Five and a half years ago when my husband, Chris, and I were in Haiti meeting for the first time the two children we were adopting, Sophia and Henry, I remember going to the US embassy in Haiti to file some of the mountains of paperwork involved in such endeavors. We had an American woman who was directing our trip and had been in Haiti on several occasions helping us navigate the embassy visit. I guess at some point she must have been trying to address some of our fears about the actual chance that the right paperwork would reach the right person's desk necessary to make the long adoption process slog along. She told us, "In Haiti you'll have a lot less frustration if you go into everything expecting failure, because then you are surprised by success." Well due to an earthquake that killed 250,000 people a mere 6 months after that but managed to spare our kids, we were able to get Sophia and Henry out of Haiti and home to Cincinnati just two weeks later. I remember during those dark and scary two weeks coming back to that saying again and again. Would we be able to get them home? Everyday there was some element of expecting failure, but thankfully plenty of surprise at the successes.
I honestly thought that would probably be the last time I would see her. Without proper nutritional support, treatment of future pneumonias, PT, OT, how could she survive in this little impoverished mountainside?
A year later Luisa's mom proudly carried Luisa into clinic beaming with joy that her little treasure was still alive. She had found a pediatric therapist to do PT and OT with her once a week in a town about a 20 minute car ride away. Luisa's joints were no longer stuck, but now she was very hypotonic. She still at age two would only nurse for nutrition, blocking any type of solid food, but she had not had any aspiration events. Then last March I saw her for the third time when she was just over 3. Her family was very faithful to her therapy regimen, taking her to town every week. She had started to scoot around the house in a baby walker. At age 3 then she had only one word in her vocabulary, "mama."
She has become the star pediatric patient on each trip. She has so much to teach these future doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, and every year she teaches me. This year is no different. We arrived to clinic this afternoon and were still getting all of the supplies that we brought down set up - a thousand pairs of glasses, suitcases full of medications, toothbrushes, hygiene supplies, etc when I looked to the entrance of the clinic to find three people WALKING into clinic holding hands.
Luisa was being flanked on each side by her oldest sister and her mother, but she was lifting each leg and putting it one in front of the other. She was walking into clinic. It took me several seconds to register what I was actually seeing. Luisa was walking. Her mother was gleeful to see my surprise and delight. Luisa turned 4 last week, last month she started walking with both hands held. For the last 3 years I had been expecting failure, today I was surprised by success.
If you don't believe in miracles, you need to meet Luisa.
Lauri Pramuk, MD