Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Commendation from the Haitian Consulate in Chicago

This letter was part of a poster presented to John after his work with Marie Amazan, a young woman from Haiti with a ,very sick heart, who received surgery at Provena St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, IL in the summer of 2007. Marie was not far from death when she arrived in the United States. A couple months later, she left with a healthier heart courtesy of a couple of artificial valves, the skill of Dr. Foy, the surgeon, the generosity of Provena St. Joseph, and the perseverance of John.

Consulat General de la Republique d'Haiti a Chicago
22 S. State Street, Suite 2110
Chicago, IL 60604

July 18, 2007

Dear Dr. Carroll,

On behalf of the Consulate General of Haiti in Chicago and indeed on behalf of the Haitian community, I want to express my profound and sincere gratitude to you for the wonderful difference you have been making in many Haitian lives for the better part of a quarter of a century.

I know that you are a man of God and that your satsifaction lies in the knowledge that you are doing His work by embracing, helping and uplifting your fellow humans; the humblest among them. I also know htat you have seen many a grateful smile and felt the extraordinary warmth of my people's hospitality.

The fact that you deliberately chose to take your skills to Haiti and trade the comfort of your home for the appaling conditions that we all know shows that beyond the misery, you see children and young adults who deserve a chance at life. You arecently gave such a chance to marei Myrtha Amazan. This young person is now facing life with a heart full of hope and gratitude.

Allow me to be the mouthpiece of all the people whose lives you have transformed. Thank you very much for having revived our trust in human nature.

May the Lord continue to bless you profusely!

Lesly Conde
Consul General

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Attorney for the Poor

I don't think I've written enough about how much I admire my husband John for his work in Haiti and on behalf of Haitians. He gives his all in so many ways. The clinics and hospitals where he works in Haiti are jam packed with patients, many of whom are very sick. John loves being able to give these babies and children the medicines they need, medicines that often save their lives. But it is hard not to have all the tools and medicines to appropriately treat every patient he sees. And even when children are cured, knowing that they return to the same poverty-stricken environment that may have given rise to their illness is a psychological burden.

Bringing children to the States for surgery is an endeavor requiring a Sisyphusian-amount of effort. Children with heart problems have to be identified and sent for an echocardiogram. The parents must keep in touch with us and obtain a passport for their child. Up north, John asks hospitals and doctors if they would be willing to accept a Haitian patient for free or at a greatly reduced cost. He hears no much more often than yes. When a hospital does accept a child, a raft of paperwork must be completed and sent to Haiti so that the U.S. consulate will grant a visa for the child. Then the Haitian state has to give their permission for the child to leave without a parent. . . more paperwork. Airplane tickets and host families must be arranged for. When the child arrives, usually with John accompanying him, all kinds of medical, language, and other details need to be taken care of until the child returns to Haiti. John always follows up with the children on later trips to ensure their recovery is going well.

I guess the thing I find the most admirable about all that John does is that he doesn't have to do it. The heartbreaking reality is that no one--or very few people--care about these children and the awful circumstances of their lives. If enough people cared, the world would change. There is no political, social, or economic pressure to get these children care; in fact, I would say that there is pressure not to get them care. It would be so easy to forget these kids when the Haiti trip is over. But John doesn't.

So I am glad when John receives recognition for his hard work. It is nice to have it appreciated and it encourages us to keep on. In the next post, I'll reprint a commendation John and Haitian Hearts recently received from the Haitian consulate in Chicago.

"The physicians are the natural attorneys of the poor, and the social problems should largely be solved by them." Rudolf Virchow

Monday, March 17, 2008

Why This Blog Hasn't Been Live From Haiti For Over a Year

I first went to Haiti in 1990. My parish, St. Mark's, had a sister parish in Jacmel, and I went for a 10 day trip to help deliver supplies. It was a memorable trip--most first time trips to Haiti are--and I had a sense that some day i would return, though I didn't know when.

It wasn't until 2003 that I traveled back to Haiti. I was dating my future husband John, who has spent so much of his time working as a doctor in this poor country. It was the first and almost shortest of the 10 trips I have taken with him. The longest trip was the last one, clocking in at seven months from July 2006 to February 2007, when the adoption of our son was finally completed. With the exception of a five day stay in Jeremie, a coastal town in the northwest of Haiti, we have spent all of this time in the Port-au-Prince area. Life in the capital is harsher than life in the countryside. In fact, people say there are two Haitis: Port-au-Prince and everything else. Between this harshness and the dire medical situations I've seen due to John's work, the time spent in Port-au-Prince has been more shocking than my original trip.

Anyway, so why hasn't this blog been live from Haiti for more than a year?

The short answer is family. My husband's mom, Mary, who is 93, recently moved from her home to the home of her other son and his family. It takes the help of the whole family to make this work and has ruled out long term trips to Haiti. John managed to go to Haiti three times in 2007, for about a week each time. He made these trips to bring people to the United States for surgery or escort children back to Haiti after surgery.

The other family member who has something to do with my remaining stateside for over a year is our son Luke. He's had a wonderful thirteen months in the United States getting to know his extended family, attending pre-school, taking swimming and tennis lessons, and in general becoming Americanized. While we plan to travel to Haiti with Luke, it has been nice to have this time with him at home.

So when will we return? I know that we will, but I'm not sure when. It's difficult to put a timetable on family situations. However, having a little Haitian living with us helps keep the spirit of the blog alive.

Between John's extensive involvement in Haiti and our adopting Luke, my life is more intertwined with Haiti than I ever thought it would be 18 years ago. It has been one of the big blessings in my life.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

An Update with Apologies

Apologies to all who have been stopping by for the infrequent--very infrequent--posting levels lately. Here's what's been going on:

Both Jhiny and Christelle had successful surgery in January in St. Louis and are continuing their recuperation in Peoria.

A winter edition of the Haitian Hearts newsletter recently went out. If you'd like a copy mailed to you, please send your address to maria.carroll@insightbb.com and I'd be happy to send you one.

The home of one of our Haitian Hearts patients, Caleb, was destroyed by a tropical storm near the seaside town of Les Cayes late last year. Around this time, Caleb's father also suffered a stroke from which he is now recovering. Haitian Hearts sent Caleb's famil some money to rebuild their home.

In the last couple of months, there was a lot of press coverage of the mudpies that poor Haitians have to resort to eating if they want to put anything in their stomachs. Most people find this outrageous, as it is. A small group of people refuse to believe that this is really happening (it is hard to believe). Some even say that Haitians want to eat dirt, that it's some kind of cultural preference. On February 12, 2007, when my husband John was in Cite Soleil, he saw these mud pies and took the picture that accompanies this post. Haitians aren't eating these pies because they crave dirt; they're eating them because they crave food and there is none to be had.

We have frequent e-mail and phone contact with Haitians. It's a marvel of the world that some of the poorest people in the world, like Frandy who lives in a two room house on the side of a mountain in Carrefour, a slum suburb of Port-au-Prince, have access to the internet. If we can permeate the world with technology, why can't we permeate the world with food? By the way, Frandy is working very hard in school, an opportunity made available to him thanks to a scholarship from his generous host family in St. Louis. Frandy's goal is to attend college in the United States.

Thanks for checking in. Here are some topics I'll be writing about soon:

A 76-year-old's reactions to his first trip to Haiti.

Our search for hospitals to operate on two young women who have rheumatic heart disease.

A commendation that Haitian Hearts has received from the Haitian consulate in Chicago.

Why it's been a year since I've been to Haiti.

What we know about restaveks--child slaves who work for families in Haiti and the United States.