Mother brought five-month-old Nadia (name changed) to me in clinic last week. Nadia had a fever and pneumonia in her right lung. And her mother pointed out to me how anemic Nadia appeared to be. Nadia was also a Grade II malnutrition.
I needed to be careful with this fragile baby and so I ordered antibiotic injections and oral antibiotics (to cover different germs) and sent her home. Mother returned with Nadia the next couple of days for the same treatment and Nadia’s fever came down nicely and she was breastfeeding well.
Over the weekend Nadia received no antibiotic injections but Mother did continue to give her oral antibiotics as ordered.
I checked Nadia in clinic yesterday and her fever was back up to 103 F and her lungs did not sound good. So I told Mother that Nadia needed to be admitted to St. Catherine’s Hospital across the street. She became tearful but she agreed and I gave her 20 dollars U.S. to facilitate Nadia’s admission. I also gave Nadia another shot of antibiotics before I sent them across the street.
The Haitian nurses who work at St. Catherine’s Hospital could start an IV on a spider. But even after multiple attempts the head nurse could not insert an IV on Nadia.
In clinic today Mother showed up again alone. I asked her where Nadia was. Mother told me that she left the hospital last night at 8 PM with Nadia.
I asked her why she did this. Mother replied that they couldn’t get an IV in her baby, but the real issue is that the lougarou (werewolf) is out to get Nadia. When I asked her to explain, she stated that when they left the hospital last night, she took Nadia to a local Soleil Vodou priest. He told Mother that if Nadia had stayed in the hospital she would have died.
Mother explained to me that Nadia does not have a medical disease that a conventional doctor can treat. She has a mystical illness and that the lougarou is trying “to get his mouth on her and eat her because she is so beautiful…you know lougarous try and eat beautiful babies.” I agreed that Nadia is beautiful and asked her if she would go home and get Nadia so I could see her beautiful baby again. She said she would be happy to.
About 15 minutes later mother returned with Nadia in her arms. Nadia looked very pale and her temp was 103.5 F. Her lungs still sounded full of pneumonia. I asked Mother if I could give her another shot of antibiotics and she said of course.
I did not dispute Mother’s comments regarding the Haitian lougarou. I didn’t think it would do any good. She said she was taking the baby back to the Vodou priest tonight for more treatment and she wanted to know if I would pay for this consultation with the priest. I told her that I would not.
I asked Mother if she would bring Nadia to see me in the morning. She shook her head yes and told me that she would bring Nadia back in the morning.
Mother looked more calm and tranquil and at peace that I had ever seen her. There is no beating the power of the mystic and the fear of the lougarou in Haiti. The lougarou always wins.
John A. Carroll, MD