HUFH Will Not Be Deterred: Working to Alleviate a Looming Humanitarian Crisis

Massive humanitarian crises are not always caused by earthquakes and hurricanes, or even outright warfare. Sometimes it can be a society that suddenly finds itself deprived of a vital resource or in the midst of government upheaval. In Haiti’s case, a fuel crisis — caused in part by the collapse of the Venezuelan oil industry and the loss of subsidies for gasoline – and a looming geopolitical struggle are wreaking havoc on an already fragile country.

Translation: Can people live in this condition?

With increasing instability comes greater need – with no gas comes an impending food and water crisis.  

Imagine living on $2/day while being forced to pay as much as $25 a gallon for gas on the street. This is what the people of Haiti are facing and it has brought the nation to a standstill. Haitians cannot get to work, their children cannot get to school, and hospitals cannot operate without electricity. Deliveries of food and clean water are being held up, causing severe shortages of food and water and inflated prices for the little that is available. Understandably, the Haitian people are protesting their government’s inaction as millions suffer. And these mostly peaceful protests have led to road closures, which further erode the ability of everyday Haitians to make a living and feed their families.

At Hands Up for Haiti, we will
Keep the lights on … and the mission alive.

Turmoil is nothing new to Haiti and over the past decade, we’ve seen the country suffer innumerable setbacks and crises that threaten the lives and well-being of Haiti’s poorest citizens. But through it all, HUFH has always persevered and even in the midst of the current crisis, we continue to deliver life-saving medical care to the people of Haiti. While the unrest in Haiti grows daily, our amazing staff on the ground are nimble, flexible and creative, and they use their local knowledge to ensure that our life saving programs continue. They are doing unbelievable work in the most dire of conditions and with the scantest of resources, negotiating road blocks, facing violence daily and risking their own lives to deliver essential care.

Haitian Led + Haitian Run =
Lifesaving Programs That Build a Better Future

Thermitus Jean, HUFH’s in-country executive director, describes how our team on the ground is meeting the challenging and continuing to deliver our programs: “We get up early in the morning, check to see what roads are open, and deliver our programs early in the day. We are constantly monitoring when gasoline might be delivered to a station and then send people to wait, sometimes to sleep there for two nights, in the hopes of getting whatever gasoline we can buy. Water stations are closed. So now the crisis is about water as well. And people have to go to market every day for food because there are no places you can keep them cool, like refrigerators, without gas for the generators.”

Despite the turmoil, Hands Up for Haiti’s malnutrition and hypertension programs continue to operate; patients are getting their medika mamba and blood pressure medications on schedule. In addition, because people cannot get to the health care centers, our teams are bringing this care directly to their communities. Mobile santé clinics (outreach clinics staffed by our local doctors and nurses) are being held whenever it is safe to do so and are seeing dozens of children and adults when they do. And our 13 water wells continue to provide clean water to thousands of Haitians who do not need to depend on a truck filled with water to arrive.

Thermitus added,”We care only about doing our job and helping the people. But it gets more difficult each day. We worry and pray every day.”

We will not be deterred and we refuse to let the current conditions stand in the way of our mission. 

We came in response to a disaster.
We stay to build a better future for the children of Haiti.
We succeed with the help of dedicated people like you. 


Haitian Run – Haitian Led: HUFH Welcomes Its New In-Country Leadership Team

As we focus on Haitian Run - Haitian Led, Programs that last, Hands Up for Haiti is pleased to introduce you to our new in-country management team. We want to share with you their hopes and goals for Hands Up for Haiti under their stewardship, hopes and goals that they will fulfill by leading on the ground and collaborating fully with mentors and other global health professionals in the US, in Haiti and elsewhere. Their full bios can be found by clicking here. What follows is a brief statement from each of them describing how they each see their role as leaders and what they hope to accomplish for HUFH.

Thermitus Jean – In-country Executive Director and Chief Pharmacist

Thermitus envisions his leadership as in-country Executive Director as follows:

“As the first member of the organization in the field, I am committed as the good captain to bring the boat with everyone to the good port of success. Pharmacist and Executive Director make me a real member of the big family called HUFH. I also recognize as the first person of the new administration of the organization, see in me the drive to totally succeed to reach our goals.

“As a leader I will use all the right steps for the advancement of the organization in all areas. I always have in me the sense of responsibility, integrity and all the good qualities that would be better for the work I am contributing. I represent HUFH on the ground: I better say not only for Haiti, why not the whole world. To achieve the organization’s Mission and Vision, I collaborate with people in Haiti and in US and I work harder fighting day and days to reach the goals and to see as well HUFH growing up fast. As a leader I am willing and able to sacrifice more making sure in short of period of time to accomplish a lot of good things for a better future.

“I am working to make sure we have very good team collaboration to reach our goal, to work together so that the team is always strong. Because to see HUFH Winning is to see my success as leader.

“These are my wishes in future for the organization:

  • Have a really good connection with the US Board and management
  • A stronger staff well trained, with good relations and welfare (family unity) for the staff
  • More visibility on our programs in the ground
  • Promoting our work by doing all best to have more donors
  • Have good report
  • Improve and increase HUFH’s capacity
  • Create and/or strenghten partnership with MSSP, sister hospitals, other NGOs
  • Support the new Medical Director and Director of Nursing and work with medical staff and volunteers to maintain a strong and high quality meedical direction
  • Remain proud and happy in what I’m doing as responsibility and put all my knowledge on what I do to move forwards.”


 

Rose-Laure Jeanty, MD – Medical Director

Rose-Laure’s expresses her excitement at being a member HUFH’s of core leadership group:

I am extremely happy and proud to be part of the big HUFH family. It is a great privilege for me to be one of the members of the administrative staff in Haiti as the medical director. As a leader I am available and willing to work for the continuous progress of the organization and to help our people. I engage in working with science in consciousness to motivate and develop the sense of belonging and the sense of responsibility of employees, what will enable us to achieve the goals we have set through our currency ”Heal Teach Support.”


 

Fritznel Jean, Av. – Human Resources Manager and Legal Liaison; Asst. In-Country Director

Fritznel’s states goals as a member HUFH’s core leadership group:

“As Human Resources Manager, Legal liaison and Statistician for Hands up for Haiti, I consider myself as a full member of the Organization: the success of HUFH will be mine. I am fighting so hard every day so that HUFH can be on top.

As a leader, I wish to accomplish so many things with the organization. My Plan is:

  • Have a stronger staff in the ground, well trained and happy.
  • Have a better connection with the US director and board, and make them happy with the work I am doing.
  • Have more Programs on the Ground.
  • Help finding Donors by promoting HUFH with all the good work we are doing.
  • Connect with MSPP as they leading the healthcare in Haiti.”

 


 

Youselene Pierre-Louis, RN – Director of Nursing

Youselene’s goals as a member HUFH’s core leadership group include:

“In all humility, I feel honored and flattered to be part of the HUFH family and for the position entrusted to me.

As a leader, I put all my skills to work to determine what to do and how to achieve the desired results. With passion, I assume my responsibilities as head nurse,  follow-up on time in order to lead to a better result. I make sure that all the staff are fulfilling their roles while highlighting the notions of professional ethics in order to fulfill our mission which is this one: “Heal-Teach-Supporter.” I am fulfilled when I serve and I can meet the needs of others.

 


 

Dr. Manol Isac, Board Advisor and International Consultant

Manol, who served us for the last 5 years as our in-country Executive Director, is leaving HUFH to pursue other interests, but we are excited to welcome his continued assistance as our International Consultant and Board Advisor. Manol’s continued hopes for HUFH include:

“I believe the mission is possible by supporting the efforts of everyone in Haiti and elsewhere working in this positive struggle to fight against malnutrition, allowing the vulnerable to have access to health care and considering the importance of health indicators when we know Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

“Let’s fight together, converging our focus with the Haitian staff is the essential way to make things happen as it supposed to by keeping the same strategy, which is the fact of leaving the Haitian staff to produce under our supervision what they can to the well-being of everyone.”


 

To learn more about our program leaders, nurses, community health workers and lay staff on the ground, click here.


Nursing Team Brings Care to a Haiti in Crisis

At the end of September, a small group of us traveled to Cap Haitian for the first medical mission since February. As you know, there has been an extreme shortage of fuel in Haiti since the beginning of this year. As a result, the conditions in Northern Haiti are deteriorating daily. Without fuel, there is little electricity: Haiti already has a very poor electrical infrastructure; without gas, they cannot run generators. Many Haitians already do not have enough food, and now the current situation is impacting our families in a very negative way: transportation of goods is hugely impacted, resulting in a shortage of food and clean water. Schools are closed, businesses and hotels shut down, and people are not able to get to their jobs — if they still have them. This means they have less income, and what they have has less value as prices skyrocket due to fuel shortages. 

From despair comes hope: mothers and their children waiting for our team to deliver much needed medical care

Despite these conditions, I cannot stress enough how our team on the ground has persevered to provide services to the communities HUFH serves.  Sometimes at a danger to themselves and at a much higher cost to our organization. Our visit was to support their efforts and bring needed supplies and medications.

Delivering essential medications and supplies

Our team consisted of three nurses from Canada, HUFH board member Hope Bechard, Jen Harding, and Jeannelle Morrrisette, who joined three providers from the US, Mary Ann LoFrumento MD, Nancy Montville APN and first time volunteer, Beth Kaplan APN.  We saw firsthand the conditions that our Haitian friends are living in.  We adjusted our original plans to work closer to our guest house, using the least amount of fuel.

Working with staff on the ground to triage every patient

Mama Baby Haiti, a local birthing center that provides both prenatal and maternity services to women and follow up care for the babies, provided clinic space where we saw children that desperately needed medical care. Our in-country team took us to two of the Hands Up for Haiti program sites where, together with our in-country medical providers, we provided care to several hundred families. The medications and supplies we brought were life-saving.

At Mama Baby Haiti we were welcomed and supported.

We also treated children and adults with fluoride varnish for cavity prevention and taught several medical education classes to nurses and midwives.

Flouride varnish helps this little boy smile.
Nurse Youslene teaches Helping Babies Breathe course at Bethesda Nursing School

Every time I go to Haiti, there are a few infants or children that we identify who need urgent care in order to survive. This time it was several newborns, unable to breastfeed, who were not gaining weight. Our team was able to obtain formula for these infants, and they are now thriving. For medical and surgical follow-up, we identified a child with a cleft palate and a child with a heart defect identified and referred for follow up care that Hands Up for Haiti will help to coordinate.

teaching sexual education to teens

Since we could not travel to all of our planned clinics, we did education on sexual health to teens who lived near our guest house on three afternoons.  The teens are such a delight, and were so willing to receive as much information as we could give them!  

The medical needs in Northern Haiti are so great!   The work that Hands Up for Haiti does in those communities is invaluable.   We cannot provide care for everyone in those areas, but I assure you that the programs we run truly do save and improve lives

Helping to preserve hope.

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Working together with team on the ground to ensure access to quality health care.

Education: the Key to Lifesaving Programs

Haitian Run – Haitian Led: At Hands Up for Haiti, our Medika Mamba malnutrition program is an essential part of our work to ensure a healthy future for the children of Haiti. Our doctors, nurses and trained community health workers (TSKs), all members of the communities that they serve, go into the community to identify children at risk and enroll them in the malnutrition program before it is too late to save them. As with all of our programs, the fighting malnutrition Medika Mamba program is Haitian run and directed by local staff who know how best to assess the needs of the communities and have a more meaningful impact. Our Haitian leadership is supported by a US based team of experts in nutrition and pediatrics.

All of HUFH’s Haitian staff embrace this model and strive to succeed. They know that the key to their success is education, education and more education, as well as collaboration with aligned organizations. To that end, last month our entire malnutrition program team went to the offices of Meds & Food for Kids (MFK), the nonprofit organization based in Cap Haitien that manufactures Medika Mamba, the nutritional supplement we use in our programs to treat severely malnourished children.

Nurse Youselene Pierre examines a child for signs of malnutrition.

 

Mme Youselene Pierre-Louis, a nurse and one of our malnutrition program leaders, explained why this training is so important to her, to the staff and to the children and parents in the program: “The training I took at MFK was very beneficial because it makes me and each program worker more knowledgeable and also helps us include many more children into our programs. As a nurse, I know that childhood malnutrition can cause permanent damage and even death, I am filled with gratitude and a sense of achievement when I serve in this program and I manage to save children with malnutrition. And more that gives me great pleasure: we share our education with parents, and many parents correctly apply the sessions of education that we conduct at each visit to the program. Because of this we are seeing more excitement, compliance and success in our programs.”

With their reinforced skills and additional knowledge, our program staff returns to their communities, identifying malnourished children, admitting them into our programs, and helping to secure for them and their families a healthy and productive future.

Our team will continue to attend monthly education sessions run by HUFH’s in-country medical director, Dr. Rose-Laure Jeanty.

To view the class, click here.


Dr. Allison Platt: A Doctor of Distinction

Dr. Allison Platt, Hands Up for Haiti’s president and a pediatrician in private practice, has been selected as an honoree by a panel of experts for the sixth annual Doctors of Distinction Awards in Westchester County. This award recognizes health care leaders for their outstanding dedication and commitment to medicine that impact our community each and every day – “Doctors who go beyond the diagnosis.” Allison has been judged as the best in the “No land too far category.”

Allison was well-chosen for this award — for the work she does as a pediatrician, for the inspiration that she imparts to young doctors in training to give of themselves beyond the boundaries of the US, and most notably for her medical humanitarian work in Haiti.

Away from her office, Allison serves as President of Hands Up for Haiti, working to further HUFH’s mission to provide lifesaving healthcare to the most sick and impoverished people of Northern Haiti. As President, she raises awareness of how impactful it is to be a member of a grass roots organization like Hands Up for Haiti that facilitates profound and positive changes in the communities that we serve. To this end, she travels to Haiti as a volunteer trip leader, working alongside her Haitian colleagues to deliver direct care to thousands of children and their families. Understanding how vital clean water is to the prevention of disease, Allison is also the co-Program Leader of HUFH’s Community Water Project, a program that has built 13 wells to date, providing clean water to multiple local communities and thousands of Haitian families.

 

She works tirelessly with our team in the US and Haiti to help make HUFH’s vision a reality: Haitian Run + Haitian Led = Lifesaving Programs that Build a Better Future.

Allison is most proud of delivering support to members of the Haitian medical staff and providing them with education, equipment, and funding. She believes that the community-based approach is a model for other organizations trying to tackle the problem of setting up and maintaining sustainable health programs.

Closer to home, Dr. Platt has been a pediatrician in private practice for the past 13 years in Mt. Kisco, NY as part of CareMount Medical. On a day-to-day basis, she provides preventative and comprehensive care for infants, children, adolescents and young adults from birth to 21 years of age. Helping to mentor and inspire the next generation of physicians, Allison is also the Clerkship director for the New York Medical College Longitudinal Integrative Clerkship and a preceptor for their medical students.

Dr. Platt has been consistently named one of the “Best Doctors in America” since 2011. Additionally, she has been included in New York Magazine’s Best Doctors 2019 issue and previously named one of the Top Doctors – Westchester Magazine 2018 and 2018 Exceptional Women in Medicine.  

Looking ahead, Allison hopes to continue working towards a brighter and healthier future for children and their families regardless of where they are born in the world. 

Congratulations to our very own Doctor of Distinction!

 


NJ Governor’s Awards recognize Dr. Mary Ann LoFrumento and HUFH

Congratulations to Dr. Mary Ann LoFrumento, HUFH co-founder, past president and director of our Global Health Program. Dr. LoFrumento was recently awarded the NJ State Governor’s Jefferson Award for Public Service in the Ambassador Category for her work with Hands up for Haiti.

The Jefferson Awards, an official recognition program of the United States Senate, was created as the nation’s oldest and most prestigious recognition program for volunteerism and public service. Receiving a Jefferson Award places the nominee among the most distinguished individuals in America as part of our national community of service. “These individuals represent the good that is happening all around us. It is a program of ‘multiplying good’ to encourage volunteerism in America. The New Jersey Governor’s Council on Volunteerism partners with the Jefferson Awards to recognize extraordinary volunteers from New Jersey.

The Ambassador medal recognizes individuals whose exemplary volunteer service beyond the borders of New Jersey have made the world a better place.

What the Governor said about Dr. Mary Ann LoFrumento:

Dr. Mary Ann LoFrumento has worked with Hands Up for Haiti, a medical humanitarian organization, to organize and implement programs focused on women’s and pediatric health. She works with clinics to provide health screening and address vaccination, nutritional and prenatal needs. Dr. LoFrumento has worked with birth attendants and midwives on emergency care of newborns and helped design educational programs to address family planning, cervical cancer prevention and the prevention of STDs and relationship violence.

What HUFH says about Dr. Mary Ann:

Mary Ann is one of HUFH’s energetic and visionary co-founders. The award could not have gone to a more worthy, generous, energetic and compassionate person. We are so proud of our co -founder and past President, Dr. Mary Ann LoFrumento and everything she does, for her patients, residents and students, her community, her Haitian family, and for HUFH. Congratulations to our very own ambassador!

Congratulations to our very own ambassador!


Walking in Another’s Shoes-Understanding Why People Flee

What makes us care? What makes us want to help another person? What makes us want to make the world a better place? Is it empathy, compassion, or understanding? Is it learning the facts and educating oneself about the reality of another? In other words: walking a mile in another’s shoes. At Hands Up for Haiti, we believe it is all of the above and that is how we are working towards a better and more compassionate and caring world. In these challenging times when feelings are running high about what to do about families arriving at our borders, an understanding of the conditions people flee from is essential to finding humane solutions. 

 

What is so special about the Hands Up for Haiti missions is that they are truly about understanding and providing care. There is no hidden agenda beyond working together with our Haitian medical staff to deliver life- saving medical care and clean water to people who have limited access. They are also about mutual respect and building a bridge of understanding between our volunteers and the people they care for.

 

It is about watching children play despite the lack of toys, witnessing the joy of a mother celebrating surviving childbirth and holding her newborn to her breast, seeing people nourished by their spirit when there is little to eat, and communities dancing and singing in a joyous celebration of life. It is watching people love their families especially their children.

 

For our volunteers it is also learning about the “gap”. The large one that exists between people in the developed world and people in developing countries. The gap in health care: Where someone lives or dies depends on geography. They are witnesses to the horror of diagnosing a young child with diabetes and hearing they may not be able to get insulin or meeting a woman who has incurable cervical cancer and will die from a treatable disease. The gap in hunger: Having enough food or not. They may hold the hand of a child whose skin is bloated from severe malnutrition or measuring the height of a child who is stunted from lack of nutrition. The gap in clean water: Turning on a faucet or walking miles to carry a bucket of water that may carry disease and treating children suffering from diarrheal illnesses.

Our volunteers usually react with a mixture of empathy and anger. Empathy because they are holding that child’s hand or walking side by side with the women or hearing the stories through the voice of our translators. And anger because they know this is an injustice and struggle with the question of “why” and what can be done.

A HUFH volunteer can never forget what they experienced and learned working in Haiti and they begin to understand the reasons people flee their homes to find a better life or even just to survive. When they witness the extreme poverty and childhood mortality that every family in Haiti faces, they can also begin to understand what is happening in the rest of the world as people flee extreme poverty, violence, and war.

 

At HUFH, we heal, we teach and we support life-giving health programs that meet the needs of the present generation and pave the way for a healthy and safe future for all Haitians. Our programs are community based, led by Haitians for Haitians, giving families an incentive to stay at home rather than flee.

Every volunteer may not walk in another’s shoes, but they do follow another’s footprints and begin to understand what life is like for the millions of people around the world who live in poverty. This is how we will leave a legacy of impactful programs and how we hope to build a more humane and compassionate world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Recap: HUFH’s Annual Gala in Honor of Dr. Jill Ratner!

Hands Up for Haiti (HUFH) is proud to have honored Dr. Jill Ratner, co-founder of HUFH and a devoted medical humanitarian, and to celebrate the positive impact she has had on the lives of countless children and their families both here and in Haiti, at its Annual Celebration Dinner on March 23. Jill, who has served as HUFH President and is currently its US Medical Director, is dedicated to ensuring quality health care to those in Haiti who otherwise have no access to doctors or life-saving care, and to ensuring the sustainability of HUFH programs by collaborating with our staff in Haiti to provide necessary tools, education and support for the Haitian medical community as they deliver direct care and by spearheading a community health worker program.

The evening was our most well-attended and successful ever, both fun and informative, featuring lively music, delicious food, a fun and engaging auction, and dancing -- all with a Haitian flair. Guests attended from far and wide: staff and supporters from Haiti, including our immediate past in-country Executive Director, Dr. Manol Isac and his family, members of the Cap Haitien Health Network, represented by Dr. Ted Kaplan and his wife, Elisabeth, Jill's colleagues from CareMount Medical, her co-residents from Babies Hospital, and volunteers, family and friends from all over the country.

Guests were treated to a video created by Flying Dreams Productions and narrated by Dr. Mary Ann LoFrumento, also a HUFH co-founder (and Jill's co-resident in training), highlighting Jill's vision in helping to create and grow HUFH, the work that Jill has done on the ground in Haiti and the work that our organization, Haitian staff and program leaders, and volunteers do to improve lives in northern Haiti by implementing and improving life-saving health care programs. Click here to view the video and enjoy a taste of the evening.

Jill spoke about how our organization continues to make a lasting difference in Haiti nearly 10 years after its founding, and the need to give back and the joy of doing so -- to make a difference. She also spoke of the evolving mission of the organization as we have transitioned from sending visiting teams focused on delivering care to instead delivering lasting impact through our Haitian led, Haitian run programs and ongoing support of the Haitian medical staff.

Dr. Allison Platt, HUFH's current President, shared with us a story from the first trip that Jill led in 2010 - the beginnings of HUFH. Jill's team was sitting in a Tap Tap, a Haitian taxi bus, when the roof began to cave in, so collectively Jill and her group of volunteers lifted up their hands up to lighten the load: Hands Up for Haiti got its name!

Dr. Wendy Marx, HUFH Vice-President and Gala Chair, presented Jill with a painting by Thermitus Jean, our enormously talented in-country executive director, of Jill surrounded by some of the Haitian children she helped. We also created for Jill a memory book of her years in Haiti, which included personal notes from volunteers, staff, and patients, both here and in Haiti.

Finally, we heard from Samson Desamours, a Haitian volunteer who Jill met on her first trip, about the direct impact that Jill and her work have made on him and all of his Haitian neighbors.

Contributing to the enormous success of the evening were the generous event sponsors and Champions for Children. We thank them all and urge you to support those who support HUFH. To see the full list, please click here. Special thanks to photographer Randi Childs and auctioneer Jamie McDonald.

Allison quoted a Haitian proverb: "Men anpil chay pa lou," which means "many hands (make) the load lighter." To both those who joined us on March 23, and those who weren’t able: While there is so much to do to improve the quality of health care in Haiti, we appreciate your generosity and your willingness to stand with us as we work hard to make a difference in the lives of as many Haitians as we can.  Please lift your Hands Up for Haiti and stand with us as we follow Jill and her co-founders' path and make a lasting impact for the most vulnerable children and their families in Haiti!


Haiti’s Clean Water Problem and What We are Doing to Fix It

There are so many health and medical-related challenges in Haiti that it is often hard to prioritize who and what to treat. While the problems are numerous, the funds needed to tackle them are lacking.

Malnutrition, clean water, helping mothers and children severely lacking in basic medical care – these are just a few of the mounting health issues that continue to plague this island nation.

But, as Mahatma Gandhi once famously said, “Action expresses priorities,” so I’ve chosen to focus my efforts on building water wells.

Just a few short years ago, we launched the Hands Up for Haiti Community Water Project to bring clean water to remote communities and to educate on water safety and cholera prevention. Our goal is to reduce illness by providing access to clean water for thousands of Haitians for many years to come.

Pumping water – the gift of life!

The program launched with tremendous success but we are at a crossroads and we need your help to sustain the effort. We have only built 11 wells to date; so many more communities are still without access to clean water.

With just a small donation from you, we can sustain the community water project and ensure more and more Haitians receive its life-saving benefits. In fact, each well costs only $3,500 to build and maintain, providing 4,000 people with access to clean water for 35 years!

Moving forward, I will keep you posted on the growth of the program. During the water team’s most recent trip to Haiti this month we worked with our in-country liaison to identify a new well-site in Dondon, a remote village with little access to health care other than the programs that HUFH offers to fight malnutrition among children and hypertension in adults. We will continue to report back then on the latest developments.

The future is theirs: teaching water safety to the next generation


Is It Enough to Save One Life? The Miracle of Hermano – The Heartbreak of Those We Reach Too Late

Returning to Haiti always fills me with mixed emotions. The opportunity to make a difference and positively impact the health and lives of individuals that have so few opportunities to access medical care is an exhilarating feeling for a doctor. The chance to reunite with old team mates, to see the experience through the eyes of first timers, to tell the story once again of some of the amazing life experiences that have occurred on previous trips and to know that something will happen this week that will be equally as powerful keeps me coming back for more. The biggest draw of course is seeing the Haitian people once again: the individuals that you know, that have become a part of your lives, the children you have watched grow, the faces in the crowd that wave to you either recognizing you or not, but just glad to see you there.

Then there is the apprehension- knowing that we will see patients with ongoing illnesses that can’t be cured in a day, examining once again other patients I have followed from afar, working to make sure they got the care they needed while being 1000 miles away, patients having limited resources, struggling through barriers of language, money, illness and lack of ability to negotiate the frail system of health care in Haiti, and the patients who we get to too late.

For me the story is always complicated and fraught with emotion and challenges. On my previous trip to Haiti one year ago, I saw three critically ill patients, two boys with advanced bone infections, each of whom had been sick for months before the team arrived, one also suffering from severe malnutrition. The third patient was a nine-month old boy, who weighed nine pounds, the size of a two month old in the US. His heart was pounding out of his chest; he suffering from acute malnutrition and was in cardiac failure. His mother had a blank stare on her face, no expression, as if she couldn’t think or do anything about her son’s condition. And she was right. Without cardiac surgery this child would not survive. I looked her in the eye, and through a compassionate translator I told her this was the day we could save her son’s life. What we did that day would be the deciding factor.

9 months old Hermano in the hospital

I’ve gone to Haiti many times in the last seven years. I have seen many sick children. Some get better before the week is out. Some are placed in our malnutrition programs, and some are hospitalized as these three children were. Because of our partnership with Sacre Coeur Hospital, we were able to speak directly with the physicians and ensure the best care possible for these three boys. They would get care. Outcome is less certain.

Fast forward. Within one month of being seen by our team, one of the boys died of sepsis, a fulminant infection. The other died in the operating room. I was heartbroken for them and their families: children should not die. But we had gotten to them too late. Their disease was so advanced that treatment and survival was not in the cards. Only Hermano, the little cardiac baby with the ventricular septal defect, remained.

It took ten months, many trips to the hospital, delays because of anemia, and then a diagnosis of tuberculosis requiring nine months of antibiotics. It took all the efforts of Dr. Mary Ann LoFrumento, HUFH’s President and a US pediatrician, and Dr. Dieula Toussaint, HUFH’s in-country malnutrition program medical director, to ensure this child got ongoing care, and arrange for a partnership between Hospital Universite in Mirebelais and Haiti Cardiac Alliance to get him the care he needed. Not only did we need to address Hermano’s other health issues before he could have his surgery, but a birth certificate for Hermano and a passport and visa for both mother and child needed to be obtained. Dr. Manol Isaac, our in-country Executive Director, facilitated this with help from the Director of the Ministry of Health in the North, Dr. Ernest Jasmin. Hermano and his mother were flown to the Cayman Islands in April of this year, surgery was successful and he returned home soon thereafter.

Exactly one year after I first told Hermano’s mother that we would help, I stood in the same spot in our small clinic in Shada and again saw this mother and this child, but I did not recognize either one. The mother was smiling, appearing well, and her eyes glimmered as she showed me Hermano, a now thriving child, able to kick and scream the way most toddlers do when they see a pediatrician.

Is it enough to save one life? I really don’t know the answer to that, but I know that it feels right. In this world so much is out of our control, the hardship and inequities of rich and poor, those who benefit from health care and those that do not.

Because of the story of the two boys who died, Hands Up for Haiti has committed to having programs at the remote site of Dondon where those two boys lacked care for so long, and perhaps future children will not suffer the way they did. We continue to work to improve care to those who might not otherwise be reached.

For Hermano, our little boy with a whole in his heart, that hole is fixed. As a group, the best of humanity came together and saved this boy from certain death.

THE SURGICAL CARE AND HOSPITALIZATION FUND SAVES LIVES

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Mesi anpil – Thank you very much for all your support.