Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Beat Goes On, Even Better

Another miracle happened this week. Miterlande, who could barely walk herself onto the plane in Port-au-Prince a couple of weeks ago (and in fact used a wheelchair to negotiate the airports) had open heart surgery at Provena St. Joseph on Monday. And, boy, was it successful! John drove up to Joliet from Peoria and was in the operating room. Miterlande had a badly damaged mitral valve courtesy of rheumatic fever. To compensate for its lack of function, her heart got huge. As John says and speaking in a strictly physical sense, "A big heart is a bad heart." Medical teams in the United States aren't used to seeing hearts this big, especially in a teenager.

Here are a few numbers to give you an idea of how this surgery has helped Miterlande. Prior to surgery, her cardiac output was 1.9. Once the new artificial St. Jude's valve was in place and before she had even left the OR, this number went up to 5.0, which is in the normal range. Another figure, the oxygen saturation level in her brain, or the amount of oxygen that was getting to her brain pre-surgery was 20 ("Beyond bad," said John.) After surgery and again while she was still in the OR, this figure improved to the mid-50's.

The good nurses at the hospital had Miterlande sitting up the day after surgery and on Wednesday, she was walking. Her heart is much, much happier now and this increased function improves all of her bodily systems.

I called this a miracle, and I think it is. First of all, open heart surgery is a medical miracle. I mean, they stop the heart! Then they fix the problem while the bypass machine oxygenates and circulates the blood. Then they restart the heart. It's unbelievable, when you stop and think about it.

The second part of the miracle is that Miterlande, a 16-year-old from a poor family who lives in Verette, a village two hours north of Port-au-Prince in the Artibonite Valley, where the hurricanes destroyed her mother's garden, a family that has no electricity, no running water, no computer, no car actually came to the United States, the richest country in the history of the world to have this technologically advanced surgery.

We at Haitian Hearts want to work toward a world where people like Miterlande get the health care they need without it taking a miracle. Because it shouldn't.

No comments: