April 7, 2010 in Nation/World

Haiti parents reunite with baby

Quake struck home with infant inside
Carol Marbin Miller McClatchy
 
Associated Press photo

Nadine Devilme talks to her baby, Jenny, during a press conference Tuesday in Miami Gardens, Fla. The parents and baby were united for the first time since Jan. 12.
(Full-size photo)

MIAMI – Junior Alexis and Nadine Devilme listened stoically Tuesday as a University of Miami doctor described in clinical terms why their infant daughter had not been expected to survive her injuries from Haiti’s deadly January earthquake.

“For five days she was under the rubble without any nourishment at all,” said Dr. Arthur M. Fournier, whose words were being translated into Creole as the couple listened on a couch. “When she was brought to us, she was near death.

“Her blood sugar, which is necessary to live, was one-third of what it should be. She had a barely perceptible pulse, which was about half of what it should have been. She had a fractured skull. She had broken ribs. She had difficulty breathing. To fight for a miracle, she had to have the courage to survive five days on her own.”

But Baby Jenny did survive, and on Tuesday the 5-month-old miracle baby slept peacefully in her mother’s arms at the His House Children’s Home shelter, as photographers captured her first day after being reunited with her parents.

Devilme smiled broadly and cooed to her baby as a host of doctors and lawyers spoke of Jenny’s odyssey.

“This child is a metaphor for Haiti,” Fournier said, just as his little former patient awoke and sat up in her mother’s lap. “She was just about dead. Everybody counted her out, and she is back.”

Jenny, who was treated at a field hospital by doctors and nurses with the University of Miami’s Project Medishare before being airlifted to Jackson Memorial’s Holtz Children’s Hospital, captured the hearts of many in Miami with her story of resilience and determination.

Everything about Jenny’s short life has been a struggle. Devilme’s pregnancy with Jenny was high risk, and doctors told the 23-year-old expectant mother that both she and her newborn could perish during delivery, said Mark LaPointe, the Miami attorney who represented Jenny pro bono.

“She was tough and a fighter from the beginning,” said Karen Chamuel, a nurse practitioner who flew with Jenny back to Miami. “I think that her message is strength and determination.”

Devilme was on the top floor of her Port-au-Prince home with Jenny and a caregiver when the earthquake struck, collapsing her home and killing the nanny and two relatives. Devilme could not find the infant afterward, and the two became separated.

Sometime later, an ABC News crew filming a rescue at Devilme and Alexis’ home rushed Jenny to a U.N. medical tent, where she was revived. Chamuel volunteered to travel with the infant, whose parents did not yet know Jenny had been rescued.

Over the next three months, Devilme and Alexis sought to be reunified with Jenny while administrators with the Florida Department of Children & Families secured a DNA test to confirm Jennny was their daughter. The couple flew to Miami on Monday, and saw Jenny for the first time since the Jan. 12 earthquake.


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