Many of you who will read this blog have met baby Leonard.
I met Leonard when I arrived in April and he was around 6 weeks old. Leonard’s mom had been in our Maternal Health Program and had given birth at home. She died very shortly after birth and Leonard was being very well cared for by his dad. His dad had even been bringing him to the Maternal Health Clinic weekly for checkups and to pick up baby formula. I admire his dad so much stepping up like that and caring for an infant as a single father while clearly still grieving the loss of his wife. That is rare for men around the world and virtually unheard of for men in Haiti.
Just before Mother’s Day, I asked all the moms who had brought their babies to gather for a Mother’s Day photo. Much to my surprise, Leonard and his dad joined right in.
When he was a few months old, Leonard started having some depigmentation of his skin, a peely rash, and became very edematous. Dr. Vanderpool and Dr. David Burleson decided it was probably a reaction to a medication he had gotten from the hospital for a recent fever.
A while later, his weight had plateaued. He wasn’t gaining at the rate he should, despite us supplying him with baby formula. His dad brought him to clinic around that time and said that he had been attacked by a cat and had scratches all over his face and hands.
Dad kept bringing him weekly and he kept growing slowly but surely.
Two weeks ago, Dad brought him in during a medical team week and Leonard had lost weight. He was again covered in scratches from a rat attack. We could tell that his dad was exhausted and looked like he had reached the end of his rope. He actually slept while some American ladies fed and doted over Leonard. He asked if we could keep Leonard and said that he was going to take him to the orphanage in town, at least until he was old enough to be more independent. Gertrude, Michele, and I talked to him a lot that day about other options. He said that he didn’t have any family and no one in his village was willing to help him care for Leonard. He said that lately he had been giving Leonard a bottle in the morning, leaving him at home alone all day so he could go work as a farmer, and returning to give him another bottle in the evenings before bed. When he stayed home to care for Leonard instead of working, he didn’t have enough money to eat. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to decide between the two. We urged him to reach out to others in his church and his community to find someone to watch him during the day, reassuring him that we could provide all the formula he needed and even clothes and diapers.
Last week, Leonard and his dad did not come to Maternal Health and I wondered if he had taken him to the orphanage. Gertrude had been asking around and yesterday, we found out that Baby Leonard had died. The story we got is that last week an orphanage had agreed to take Leonard but couldn’t take him until Monday. On Friday, he started running a high fever and then he died on Saturday morning.
I wrote this blog and told Baby Leonard’s story because his dad needs prayer. His wife died immediately after giving birth to their first child. He did everything he could to care for Leonard to the best of his ability and now his infant son has died. Please pray for peace and comfort and that his circumstances would draw him closer to God and not drive him away.
And pray for all of us on the ground in the thick of it. Sometimes, all we can do isn’t enough. . .