will come to the hospital and give the baby milk . . . but she will not take him home. The mother turns to me . . . She smiles and says, thank you . . . you will take care of him . . . he will go with you.

Baby is in hospital Dr Patti Duenas sees him, explains that he is very sick, malnourished, dehydrated, has sepsis and was born almost a full 10 weeks early. His chances are slim. Medicines are purchased by the Mojanda Foundation and the Guaguacuna Foundation to help save his life. Diapers, and soap are bought to clean and diaper, blankets are given to swaddle him. My arms are outreached to love him . . . But the hospital insists that I am not allowed to visit him . . . Two nurses in the unit take me aside and tell me come back between 6 and 10 pm and you can be with him the entire time we are here! The nurses see that he needs love and affection, touch. I gently hold the tiny baby in my arms, and change a diaper for the first time! Aida and Maria Jose help with the tubes, they explain how to carefully clean him and talk to him! “Aida tells him: “Do not die little one, we all love you! You will be strong,” and the baby opens his eyes!

Day after day we visit we talk to him, I grow closer to him, the mother talks to me, she does not want him to go to an orphanage, she does not want him to be adopted by a family here. She wants ME to take him. The baby grows stronger, he fights the infection, he is sucking . . . He is surviving! The hospital is a nightmare. Children with no parents lay helpless in their filth, no nurses to change them, no diapers to put them in. We buy diapers and some more soap for another mother near by . . . a set of twins also needs help: the girl has rheumatic fever and has suffered heart damage. Everywhere we turn another open hand . . . another sick child. I can only help one . . . and I know he is my son. He is my miracle . . . A miracle of love and medicine. Without the help of Maria Jose, Aida, the Foundation Mojanda and Guaguacuna, my son would not be here!

As I write this, my son is eight months old. He weighs eighteen pounds now and he says dadadadadadada and likes to sit up and play with things. He very alert and is trying to crawl.

Thank you to all who have given kindly to the Mojanda Foundation. As you can see . . . Your support does help! My son’s life was saved for about $68.00 for medicine and about $100 in extra costs. (Yes, baby formula is very expensive here!). We both thank you. Keep up the good work.

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