Judelin – Part 3

Judelin – Part 3

Judelin

Wednesday, January 30th 2013.

 

At 4:10 this morning, Judelin died in my arms.

 I was shaking and sobbing over his body, before leaning over his chest for a final embrace with this sweet child.  He looked like he was sleeping, sprawled across the bed on his back.  I lay my head on his chest. It was still warm, yet a disturbing sensation overcame me as I heard nothing. No heart pounding. After over a week of frantically listening to the racing heartbeats and gasping breaths Judelin had been fighting to keep, this was the most chilling, unraveling sound: nothing. Death.

 Impulses of devastation clenched my body, paralyzing me beside Judelin’s bed.

 14 days earlier, I’d taken Judelin to the General Hospital of our town due to stomach pains, yellow eyes, and a fever with chills. He was prescribed medicine for malaria. After his malaria treatment he was surviving mostly on Gatorade and natural mango juice – Judelin had become even worse.

 Judelin and I went to a private hospital for consultation with a doctor. “I’ll be 17 years old in July.” Judelin responded when asked his age. He never simply said “I’m 16,”

 It had been one year since I’ve been off the streets.” I heard Judelin say.  The doctor identified that Judelin’s abdominal pain was coming from his liver. Hepatitis was the doctor’s suspected diagnosis but he wanted to run tests. Judelin was hospitalized and put on an IV.

 5 days later, after multiple tests and an ultrasound, the doctor called me into his office. Judelin had tested POSITIVE for Hepatitis B, and had severe liver problems. “His disease is very advanced,” the doctor explained. “It can cause cancer or cirrhosis of the liver, and will likely kill him.”

 I’d done my research, but somehow hearing those words spoken out loud about Judelin specifically punched me in the chest. They stole my breath.  All I could do was nod, stand and return to Judelin’s hospital room. Facing the sweet boy’s questioning eyes, handsome dark face, and fatigued body, I gave a half-hearted smile and helped him stand to pee.

 Later, as Judelin slept, I stood beside the mattress and watched him. I recalled the very first night I’d spoken to Judelin: It was the night I’d spent on the concrete ground with other street children. That night, in January 2012, Judelin was the one to stand guard beside me as I slept.

 Now in the hospital room with this precious child, I was awed by how far he has come. Judelin was once the most aggressive young man in the streets. Yet now, now he greeted me with long hugs; he avoided conflict and listened better than most adults I know; he was serious about studying and loved to cuddle.  I gently held Judelin’s head in my hands and leaned close to him. I wish these children could know how much they mean to me; how deeply they are loved.

Suddenly, without opening his eyes, Judelin reached his arm over my neck and pulled me into a hug.

 One week in the private hospital had only resulted in Judelin becoming more ill. He suffered from exhaustion and compulsive vomiting. His eyes and urine were still dark yellow. He’d been visited by all of our staff, by his school principal, by other children, by other children’s aunts, and even by the local carpenter! Yet Judelin barely said a word to any of them. We decided to transfer Judelin to a more specialized hospital in Port au Prince.

 Judelin’s godmother accompanied us to Port au Prince so she could track down Judelin’s birth mother. His mother had visited him twice at the Safe House, and they’d just started to rebuild their relationship after Judelin’s 3 years in the streets.

 The bus ride to Port au Prince was terrifying. Judelin sat beside me and laid his upper body on my lap. His heart raced yet he was limp and deathly cold. He did not talk. As his fever returned and dehydration set in, Judelin was willing to eat some ice, yet lacked the strength to chew it. I broke up the ice and fed each small piece to him, eager to keep some fluids in his body.

 It was a few hours after sunset when we arrived in Port au Prince. Lifting Judelin into a taxi car, his godmother and I passed through 3 hospitals trying to find the most specialized location. Each hospital directed us elsewhere. They insisted that we take Judelin to a pediatric centre, as he was under 18 years old. Finally, at around 11pm, we pushed Judelin, on a wheelchair, into the pediatric ward of the General Hospital in Port au Prince. The next evening, Judelin’s birth mother arrived and his godmother left. We were told to do additional tests and to redo Judelin’s ultrasound. We were also told not to feed him at all. This made Judelin talk! Now that we couldn’t feed him, his appetite was back and was raging!  He finally seemed to be improving.

 “Morgan,” Judelin said to me one afternoon, “Don’t walk in the streets at night.” “You’re in Port au Prince.” I smiled. Judelin seemed to be coming back.

 Yet on Tuesday the 29th, Judelin’s deceptive improvement began to fall apart: he had severe stomach pains and a terrible fever. He was too weak to hold up his own head. This was, by far, the worst he’d been. Judelin’s birth mother went home for the day, washing clothes and cooking some squash soup for our boy. I was the only one with Judelin that day.

 Along with an unremitting fever, Judelin’s heart was racing. I was concerned about his breathing and let every doctor I saw know about it. “Reduce his fever” was their response. Taking two washcloths a generous visitor had given to us, I crouched beside Judelin and made a cold compress on his forehead and stomach. He pushed them away. Seeing Judelin so ill was torturously painful, yet I could not take my eyes off him. I was filled with such a longing to be near to him. Judelin seemed distant. He slept the entire day. For hours, I passed the wet washcloths over his forehead; seeping water into his dark curls and on the back of his neck, then down to his feet. He slept through this.

 Judelin’s fever continued to rage. Medication did nothing. His appetite had faded with his consciousness; he could barely stay awake long enough to finish peeing. I woke him, held his head, and dripped each sip of juice into his mouth. In the evening, Judelin’s mom returned and hand-fed him bright yellow squash soup she’d prepared. We sat together, one hand in that of the other and one hand on Judelin’s burning body, and watched as the sweet boy slept. His mother decided to stay the night instead of returning to her home.

 At about 2am, Judelin leaned to his side and seemed to be trying to spit. His body shook and began to make gurgling noises – yet seeing Judelin brace himself, as though waiting, was a familiar sight by now. Vomit was coming. With one hand I reached for the puke bucket under Judelin’s bed, while with the other I answered my ringing phone.

 “I can’t talk right now,” I said. “I can’t, Judelin’s going to vomit!” I tossed the phone aside, taking Judelin’s head in my hand just as he spat out a stream of light orange liquid. I felt my heart torn from my chest.  Judelin had’t vomited in 2 days; this was a strong pillar of hope that had taken days to build and seconds to crash. By the time Judelin’s next heave of vomit came, the neighboring patient’s grandmother and I had propped Judelin over his puke bucket. He couldn’t hold up his own head.

 “Judelin”,I cried, “Judelin.” I so desperately wanted him to respond, but my impulsive calls were met with silence.  I moved my head from side to side, trying to tease a reaction from his eyes. Yet they stared blankly ahead: Large, black holes, surrounded by a cloudy red and yellow. The sounds stopped.

 Judelin’s wide, haunting eyes seemed to pop with the last sound he made. Gurgling noises followed. His wide, unresponsive eyes stared straight ahead like those of a dead fish, floating on the water’s surface. I spoke to him, regardless.

A nurse came, finally, to examine Judelin. “He’s trying to breathe” she said, hearing the gurgling noises our boy was making. I was half aware of the tears falling down my face, and couldn’t stop looking, horrified, into his haunting eyes. His face was swollen and reminded me of his days in the streets; I’d once found his face in similar condition due to a police beating.

 The nurse placed a tube in Judelin’s nose, had me lay him onto his back, and hooked him up to the oxygen tank that served all patients on our side of the room. His eyes closed. Crouching beside Judelin’s bed, I stroked his head and sobbed. I had never been this terrified, or this hurt. Without hesitation, I continued to speak to him.

 “For how much I love you, you’d better keep breathing Judelin,” I told him in a firm voice. “I love you SO much. Keep breathing. Keep breathing for me. This is the greatest thing you can do for us. Keep breathing.”  I stroked his head and his birth mother held onto his feet. “Morgan is here; your mom is here; Erby will call you. We love you. We need you to keep breathing.”

 Judelin didn’t respond, but his chest heaved up and down. His eyes remained closed. Suddenly his arm flew to his face and pulled the oxygen tube from his nose.

 “Judelin”, We cried, “Judelin” His birth mother firmly pulled his hand away as I re-adjusted the oxygen tube into his nose. The life that existed in his reluctance was reassuring. Judelin was there, in my arms. After about 20 minutes, Judelin stopped resisting. His arms relaxed, yet his breathing continued. Only then did I notice the stream of vomit covering one side of my abdomen and leg. Onlookers seemed more disturbed by this than by what was happening to Judelin. The nurse told me to watch that Judelin continued to breathe. His mother, exhausted, curled up on the bed near his feet and dozed off. I sat beside Judelin’s chest, watching each breath with desperate hope.

As the night dragged on and Judelin kept breathing, I spread out a sheet on the concrete ground beside his bed. The patient beside us was in a raised crib, and I’d accepted the space underneath it as my bed. Propping up my head on a plastic bag of toiletries, I lay down and continued to watch Judelin’s chest rise and fall.

 Moments after I settled into the hard ground, Judelin’s breaths slowed. They were uneven. I held my breath, closely watching each of his. I heard a wheezing sound and for a moment, his chest DID NOT RISE. I threw the sheet off of my legs and jumped next to him.

 “Doctor!”I exclaimed, “He stopped breathing!”

 Judelin wheezed out a few struggled breaths. The doctor looked at him. “Ah, he’s breathing”, the doctor told me, annoyed. “Please examine him”, I persisted. The doctor did so, but said nothing more.

I was afraid. I sat next to Judelin and spoke to him. “Judelin”,  I called. He grunted. My heart lifted! “Judelin, do you know how much I love you?” No response. I began to cry, still watching his breaths as they became more and more strained.

 Each breath seemed it could be his last. Gurgling sounds returned and Judelin’s eyes began to water. I could see that they dead-fish eyes, cloudy and red, remained under his half-closed eyelids. Could he actually die? Was this real?

Judelin’s birth mother woke and couldn’t stand to watch Judelin struggling with each breath. She left the room. “He’s not here. Morgan, Judelin’s not here. That’s not Judelin.”

 “What am I going to tell Erby?” She cried, speaking of Judelin’s little brother. “This is how you do it, Judelin? This is mean. This is mean. Morgan, what are we going to tell Erby?”

 I had no words. ”Judelin”, I managed to whisper through tears as I watched is slow, shaking, noisy breath. “What can I do? What can I do Judelin? Tell me and you know I will do it. Keep breathing. Stay here Judelin. Stay here.”

“Even if it’s hard, we need you to breathe now Judelin. Don’t go. I love you.”

 Suddenly, I couldn’t hear his breath anymore. Fluids came out of Judelin’s nose, like he’d been congested and blown it. Feeling knives stabbing into my midsection, I gazed wide-eyed at his chest. It was not moving. Was it just me?!  Was I seeing things?!

 “He’s not breathing! He’s not breathing!” I tried to call out to the doctor, but words could not come. Tears fell freely as I looked around in disbelief. Parents of other children watched silently with pained looks on their faces. 

The doctor came and examined Judelin, before returning to his desk and solemnly beginning to write. I looked around, helplessly. Why wasn’t anyone doing anything? What was I supposed to do?

 I was shaking and sobbing over Judelin’s body, before leaning over his chest for a final embrace with this sweet child.  He looked like he was sleeping, sprawled across the bed on his back.  I lay my head on his chest. It was still warm, yet a disturbing sensation overcame me as I heard nothing. No heart pounding. After over a week of frantically listening to the racing heartbeats and gasping breaths Judelin had been fighting to keep, this was the most chilling, unraveling sound: nothing. Death.

 Impulses of devastation clenched my body, paralyzing me beside Judelin’s bed. The doctor leaned over and passed me a piece of cardboard. Looking at the cardboard, I read:

 

1/30/13

Lâ heure de dece: 4:10am.

Judelin Meritus,

16 years


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