Part one of this story is here.
Shortly after Nadjia left the house a friend of ours ran in calling, “mamabo!” He took my mom by the hand and ran out the door with her. I followed close behind. We ran out the front gate and turned down the street and that was when I saw it, the yellow dress. Nadjia was laying on the ground, at the edge of the gravel street, having a full-body seizure. Again, a crowd was gathered, at a safe distance- pointing and jeering. Mom ran up and cradled Nadjia’s head in her lap, she stroked her cheeks and arranged her dress so she remained covered up. But our friends were telling mom to not touch her, to leave her alone. Mom just cradled her and again, cried. But this time it was angry tears, she yelled at the crowd and scolded them for not helping this helpless little girl. Mom was heartbroken, angry and sad.
So that day we learned another big Haiti culture lesson. The Haitians that were hanging around, just watching a child have a seizure, did so because they were curious but also afraid. They did not know about epilepsy, which we discovered Nadjia had. Instead, they believed that she was possessed. Our friend was concerned for my mom’s safety because he believed that touching Nadjia could make my mom possessed too, as if it was contagious. My friend explained that Nadjia was known throughout the community and people often paid her to dance for them, hoping it would make her start seizing. They liked to watch when she had a seizure because they believed it was the devil moving her body. Voodoo is a strong force and an unfortunate reality in Haiti.
Later that day we met Nadjia’s mother, a lovely Christian woman named Labonette. Labonette is only about four and a half feet tall and eighty pounds, but she is fierce! She raised her children alone, and it was a daily fight for survival. Yes, she knew Nadjia had epilepsy, she had seen a doctor and had a prescription for the necessary medication. However, she could not afford it. That week we bought the medicine for Nadjia and gave her mother money to purchase it in the future.
Over the last several years we have given money and personally bought Nadjia’s medications many times. Yet Labonette still does not grasp the importance of giving the medication every day. I believe it is incredibly difficult to understand that the medication prevents seizures, her view is she only needs the medicine when she has a seizure. Also, in the daily struggle for survival one pill falls to the bottom of the list.
This is not the happiest of endings because Nadjia does have severe brain damage and cognitive delays from years of seizures. She is mostly bed ridden now as a young adult yet she has moments of lucidity and her mother treasures them. Once in awhile she will sing an old worship song with her mom and her mom will just weep.
But, the story is not over yet. A beautiful culture shift has happened. A few years ago Ketlene (my dear friend and the hostess of our guesthouse) asked me if Nadjia and her mom could move on to our property. Ketlene was worried because Nadjia had been assaulted at her home when her mother had left her to go to the market. Ketlene wanted Nadjia to be somewhere with more people to watch over her and help her mom. Remember over ten years ago when the Haitian people laughed and pointed at Nadjia, thinking she was possessed? A culture shift has happened because we have modeled love, and it all started with my mom, the day we met Nadjia.
Today Nadjia and her mom have a home on the Hut Outreach property. Ketlene and her family help watch Nadjia and support her mother. In fact, Labonette has become a great helper to Hut Outreach as well. She works hard everyday cleaning up and serving lunch at the school. God used my mom’s compassionate heart to change the future for Nadjia and her entire family.
Mom and Nadjia around 2001, and again Christmas, 2015