Story by Kendra Dorsey, Speech Therapist
New to this mission trip was the first Speech Therapy Program offered in Haiti. This was my first mission trip with LEAP; I had no idea what to expect or how great the need would be. Once we arrived in Haiti on Thursday evening, we went straight to the hospital to begin evaluations. Of all of the speech therapy evaluations that we did that night, there was one that particularly touched my heart.
Baby girl Jennalson was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. At only six weeks of age, she was both too young and too small for surgery. To prepare her for surgery in April 2016, she will need to weigh at least 10 lbs. After watching Jennalson’s mom feed her, we provided her with some feeding techniques and recommendations to help increase the amount of formula being taken in, including feeding her every 2-3 hours both during the day and at night. We also provided mom with a special bottle made of flexible plastic, allowing her to squeeze the bottle at the same time Jennalson sucks to prevent exhaustion during feeding. Mom seemed to understand, but she also seemed hesitant about the new instructions. We sent her home and asked her to return on Saturday for follow-up.
I couldn’t tell if Jennalson’s mom would actually return, but I was so hopeful they would. On Saturday morning when the team arrived at the hospital early, there they were! During the three hours that it took to travel back to the hospital, Jennalson had already eaten so she wasn’t very hungry. We asked mom if they could stay two hours to observe the next feeding. After waiting, Jennalson awoke and was ready to eat! Her mom held her up straight and put the bottle in her mouth, and she took 75 mL in about 20 minutes! It was so beautiful to see! Her mom was smiling and so happy that her new instructions were working.
It was truly an honor to be able to help little Jennalson get better nutrition for her small frame. I know she will have little chubby cheeks when the LEAP team returns in April. It will be such a blessing to see her ready for surgery!