If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Love is not always easy. It is not always fun and roses. When we open our hearts to love somebody, it makes us vulnerable. It leaves us open to disappointment and heartbreak.
Hedonis (Donut) was born in November 2016 and came to the House of Hope in February 2017. We had been supplying him with soy formula in the hospital for a few weeks, as he was lactose intolerant. He came to the House with his mother until he could get up to weight. Except he didn't gain weight and he continued to have diarrhea. We finally discovered that the mother was not washing his bottles properly, nor giving him the correct milk. She would steal the formula from her roommate, thinking it was better for Donut, but it would just give him more diarrhea. So apparently she just stopped feeding him. Finally, at the beginning of April, she wanted to go home and we asked her to leave the boy with us. Donut was 5 months and weighed just 7.5 pounds.
When his mother left, all of our babies in the nursery were sick with some nasty infection. They were all fat and with their medications were recovering very well but we did not want to expose Donut. One illness could turn to death very quickly. So the plan was for him to stay with Lauren and I during the day, and our nursing student, Thelma, at night.
Lauren was instantly attached. Initially, Donut was too weak to even suck from a bottle. We fed him with a syringe. That first day, we were excited to get just 3cc in him at a time. Lauren worked with him all day long. We even found him a little hat that said "TOUGH GUY". It became his mantra. He was a tough guy and would fight. Over the course of the next several days, he would drink more and more at a time until finally, 4 days later, he latched onto a bottle. Then it was off to the races. That boy could not drink enough milk.
I, personally, try not to attach myself to kids that I know will go home. Once Donut was up to weight, he would go home with his grandmother. A lot of kids come and go throughout a given year, so it is my way of protecting myself. I do my job, making sure the babies and mothers have everything they need, and try to always do it with a smile on my face. But I usually try not to become too emotionally attached. Such was the case with Donut. But that first time he smiled for me, I was hooked. He might be tough, but he quickly had me wrapped around his finger.
Donut stayed with us for the next 3-4 weeks, even at night. Not only did we love this boy, it was a good warmup for getting up in the middle of the night. We took him for weekly check-ups at the doctor and they were just amazed at his progress. He was getting chunky and he was smiling and laughing. He loved playing in his swing or tummy time with a musical microphone. He made all kinds of happy noises and loved to flail his limbs around.
It wasn't that he was just a sick kid, he just hadn't been shown love and care by his mother. After the 4th week, Donut was doing well and our other babies were once again healthy. So Donut headed to the nursery. We had saved that sweet boy's life and while his health wasn't guaranteed, he was on the road to health and success.
I love visiting the babies in the nursery; I just love hanging out with them. It's what I do if I need a good pick-me-up after a tough situation. Most of the babies can walk, so they waddle over to me. Sometimes Donut would be in his crib, but as soon as he heard my voice, he would kick his legs so hard. They would come almost to his face, then slam back down into the mattress. He would keep kicking and kicking with a big smile on his face until I picked him up.
I left Puerto Lempira July 6th to travel back to the U.S. for the birth of our baby. Three days later, Donut was admitted to the hospital. It was up and down for a few days. Then a week later, he had tubes inserted down his throat and into his stomach to relieve some gas build-up. Then the doctors realized he would need surgery to remove an intestinal blockage. They could do the surgery in Puerto Lempira, but they would be unable to help if there were complications. Since he was still catching up after being extremely malnourished, complications were likely. With the help of the doctors, the House of Hope staff, and volunteers Joe and Allison Randolph, Donut flew to Tegucigalpa the next day (July 17th) with our good friend, Kayla Austin.
The doctors in Tegucigalpa wanted to wait a few days to observe him, then had to emergency operate that same night. We were told he would not have made it another 24 hours without the surgery. His life had been saved again.
Over the next 2 months, Donut would have a total of 4 surgeries. Updates were hard to come by for Lauren and me. Our contacts were in Puerto Lempira, not Tegucigalpa. We had to wait for the news to travel to our people before we got it. Lauren and I would freeze and pray every time a call came from Honduras. Donut was in ICU and not doing well. He was on a respirator and not responding. Then we heard he was out of ICU, only to hear a week later that he never left ICU in the first place. Then he was having seizures and we were told to not expect the same Donut we had known before. We were completely helpless. My mother grabbed a baby doll from the toy basket, we called it "Donut," and would hold him whenever we missed the sweet boy.
Then we heard he was doing better and even got a smiling picture. Could he actually make it? He really was tough guy and a fighter.
Then on Monday, September 11, we got a call that Donut rolled out of his crib at the hospital. With his recent health scare, they wanted to take him into surgery to relieve any potential pressure on his brain. He had been expected to get out in a day or so, but they would have to delay it a little now. Honestly, I was excited. Our boy was healthy enough to ROLL! And he just might be back at the House of Hope by the time we get there. Woohoo! After everything he had been through, what was a little bump on the head? I began to daydream as I was running errands that he might remember me, and I was so excited to walk into his room when I got back and see those feet kick.
Lauren called crying 2 hours later. I couldn't understand what she was saying. Finally, I understood two words. "Donut died." What? How? Why? The next two days were just awful. I have never felt pain so deep. We were so heartbroken. He was going to make it. He HAD made it. He had fought and fought and fought to hang on through all those surgeries. He was a tough guy and a fighter. Why did this have to happen?
We had saved this boy from starvation and the brink of death. We fed him and cared for him and LOVED him. We had done such a good job that he had the strength to fight through 2 months of surgeries and suffering. Then he rolled off the crib and died. We had saved him just so he could suffer and then die from a stupid accident.
What was the point of it all? Would it have been better for him just to roll out of the crib at the very beginning? Live a happy 3 months, then die before he had to suffer.
Why did I have to get so attached? There was a reason I didn't usually let that happen. I knew I had to protect myself. And now here I am, left broken.
I go back and look through the pictures of his infectious smile and videos of his happy noises and giggles. He was loved; he was cared for. It is what every child deserves. Instead of going back and detaching myself, I wish I could go back and love him even more. I would give him twice the kisses, and tickle him twice as much. What is the point of my job if I don't love the kids, right?
We get back to Puerto Lempira on Monday. A new baby will come to our gates within a few weeks. They always do. In fact, we have 4 new residents since I left in July. I will have 2 choices.
Just "do my job". Supply the physical needs while staying emotionally detached. Give medicine and food, and maybe a fist bump occasionally, but nothing more.
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Or, I can love the children unconditionally. So I will go on the emotional roller coaster. I will celebrate the successes, and leave myself open for the heartbreak. I will love the children with all my heart. If they are with us for 2 weeks or 2 years, I will choose to love them the same.
We were created by God to love; to love Him and to love His children. If I simply "do my job", I am not really doing my job at all. He showers us with unconditional love and He calls us to love others the same way.
We were made to love!