Friday, January 27, 2006

Jackson Jean-Baptiste's Autopsy

Date: 24 Jan 2006 22:17:21 -0000From: "Realname" To:,,,,

Dear Bishop Jenky, Sister Judith Ann, Keith, Paul, Gerry, Joe, and Doug Marshall,

We were present on Friday morning when Jean-Baptiste died just a few minutes after midnight. His death was slow and painful over the last several months. However, the last few days were his worst and his screams would bring him out of his low flow slumber. I will spare you further details of his last several hours understanding why none of you would have wanted to witness it. If Jean-Baptiste would just have slipped away silently in his cinder block house in the mountains of Haiti as designed, it would have been much easier on all of us. I was able to participate in Jean-Baptiste's autopsy yesterday morning. As I entered the pathology room, I saw his body lying on the second silver stainless steel table. There were various obnoxious appearing tubes and catheters protruding from it. They were all clogged, cold, and useless as was the body from which they came. However, the pathologist and technician treated Jean-Baptiste with more sensitivity and care than he had received during most of his 21 years of life in Haiti. They carefully and meticulously removed his heart, lungs, liver, and brain.Jean-Baptiste's heart was enlarged and muscular due to all the extra work it had to do to keep him alive since a "disease of antiquity", rheumatic fever, had destroyed his valves a decade ago. A white fibrous scar tissue was abundant and stuck on the front side of his heart due to his previous surgery and the inflammation that the merciless rheumatic fever rendered. I introduced my left index finger into the superior vein leading into his heart which immediately entered a vacuous right atrium. With little effort my finger slipped through his incompetent tricuspid valve into his massive right ventricle. Using my right index finger and thumb to palpate, the left ventricle felt thick and very strong.An incision was then made through the left atrium which allowed us to stare down at his rock-hard mitral valve. All three leaflets were calcificed and immobile when tapped with a scissors. This valve was the anatomic culprit behind Jean-Baptiste's suffering. It would not let his blood flow to where it wanted but reversed it and flooded his congested and blue lungs and liver. The doctors in Peoria had seen this problem last spring and wanted to fix it. But unfortunatley, you didn't give them and Jean-Baptiste the chance. Jean-Baptiste's perfect brain weighed 1,150 grams. I guess his brain bothered me the most because it was indeed perfect. This beautiful gray organ had guided him his entire life and had no blod clots, was not atrophied, and had no tangles or plaques confusing his thinking. As I looked at it, I wondered which part controlled Jean-Baptiste's will to live, his independence, and his ability to speak three languages. Which lobe allowed him to forgive? I knew that he wouldn't tell me now, even if he could, how he rationalized his deplorable life which was devoid of dignity which should be "usual and customary" for human beings.The official autopsy report won't be out for five weeks. The attending pathologist is excellent; however his report will most likely be incomplete. Causes of death probably won't include poverty without dignity and abandonment. As the first part of the autopsy concluded, I felt very guilty as I looked at the remains of Jean-Baptiste. To have sent him back to Haiti after his surgery was my mistake. To have believed in you and trusted was a serious miscalculation on my part which helped to shorten the life of our young friend. I did not anticipate and would not have believed your silence as this innocent pleaded for your help.Jean-Baptiste's death explicitly reveals the ugly underside to the corporate Catholic "health care system", formerly known as Catholic hospitals. Multiple biblical passages mentioning the poor, a large litany of Catholic social justice teachings, and the OSF mission statements all supported helping Jean-Baptiste when he needed it. He certainly didn't need an attorney to advocate for him. His defense had been written years ago. Unfortunately, you all failed him as you ignored central teachings of the faith. A few more years of soccer games and Dairy Queens wouldn't have hurt Jean-Baptiste and definitely would have helped all of us. I was finally able to talk with Jackson's Haitian mountain family on the phone yesterday. His 18 year old sister Nadia cheerfully answered the phone. She had brought Jean-Baptiste mangoes in Haiti during his sickest days in December, while many people frantically searched for a medical center to accept him in the United States. I told her Jean-Baptiste died and heard her shriek uncontrollably as the line went dead.

John Carroll, MD.

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