I just returned from my second visit to Swallow’s Nest, the foster home for special-needs orphans that I wrote about last week.
I met more children, including an adorable 6-month-old boy who was born with a condition that blocks the passage of food from the stomach to the small intestine. Known as pyloric stenosis, the disorder causes vomiting and dehydration. The infant had surgery to correct the problem and is doing very well.
We nicknamed another boy Mohawk Man because of his unusual haircut. The sides and back of his head are shaved, while the front features a patch of dark hair combed straight down like an early Beatles’ mop top. He was playing with another toddler we call Spider-Man for his uncanny climbing ability. Mohawk Man will be going to an American family that already has adopted a little girl from Swallow’s Nest.
Heather, a 39-year-old Floridian who’s been living in China for six years, is the acting director of Swallow’s Nest. She has a hectic schedule. In addition to her full-time job at Swallow’s Nest, she teaches English twice a week at a university that is an hour away by bus. “My teaching days are my easy days,’’ she said with a smile.
I met Heather at a nearby hospital where most of the children get treatment when they’re sick. Heather has practically been living there for the past week because children who stay at the hospital must be accompanied by a relative or caretaker at all times. The hospital has nurses but their duties are limited, so the relative or caretaker must feed, wash and clothe the child, along with other responsibilities such as telling the nurse when an IV needs changing or when it’s time for the child to take medicine.
They must also sleep in the child’s hospital room. If there’s no extra bed, they sleep in a chair. The hospital is overcrowded, so you see some children lying in portable beds in the hallway, with their parents or grandparents at their side.
Across the street from the hospital are two adjacent grocery stores with feuding owners. It’s gotten so bad that they’ve built a wall of boxes on the outdoor steps to keep them apart.
“They’re always screaming at each other,’’ Heather said.
Swallow’s Nest is much more peaceful, so please make a donation at http://www.swallowsnestzz.org.