When I get to the hospital, a baby is lying on the tile counter and the students are gathered around looking at the tiny form. Her brain is clearly swollen and has no skull to contain it. They assume she is dead but I can see that she is alive. When I pick her up to move her to a table, she cries. I find blankets and wrap her cold body. She holds onto my finger with a tight grasp and does not let go. We all think she will die in an hour or two but it has been two days and she is still alive. I ask her mother if she wants to visit with her and she says she does but the father is afraid she will faint when she sees her baby and says she can not. We tell her she is strong and beautiful and she looks at us with a shocked wonder that these white people think her deformed baby is beautiful.
I stay with her for a long time, keeping her warm and singing any song that comes to my mind. Everyone wants to see her. Its like a sideshow of uncomfortable laughs and picture taking. No one knows what to do with her and most everyone is afraid their baby can catch it from her.
The father says I can name her so I name her Rose as she is so sweet and dear with her small, perfect hand wrapped around my finger.
A pediatrician from Ireland who is working for Partners for Health, tries to find a place for her and in the end, only an adult unit will take her. She lies on a grown up bed next to a man with a stroke. When I return, the next day, the mother is sitting outside the hospital waiting to go home as baby Rose continues her struggle to live an impossible short life.
She has a neurotube defect. We tell the mother that this happens everywhere in the world but the mother only knows Haiti. Her last baby died of cholera and this is Haiti. She asks to have her tubes died but the doctor never comes so she gives up and goes home.
Everything I read, says she will die soon and yet each time I pay her a visit there is still the tight grasp of her hand around my finger. She does not give up on life so easily. They say she has no working brain and cannot feel anything. She has reflexes and not feelings. I try to pull the two apart- our feelings and our reflexes and cannot help but wonder if she drifts there above us with a perfect intelligence and a soft, sweet soul that can not yet leave the world.
I have never seen a brain before and yet there her's is; lying on a white sheet glimmering in the morning sun. It reminds me of the jelly fish washed up on the shore on the Oregon coast. I cover her brain gently with a soft blanket and concentrate on the perfect hand wrapped around my finger; the wonder that we two should spend this time together.