Sunday, January 30, 2011

Widnerlande is Out of the Hospital!

I am happy to report that Widnerlande is out of the hospital and dancing with her host family. Her recovery has gone very well and we pray that it continues. She is in the loving care of her host family in Sacramento and we know that she will enjoy life in northern California.
We are very thankful to her host family, Helen Nusbaum and Steven Meinrath, for hosting Widnerlande during her stay in California. She will continue to be monitored by the doctors at Sutter until she is discharged from their medical care, probably in four to six weeks.
It truly takes a village!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Widnerlande's Successful Surgery!

At long last, Widnerlande had surgery at Sutter Memorial Medical Center in Sacramento on Monday. I am happy to report that the surgery was very successful and her recovery is going well. In the operating room, they discovered that she had two VSDs (Ventrical Septal Defects), which are openings between the lower chambers of the heart. One was so small, it wasn't visible to the naked eye. Both openings have been patched. This surgery will add decades to Widnerlande's life. Her resting heart rate would go has high as 164 a minute and her respiration rate could get to 80 breaths a minute. These were signs that her little heart was having to work too hard. With the repairs, her heart and lungs and whole body will have an easier time of it.

So many people helped make this happen, (please read John's account) but the two guys most responsible are pictured above: my wonderful husband John Carroll, who for six years, never gave up on Widnerlande and Dr. Teimour Nasirov a great guy and a great surgeon who worked his magic in the operating room.

We also thank from the bottom of our hearts, Sutter Memorial Medical Center for their generosity to Widnerlande. Because of everyone's efforts, a little girl from a very poor family in Haiti will live decades longer than she would have.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Patient Gets Sick

So at 5:30 this morning, I'm helping Widnerlande get dressed, as today is the big surgery day, and as my hand brushes her stomach, I think, "Gee, she feels warm. Really warm." And, of course, she was running a 101 degree temp and, of course, surgery was postponed until Monday. I say of course, because if you've been following the journey of Widnerlande then you know it's been full of obstacles, large and small. In the scheme of things, this is a small one, though, of course, it's easy to get a little discouraged.

But what is the point in that? We are so blessed to be here in Sacramento, so blessed to have Widnerlande accepted by Sutter Memorial and Dr. Teimour Nasirov, who will fix the hole in her heart on Monday, instead of Friday, so blessed to be getting a break from the harsh Midwestern winter, and so blessed to have met so many wonderful people. Blessed, even, to discover that Widnerlande has a little virus before surgery. We can't control everything and there is no use fretting about what we can't, a lesson I seem to have to relearn on a regular basis.

One of the things we can control are the choices we make in this moment, this one right now. We can choose our attitude, and I'll leave you with a quote that helps me with mine.

"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company. . . a church. . . a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. . .we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We can not change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you. . . we are in charge of our Attitudes."- Charles R. Swindoll

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Reprieve Before Surgery

Today was the day in between the medical tests of yesterday and the surgery which is tomorrow. I'd like to use this lull before the storm to talk about the Sacramento Ronald McDonald House, where we are staying. This is our second experience staying at Ronald McDonald House, the first being in Cleveland, and both experiences have me thinking that we should run our communities in a similar manner.

Both of the facilities are very nice. In Sacramento, we are staying in a lodge-like building. We have a nice room with three beds, a futon, linens, towels, and a bathroom, one of eight such rooms in the building. There is a common kitchen (each room has its own refrig and cupboard), dining room, play room, computer room, a couple of lounges and two washers and dryers. There are also cool play areas outside with equipment and toys. We use punch codes to get into the facility, building, and room, so no need for keys. Volunteer foster grandparents bring in soup twice a week for supper and bake cookies. The kitchen is fully applianced and stocked with dishes, etc. We are responsible for our own meals, cleaning up, and watching our children when they are in the common areas. The rules are strictly enforced.

The cost for staying at Ronald McDonald in Sacramento is $20 a night, if a family can afford it. Many of the expenses of the house are underwritten by McDonalds and other corporate sponsors. We feel grateful to be able to stay here; it's much better than a hotel. As I said, maybe we should run the world more like a Ronald McDonald house.
Above, Widnerlande and Luke with Ronald in Sacramento

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Widnerlande Will Have Surgery!

We found out today that, without a doubt, Widnerlande needs surgery. Part of her heart is as big as an adult size heart, and as John says, physically but not metaphorically speaking, "A big heart is a bad heart." The hole between the lower chambers of her heart needs to be patched or she will run into big problems as she grows.

Widnerlande's surgery is scheduled for the day after tomorrow. I will post updates, but in the meantime, I will leave you with a piece that ran this past Saturday in the Peoria Journal Star.

Haitian girl finally makes it to the U.S. for surgery.

Journal Star
Posted Jan 14, 2011 @ 10:58 PM
Last update Jan 14, 2011 @ 11:59 PM

Widnerlande sat at the kitchen table Friday afternoon, smiling and singing to a Barbie doll, oblivious to the harsher details of her biography as told by the adults in the room.

She is 7, her name sounds a little like Gwendolyn. Dr. John Carroll, founder of Haitian Hearts, met her and her mother six years ago when he examined her at a clinic just north of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince. He heard a loud murmur in her heart during the exam.

Ever since, he's been trying to get her to the United States to repair the small hole in the wall of the lower chambers of her heart. Finally, she's sitting at a table in his West Peoria home.

Widnerlande Jean Louis arrived in Peoria on Wednesday, the anniversary of the deadly earthquake in homeland. The Carrolls will take her to California on Sunday for an evaluation and, probably, heart surgery.

"She has survived almost everything she can survive," Carroll said.

Somewhere between three hurricanes and a tropical storm in 2008, her medical records were destroyed. Her family has been living in a hut of rock and mud since the earthquake, which left upwards of 300,000 dead and millions displaced. Her village happens to be located on the river at the epicenter of a deadly cholera outbreak, unseen in Haiti in 200 years.

This does not include several moves, food riots, political unrest, the bureaucratic wrangle of getting a visa for a Haitian child, or her mother's decision to place, then remove her from an orphanage after she realized the orphanage was as poor as she was.

Widnerlande's mother managed to stay in contact with Dr. Carroll. His initial plans to bring her to the United States fell through because of the earthquake.

"A lot of the patients John sees are almost self-selected," Maria King Carroll said. "They're the ones whose parents don't give up."

In the past 15 years, Haitian Hearts has brought more than 140 young Haitians to the United States for medical care. Most were heart surgeries and, originally, almost all of them were performed at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria. Since 2003 - after Dr. Carroll and St. Francis, his former employer, split over the program - about 80 of those surgeries have been performed at medical centers in 10 different states, from Florida to New Hampshire.

Volunteer doctors at Sutter Children's Center in Sacramento will do the evaluations and perform Widnerlande's surgery.

Though Haitian Hearts has less of a medical presence in central Illinois, many local residents still support the program with donations and other services. One woman dropped off a large bag of clothes for Widnerlande on Thursday morning. Others donated toys and, of course, money.

"Her case epitomizes Haiti a little bit," Maria King Carroll said. "We met her before the hurricanes, before the earthquake, before the cholera. There's just always obstacles to get something accomplished."

Pam Adams can be reached at 686-3245 or
Copyright 2011 Some rights reserved

Monday, January 17, 2011

California, Here We Are

After a smooth, four-hour flight from Chicago's Midway Airport, we landed in Sacramento at 11 am yesterday. We were met by the host family at the airport and are now happily ensconced at the Ronald McDonald House near the campus of the University of California-Davis School of Medicine. Tomorrow, Widnerlande will have a presurgical work up, including an echocardiogram, at Sutter Memorial Medical Center.

Little Miss Jean-Louis has been with us for almost five days and here is what I can tell you about her:

She has a very good appetite and loves eggs.

She likes to mimic us, especially Luke, and I calm him down by telling him this is how she will learn English.

She is a good colorer and stays neatly within the lines. She also did a very good job tracing and then writing the letters A and B.

She sleeps very well.

She took the midwestern cold and snow in stride.

She loves to play with dolls and demonstrates excellent fine motor skills.

She loves to laugh and sing and dance.

We will know more details about her medical situation tomorrow after she has her state of the art medical workup.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Widnerlande is Here!

On the day of this terrible anniversary, I am happy to report some good news about a Haitian. After a six year odyssey, seven-year-old Widnerlande was last week granted a visa by the US embassy in Port-au-Prince and arrived in Miami yesterday. In keeping with the obstacles that have hampered this entire process, of course, the flight to Chicago was cancelled yesterday. However and hooray, the flight actually landed early today and we were at O'Hare to greet Widnerlande as the American Airlines employee pushed her in a wheelchair to the baggage area. We owe grant thanks to Gertrude and Rachel in Haiti who were instrumental in getting Widnerlande a visa and Joanna, who accompanied Widnerlande from Haiti to Chicago.

Our lovely Haitian patient arrived in Illinois on the one year anniversary of the earthquake. And now the American portion of the journey begins!