In Kreyol the saying goes. Little step Little step. Today we made another little step in the care of Sadrak, our patient with the congenital heart condition. Dr Judy’s worst fears were confirmed at St Damien’s hospital today, and yet a series of miracles may lead to saving this child’s life.
After a typical 90 minute Haitian ride with 4 people in a truck cab designed for two (oh and did I mention the dozen or so kids who caught a ride in the back of the truck along the way), including a SHORTCUT over barely passable mud/gravel/pond filled “roads”, we arrived at St Damien’s Pediatric hospital. We were greeted by the lovely and gracious Dr Pascale Yola, who ushered us to the emergency room where we waited for another 90 minutes, not sure if or when the doctor would see Sadrak. Hannah was with me and noticed a team of medical personnel walking by with scrubs that said AKRON MEDICAL CENTER. We started talking and when we told them our story, of the boy from St Vincent’s school with the heart condition, they asked us if we would like their cardiologist to see him. He was scheduled to leave on a plane in less than an hour, but he had his portable ultrasound machine and could examine Sadrak. Now that’s a God thing if I ever saw one. There were no available beds in the emergency room, so we plopped Sadrak onto a counter and the ultrasound was done. Searching for a piece of paper, the cardiologist wrote down his findings, gave me his email address and left to catch his plane.
Dr Judy was right, the patient has tetralogy of fallot. This is a common birth condition which causes a major malformation of the heart, and is only correctable by surgery. Basically the heart is “backwards and upside down” and all the connecting tubes go in the wrong direction. This makes it difficult for the child’s body to get oxygen, which is why he can’t run without getting out of breath. The cardiologist explained that the child needs surgery as soon as possible in order to survive. In the United States he would have had surgery at age one year or even less. Sadrak is now 5 years old. He has never seen a cardiologist because his family has no way to pay for medical care.
Returning to St Vincent’s, we were thrilled to have this information and to have made a giant step forward. Sadrak was now “in the system”, with a followup appointment and the promise of Dr Yola that a social worker from St Damien’s hospital would contact the family to make sure they kept their followup appointment. Yet we wondered how much this surgery would cost, and the family wanted to know how would they get the child back to St Damien’s without their own car and without money for transportation. So many barriers.
Later that evening, I spoke with Dr Pascale again. Turns out, the consultation for today’s visit costs only 150 gourdes. That is the equivalent of about 3 US dollars. Each visit to the hospital will be the same price. “And the surgery?” I trembled to ask. “Oh, that. The surgery is free.” replied Dr Pascale. “What?” I made her say it three times, because I couldnt believe her! The team from Akron comes down 6-8 times a year, and they collaborate with the Haitian doctors to perform these life saving surgeries. At no cost to the patients.
I am still stunned at this news. It really is true, that with God all things are possible.
Mr Noel, our driver today, said something very nice on our way home. He was complimenting me and my team on the care and time we devote to the children of St Vincent’s. He said the children are the “family Nelson”, meaning that I care for them as my own family. I was very touched at his kind words. He is a man who has been at the school since before the earthquake; the kids call him “hero” because he rescued many of them from the rubble of the fallen building. I am honored to have his respect. I realize it is the love and care that all of us have brought to this school, year after year, that has earned the respect of the Haitians who do the hard work of caring for these children day in and day out, long after the Americans have left. To all my team members past and present, thank you for bringing your love and talents to St Vincent’s. The children are as sweet as ever and always ready to welcome you back into their family.