Wednesay, Jan. 27
I finally meet up with Nadine, mother of Jenny, the two-month old I found 10 days ago.
For the last few days Nadine has been calling me. Most of the time the call cuts out before I can speak with her, but this last time she sounded manic, with stream of conscious pleas for news of her baby, who was flown to Miami for treatment.
Nadine’s also desperate for some medical attention for a foot wound, trying to find food, water, and housing. She and hundreds of thousands of others. I hate thinking it, but it’s true.
Since her home fell on her mother and father, almost killed her baby, Nadine’s been staying in the courtyard of the Canapé Vert Hospital, by the Croix Rouge. It’s the only thing I can understand for certain in her long, anguished call.
The Miami Herald has been covering her baby’s case, and there is now movement by the International Red Cross to help unite mother and child. One recent report said Jenny had two crushed arms. Unless something happened in the States, there’s no way this is true. How can this be so misreported?
Canapé Vert used to provide the best medical service in the capital. I don’t even check to see if the hospital is open when I get to the entrance. I’m focused on finding Nadine.
I know it’s her without asking. I see a woman in a jean shirt overshirt and a black tam and she looks at me and opens her arms. We embrace as if we are old friends. This miracle child pulled from the rubble is our bond. A permanent one, I suspect.
“Madame Kati,” she says over and over again. Tears fall even though I have nothing to be sad about.
Nadine pulls out a Xerox photo that a reporter has given her. It’s Jenny at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. I look at her, a fat, well cared for baby that looks at home in a bonnet and fluffy blanket – a far cry from the wet, maggot-invested clothes I found her in. Her face is clean and bright, the dust and dried mucus long gone.
I show Nadine and her husband, Junior, photos of Jenny that are in my camera. The tears disappear, Nadine’s smile is toothy. “I want to see her,” she repeats several times without taking a breath.
I use my phone to call the International Red Cross, ask them how I can facilitate the reunion. It’s a long, complicated process. The woman I speak with is sympathetic but her hands are tied.
Even though I know Nadine is not my responsibility, I feel responsible for her. I want her to live a better life. She wants to live a better life. She wants Jenny to live a better life. I want all of them, not just Jenny and Nadine and Junior, but all of these people in the tents - and there are hundreds of thousands of them now, to live a better life.
I have to remember, though, it will only happen one step at a time. Yesterday, Nadine was living in someone’s car that was abandoned in the hospital parking lot. Today, she’s in a tent donated by the French.
One step at a time. One small step.