Haitian girl finally makes it to the U.S. for surgery.
By PAM ADAMS (email@example.com)
Posted Jan 14, 2011 @ 10:58 PM
Last update Jan 14, 2011 @ 11:59 PM
WEST PEORIA —
Widnerlande sat at the kitchen table Friday afternoon, smiling and singing to a Barbie doll, oblivious to the harsher details of her biography as told by the adults in the room.
She is 7, her name sounds a little like Gwendolyn. Dr. John Carroll, founder of Haitian Hearts, met her and her mother six years ago when he examined her at a clinic just north of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince. He heard a loud murmur in her heart during the exam.
Ever since, he's been trying to get her to the United States to repair the small hole in the wall of the lower chambers of her heart. Finally, she's sitting at a table in his West Peoria home.
Widnerlande Jean Louis arrived in Peoria on Wednesday, the anniversary of the deadly earthquake in homeland. The Carrolls will take her to California on Sunday for an evaluation and, probably, heart surgery.
"She has survived almost everything she can survive," Carroll said.
Somewhere between three hurricanes and a tropical storm in 2008, her medical records were destroyed. Her family has been living in a hut of rock and mud since the earthquake, which left upwards of 300,000 dead and millions displaced. Her village happens to be located on the river at the epicenter of a deadly cholera outbreak, unseen in Haiti in 200 years.
This does not include several moves, food riots, political unrest, the bureaucratic wrangle of getting a visa for a Haitian child, or her mother's decision to place, then remove her from an orphanage after she realized the orphanage was as poor as she was.
Widnerlande's mother managed to stay in contact with Dr. Carroll. His initial plans to bring her to the United States fell through because of the earthquake.
"A lot of the patients John sees are almost self-selected," Maria King Carroll said. "They're the ones whose parents don't give up."
In the past 15 years, Haitian Hearts has brought more than 140 young Haitians to the United States for medical care. Most were heart surgeries and, originally, almost all of them were performed at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria. Since 2003 - after Dr. Carroll and St. Francis, his former employer, split over the program - about 80 of those surgeries have been performed at medical centers in 10 different states, from Florida to New Hampshire.
Volunteer doctors at Sutter Children's Center in Sacramento will do the evaluations and perform Widnerlande's surgery.
Though Haitian Hearts has less of a medical presence in central Illinois, many local residents still support the program with donations and other services. One woman dropped off a large bag of clothes for Widnerlande on Thursday morning. Others donated toys and, of course, money.
"Her case epitomizes Haiti a little bit," Maria King Carroll said. "We met her before the hurricanes, before the earthquake, before the cholera. There's just always obstacles to get something accomplished."
Pam Adams can be reached at 686-3245 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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