Saturday, July 20, 2013

The wild blue yonder

So many miracles have already occured to get Marie to the point of being able to travel to the United States--John finding out about her grave condition at the 11th hour; Marie being accepted by a hospital on Easter Sunday; the Naperville host family materializing at the Haitian guest house; getting the visa after an initial denial. Even Marie staying alive through this whole process.

And making it through the arduous trip from Port-au-Prince to Naperville. As anyone who flies now knows, with all the security checks, the "undressing", the flight changes, the cramped seats, traveling by air is not for wimps. This trip presented its own challenges from Marie being accosted by a drunk and impaired woman to having their flight from Miami to Chicago cancelled due to mechanical problems after they were already on the plane. But Marie is nothing if not a wimp.

While they were waiting for their new flight, John had to ask the airline attendants to get their baggage as Marie had packed the medicine that she needed to take. Some of the medicine was a diuretic which makes you get rid of fluid. So when they finally did take off on a different plane for Chicago, Marie had to make many trips to the rest room.

They landed at O'Hare and Patricia O'Donnell who would serve as a host family during part of Marie's stay was there to greet them with a limo and hot soup.

Marie was finally here. Welcome to America.

Monday, July 01, 2013

The pain of dealing with US embassies

One of the most painful parts of bringing Haitians to the United States for medical care is dealing with the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince. Even when we get the visas, which we almost always do, there is something dehumanizing about the process. The wait. The arbitrariness of the process. The assumption that everyone who is applying for a visa is somehow cheating.

The abrupt convergence of the first world with the third world at these embassies brings out the worst in the first world. Is it guilt? Is it fear? Is it the press of people trying to get visas? Is it greed? Is it wanting to be anywhere other than a U.S. embassy in the developing world?

I'm speaking not just from the point of view of helping Haitian patients apply for U.S. visas. We had our own frustrations during our adoption process and our neighbors right now are having their own hair-pulling experiences with the embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. So it's not just Haiti.

Marie's visa odyssey wasn't any different. Her brother helped her complete the 15 page online form. The internet isn't exactly reliable in Haiti--it kept going down and the entered information would be lost--so it took two days to fill out the form. Haitian Hearts paid the $180 fee.

Marie was able to obtain an appointment fairly quickly because she had a medical emergency. The embassy required four letters: one from the accepting surgeon, the accepting medical center, the physician in Haiti who had examined Marie, and the host family.

Marie showed up for her appointment. She was very weak from her extreme congestive heart failure. At her appointment, Marie was denied the visa. She was told that all the necessary documents weren't in place.

We told Marie to wait outside the embassy. Several people made phone calls to the embassy to confirm that the documents had been received. Finally, after several exhausting (for Marie) hours, she was called back in the embassy and her visa was granted.

So all was good in the end, but, oh my, gird your loins for this process.

Above, the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince