Ydson likes the smooth hold.

On Christmas day a woman came to the hospital here on La Gonave and asked to speak to someone. While the receptionist left to look for the person, the woman left her son, a boy of 3 or 4 years, without a word or, as the Haitians say, even a suitcase. He was malnourished and covered in rashes.

Ydson has cerebral palsy. He is very small, maybe 15 pounds. He cannot see except for light and shadows. He does not hear. He cannot walk and his arms and hands often seize involuntarily.

Ydson is adorable. He has a little face and a soft head of curls. His gaze often follows the breeze when he is outside, and if he sits on your lap facing out he is relaxed and his hands unclench. His favorite activity is to go for stroller rides.
Ydson-the smooth hold
Ydson is cared for by the nurses of course, but also by other hospital staff and even some of the moms who are there with their own children. Everyone thinks she knows best. “He can see.”  “He can’t see.”  “He hears.”  “He can’t hear.”  ” He’s thirsty.”  “Don’t give him water.”  And the debate continues as well meaning folks clap their hands in his face or snap their fingers in his ears.

One day I was walking with Ydson in the hospital’s breezy hallway. Some nurses and some curious visitors came to look at the little boy ki pa gen moun (who has nobody). I was holding him in my arms and he was stretched out across the front of me, his little head peering out from my shoulder. People were doing the usual yelling to make him hear and shaking him to make him react; he was neither hearing nor reacting but that didn’t seem to daunt anyone. Fre Michelet, a hospital administrator and one of the kindest people you’ll ever meet, came over and said, as he gently rubbed Ydson’s head and shooed the curious away, “Ydson likes the smooth hold.” And sure enough, the muscles in Ydson’s arms and legs relaxed and he released his grip on himself as Fre Michelet continued to speak softly to the little boy.

Haitian mothers are capable of some tough love and for very good reasons. I’ve seen them take a switch to a child’s legs for running in the road, but that’s because children get run over by reckless moto drivers. I’ve seen them hold their kids mouths open and stuff them like a foie gras ( I’ve even seen nurses do this to Ydson) but that’s because many people go long periods of time, days, between meals and you’ve got to eat it while it’s there. When you grow up in Haiti a daily scrub in cold water with harsh soap, a dig through the trash for something with which to make a toy and complete unsupervised play are your daily life. The strong and the quick survive. But Ydson is neither strong nor quick and it is nothing short of a miracle that he has survived for as long as he has. It is perhaps a testament to what his mother could do for him; even her decision to leave him at the hospital may have been made in the hope that others could help him in ways she could not.

Lately Ydson has been able to have an occasional furlough from his hospital home. He can come to the mission compound where he is greeted warmly by staff and visitors. A physical therapist worked with him yesterday to relieve some of the spasticity in his arms and legs. He’s had a couple of field trips to my chicken coop and back porch where, after lunch and a warm bath, he’s been able to sit and feel the leafy breeze. It’s a kind of smooth hold from the universe.

It is difficult to imagine what the future holds for Ydson and other children like him. There aren’t enough places for the more than 300,000 orphans in Haiti now, let alone places for ones with special needs. For the present, Ydson’s life has inspired both curiosity and great compassion from people who otherwise have never seen a child with such great need. He reminds me everyday that the smooth hold is exactly what all of us crave and shouldn’t be stingy in giving.

Pase bon joune my friends. I’m sending out a smooth hold. Pass it on. Love to all–Nancy

The picture above is of Ydson on his outing to the eye clinic.  We’d gladly like any leads you might have on a way to find Ydson a great facility that would love and care for him and bring him to whatever potential he has for whatever his life may be.