James Waits

Help For Haiti Now

James waits for help

Port-au-Prince, Haiti – November 2010

I first time I saw James was early February, 2010.  He was thirteen years old, and a patient at Sacre Coeur Hopital in Milot, Haiti. After the earthquake in January James and hundreds of other patients began to arrive at this small hospital located about one a hundred miles north of PAP (Port-au-Prince).  Some patients were flown in by helicopter, others were driven, and some were carried.   James was one of these patients.

In January after the earthquake we saw many patients, both adults and children, with severe crush injuries of their extremities.  Under normal conditions many patients with this type of an injury may have been spared amputations.  Unfortunately after the earthquake conditions were far from normal, and amputations were often the only alternative to save patients lives. The hospitals in Haiti were overwhelmed with severely injured patients, and lacked both the number of staff and the resources needed to provide complex and extended care for so many patients.

Little girl with amputation of right arm

We arrived in Haiti in January right after the earthquake, and we were able to transfer five severely injured children to Florida for care.  We turned home, but our thoughts and hearts were still in Haiti.  Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Springfield, MA said they could provide orthopedic surgery and follow-up care for up to ten children injured in the earthquake.

Shriners Hosptial for Children Springfield, MA

With each passing day there were children in Haiti that faced possible amputations both from the severity of their injuries and from infection. With little time to waste we became quite bold in our requests for help. One of the biggest hurdles being how to get the injured children from Haiti back to Shriners Hospital in Massachusetts.  We were very surprised, and totally overwhelmed when Michael Kittredge, founder of Yankee Candle Company, and his wife Lisa offered to provide private air transportation for the children.

Michael Kittredge Founder of Yankee Candle Company

This was a truly phenomenal gift, and one that will never be forgotten. The plane a beautiful Gulf Stream Jet was commissioned by the Kittredge family from the Epic Jet Company out of Pittsfield, MA. They went above and beyond to accommodate the unusual needs of this trip including; changing the seat configuration to form beds for the children, bringing spare parts for the plane and a mechanic in case there was a problem when they landed in Haiti.

The Plane

Next we needed a physician who could go to Haiti to exam children who would be possible candidates according to the quide-lines established by the physicians at the Shriners Hospitals for Children, Springfield, MA. It’s not easy for a physician to get time off on short notice, but again we were fortunate when Dr. Ian Goodman, a pediatrician from Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA voluntered his vacation time to go to Haiti to evaluate the children.

Dr. Goodman (left) & Dr. Pivar talk with the children's parents.

Through a relationship with the Crudem Foundation, Dr. Goodman would also lead us to Crudem’s Hopital Sacre Coeur in Milot, Haiti.  Kim and Dr. Goodman arrived at the hospital in Milot one week before the plane was to arrive to transport the children.  Dr. Goodman reviewed patients with Dr. Harold Pivar, the Medical Director of Hopital Sacre Coeur, and Dr. David Drvaric Chief of Staff at Shriners Hospital. At least one parent of each child was present and active in the final decision to transport their child for the needed care.

James with his mother Hopital Sacre Coeur Feb. 2010

James would be one of the children going to Shriners.  He had multiple injuries of his left leg, was unable to walk, and laid on a thin mattress on the floor along with dozens of other children. He was in good spirits and his mother was always at his side to help with his care.  Obtaining the proper documents required by both the US and Haitian Governments to fly eight children from Haiti to the United States for medical care within one weeks time was difficult to say the least, and proved to be beyond the ability of VIDA, the private New York based agency initially involved.  As fate would have it Dr. Hettler, also a pediatrician at Baystate Medical Center, had a friend, Sasha Gainullin, who had done work arranging medical evacuation flights from across the world. At the time Dr. Hettler contacted him for help, Sasha was working for the Noel Group based in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.  The list of documents required for the children’s flight to the United States for medical care seemed to grow with each passing hour, and also seemed impossible to obtain. But Sasha continued his efforts while communicating with Dr. Goodman, Kim Lucey RN, Dr. Pivar, and Tim Traynor Ground Construction Coordinator for the Crudem Foundation’s Hopital Sacre Coeur.  

Tim Traynor Hopital Sacre Coeur

Because of concerns that children were being subject to human trafficking after the earthquake, no child was allowed to leave Haiti unless they had parents to return to.  The Haitian and US Governments also did not permit parents of Haitian children to leave the country with them. James, and the other children, ages two through fourteen, traveled without their families.  When the plane to pick up the children landed in Cap Haitian Sasha was still working on obtaining all the required documents. Without his assistance the children would never have made it to the Shriners Hospitals.

Sasha

At last all was in order.   We all held our breath until the plane was in the air fearing we may have to obtain yet another document.

Dr. Stephen Kelly Emergency Medicine Resident Baystate Medical Center comforts one of the children

It seemed like a quick trip in the comfort of the plane, and soon were arrived at Bradley international Airport.  There was the slight problem of a small blizzard but we landed safely, and the plane pulled into a hanger where the children would be protected from the weather.  Kim held the youngest child from the time they left Crudem’s Hopital Sacre Coeur until they arrived at Bradley international Airport in Windsor Locks, CT.  

Kim carries the youngest child off the plane at Bradley International Airport

The Shriners staff had worked non-stop to be sure all was in order when the children arrived.  

Elaine Charest Director of Rehabilitation Services Shriners Childrens Hospital Springfield, MA

Emergency Medical Technician’s and Para-medics from Baystate Health Ambulance made each child comfortable f0r the trip to the hospitals. Student volunteers from American International College, fluent in Haitian Creole, stayed with each child from the time they arrived at the airport until after their init1al examination at Shriners Hospital.  

Baystate Health ambulance volunteers

Two of the children were taken to Boston Shriners Hospital for Burns, one child went to Baystate Medical Center, Sringfield, MA and was later transferred to Springfield Shriners Hospital. Five of the children went directly to Springfield Shriners where the entire staff waited to help admit and comfort them.   

Shriners Hosptial for Children Springfield, MA

The children had survived a devastating earthquake, and suffered from severe injuries. Some of them had lost friends and family members, and most had lost their homes. All but the oldest girl spoke little or no English, they had never heard of Massachusetts, and had certainly never felt the bite of a February Snow Storm like the one that greeted them when they arrived in Massachusetts.  

Left Marc Leon Fils volunteer at Shriners, Some of the wonderful staff who cared for James & the other children, James is ready to go home. bottom right

Shriners Hospital would be their home for the months they needed care.  The staff and volunteers not only cared for their physical wounds, they also became like family and did their best to support the children’s emotional needs through the months of surgeries and therapy that lay ahead. Love goes along way in the healing process, and it flowed freely at this wonderful hospital for children.    

Volunteer Pam Adams at Springfield Shriners Hospital

Pam Adams from Greenfield, MA grew up in Haiti where her father was a missionary. Her understanding of the Haitian culture helped both the Shriners staff and the children. She could also get a kite in the sky in no time flat much to the delight of the younger children.  

James at Shriners

James was fortunate to receive some of the best medical care in the world at Shriner’s. In addition he received a tremendous amount of love from both the staff and volunteers. It wasn’t long before his wounds healed, and his once thin body became well nourished. He wore the clothes of American teens, gifts from many caring people, and could often be seen bopping to what ever tune he heard coming from the headphones that became part of his daily attire.  By the end of April, 2010 James and three of the other children were ready to return home to Haiti. This was a very difficult separation for both the children and the staff at Shriners.  Flying four children and several escorts back to Haiti would have more than drained what little money we had left in Our Help For Haiti Now account.  Again we were blessed when John and Patty Noel, of the Noel Group, donated their private jet to fly the children home to Haiti.

John Noel, Kim, James, Pat King Director of Children Services Shriners Hospital, Springfield, MA

They also flew with the children, and were joined by Sasha, Dr. Joelie Hettler, and Marc Leon Fils.  

Dr. Joeli Hettler with one of the children on the way home

I was also fortunate to be with them, and quite happy to meet Sasha and the Noels.  

John & Patty Noel with one of the children going home.

Sasha with James on the way home

We were all pampered by the Noel’s, and enjoyed an extremely comfortable flight, and a wonderful lunch. The time passed quickly and soon we were landing at the Port-au Prince Airport.  Immigration officials boarded the plane and after checking everyone’s documents the children’s parents were allowed to come aboard for their children.  It was very emotional, and must have been confusing for the parents even with Marc to help translate. Before we left the plane to take the children through the last customs stop, John and Patty Noel gave each family a credit card voucher good for several hundred dollars.  The children had their duffel bags of belongings, and the tents given to the families by the Shriners staff.  After goodbye hugs, and some tears the Noels, Sahsa and Dr. Joeli flew back to the states. Marc and Kim stayed in Haiti for a week to help settle and check in on the children a few times before they left.  The youngest boy and the two girls and their families had transportation home. Marc and Kim had made arrangements to drive James and his Mother.  It had been four months since James was injured in the earthquake.  It was four months filled with probably every emotion a human can experience, and he had not yet reached his fourteenth birthday. Now he was back home, or at least with his family. Their home had been destroyed in the earthquake.  James new residence was about a thirty minute drive from the airport.  We passed collapsed buildings, and rows of tents that filled every open space.  In some areas people were living in small shacks built on the median strips because there was no where else to go. There were no shelters set up in schools or other buildings as you would see after a disaster in most developed countries of the world.  In Haiti you are on your own. James family found a space in a parking lot behind a Salvation Army building.  Here family after family had built small shelters each about ten feet square using what ever they could find in the piles of debris that still filled the streets months after the earthquake. They had no running water, no sanitary facilities, and no electricity. Cooking was done outside over charcoal fires.  James’ father and his siblings were so happy to see him again. He showed them the brace he had to wear on his leg, and his new jacket, which he refused to take off even though it was about ninety degrees. He put his duffel bag in the family shelter and enjoyed the attention from his family and friends.  Marc and I reviewed the medical instructions from Shriners with James parents. We gave them the tent that the Shriner’s staff had donated, and said we would be back the next day to check on James.  The next afternoon when we arrived they had already taken down the shack, and had the tent set up. They were very happy to have it. The bad news wasthat James had been robbed of the money given to him by some of his new friends at Shriner’s. Marc talked with him and tried to encourage him, I gave him some money to replace what was stolen, and we both gave him hugs.  It hardly seemed enough, but it was all we could do.  After our goodbyes Marc and I left to check on the other children.  Marc has maintained contact with James and his family.  In September of 2010, James began to complain of pain and stiffness in his injured leg.  When you barely have enough food to eat, there is little or no money left for doctors visits, transportation to doctors, or medicine. We were able to arrange a Doctor’s appointment for him from the states, and received a report that he had a minor problem and nothing to worry about.  But over the next few months James complained of worsening pain and an inability to walk on his previously injured leg. In November Marc and Ireturned to Haiti. James and his family had been forced to move from their original space, becasue the owner of the property wanted to rebuild.  The family was now living in what had been a soccer field behind the salvation army building. The tent had ripped and after months of the rainy season, and was worn and leaked. In our search for James’ new home we followed a narrow dirt path through a maze of hundreds of shacks and almost walked right past James. He sat at the edge of a path close to the worn boards of his new home so as not to get stepped on by his neighbors. With his injured leg elevated on a rock he played some sort of a game with small pebbles on a grid he had scratched into the dirt.  When we spoke his name he glanced up at us in an almost slow motion turn, and for a moment he didn’t know who we were.  The headphones were gone along with the sparkle in his eyes.  He looked thin. His foot was swollen and he complained of pain and said he couldn’t walk . A yellowish crust covered an area aroundhis right ear. We wanted to just scoop him up and take him to a hospital, but it doesnʼt work that way in Haiti.  Again we set up a medical appointment for him. Unfortunately the appointment did not occur until after we left Haiti. On the day he arrived he was told the physician was not available, and he was sent home. It took months to arrange a second appointment for him to see an orthopedist.  This physician reported that James had a nerve injury which could not be treated in Haiti.  Shriners Hospital in Springfield reviewed the report and said that unfortunately they could not treat James explaining that this was not their area of expertise.  They kindly referred us to Healing The Children.  They also were unable to find a facility willing to treat this type of problem.  James continued to complain and again we arranged another appointment for him with the help of Partners in Health in Boston, MA.  Marc flew to Haiti and brought James to his appointment.  He took a copy of the film back to Springfield, MA where it was reviewed by several physicians including.  James has a new of Avascular Necrosis of his heel.  The treatment requires surgery, and Shriners hospital in Springfield, MA has agreed to care for James.  Healing the Children is working on obtaining the necessary documents and transportation for James to return to Shriners.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

helpforhaitinow@gmail.com 413-658-4512