Emanuel's mother was 15 and pregnant. She'd been dating a 35-year-old man but was too scared to tell her mother, who didn't know she was about to be a grandmother until the labor pains began. Emanuel was coming—four months premature.
The young girl had no idea how to care for her pregnant body and Emanuel was a tiny, unhealthy baby. He was placed in an incubator for three weeks at the local hospital. Something went wrong during this time, however, and when Emanuel came out, he was blind.
Emanuel lives with his mother, his grandmother, his stepfather, and his two aunts in the large, dirty port city of Puerto San Jose. The birth father doesn't acknowledge Emanuel and has nothing to do with the family. The stepfather does little more to help the family. Emanuel's mother sells bread but earns very little money.
It is difficult to stay healthy in Puerto San Jose because the temperamental climate changes suddenly from cold to warm, but with constant humidity. The water is so dirty and polluted here that filtration doesn't help.
This family of six lives in a two-room house—a tiny bedroom and a kitchen. Their home has a large gap between the top of the cement wall and the roof, which allows rain, cold drafts, and mold to enter the home.
Diseases breed here and Emanuel has spent more of his life in the hospital than at home. Constantly sick with bronchitis or infections, combined with severe malnutrition, is a deadly combination for baby Emanuel.
When Emanuel entered Casa Jackson, he weighed 14 pounds. He was scared. All the sounds blurred together; he never knew such noise.
But Emanuel is a fighter and quickly started showing improvements. His mother visited often, despite the long bus ride. During his stay, Emanuel visited two eye specialists, who unfortunately agreed that he will never see again.
Even though Emanuel has gone home now, his mother still calls from time to time with questions and concerns. One of the biggest challenges at Casa Jackson is often educating the parents on how to continue caring for their child when they return home. Luckily, Emanuel's young mother was a ready and willing student. With only a sixth grade education, she was constantly asking how to be a better mother.
One of the biggest things she learned was to talk to and touch Emanuel while he eats. He needs tactile stimulation; it helps him grow and develop.
Babies like Emanuel have a lot stacked against them in this world. But the loving support of his mother, and her desire to provide the best she can to her son, gives Emanuel much better odds. With your support, Casa Jackson can keep helping babies start their lives strong, giving them a fighting chance at success.