Sunday, December 12, 2010

Patient 142 Has Been Patient

We have many challenges in bringing patients from Haiti to the United States for medical care. From the moment John hears a not-so-innocent murmur as he listens to a child's heart, a process is set in motion, which if it is successful, results in the child coming to the United States for surgery.
In a normal situation--as if there was such a thing as normal in Haiti--John gives the family money and instructs them to take the child to a cardiologist for an echocardiogram. This test is recorded on a videocassette, which the family must bring back to John. Then if the child doesn't have a passport, one must be procured. The family is instructed to check in regularly with our Haitian helpers. All of this must be done in a country with roads that wouldn't be called roads elsewhere, where death trap transportation is the main mode of travel and by families with few resources, who are struggling just to live.
In the United States, we send the echocardiogram around to doctors who have expressed an interest. And we tap any connection we can think of to find a hospital that might be willing to accept a charity international case.
Once we get yes from a hospital and doctor, we look for a host family. Then we have to get through a whole lot of visa and travel paperwork that I won't bore you with describing right now. Really, it takes a series of miracles for us to get anyone out of Haiti and to the United States.
That is doubly, triply, quadruply the case for Widnerlande, pictured above. John first saw her in a clinic and sent her mom and her off for an echo when she was 18 months old. She is now seven. Some of the obstacles included: an echo that got lost in Haiti. inability to contact the family, who lives hours from Port-au-Prince (this always makes things more difficult as passports and visas can only be gotten in the capital), and lack of passport for Widnerlande until recently, to say nothing of the natural disasters that have hit Haiti--hurricanes and the earthquake that devastated the country. For weeks, we didn't even know if Widnerlande and her family were alive. And now cholera is blighting the land.
Despite all of this, we found a surgeon, a hospital, and a host family. Our Haitian helper assisted Widnerlande in getting a passport. All of the visa paperwork has been sent to the embassy. Widnerlande and her mother are in the capital and so is John to transport her to the United States, and we have someone in country to help get the visa. And so it appears that our--can I dare say?--last obstacle is the political violence in Haiti, which has shut down the airport and the embassy and made travel in Haiti dangerous. It will eventually end, and we have faith we will get the visa.
We thank Widnerlande for her patience.

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