2010 Haiti earthquake

A sister's love – Haiti six months on

01-11-2010
10-year old Fara takes care of her brother s every need including feeding him, bathing him, dressing him, cutting his hair, and tucking him into bed every night.
© CBM
10-year old Fara takes care of her brother s every need including feeding him, bathing him, dressing him, cutting his hair, and tucking him into bed every night (CBM)

One of the most tragic after-effects of disaster is that children are often forced to grow up far too quickly. Following an earthquake, cyclone, or flood many children leave school or even home to look for food, work, or act as care-givers. That is the story for ten-year old Fara who has become the main care-giver to her three-year old brother Stefan

Running scared

Just before 5 pm on Tuesday, January 12, three-year old Stefan and his five brothers and sisters were playing inside their house when the earth shook violently.
 
“Stefan thought a car hit the house and he started running, we all started running, but since Stefan is the smallest he was last,” says ten-year old Fara. “When the rest of us reached outside we heard a scream and turned to see that a wall had fallen on Stefan. I ran back inside to get him out, and that’s when I noticed his leg was broken.”

Under the knife

CBM physiotherapist Sherry Bales changes the dressing on Stefan s wound and external fixator. ©CBM
CBM physiotherapist Sherry Bales changes the dressing on Stefan s wound and external fixator (CBM)
Stefan was taken to Diquini Hospital in Port au Prince, and was diagnosed with a broken Tibia and Fibula in his right leg as well as nerve damage causing drop-foot. But that’s not all. Doctor’s also noticed Stefan had developed Osteomyelitis – an infection that eats away at bone and muscle tissue weakening the bone significantly.
 
Doctors installed an external fixator to help the bone heal, and decided not to let Stefan leave until he was completely healed.

My brothers keeper

10-year old Fara has been sleeping on a piece of cardboard, on the cold, dirty floor of the pediatric ward at Diquini Hospital since her brother was admitted to hospital more than five months ago. ©CBM
10-year old Fara has been sleeping on a piece of cardboard, on the cold, dirty floor of the pediatric ward at Diquini Hospital since her brother was admitted to hospital more than five months ago (CBM)
Since Stefan is the youngest of six children his mother can’t stay with him at the hosptial as she has to care for the rest of the family. Therefore, it was decided Fara would stay with Stefan.
 
She bathes him, feeds him, dresses him, cuts his hair, wheels him around the hospital to visit other children, plays with him, and even tucks him into bed at night. 
 
The pair has lived in the Pediatric Ward at Diquini Hospital since the quake occured. As a patient, Stefan gets a crib to sleep in, but because of over-crowding Fara sleeps on a piece of cardboard on the cold, dirty ground beneath the crib.
 
“I don’t sleep as well at the hospital as I do at home,” says Fara. “Our home was destroyed by the quake and my family lives under a tarp, but I prefer to sleep outside under the tarp. In the hospital, I am always waking up because of the noise and banging my head against the metal crib.”

CBM reaches out

CBM physiotherapist Sherry Bales has been working with Stefan for more than five months, changing his bandages, providing rehabilitative care and teaching his how to walk with his new crutches ©CBM
CBM physiotherapist Sherry Bales has been working with Stefan for more than five months, changing his bandages, providing rehabilitative care and teaching his how to walk with his new crutches (CBM)
CBM and Handicap International have been providing physiotherapy to thousands of patients like Stefan. Prior to the earthquake, rehabilitative care was virtually non-existent in Haiti. But CBM and HI are working together to build capacity within the local medical community. Diquini is just one of 10 hospitals CBM and HI are working with.    
 
Sherry Bales, a CBM physiotherapist, has been working with Stefan for more than six weeks. She changes his dressing, does physio on his drop-foot, and teaches him how to use his new crutches.
 
“Seeing him smile, watching him trying to walk on his crutches, it’s totally rewarding and gets you through the day,” says Bales. “He’s a strong kid, you just know he is going to recover and will soon be running around and playing like any three-year old.”

Still a long way to go

10-year old Fara takes care of her brother Stefan. She often wheels him around the hospital grounds to play with other children. ©CBM
10-year old Fara takes care of her brother Stefan. She often wheels him around the hospital grounds to play with other children (CBM)
Stefan still has a long way to go. His infection isn't clearing up, and doctors say there is a chance he could loose all or part of his leg. He will be in hospital for at least another four-to-six weeks, but at least he won’t be alone.

As for Fara, she says before the quake she used to love going to school, hanging out with her friends, and playing or watching TV. She looks forward to the day when she can go back home and back to school. But with her brother in hospital, her family living under a tarp and her school destroyed, who knows when that will be.
 
But to look at her, you wouldn’t know her thoughts are elsewhere. You can see she loves her brother deeply by the way she cares for him. It’s like she understands that for now her childhood has been put on hold while she plays mother to her brother.


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