January 2010

Hi from Sarnelli House!

When I was in the novitiate in De Soto Missouri, back in 1959, we called February the “tunnel month”. The weather was too warm to ski or ice skate, and too cold and muddy to do anything else. Also, usually close to Lent, it was a grim time of fasting and no meat. There never was enough warmth in the building during those raw winter days, and the outlook was gray and bleak. This was the time that anyone wavering in their “calling” usually broke and ran. Even in the major seminary, it was a grim, depressing time.

          After the euphoria of the camping vacation, we had the beginnings of our own tunnel month at Sarnelli. It had nothing to do with the weather; every day is relatively cool and sunny. But sickness again stalked some kids, and the horrible calamity of Haiti sobered and saddened us all. Our Redemptorist confreres were hit hard, and their school collapsed, killing over 300 students and children. Our problems pale in comparison to those poor people.

           Dottie, the “Baby Buffalo”, an incredibly cute and self-possessed little three-year-old girl, once again became seriously ill before Christmas. We had to take her to Srinakarin University Hospital, because she had a bacterial infection of the brain; she was anemic and paralyzed in both legs. Her potassium level was nearly non-existent. Dottie missed being home with the tribe at Christmas and New Year, and finally came home January 15. On January 18, she was backing the hospital, getting more blood. The nurses kept poking her with needles, unable to get a vein. Poor Dottie was crying and begging them to stop. She said she was healthy, and that Fr. Shea was coming to take her on an airplane ride for three days. She would return then to see them. But she finally had a triumphant return after getting the blood, and on January 20, was trying to walk again. Man U, who has the same problem, only worse (inability to get their heels touching the ground; we have four tykes with this crippling disease), pushes her around in a wheel chair. She has a pot belly, and looks a bit like Jebba the Hutt (?) in one of the Star Wars movies.

           On January 19, an aunt and cousin of a 16 year old girl being treated in the Nongkhai hospital came to see us. This girl, Noot, was brought to the hospital vomiting blood and unable to urinate. Her body was swollen. Her mother has a bad case of AIDS, and a blood test showed the girl also has AIDS. The doctors cannot find the cause of the kidney failure, but only an operation putting ports in her abdomen will save her. She will have to flush her kidneys four times a day; one half hour at a time. Either that, or die. No relative would take her back, not even her mother. I agreed to take her, and we will be monitoring the operation and the method of introducing the medicine in one tube, and the release of the urine from another tube. She cannot take dialysis because of AIDS. When she is ready to be released, we will take her and do our best for her. She still has to go through that operation, and there is no guarantee it will work, or that she will be able to mentally cope with the hardships of this form of cleansing her blood. But she dearly wants to live, and now we pray that she has the chance to do so. We will do our part, although right now, only my two nurses know of my decision to take her in. I can’t fathom what it must be like for a teenage girl to have this happen to her body, and then have mother and all the relatives walk off to let her die. Please pray for her, and Dottie, and all those poor orphans of Haiti.

           So many children are alive and lively and healthy as possible, thanks to people like you, and your concern and sacrifice for these tykes. They are incredibly beautiful little people, even those scarred by disease and operations. May the Lord bless you throughout the new decade.


Father Mike

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