The deaths and miracles of Haiti

January 21, 2010 12:00 am

, PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jan 21 – Mendji Bahina Sanon, just 11 years old, lay emaciated, her breathing labored, fighting nightmares as she gradually came back to life Wednesday after spending eight days buried under Haiti\\\’s rubble.

At the foot of her bed in a French-run clinic in Haiti\\\’s ravaged capital, Ernst Clerge tried to comfort her anguished child, who struggled against the terror of her dreams, crying out.

"Mama is not in the hole, don\\\’t leave me Mama," the little girl said.

Her rescue is an amazing story of survival amid little but news of sorrow in Port-au-Prince.

"It truly is a miracle, she came back to life bit by bit. She is blessed by the gods," said Dominique Jan, a surgeon working at a field hospital set up and staffed by French aid groups Chaine de l\\\’Espoir and Alima.

On January 12, Sanon\\\’s mother was on her way home from her job as a cleaning lady for the United Nations mission here when the deadly 7.0 earthquake began.

"I had left my five children at home. I was panic-stricken. The two-story building had collapsed. I though they were all dead," she said.

"My 21-year-old daughter appeared first and I fell into her arms and then, with the neighbors, we dug out two more children who had injuries to their feet.

"We recovered the lifeless body of my five-year-old son the next day," she said.

Working with her neighbors, she continued to search for her missing daughter, looking for two days in vain.

Then, on Wednesday, she heard a neighbor cry out: "I heard your daughter, she called out."

"I didn\\\’t believe it, but I rushed, the neighbors dug, she was alive and they dug her out," the grateful mother said.

"She talked to me and asked me for milk and cornflakes and then she fainted."

"She told me that she had prayed a lot and I thanked Jesus, we must have faith in Jesus," she said, adding out of her daughter\\\’s earshot: "I haven\\\’t told her yet that her favorite little brother died. She\\\’s still very weak."

Mendji\\\’s father, who was abroad when the quake hit last week, sat by his wife\\\’s side. He said nothing, but cried quietly.

Doctors at the clinic were hopeful, but treating the little girl carefully.

"Her kidneys are functioning. We are hydrating her slowly with salt water and gradually with more substantive food. Giving her richer food straight away would be dangerous for her," Dominique Jean, the French doctor.

In the field hospital, the little girl has become a symbol of victory over death, of the triumph of hope amid despair, and medical workers file by her bed to glimpse the little miracle.

A day earlier, the hospital welcomed another survivor Fedora, a 20-year-old woman who survived seven days underneath rubble and is recovering quickly, nurses said.


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