|Fastina in Haiti, 2006|
Fastina had much hardship in her life, but there was also a storybook quality about it. She was born poor in Haiti, and when she was a little girl, developed rheumatic fever from untreated strep throat. Her rheumatic fever destroyed her mitral valve, which is normally a death sentence in a third world country like Haiti. But when she was seven years old, Fastina had the good fortune to be brought to Peoria by John, where she had her mitral valve repaired. She returned to her mother and their home on the side of the mountain above Port-au-Prince.
Fastina's repaired valve held up for about five years. When we were in Haiti in 2006, her mother told us her daughter "couldn't walk up the mountain." She was short of breath. Her mother brought Fastina to us, and I remember this 12-year-old girl, who struggled to take a few steps. But more than the struggle, what I remember is the elegance and dignity that Fastina possessed as she stood there before us, calmly trying to catch her breath. She stayed with us in Haiti for awhile as John adjusted her medicines. Fastina was quiet and low maintenance with a shy smile. It didn't take long to realize that she was an old soul--wise and mature beyond her years.
God smiled again on Fastina, and we brought her back to the United States again--this time to Joliet--where she had an artificial heart valve put in. These valves don't wear out, but they do require that the person take blood thinners for the rest of her life. Realizing how hard it would be to care for their daughter in Haiti, Fastina's parents signed consents for Sean and Allyson Oswald to adopt Fastina. She joined their happy family, which already contained one of its three Haitian daughters, along with their four daughters and one son.
Another of Fastina's gifts was her intelligence. She's testing close to her grade level in math, said Allyson, shortly after Fastina came to live with them, an amazing reality given her health and background. Fastina did well in school. She was fluent in three languages and had been accepted to the Methodist School of Nursing.
And then an it-only-happens-in-the-movies kind of thing occurred. Fastina and another former Haitian Hearts patient, Caleb Derestil, met in Peoria and fell in love. Like Fastina, Caleb had also been brought twice to the United States by John for medical care. He became part of Mick and Karen Kenny's family, joining their three boys and Haitian daughter. Fastina and Caleb were married on August 24, 2013. At the reception, a sign on the wall read, "Two Haitian Hearts Beat As One!"
In early December, Fastina and Caleb joyfully welcomed a beautiful, healthy baby boy, Caiden Nehemyah. The new family was home together to celebrate Christmas. A couple days later, Fastina was rushed to the hospital, where she died eight hours later. It seemed so wrong. The young women with all the last names--Jacques, her birth name, Oswald, her adoptive name, Derestil, her married name--indicative of all the people who loved her, was gone. She had so much to live for.
One more story about Fastina gives a little bit of solace. It was the end of her first trip to the United States, and she was getting ready to return home to Haiti. Her host mother was realizing that she might never see this seven-year-old girl again and as if to comfort her, Fastina whispered to her host mother, " Don't be sad. I'll see you in heaven."
Yes, Fastina, we'll see you in heaven.
|Fastina with Caleb and Sean and Ally Oswald|
August 23, 2013