Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mauricio Arrives

The SOS for Mauricio came in a call from Boston this past spring. “I have a friend who has a baby in Haiti with a sick heart. Can you help?” At the time, having just returned from a 7-month stay in Haiti and with a boatload of other sick kids on the list, we didn’t offer Louis, the Boston caller, much hope. John told him to tell the mom to see Dr. Pilie, a cardiologist in Port-au-Prince. John also told Louis that we didn’t have any hospitals.

Louis persisted with his calls, one of which came in June when John was in Haiti to work and escort a 24-year-old Haitian woman, Marie, to Illinois for surgery to replace two trashed out—heart valves. I told Louis if the baby and his mother could get to John in Haiti, John would examine the baby.

The next day, Mauricio and his mother arrived where John was staying. The six-month-old baby was feisty and smiling. His echocardiogram, which the mother had gotten from Dr. Pilie, indicated the baby had Tetralogy of Fallot, a congenital heart defect where five things are wrong with the heart.

John brought the echo home with him and sent it to a Midwestern medical center. After a few months, they accepted Mauricio!

This past Saturday, John escorted Mauricio and his mother to the United States. Our son Luke and I picked up John and the Haitian visitors at the airport and took Mauricio and his mother to their host family. They had an appointment with the pediatric cardiac surgeon and the medical center today.

Stay tuned for further details.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Pesky Details

When you are trying to do some good in the developing world, you must negotiate a huge bureaucratic gulf.

We are in the process of bringing a baby to St. Louis for heart surgery. We have to e-mail letters from the host family, the hospital, and the doctor in Haiti who examined the child—that would be John—to the U.S. consulate. They require extensive documentation to issue the visa.

The U.S. government’s two main concerns in issuing non-immigrant visas to Haitians for medical reasons are: 1) that no public monies go to pay for care, and 2) that the person will return to Haiti.

Fortunately, we now have someone in Port-au-Prince who can help us with this process, a woman I’ll call G.

In order to obtain a precious U.S. visa, G ensures the patient has a current passport. She then helps the parent fill out the on line visa application for the child. G calls the consulate and makes an appointment with an official. On the day of the appointment, she goes to the appointment with the parent and the child, bringing the application, all of the letters the consulate requires, and $100 to pay the fee.

The consulate official conducts the interview and then decides whether to grant the visa. If they decide in favor of granting the visa, it will be ready the next day. Physically, a visa is a large computer-printed stamp in the patient’s passport and includes the patient’s picture.

The U.S. consulate doesn’t make it exactly easy to get a visa, but they have almost always granted them for our patients. Sometimes if the parent is applying for one so that she can accompany the child, they aren’t as agreeable. When children are traveling to the United States without a parent, a bunch of papers have to be completed for the Haitian social service agency called IBESR or Bien et Sociale. This is a big hassle and I’m not even sure of the process.

After the visa is obtained and all the other paperwork has been completed, we buy a ticket for the patient to come to the great, white north for their life-saving surgery.

That’s the good part.