Over the past week I’ve shared the stories of Rosie and Mikela and how they came into our lives. I have had several ask me to share Gigi’s story as well. Of course I’m always happy to talk about any of my beautiful kids!
Here’s Gigi’s story:
When Jose and I moved to Haiti as a married couple over 10 years ago – I had two main responsibilities. One was Heaven’s Waiting Room (which is now called the Miriam Center). The other was my pediatric clinic.
Gigi and her twin sister Tamara were 2 years old when their mother brought them to the mission. She struggled to leave them but simply had no means for caring for them. She was the only parent that visited her children every single day.
While they had a lot of the same disabilities – Tamara was around 15lbs and Gigi was 7lbs. I thought Gigi was little because her family was poor. We soon found out no matter what you fed her she only absorbed enough to stay alive. If we fed her a jar of bananas – she passed the bananas. It wasn’t a regular bowel movement. I’m telling you that you could bottle it back up and feed it to her again. I had never seen anything like it.
Gigi loves her hands. From the time she was 2 months old until now at 10 years old – she stares at them during EVERY waking hour. She loved them so much that she would hold her bottle with her feet just so she could still look at her hands while she drank. She is still amazingly flexible!
Gigi hit herself constantly in the chin. It was her way of stimulating herself. Her face was bruised. So with one hand she’d stare at it and with the other hand she’d beat herself up.
There was something about her though that I was drawn to. Gigi immediately touched my heart from the time I laid eyes on her. Jose and I were unable to carry a pregnancy to term at the time. We longed to have our own children. Here was a baby that needed us and she would become the first child we ever brought into our home!
Jose was very skeptical at the time and as soon as I would bring Gigi up for the night – he’d immediately take her back down. I constantly found ways to sneak her upstairs! I tease him now because he’s actually the closest person to Gigi and Gigi loves him more than anyone else! He can get her to do things that none of the rest of us can!
As we began to fall in love with her -we started seeking the advice of medical professionals. Many saw her picture and read her story and told me that she was too far gone for them to help her. Even a few of the missionaries told me I was trying to invest too much in her and that she’d never live. No matter where I turned I was told to just love her until God took her. NO WAY! I wasn’t going to give up on her.
I called at least 30 different hospitals trying to find a place that would take her case. My sister contacted her pediatrician at Columbus Children’s Hospital. She showed him the pictures and shared the story. We had no idea what Gigi’s diagnosis would be. We only knew that without help she’d never make it. The USA Embassy wouldn’t let us bring her out without a hospital agreeing to see her pro-bono. The team from Columbus Children’s Hospital became like family to us. We had over 5 specialists clearing their schedules and making room for her – – ALL FREE OF CHARGE!
Through that process we learned that Gigi had Ruebella. Her intestines were completely inflamed which is why she couldn’t absorb the food. She was blind in one eye with perfect vision in the other. She had the mental capacity of a 6 month old. We weren’t sure if she was deaf of not. We banged pots and pans over her while she slept and she never moved or opened an eye. We found out later that she was deaf in one ear but perfect hearing in the other. The problem was she didn’t know what to do with the sound she was hearing which is why she never responded to the clanging pans.
We spent those first 5 years visiting Columbus Children’s Hospital 3 times a year. She was on many different medications and had constant testing done just to ensure we were doing all we could to help her absorb her food! The weight gain would be extremely slow but over time she began to fatten up! 🙂
She had therapy appointments as well to help her sit, crawl, chew her food, stop hitting herself, etc. We worked with her constantly both in and out of Haiti. Gigi was a lazy little girl! The therapists told us she’s strong enough to walk she just doesn’t want to! They encouraged us not to rapidly meet every need she has but make her work for it! So if she wants to eat – make her use the walker to go to the high chair instead of us carrying her. So we did! And at 7 years old Gigi finally walked all by herself!
Gigi is one of the happiest little girls you’d ever meet! She doesn’t need much to occupy her time – as long as she can see her hands! 🙂 She giggles all the time! She used to be mute until we gave her hearing aids and she met with a speech therapist. Once she was able to really hear herself she hasn’t stopped making noises! She threw the hearing aids out after 6 months! She can’t speak but she makes her little noises through all hours of the night! (She only needs 5 hours of sleep a day).
She can already do far more than we ever thought!
- When she’s hungry she walks to microwave and puts her hand on it.
- If she’s thirsty she grabs a cup and gives it to us. It’s funny seeing her give the cup to the twins and trying to make them give her a drink! She knows the colors of liquids. If you don’t give her what she wants she will push the cup back until you get it right! She knows white is milk, pink is tampico, clear is water, and dark is coke!
- She won’t eat anything if it doesn’t have ketchup or peanut butter in it. She can’t chew very well. She has oatmeal every morning with peanut butter. If you don’t put enough in it – she’ll push it back. All other meals must have that bright red ketchup on it or she won’t eat it. She eats it on her rice, spaghetti, macaroni, mashed potatoes, etc. You can’t trick her with BBQ sauce. She knows!
- When it’s time to eat in the Mole she knows the kitchen is downstairs. She will walk down the steps for her 3 meals a day. She waits in the kitchen for someone to feed her. When she’s done – she walks back up the steps to the house!
- She likes certain shows on TV. Here is a video of what happens when you change the channel on her:
Some interesting stories about Gigi:
1) In Haiti twins are considered a curse. Many Haitians believe that one twin can make the other twin sick. Gigi’s mother used to spank her twin sister Tamara for making Gigi sick. We had to teach everyone the truth about twins and that they have no magical powers. It took us many months before the Haitians believed us.
2) Because special needs children are not valued in Haiti – I had to be careful who I hired to be our nanny while I was at work. I wanted someone who would love Gigi as much as I did. So I hired her mother – Momma Gigi – to take care of her own child in the daytime at our house.
3) In order to get her to crawl we used a glass of Coke! We would move it every few inches and she would advance little by little so she could get a drink!
4) Gigi should have been born a fish! Her favorite activity of all time is playing in water! If she could – she’d play in water 24 hours a day! The only problem is we can’t leave her in the tub because she drinks all the water!
5) Gigi learned to walk when she was 7 years old and the entire compound went crazy celebrating her first few steps!
Categories: NW_Special Needs, Personal Stories
Ok so this has been by far my favorite to read. I love my Gigi!!!! I would love to see her sometime. It has been so long!
I have so enjoyed learning more about your girls. They are each so precious and so different! God has big plans for them all!
Erin – Rolgard was VERY instrumental in helping Gigi get to where she is today! I will always be grateful for his love and dedication! He put in a lot of therapy hours for our lazy little girl!!
Love this!! One question — what happened to Tamara? Where is she now?
Tamara is still in the Miriam Center. The twins have no connection to each other and Gigi always required extra care. Tamara is thriving! She walks now too!