Sleep for José

Last Saturday I got to volunteer at Guatemala’s general public hospital, specifically in the pediatric ward. I stayed in a room where newborns and babies no older than a year were with their parents; others were orphans. I talked briefly with the nurse who was looking after José, a 6-month old. She told me that he was having trouble sleeping, a side effect from his medication (he was admitted to receive treatment for neumonia, as well as for malnourishment). “It’s my second shift looking after him”, she said, while acknowledging that she spends more time with orphans like him (or babies whose custody is being settled in court) than she did with her two of her own kids while they were growing up. She had made her peace with that and understood it was a matter of circumstances.

He drifted in and out of sleep as I stood next to him, caressing his head, which was missing some hair due to his condition.

I wrote down his name on a small pad I carry with me sometimes, and next to it I wrote: “he’s a fighter”. Before I left, I told little José to sleep soundly.

I’m grateful for that moment.


The angel opens her eyes

Over the weekend I encountered opposing sides of the human experience, all within 12 hours between them. First, a jumper, in Guatemala City’s most coveted suicide spot: The Incense Bridge (Puente El Incienso) was hanging on to a pole, preparing to jump, or considering whether or not to follow through. Duffgirl and I were driving by when this happened within seconds.

It was raining.

She called the fire department.

We saw an ambulance speeding by.

We failed to know if they could save him from himself.

The next morning I joined the volunteer organization that I’m a part of, to visit the Roosevelt Hospital, one of the city’s main public hospitals. I saw several newborn babies and their mothers, before their fathers were allowed to meet them (a new burocratic procedure to prevent child theft). One of  the babies had been born 10 hours before, another was fresh out of her mom’s womb (saw both of them enjoying their first moments together, then falling asleep within minutes, next to each other).

I feel grateful (in a sad kind of way) that I was there to witness new life, hours after I almost witnessed someone letting go of their existence… within seconds.