When tragedy strikes somewhere in the world, news of it always starts the same way: a vague report with no real details. There’s been a plane crash, a tsunami, an earthquake. Sometimes it turns out to be nothing – just a few minor injuries, but miraculously everyone walks away alive. Those are the stories that no one remembers.
As the news comes in and it turns out to be something, we watch in open-mouthed horror as it unfolds in front of our eyes on TV or the internet. Most of the time it’s so far away that we can’t really comprehend the scope, but we try anyway, and often end up turning away when it gets to be too much.
The reporters are somber, and they shake their heads and tell us that what they’re seeing can’t really be described. One way they try to make it real is by telling us the individual stories. In between the reports of structural damage and relief efforts, we hear about people who are lost or found, and we see the faces of tragedy and triumph.
Those are the stories that I remember.
In Haiti, a man wandered the streets looking for help for a 2 week old baby with a head injury. It just so happened that he stumbled across Sanjay Gupta, who in addition to being chief medical correspondent for CNN, is also a brain surgeon.
Dr. Gupta was able to examine the baby and determine that it was a minor injury, so he patched him up and sent him away. Amid all of the reports of people who were missing or severely wounded or killed, this was one of hope, and he ended the story on a positive note, saying the baby would be fine.
Except maybe he won’t.
See, the man who wandered the streets to look for help was not the baby’s father, but his uncle. The father was too distraught to do anything because his wife, the baby’s mother, was killed in the earthquake. This baby did not just lose his mother; he lost the only source of food and nutrition he has.
Where are they going to get formula or bottles or clean water? How are they going to sterilize the bottles and make sure the baby gets enough to eat? While all the doctors are treating the victims with life threatening injuries, who is going to check that this baby isn’t slowly slipping away from malnutrition?
Caring for a newborn is exhausting under the best of circumstances. Who is going to help this man when he is too overwhelmed with grief? Who is going to take over the 3am feeding so this man can get some much needed rest after all he has endured? Who is going to help when everyone around him is traumatized from watching the world fall down around them?
I remember times when Eloise was a newborn where I was exhausted from sleep deprivation and a baby who would not be soothed. It was hard with a husband, and a network of friends and family, and a constant supply of clean clothes and diapers, and access to the internet and excellent medical care. I cannot imagine what it must be like with none of that. I don’t even know if I can try.
The baby will probably not make the news again. Maybe he will be fine, whatever that word will mean going forward to the victims of the earthquake, but maybe he won’t.
He’s one baby. Just one story among countless others, but he is the one I will remember.