Gigi was 2 years old when she came into our lives. We were living in St. Louis and I was running a pediatric clinic. I was also responsible for our special needs program which was called Heaven’s Waiting Room. We called it that because by the time the children reached us – they were so near death – that they didn’t live very long.
I will never forget the day Momma Gigi brought Gigi & Tamara to our program. She said church people & street people had told her that her twin’s disabilities were a product of her sin. In Haiti – special needs children are often hidden – as if they are something to be ashamed of. This is why we began our program. We wanted to show the village that these children are daughters & sons of the King. We wanted them to see that they are SO worthy of love & affection.
We had many parents drop off their children – never to visit them again. But Momma Gigi didn’t want to do that. She didn’t want to just leave them – she simply didn’t know how to help them. She came by every day and even got sassy with me one time telling me that her kids needed hot water to take baths in …and so I needed to personally see that their water was put in the sun.
Momma Gigi got Rubella when she was pregnant. Gigi and her sister’s disabilities are similar…. but they aren’t identical. The twins are both blind in one eye, deaf in one ear, Tamara had club feet, and Gigi didn’t walk until she was 7 years old. They have the mental capacity of a 6-9 month old. Gigi was 2 years old and only weighed 7 pounds. She didn’t even make it on the growth chart her weight was so low. Tamara didn’t have digestive issues and weighed in the 40th percentile.
Jose & I were having fertility issues at the time and were longing for a child to care for. As a nurse – my heart just melted for Gigi and I wanted to save her. We soon realized that Gigi wasn’t just 7 pounds because she didn’t have food. She only absorbed enough food to stay alive. If you fed her bananas – her bowl movements looked just like the bananas. She simply couldn’t absorb the nutrients she needed. Gigi also didn’t know how to chew her food. To this day she still doesn’t chew her food. We have to put it in a blender or mash it into smaller pieces. She struggled for a long time to eat anything – even when blended. She only wanted liquids in a bottle.
I knew without medical help she would die. I had to get her to the states to a hospital. Trying to get a baby out on a medical visa almost seemed impossible. Everyone I knew – my friends and even some of my family – they told me I needed to step back from the situation. They told me Gigi would never live to see 3 years old. Though they didn’t mean to be discouraging – they just didn’t want me to experience such grave heartbreak from losing little Gigi. But really all that did was fuel me to save her even more.
My sister was a children’s minister in Columbus Ohio and she took Gigi’s story to her church and to my nephew’s pediatrician – Dr Dickson. He had connections with Columbus Children’s Hospital. Dr Dickson was instrumental in saving Gigi’s life. He contacted the hospital and we got the needed paperwork to bring Gigi to the states.
At the time – we didn’t know what was wrong with Gigi or that Momma Gigi had contracted Rubella when she was pregnant. Gigi saw a genetics specialist, GI specialist, physical therapists, eye & ear doctors, general surgeons, etc for SEVERAL years.
And through all their efforts we were able to diagnosis her and eventually increase her quality of life. There was over $200,000.00 worth of services waived by Children’s Hospital so that we could help save Gigi. Would you believe when it was all said and done – that something as simple as Prevacid & pro-biotics – ended up being all she needed to help her absorb food and gain weight?
We were told early on that Gigi probably wouldn’t live to see 3 years old….and today she is 14! We were told that Gigi wouldn’t be able to communicate with us…..but let me tell you how smart my girl is. When she is hungry – she walks to the microwave and puts her hand on it and makes a loud squeal. When she is thirsty she will bring you a cup. And don’t you believe for a second that she doesn’t know what she wants to drink. She knows the “colors” of the drinks and can’t be tricked. If it’s white – it’s milk. If it’s black it’s Coke. If it’s red it’s Tampico. If it’s clear it’s water. She will hold the glass up to her good eye and if it’s not the right color she will push it back without even taking a sip.
She is very flexible…until she was about 4 years old she would use her feet to hold her bottle while she was drinking so her hands were free to look at.
We actually got Gigi to crawl by putting coke in a cup on the floor in front of her so she would crawl to it. That girl knows what she wants. Gigi also won’t eat anything without ketchup on it. Yes – ketchup on macaroni, rice, oatmeal, bananas, etc.. You can’t trick her with BBQ sauce. It has to be ketchup. We have been able to put peanut butter in her oatmeal and she’ll eat it. But that’s the only exception to the ketchup rule. I can’t even begin to tell you how much ketchup we go through a week.
We have been trying to potty train Gigi for the last 3 years – and have made very small advancements. It’s a work in progress.
Gigi knows where everything is on campus. She knows how to go from our house to the orphanage or orphanage to the cafeteria – all on her own.
When we first met Gigi all she did was stare at her hand – and make a fist with the the other hand to hit her chin or her forehead. (You’ll see that in some of the pictures below). She did it for stimulation. It took us a full year to find other things she could stare at and be engaged with so that she no longer needed to hit herself. She LOVES lights and she loves water. We can’t give her unsupervised baths or she’ll drink all the water. She’s also like a moth to a flame…..we put lights up in her room and a light-up disco ball that she is mesmerized by.
Gigi knows who we are. Jose & I can get her to eat & do things that others can’t. Momma Gigi didn’t travel with us to the states until the twins were born. So Jose & I had to walk through the airports with 4 girls & Gabriel on our own. We had lots of people wanting to watch our kids – but Gigi made them nervous. So my mom and dad often helped us care for Gigi while we were in the states. Gigi had a very special relationship with them. She would reach her hands out for papaw all the time. Nana sang a special song called – Gigi – My Gigi Girl – that she would sing loudly in her ear and Gigi would just laugh and nod her head from side to side while she sang it.
Gigi has traveled all over the United States with us. From New York to Nevada….she has seen a lot in her lifetime. We have a lot of miracle babies in our home….but it all started with her.
Thank you JESUS for bringing Gigi into our lives. She has changed us completely. She also brought her mother into my life who is now my very best friend.
When Gigi first became apart of our family the Haitians would ask us why we would choose someone who’s broken? They told us we could have any child we wanted – why would we choose someone like Gigi? That little girl changed the views of everyone who came into contact with her. She taught them what real love was without ever uttering a word. She has changed more lives than anyone could have ever predicted.
Happy Birthday Gigi Girl!
Here’s a video of Gigi letting Jose know NOT to change the TV channel…
Here’s a video from Gigi walk for the first time.
And here are some pics of Gigi through the early years…