Letters — 24 May 2013 — by Jacklin Marroquin

Dear Editor,

I am Jacklin Marroquin, originally from a village known as Valley of Peace in the Cayo District. Early May 2012, I learned that I was pregnant, and while the baby was never planned, the thought of having a child both frightened me, and thrilled me. It frightened me because at that time I was unemployed, and with little savings which I had accumulated over a two-year period, particularly for that, “the baby’s fund.”

However, the idea of having a child also comforted me, as my greatest wish had always been to have a child. Nonetheless, in my mind I had always wanted to have everything perfect and ready for the time a child came, thus the reason why I kept putting a child off.

Now I realize that if I had kept waiting until everything was in place, then I might have never really been ready for a child; something would have always been missing.

What can I say, I stressed a whole lot, the baby’s father wanted nothing to do with me or the unborn child, and he said I was “disadvantaging” the baby before birth, given that I was not working. He tried every tactic within his power to break me, but I couldn’t, I simply couldn’t bend to his wish. I loved the baby that was growing inside me, and nothing he said would make me get rid of it.

Now, looking back at it, it almost seems surreal. I put up the biggest fight to keep the baby, and at the end of the day, I lost her.

Days turned to months, and my pregnancy barely showed, and I was scared of telling my family, yes, at 27 I was scared of telling my family that I was expecting a child. I saw my doctor on a monthly basis and I saw how the child developed; I smiled when I heard her heartbeat. My baby inside me was growing, and she was the reason that I got up in the morning, and something so small gave me the strength to get through the day.

I loved her each day a little more. I felt her kicks each day and it warmed my heart; there was a baby growing inside me, a child I wanted more than my own life.

November 27, 2012, I woke up around four to a slight pain. I didn’t think much of it because my baby was not due until late January or early February, so I hugged my belly and tried to go back to sleep, but I couldn’t, the pain was so persistent. It was until around 7:15 a.m. that I got out of bed and something warm trickled down my leg. In my mind I had peed myself, but it was then that my sister told me that I was bleeding. Instantly I panicked; this was not normal, I shouldn’t have been bleeding, and the baby was not due yet. I went to the bathroom and I realized that that I was hemorrhaging and the pain had intensified.

I rushed to the Placencia clinic, since it was Placencia that I was living with my sister, where I was met by the nurse and doctor assigned to the clinic. Nothing could be done and I was sent to Independence Polyclinic, where nothing could be done for me either. An IV was placed in my left hand, and I was checked to see whether I had started to dilate, which I wasn’t.

After what seemed like hours, I was finally sent to Dangriga, where I waited and waited, and when the gynecologist arrived, my heart broke into a million pieces. They could do nothing for me; the doctor said that Dangriga did not have the adequate equipment necessary for a premature baby.

In my mind I was praying, begging God to save my baby, but the pain only intensified, and the hemorrhaging continued. It was not until around 11 that morning that I was air-lifted to Belize City, and soon after I was prepared for surgery. Half my body was numbed, but soon after, I passed out; it had been hours since I had started bleeding, so I did not see when the baby was delivered.

I couldn’t tell you what time I regained consciousness, because I lost track of time, but it was then that I heard a doctor say that a hysterectomy had had to be performed on me. The hemorrhaging had been due to a ruptured placenta, and the hysterectomy had to be done to save my life.

At that moment I didn’t care whatever had been done on me; all I wanted to know was the state of my child. My baby girl was born through C-section at 1:40 p.m. at 2.66 pounds. I was later told that she hadn’t cried upon delivery, and that she was so very delicate.

It was not until the following day, November 28, that I was able to see my baby. I can’t describe the feeling of joy I felt to finally meet her. I had been waiting for her arrival ever since I learned of my pregnancy, and while my pregnancy had been cut short, there she was, so tiny, so fragile, and seeing her there attached to a ventilator made me cry.

I finally got to touch my child, my only baby, she was perfect, she had everything on her, her little fingers, her feet, her toes, her eyelashes; she was perfect, and she surely was her father’s daughter. I was overjoyed, she was alive, and I was grateful for that.

It was then that I spoke to the doctor in charge, and told me that the surfactant which is given to premature babies to aid in the development of their lungs had not been given to her because she seemed to be responding well on her own.

The following day I was discharged, and it broke my heart that I couldn’t take my daughter with me. Everybody else at the maternity ward had their newborn with them and my baby was at the intensive care unit, too delicate for me to hold, or take her home. It was heart-wrecking to leave her at the hospital while I returned to Placencia. I had my sister check on her, and I called every day to see how she was doing.

Initially, they told me that she was being given antibiotics because she had an infection, but every day they told me she was getting better.

On Tuesday of the following week, I flew back to Belize, because I wanted to be with her. I checked into a hotel for a week and I’d visit the hospital every single day simply to be with her. I enjoyed spending every single minute with her. I’d sing the song I played to her when I was pregnant still, I talked to her, I touched her, since the doctor had told me that she would respond better if I was there with her.

Many times I cried with my baby, I could see she was crying by the way her chest would rise and fall back, but no sound would come out her tiny mouth because she was still attached to the machine. Wednesday they took my baby off the ventilator, and it was so painful to watch the nurses insert tubes inside her. I closed my eyes and turned away, but it had to be done.

Every day I saw my baby get better. She had a little jaundice but that was being addressed, and she was getting better. I took pictures of her each day; it was my voice she heard every day. I stood beside her talking to her, or even if just touching her so she would know I was there. I didn’t care that I’d been through double surgery. I didn’t care if my back ached, or if my feet ached: all I cared about was that she was getting better, and soon enough I’d take her home. My baby was getting better; she no longer needed the ventilator which was breathing for her; by now she was breathing with tiny tubes in her nose, and she was responding well.

It was then that I heard her cry for the first time, and it warmed my heart. My daughter had cried for the first time, and it was a good sign because it meant that her lungs were getting better. God, she was my everything, the apple of my eyes, my precious child, and while I was jealous of the other mothers because they got to hold their babies, I was glad that my baby was alive and I touched her. My heart warmed ‘cause I would soon get to hold her too – kangaroo care – with direct skin-to-skin contact and soon enough I’d feed her, and that alone comforted me. .

I remember sitting outside the ICU, together with another mother, discussing our babies, and their progress. I used to stand up beside my baby massaging her lungs with a battery-operated toothbrush. The nurse had instructed me how to do it, so I enjoyed doing it to her and ensured that I was there every hour to do it for her. While I massaged her chest I talked to her, because I knew how it tickled her, and she’d twist and turn, and make up her face because she didn’t like it.

Babies at the ICU needed a daily X-ray done to see their improvement, but there came the day when the portable X-ray machine was not working, so it couldn’t be brought to ICU, and the babies had to leave the comforts of the ICU and be taken to the X-ray room to have their X-rays done.

I panicked. Delicate babies taken outside the ICU would be exposed to germs and bacteria, but it had to be done unfortunately. It was this day that I got to hold my child and with the guidance of a nurse I took her to the X-ray room and brought her back. Again, an indescribable feeling, I was holding my child in my arms, and she cried and I comforted her. My baby in my arms, the best feeling a mother could ever have.

Saturday 8th, when I spoke to the pediatrician, he informed me that my baby was doing so well that by Sunday he expected that she would start feeding. Milk would be given to her directly to her stomach – nasogastric until she would be strong enough to breast feed. I remember expressing the last bit of breast milk with a breast pump so that she would have it when the time came and she would need it. That day I comforted her tiny cries, and she wrapped her big fingers around my small finger and squeezed it; my smile must have been from ear to ear. I left her at 5:30 p.m. because I was only staying in Belize City and I couldn’t be wandering in the streets too late.

Sometime during the night, my baby caught an infection, and when I arrived at the hospital, I found her bleeding from her mouth and nose. Her tiny body resembled nothing of the child I left just hours earlier. Her stomach was puffed out, she was stiff and pale and I could do nothing for her, but comfort her, touch her, and sing for her. Her eyes had tears in them, and I cried with her; my tiny child was bleeding inside out. I spoke to the nurse in charge and she said that she had gotten an infection and that she was being given antibiotics, but that was it, that’s all they could do for her.

Around 9 o’clock that morning when the pediatrician arrived and I went to see him, he took me to a separate room, made me sit down, and held his head and lowered his eyes. My heart ached and I knew he had nothing good to tell me. He said my daughter was bleeding out, that she had to be incubated around midnight and that she was not producing urine, which was a bad, bad sign, that at that point she might have been even bleeding from her brain and that honestly he did not think that she would make it. Those were the worst words a mother could hear, no hopes that your child will make it.

I stayed there crying; I didn’t want to lose her. When you get pregnant, never does it cross your mind that your child will die. I remember praying begging God for a miracle to save my baby, but as the hours progressed nothing seemed to work, the bleeding was uncontrollable.

Around midday they started to give her blood transfusion but it couldn’t be kept in her body. She kept bleeding from her nose and mouth as I stood there and I could not help her. I felt as if though I failed her, I couldn’t help my baby. I simply stood there watching her die before me.

At around 3:20 p.m., December 9th, the nurse told me that she was really delicate, that she was not taking in oxygen and she could not put any more in her because if she did, her lungs would rupture, and it was then that she asked me if her father would stop by and see the baby. I told her that he couldn’t, that he would come until Monday, and the look that she gave me made me break into tears crying. That look was that she won’t make it for tomorrow.

I stepped out of the ICU and went into the waiting area where my sister awaited, and I told her about what the nurse had implied. It was like five minutes that I had been there when the nurse came for me and told me to come and hold the baby. At that minute I knew that I was losing her, that my baby was dying, and as I walked with her back to the ICU she informed me that her heart beat was at every five seconds, that she was leaving us. I stepped back into the ICU numb, everything stopped, my only child was dying, and I could do nothing for her.

I stood beside her, and it was then that the nurse told me, “She went to heaven.” Simply writing the words claws at the depths of my heart. Minutes later they gave the baby to me so that I could hold her. As I held her in my arms, I heard air bubbling out her mouth, her last breath, and I cried like I’ve never cried before. The child I wanted more than life itself, dead in my arms. For a second I almost passed out, I started to see bright lights as I held her there, rocked myself and sang “My precious child” to her one more time. I wiped the blood from her face and I kissed her over and over again.

My baby, dead in my arms. I held her for two hours, my dead child, then I thought about what all I had done wrong, could I have done anything differently. I felt guilty. She had born prematurely at 28 weeks. Had it been my fault? I didn’t know. Nothing showed that my pregnancy was ever at risk.

The following day I went to pick the death certificate which was marked “septic shock due to neonatal sepsis.” My baby had lived for 12 days. The infection she caught came from the ward and it’s just so unfair that my baby wasn’t strong enough to fight such a deadly bug in the ward.

That day together with her father we went to the morgue to see her. I held her once more and kissed her, and because I could not get myself to let go of her, I cremated her.

My baby was registered under the name Jade Isana Scarlette Marroquin, born November 27th, 2012, and died December 9th, 2012. She blessed my life for 12 short days, and I’d give anything to hold her, see her, and touch her one more time. I still don’t know if I could have done something differently. The sad thing is that I was told that my baby had gotten that infection from another baby, that there were so many babies at the ICU at the time that infection was almost unavoidable.

My baby died because an infection got to her [a bug klebsiella pheumonea was in the ward], not because she was not getting better on her own. Her death could have been avoided if the proper measures were in place, and it’s so very sad because in my case, Jade was my only child. Now, I recall one of the days when I stood beside my baby, there had been one time that a man came into the ICU spraying – it had frightened me, and unfortunately I did not question what he had been doing.

Later, I learned from another mother whose baby also died that bacteria had been in the ward, that it had been quarantined, and that all the babies had been taken to pediatric ward in the hopes of eliminating the bacteria, the most deadly in the words of one of the nurses.

My baby did not have to die; these deaths simply should not happen. My baby was getting better, improving, her lungs were getting better, and she was about to start feeding. If it hadn’t been for the infection that she contracted in the ward, my Jade would be alive. My baby, precious like Jade, and a fighter the reason for Isana, my baby died, and I only hope that other mothers won’t have to go through the pain I am going through.

If the ICU had been spacious enough and uncontaminated, my baby would be alive. Belize needs to train its nurses with neonates, and yes, as you say, there were nurses with fresh cold in the ICU, and yet they require you to wear gowns, kind of pointless, and I recall the day one of the nurses asked the other if she would be able to draw blood from one of the neonates, and her answer was, “I’ll try on one hand; if I can’t do it, then you do it on the other hand.” It’s not about trying. These babies are delicate and fighting for their lives for them to be trying.

Attached are pictures of my precious Jade for you to meet. May her soul rest in peace.

Kindest regards, a grieving mother:
Jacklin Marroquin

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