Many of you are aware of our tragedy by now, due to being part of our prayer team or being informed by volunteers or visitors (the poor photographer that arrived on Casa de Amor’s darkest day).
On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I was arriving back worn out and sore from spending 10 to 12 hours helping move CDA II into their new home. (I have a desk job and hold babies when I can, but a move is very, well....physical!) I would immediately start holding babies to get my “baby love” for the day as I helped caregivers tend to the 17 babies here.
By Thursday night, I sent our prayer team (currently 92 emails) a note pleading prayer for our very sick babies. The chicken pox virus, in its third cycle through the Baby Home, had grown to horrific proportions. Now I cringe at my flippancy (that post here) over letting the babies get chicken pox, although I was always more concerned for Gabriela than the rest: "So far, New Kid B is super spotty and itchy but no one else. I figure now's as good a time as any, since we do not have any small preemies or even newborns in the home. We hope delicate Twin G (girl) weathers it okay if she gets it."
Overnight, the youngest babies were completely miserable with 100s of angry spots. Coughs and diarrhea were also attacking them as well. Keeping everyone hydrated was becoming a huge concern, since all the sores in their mouths and even throats made some refuse to drink or eat. On Thursday night after consulting with our pediatrician, we made the decision to get our newest baby, the newborn, out ASAP. He told me it could be fatal if he got chicken pox, and that he would have to be hospitalized for intravenous treatment as soon as he got it. Thanks to the recommendation of our pastor from Cochabamba International Church, a missionary family was quickly found to keep him, and we bundled him and his things up at almost 11pm. The two tias on duty and myself continued nursing sick babies throughout the night (me just till 12:30am) and I hit it again hard the next morning, trying to keep ahead of the illnesses.
It wasn’t enough. On Friday, January 23, sometime around 10:30 or 10:45am as best I can calculate, our little baby Gabriela slipped away and into the arms of her Heavenly Father—most likely while in my room while we quickly prepared her things to take her to the ER (I was preparing for her to be admitted). A team of doctors and nurses, some of the best in the city and who work with our kids on a regular basis, tried to revive her for nearly 30 agonizing minutes without any sign of success.
I am so grateful that my Mom and sister Emma (10) dropped everything to come to us when I called them on my way to the ER. (Very sorry that my sister had to experience that sorrow at such a young age, but that was how it happened that day. Only God knows why.) My Dad happened to call right after I talked to Mom and I told him to just stay away and entertain the visiting photographer, because I was such a wreck. Of course they got there pretty soon afterward anyway, worried.
The cause of our Gabriela's passing is considered to be encephalitis, a rare complication of chicken pox where the virus enters the brain, most common in young babies and those with compromised immune systems. She was only 4 months old and weighed about 13 pounds. (Hard-earned weight gain I'll add, due to her lactose intolerance and other digestive issues.)
We always had concerns about her neurological health and development, partially due to her rough beginnings.......only God knows why she needed to return to Heaven so soon.
Adding to our devastation is that Gabriela left behind her twin brother Gabriel. Still today, I cannot fathom how to deal with that. I do not want to imagine how he will feel or react when he is old enough to realize his loss. All the hundreds of pictures of both of them, and now…he is alone. At first I couldn't look at him without crying. Now I am better but the sorrow still strikes at any moment. At first I was nearly beside myself with worry for him, since our Gabriela was taken so quickly. Over the next few days I took him to our pediatrician multiple times, because on the same day (Friday) he was found to have chicken pox pneumonia, another dangerous complication of the varicella virus. I was so worried for his breathing after watching his sister gasp her last breaths that I spent that first night caring for him one-on-one, constantly in my arms—which was the only way to keep him from screaming.
What are the chances of twins with chicken pox both experiencing rare but different complications on the same day?! Unfathomable. I will never ever think of this virus the same way again. It has been a nightmare.
Friday afternoon we were able to have a wake/visitation in the dining room of the Baby Home. Pretty quickly into the grieving, I realized that I didn’t have the luxury of being the main one affected by this. I was her “mother”, but eight others also claim that title. As each of the tias found out and arrived to the home, my grieving began anew to see their reaction. I am so grateful for the four pastors from two churches who arrived, as well as missionary friends and leaders from the International Church, who came to support us as we began to release our baby.
On Saturday morning we had a little service at the main cemetery in Cochabamba. I sobbed anew to notice that somehow, in God’s perfect plan of things, Gabriela ended up being right beside a baby girl of the same age who passed away on the streets a few months ago, the sister of one of our current CDA children. Maria, my right hand and also a pastor, officiated Giselle’s funeral. Now Maria was speaking at a funeral for one of ours, and it just seemed impossible.
(*All 3 pictures made by photographer Brad Collins)
We will always carry Gabriela close to our hearts. Even as we watch her brother grow and smile his big trademark grin, we have a reminder of our sweet, delicate Gabriela.
A blessing in all of this is I have no regrets about the time spent with Gabriela. Night and day, in good moments and bad moments, in between so many other "to do's", I was often with her. The number of pictures, which I can barely look at right now but will some day appreciate, is a testament to that. For all but the last six days with us, she was our smallest baby and loved and spoiled accordingly. She even had God's Word read aloud over her as British volunteer Elizabeth gave her special attention during what was supposed to be naptime on more than one occasion.
There are so many pictures, but even without looking through them all I think this will be my favorite of Gabi, from December 29, 2008. For more of her and her brother, there are two slideshows in the right hand column.
September 12 (?), 2008-January 23, 2009
“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away, blessed be the name of the LORD”. (Job 1:21)