West Tennessee Haiti Partnership

Surgical team goes to St Vincents

Early Saturday morning, I went to the airport in Memphis to wave goodbye to Drs Bheki Khumalo and Jenn Holbourn, who are traveling with Kristen, a surgical nurse, to Haiti. They will work with Dr Georges Beauvoir, a Haitian orthopedic surgeon. This is the second surgical trip for Dr Khumalo, who operated on six children last August. He performs limb correction surgeries on children at St
Vincents. Thanks to the hard work and in country connections of Dr Beauvoir, the team is able to operate in a private surgical facility, much  like the ones we are familiar with in the US. Each surgery costs between $1200-1500.

One of the young students, named Christina, has been in a wheelchair all her life due to untreated club foot. She had one foot repaired last August and Dr Khumalo plans to repair the other foot this week. Jenn Holbourn is a physical therapist and will work with Christina to strengthen her legs, designing an intensive PT program to be continued by the school’s PT assistants. Imagine the work and determination it will take this 16 year old girl to learn to walk, after never using her legs before.  We are all hoping and praying she will find the strength, physically and emotionally, to do the work it will take to get out of that wheelchair. But she would not even have that chance without Dr. Khumalo.

Yesterday I looked through old photographs from Haiti, back to 2009, to find a photograph of Christina. She has a beautiful smile and has captured the hearts of many visitors to St Vincents.  I found a photo of my daughter, Sienna, on her first trip to the school March 2009. She is handing out cake to a group of kids, and there is beautiful Christina smiling and waiting patiently while the younger kids jump over themselves to be first in line. I remember that was the trip when I first heard Sienna speak Kreyol. As I said, this was her first trip to Haiti, so when I heard, “Tout moun, vini avec moi” (actually that’s french) in this commanding female American voice, I was confused. Who was that? “That was your daughter,” my friend John said to me. Of course, the bossy one. In any language. (I have to admit I know where she gets it from)

The photo below is another of Christina with a group of kids. You can recognize her smiling in the center of the photo. You can see her wheelchair has padding around the right leg pedal. That’s because her foot always rubs against the chair and she gets pressure sores on her right ankle.  That life long problem will be corrected by her surgery.

In the photo below, Clark, a CBU nursing student, is helping pad Christina’s wheelchair.

Here is another photo of me in the clinic with Christina.

If you are reading this, please offer prayers for Christina and the other children who will have surgery this week. Even if you are reading this long after the original publish date, they will all still be struggling with developing new skills and strength in their limbs. To walk, to be able to wear a normal fitted shoe, to have a straight limb.  To develop their full potential.

Susan Nelson
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