Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Maxime Petion, May 6, 1985 - January 9, 2007

Maxime died this morning at Cleveland Clinic. He was 21 years old.

We had hoped Maxime would get a new chance at a healthy life, but it was not to be. What he did get was a couple of weeks in a top notch medical center, surrounded by his host family, caring medical staff, and many other people who came to love him during his short stay in the United States.

There was something so immediately likable about Maxime. He had an easy way about him with a shy, friendly smile. A few months ago, Maxime’s brother brought him to Port-au-Prince from their hometown in St. George, a bumpy, five-hour, truck ride away. John examined Maxime. He could tell from his exam and the follow up echocardiogram confirmed that Maxime needed a new heart valve. Maxime ended up spending the night with us, as he had done enough traveling for one day.

Our little boy was completed captivated by Maxime. They watched one of the World Series games together. That night neither Maxime nor I got much sleep. His leaky heart made it difficult for him to sleep and our leaky roof, which was dripping onto my bed, made it difficult for me to sleep. As I made several trips to the bathroom to get towels and other materials to staunch the leak, wearing my headlight on my forehead, I thought how goofy this must look to Maxime and was glad at least that I was not waking him up. Then again, Haitians are used to leaky roofs.

But nobody ever gets used to a leaky heart. Maxime needed help, and he needed it quickly. John along with Jeanette Johnson, Maxime’s host mother from his trip to the U.S. five years ago, spent the next several weeks trying to find a hospital for Maxime. John does not give up on his patients. His perseverance is amazing and a true testament to his dedication to his patients. It is a dedication born of caring and love for them.

John contacted the office of U.S. Senator Mike DeWine of Ohio. Senator—now former Senator—DeWine has a special affection and interest in Haiti, and we had made his acquaintance last year. Through the influence and advocacy of Senator DeWine and his staff, Maxime was accepted for care at Cleveland Clinic, the number one heart hospital in the country. It is a tribute to Senator DeWine and his staff that they continued to work diligently on behalf of Maxime after the Senator lost the election in November.

With Cleveland Clinic and Haitians Hearts’ sponsorship of Maxime, he was granted a U.S. visa. He flew to the United States on December 21. He stayed with a friend of ours in Cleveland, Mary Hurley, who spends half of the year in Haiti and is fluent in Creole.

Today when Jeanette Johnson and Mary called us, they told us they could not believe how many people Maxime touched in his short time with them in Cleveland. We hear this so many times from people who meet Haitians who come to the United States for medical care and from people who travel to Haiti. They somehow steal a part of your heart. But they give you theirs in return and it seems to make you a better person. These lovely people are why we work in Haiti. Through Haitian Hearts, we will continue to bring children and young adults to the United States for heart surgery. It’s not just good for the Haitians; it’s good for us.

If you want to read more about the last couple of months of Maxime’s life, please go to www.peoriapundit.com/blogpeoria/ to read John's account.

With his family’s permission, Maxime will be buried in the Peoria area.

We will never forget Maxime.
In the picture above, Maxime is standing in front of Haiti's National Palace shortly after being granted a U.S. visa.


Anonymous said...

Maria--I have many emotions after reading your post and those in the Peoria Paper. Once again the frustration of being able to help so little because the problem is so huge overwhelms me. And my heart hurts for Maxime & his family, for those who cared for him here and in Haiti and for all those babies and children we've held at the Sisters who likely will have the same fate Maxime did.

God bless.

Maria Carroll said...


I know it does seem overwhelming. God doesn't expect us to do everything, but He does expect us to do something. Thanks for your prayers for Maxime and his family and we will pray for the children and the Sisters' also. Who knows how many lives you've already affected? Maria