Monday, January 28, 2013

Missing Elie

John has written another moving post , this time about the life of a poor Haitian family who were trying to keep alive their two-year-old son, Elie, who had a major heart defect. Tough to do when you live in a tent. John expended a lot of time and effort to try and line up a hospital and surgeon for this child. He also examined Elie on his trips to Haiti, provided medications, and kept in contact with Elie's mom. But, unfortunately--an understatement--Elie died.

When you get to know a child who lives in Haiti, the child ceases to become an abstraction. What do I mean by this? In the United States and the developed world, we get a fair amount of news coverage of the millions who have malaria, or the tens of thousands who are homeless from an earthquake, or the hundreds of thousands who are living in refuge camps or under tents. Those numbers are overwhelming; it's difficult to get your mind around all that suffering. What the mind can't comprehend, it often ignores. These inumerable people--it's almost like they are not real to us, only unfathomable numbers. But one child like Elie who needs heart surgery, one child who needs regular meals and schooling--one person, this is a situation that speaks to our hearts.

And when you know a person, like Elie, it becomes much less easy to rationalize their not getting the heart surgery they need. John makes the point in his post: we here in the United States would move heaven and earth to get treatment for our child. More to the point, we wouldn't have to; it's an expectation. It should be an expectation for ALL CHILDEN EVERYWHERE. It's not about lack of resources; it's about lack of will.

This isn't to say that we don't need big, systemic solutions to the problems that plague Haiti and elsewhere--clean water, schools, decent roads, innoculation programs. We do. But while we're working on these big solutions, we can't ignore children like Elie.

Pictured above Elie's father and neighbors outside his home.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Real Problems

There is this awful social media meme called First World problems, where people write in with the little things that bug them about being the world's most privileged individuals. It's really disingenuous: people like to complain, but they know it's selfish and small minded to complain about such trivial things. So this cute movement has been launched where people are laughing about their complaints--"Yes, we are wise to our self absorption," as if this somehow mitigates the complaints. But in the end, they are still complaining, and their complaints--and maybe their lives--revolve around petty concerns.

Ouch. I guess the above is kind of harsh, but I'm writing it after having read a post that John just wrote, The Praying Man. John was working at a clinic that included dental services. A man who was in terrible pain and waiting to have a tooth extracted was in line, praying to be seen. As Haitian luck would have it, the person before this man was the last patient of the day. However, the staff promised this man that he would be first in line tomorrow, which was the last day of the clinic.

In a stroke of more Haitian luck, this last day of clinic was cancelled; due to the armed presence of unhappy, young men in the area, the staff didn't feel safe and decided there would be no clinic.

Have you ever been in really bad pain? If you are fortunate enough to be a First World resident, you have most times been able to get your pain alleviated. I keep thinking of this poor man in Haiti, with his excrutiating tooth pain. Too bad there's not a social media movement for his Third World problems.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

A Tale of Two Sarahs and Haiti's Future

Long time since I've posted to my blog. It hasn't been for lack of news from Haiti. Between the endemic presence of cholera, the hurricane that wiped out so many of the country's crops, and John's seven trips to Haiti in 2012, lots has happened. Our patient Luckner had successful heart surgery in Naperville in September 2012. Our smaller patient, Sarah, in Cite Soleil ended the year better than she started it. John was pretty sure she was going to die from starvation when he first saw her, looking like she does in the top picture. But a few months later, she had put on weight and was much healthier, as you can see in the bottom pic. Her challenges aren't over, but now she has a chance.

January 1st is a big day in Haiti. Besides being the start of the new year, it's also the anniversary of the country's independence. Haiti is 209 years old today. They've been rough years. Is it delusional to feel any sense of optimism for Haiti? Maybe not, if we remember Sarah.