Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Forgetting Haiti

I haven't been to Haiti in more than two years. That's a long time and despite work on behalf of Haitian Hearts and living with a Haitian, it is too easy for me to forget. I'm a middle class American with the concerns, and obligations and tunnel vision that term implies. I get wrapped up in my own world. I'm writing this post on a very full stomach.

My main salvation in this regard is that I also live with someone--John--who spends a few months a year in Haiti. So the poverty, the hunger, the sickness, the suffering remains very fresh to him. Going from this world to that world, back and forth, so frequently is unbalancing, in a good way. It keeps him on his toes and taking nothing for granted. I listen to John and read his posts and so get this urgency in a second hand fashion. But it is better than nothing.

The other thing that helps is that I know some of the individuals who are suffering. I can't emphasize enough what a difference this makes. To actually know a person in Haiti and care about them. It is one of the big strengths of Haitian Hearts for those who host a patient, for those who help care for them in the hospital, for those who meet our Haitian friends when they come to the United States. It makes tangible all of the awful statistics we hear about places like Haiti.

I don't want to forget.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Heurese with her brother Johnny in Haiti. Johnny provides invaluable assistance to Haitian Hearts, helping patients get US visas.

Whoa! It's been a long time since I've posted in Live From Haiti. I do post about Haiti from time to time on my Facebook page. On my page, you can see the show of John's photography that we had to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Haitian Hearts. In the past 20 years, John has brought 200 patients from Haiti to the United States for heart surgery and other medical care. If you are interested in reading more about Haiti (and my life!), please friend me at Maria King Carroll.

Haitian Hearts continues on, and we thank you for your support, which makes this work possible. We currently have one patient, Heurese Joseph, in Cleveland awaiting treatment, and another, Henri Andrique, who will be coming to Colorado in early 2016. One of our biggest challenges is finding medical centers that will treat our patients.

Below is a post from my Facebook page that I wrote in October when Heurese was granted her visa.

Yesterday, Heurese Joseph was granted a visa to come to the U.S. for medical care. For the third time.The common denominator in all of these life-saving journeys is John Carroll. Heurese has been his patient since he met her in 1999, when she was weak and near death from heart problems. He sees her on most of his trips to Haiti, brings her medications, monitors her cardiac and thyroid problems, and accepts her frequent phone calls. He did the challenging and humbling work of finding medical centers to treat her and then negotiated the thicket of paperwork that it takes for a Haitian to enter the U.S. John does this for numerous patients; it's almost as if he has a medical practice in Haiti. He combines compassion, medical skill, and perseverance and treats his Haitian patients like we all want to be treated by our physicians. Thank you, John, for all your good work and your example to me and so many others. Luke e mwen--nou renmen ou anpil. Kenbe fem!

John by the Illinois River in downtown Peoria.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Mondesir is on his way!

Mondesir, February 2015, in Port-au-Prince.

Today, 41-year-old Mondesir is flying to Denver where he will have aortic valve surgery. This is Mondesir's second trip to the United States. Haitian Hearts brought him in 1999 for valve surgery also. Second open heart surgeries are frequently more complicated than the initial surgery. We are very thankful to have located a surgeon and a hospital willing to care for Mondesir.

It takes a lot of hard work and some miracles to bring patients from Haiti to the United States. Everything from finding a hospital and host family to getting the patient a visa to coordinating pre-op care in Haiti is a tough battle that often requires a divine assist.

Last week, after Mondesir received his visa, we bought him a round trip plane ticket to Denver. His cousin Franceska, who helped coordinate many of the details in Haiti wrote John an email that in its imperfect English more perfectly communicated her gratitude:

Hi Dr John,
Well received .Thanks a Milliiiiion .
Thanks to everyone that help that comes true.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Daniel's Words Of Wisdom

We have a Haitian Hearts patient, Daniel, who had heart valve surgery last year. He is recuperating in the United States as he learns to regulate the blood thinners that he will have to take for the rest of his life. 

Daniel sends us frequent, grateful tests and emails in his fractured English. But somehow, even though he confuses his pronouns and makes other grammatical mistakes, his messages are more true than if they were written in the King's English. Read the following and see if you know what I mean.

Hi dr John how are you and your familly all is fine ok for me good by thank God. I say thank you Jesus and you too ok you miss me so much, I love love love you fore ever God bless you, good job dr John by
Hi dr John my good Daddy! How are we all is good by thank God? For me it's ok. God bless you Dad ok have a good day hi for your wife
         Hi Dr John this is Daniel, how are you doing and your family, i think by thanks God everything          is good for you. For me it's well because Jesus is very good for we. Ok the pleasure is mine to              write you for tell you: Happy birth day to you my Dad I love you so much and I ask and praying          God for just for give you a long time the life and blessing you for ever ! Hi for your family and             have a good night by Thanks God I love you Daddy bye !!!
Hi Dr John this is Daniel, how are you doing and your family everything is fine with Jesus ? THe check today is 2.9 it's good. Don't forget I would like to go in your home please ok have a good night with Jesus hi for your wife God bless we and I love you so much Daddy ! 
         Hi dr. John how are you today ? This is Daniel anything is good so thank you so much for                    contact your searching for me oh i love you so so much ! good job my Dad I think God can                  open  more doors for and me, protect you in all danger hi for your wife  and I love we !

         I'm Daniel dr John how are you and your wife im for she. Don't worry because God is big and I          trust in him, I took my responsability I'm never miss my medication. ok God bless you, I love                you Dad !
Hi Dr. John. this is Daniel, how are you today? Your wife is well hi for her, have a good night with Jesus i love us.
          Hi dr John how are you today ? I'm so great because my coaguChek car is working right by               thanks God so the results is: 2.6 okay have a good afternoon with the big Jesus my defenser                 bye love you !
Immigration writed me, he said he works for me.

My favorite phrases:  Hi Dr. John, my good daddy; ok have a good night with Jesus; God bless we;
good job my Dad; I love we; Don't worry because God is big; your wife is well hi for her have a good night with Jesus i love us; have a good afternoon with the big Jesus my defenser.

And last and most improbably: immigration writed me, he said he works for me.

Daniel, I hope it's so.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Circumscribed lives

Above are two pictures of Anderson. On the top John is examining him in 2000. Anderson has a small hole between the lower two chambers of his heart, but fortunately this defect doesn't affect his heart's functioning.

The picture below was taken yesterday by John. Here is what he wrote in his email accompanying it:

Haiti is chucked full of young men and women just like him that are so aggressive and want to make something of themselves. He will stare away from me sometimes and think of his future and he shakes his head no....there is a sadness about him at age 18...like he thinks his dreams are not going to work...he made the shirt you see...he made it from cloth and he went to a sewing school when he left here this morning..he says he is learning how to make pants now...I felt so sorry for him. Gave him 15 dollars US....think about him, Maria, and we need to remember to push Luke as hard as possible...
So, this raises some questions I frequently think about. Anderson is not the poorest of the poor in Haiti. But he has much potential and talent that is not being developed because of where he lives, his life circumstances. Typically, we feel badly for the person living in poverty--Anderson--but this this loss of what he could contribute to the world is a huge loss for ALL OF US.

As many of you know, John and I adopted Luke from Haiti. He is flourishing here, and we are grateful. But there are thousands of kids in orphanages in Haiti and millions more with their families who don't get the opportunities that Luke and many of the children who were born in developed countries have.

The flip side of this consideration is the one John alludes to when he says we need to push Luke. Those of us who have had the good fortune to be born in a circumstance--or who make their way to a circumstance--that allows us to develop and contribute need to push ourselves and not just sit around watching TV and eating chocolate. I remember John examining a patient whose situation was especially hard asking, "Why was I born in the United States and Jean Baptiste was born here?" This fact made such a profound difference in their life paths. On this side of eternity, it's an unanswerable question. But the important thing for those of us who do have these huge advantages is not to squander them. We must follow God's will, or further the process of evolution, or make a contribution to the world or however you want to put it. Just do something to make yourself a better person and to help others. Everyday.

I've started a blog about life at www.bouncingball.org and I invite you to check it out.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Fastina Jacques Oswald Derestil 1993-2014

Fastina in Haiti, 2006
We are heartbroken about Fastina. This beautiful, young wife and mother died on December 27, 2014. She was 21. It is very hard to get our minds around her death.

Fastina had much hardship in her life, but there was also a storybook quality about it. She was born poor in Haiti, and when she was a little girl, developed rheumatic fever from untreated strep throat. Her rheumatic fever destroyed her mitral valve, which is normally a death sentence in a third world country like Haiti. But when she was seven years old, Fastina had the good fortune to be brought to Peoria by John, where she had her mitral valve repaired. She returned to her mother and their home on the side of the mountain above Port-au-Prince.

Fastina's repaired valve held up for about five years. When we were in Haiti in 2006, her mother told us her daughter "couldn't walk up the mountain." She was short of breath. Her mother brought Fastina to us, and I remember this 12-year-old girl, who struggled to take a few steps. But more than the struggle, what I remember is the elegance and dignity that Fastina possessed as she stood there before us, calmly trying to catch her breath. She stayed with us in Haiti for awhile as John adjusted her medicines. Fastina was quiet and low maintenance with a shy smile. It didn't take long to realize that she was an old soul--wise and mature beyond her years.

God smiled again on Fastina, and we brought her back to the United States again--this time to Joliet--where she had an artificial heart valve put in. These valves don't wear out, but they do require that the person take blood thinners for the rest of her life. Realizing how hard it would be to care for their daughter in Haiti, Fastina's parents signed consents for Sean and Allyson Oswald to adopt Fastina. She joined their happy family, which already contained one of its three Haitian daughters, along with their four daughters and one son.

Another of Fastina's gifts was her intelligence. She's testing close to her grade level in math, said Allyson, shortly after Fastina came to live with them, an amazing reality given her health and background. Fastina did well in school. She was fluent in three languages and had been accepted to the Methodist School of Nursing.

And then an it-only-happens-in-the-movies kind of thing occurred. Fastina and another former Haitian Hearts patient, Caleb Derestil, met in Peoria and fell in love. Like Fastina, Caleb had also been brought twice to the United States by John for medical care. He became part of Mick and Karen Kenny's family, joining their three boys and Haitian daughter. Fastina and Caleb were married on August 24, 2013. At the reception, a sign on the wall read, "Two Haitian Hearts Beat As One!"

In early December, Fastina and Caleb joyfully welcomed a beautiful, healthy baby boy, Caiden Nehemyah. The new family was home together to celebrate Christmas. A couple days later, Fastina was rushed to the hospital, where she died eight hours later. It seemed so wrong. The young women with all the last names--Jacques, her birth name, Oswald, her adoptive name, Derestil, her married name--indicative of all the people who loved her, was gone. She had so much to live for.

One more story about Fastina gives a little bit of solace. It was the end of her first trip to the United States, and she was getting ready to return home to Haiti. Her host mother was realizing that she might never see this seven-year-old girl again and as if to comfort her, Fastina whispered to her host mother, " Don't be sad. I'll see you in heaven."

Yes, Fastina, we'll see you in heaven.

Fastina with Caleb and Sean and Ally Oswald
August 23, 2013