Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Wooden Bell

A couple of days ago, after clinic was over, I was eating with the sisters that run the clinic, malnutrition center, and school just outside of Port-au-Prince. Our talk concerned Haiti and its serious unending problems. The sister at the head of the table is from Spain and had been asked to leave Cite Soleil several months ago after gunfire between the United Nations and slum gangs blew big holes in the sister's convent wall as they were forced to lie on the floor to avoid the bullets.

In clinic, the babies with malnutrition and neglect have no real chance. Another difficult problem is babies that show up without a mother. This occurs frequently. The sister from Spain said, "When the Haitian mother dies, you may as well bury their baby at the same time." Unfortunately, this is not far from the truth. Aunts, grandmas,fathers,and neighbors usually are not good substitutes for the absent mother.

Today, the lady at the top of this post showed up where we are staying. Her name is Heureuse. Heureuse lives with Michael, her one year old boy, and her three year old daughter in a notorious slum on the edge of Port-au-Prince called Carrefour.

Heureuse had heart surgery at OSF in Peoria about 4 years ago and Haitian Hearts brings her medicine each trip that keeps her alive. We examine her and a recent echocardiogram here in Haiti shows that Heureuse needs to return for more valve surgery. OSF in Peoria will not accept Heureuse even though the doctors that took care of her several years ago would be glad to have her back and take care of Heureuse at no charge.

When Heureuse dies here, she will leave her two young children. She and her babies live with Michel's father. (The father of her daughter is dead.) Neither child is doing great now from a nutrition standpoint and when Heureuse is gone, both of her children will be at high risk for disease and death.

In todays (10/17/06) Peoria Journal Star there is a 20 page supplement that is entitled "Building a Medical Powerhouse". The articles report the 562 million dollars being spent in Peoria by the two major hospitals and the University of Illinois School of Medicine. They are all located approximately 4 blocks from each other. The local health-care community is lauded for taking the Peoria economy to "new heights" with the jobs and employment that the medical expansion creates.

OSF is building a new 8 story Children's Hospital as part of its 234 million dollar addition. Paul Kramer, Director of Children's Hospital, is quoted as saying that he wants a "world class" facility. However, it will never be "world class" when OSF and Mr. Kramer and other secular leaders dismiss the suffering of Heureuse and refuse to allow her to return to OSF for surgery. Mr. Kramer has his blinders on even though he knows the majority of the "world" live in the same "class" as Heureuse and her children. How can OSF be "world class" when they ignore the cry of the "global community" and focus on Peoria's economy.

New technology and research and jobs for any community are good. However, one obscenity lies in the difference in Peoria's half-billion dollar medical projects and Haiti's extreme poverty. The other obscenity is OSF's negligence of former patients that do not have technology, jobs, and research in their slum.

A Haitian proverb says, "No one hears the cry of the poor or the sound of a wooden bell". The good news for OSF is that Heureuse is "out of sight and out of mind". Her death will not be reported in Peoria and her children's struggles will never be known.

Peoria and its medical community are the losers when they deny health care to those who need it most. If OSF and its leaders really thought big, they would think of Heureuse and her children.

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