Saturday, August 23, 2008

As I Lay Dying

Heurese is dying in Port-au-Prince. She lays in her hovel, alone, her two young children staying with friends and relatives. She grows weaker each day. It is hard to move, hard to eat, hard to breathe.

We know Heurese because she is a Haitian Hearts patient. Seven years ago, she came to Peoria and had her damaged aortic valve repaired. At some point in her life Heurese had rheumatic fever--probably due to untreated strep throat--and the disease ravaged her valve. But now the repair has run its course; Heurese needs an artificial valve.

Unfortunately, we have no hospital that will accept Heurese. Without surgery, she will soon die.

There are undoubtably hundreds of thousands of people in developing countries who will die today of preventable or correctable diseases. We know this and in the abstract, we feel bad about it. But it makes a huge difference when you actually know one of these people. Heurese spent five months in Peoria. We have seen her many times on our trips to Haiti. We know her quiet gracefulness. We know her regal demeanor with her high cheekbones and beautiful skin. We know how she manages to dress stylishly on next to no money. We know her chubby children whom her first surgery made possible. And, so, we feel desperate that she is dying. We continue to try to find a hospital to treat her. In the absence of this, we try to find people in Port-au-Prince who will care for her in her last days.

So far, the only person who has come through for Heurese is Frandy, another Haitian Hearts patient. Frandy is in good health now. He is working hard in school with hopes to attend college in the United States. He has little money, but he is doing what he can to help Heurese, bringing her medicines and taking her to the hospital. He reports to us as to how Heurese is doing.

Why aren't there more people who care about Heurese? Why, as my husband John asks, is it so hard to save a person's life?
Above, Heurese with her daughter.