Saturday, December 30, 2006

Peoria Pundit Posts

Please go to Peoria Pundit posts. The majority of these posts concern the abandonment of Haitian Hearts children by the large Catholic medical center in Peoria.

Maxime's Host Parents

The Peoria Journal Star published a forum article today written by Maxime's host parents when he was a patient several years ago at OSF.

The letter asks the question: how should OSF's disagreement with one doctor influence their policy when lives of Haitian children are at stake? OSF's attorney talks about cooperation and respect. Who do they think is going to believe this?

If what I challenged OSF on was not reasonable they would not have responded so negligently towards the Haitian Hearts patients.

I have questioned them on lack of bed capacity, long waiting times in the ER, monopolizing ambulance care in the city of Peoria, delaying Haitian kids surgeries, attempting to obtain funds for Haitian Hearts that were not meant for OSF, and showing total lack of respect for their own Mission Statements and the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services written by the U.S. Catholic Bishops.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Peoria Pundit

The Peoria Pundit" has been kind enough to allow me to post on his web log.

This week we were able to get Maxime on the plane for Cleveland where he safely arrived yesterday.

Yesterday was another bad day for Haiti. Four hundred special UN troops and Haitian National Police entered a portion of the slum called Bwa Neuf. They had been given the clearance by the Haitian government to make the sweep and were unsuccessfull killing the gang leader they went in to kill. However, nine civilians were killed and 30 others were injured in the raid. I have been in the area many times and the thought of what happened yesterday is very scary.

The people of the slum are very unhappy with the UN.

Monday, December 18, 2006

You Would Think They Were Human

Jackson Jean-Baptiste's sisters are pictured here.

Jackson was refused care at OSF-SFMC in Peoria last year. Jackson died in January of this year and is buried in Illinois, close to Peoria.

At Jackson's funeral in January, over one thousand dollars was donated by people in central Illinois that knew Jackson or had heard about his struggles. This money was for his mother that lives with his two sisters in a small cinderblock house in the mountains overlooking Port-au-Prince.

Jackson's mother still cries frequently when she thinks about him and how sick he was last December. She misses him.


Maxime is the 21 year old Haitian young man who was rejected by OSF-SFMC in Peoria for repeat heart surgery. He sleeps kneeling on the floor with his upper body draped over the bed. He can breathe better at night in this position but still sleeps fitfully. He shouldn't have to exist like this.

Maxime has been accepted by Cleveland Clinic Foundation for evaluation. We are trying to keep him alive in Haiti until we get him to Cleveland.

When I told Maxime's brother this morning that he had done a good job taking care of Maxime, he smiled and responded in Haitian Kreyol, "We want life".

OSF Attorney Responds to Haitian Hearts

Please see Peoria Pundit. OSF attorney, Douglass Marshall, sent me an e mail regarding OSF's refusal to accept any Haitian Hearts patient.

Ferna, the baby in the picture above, died with a cardiac defect (ventricular septal defect) that could easily have been repaired by the skilled physicians at OSF.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


On Tuesday my wife and I looked up when we heard the low rumbling chop-chop sound and saw a white UN helicopter circling over one of the major slums in Port-au-Prince. The pilot continued this maneuver for an hour. Obviously he was looking for activity on the ground. We now know what he was searching for.

There has been a string of new child abductions in Port-au-Prince. Gunmen abducted at least 10 children in and around Port-au-Prince this week. Approximately 100 adults and children have been kidnapped in November, and another 60 already in December.

What has everyone’s attention in Haiti is that children are now being targeted. Many of the kids are released unharmed, but a six year old boy was recently abducted in the capital and taken to a large northern city and shot.

“Snatch teams” work in the city. They abduct adults by boxing in their vehicle in traffic and heavily armed thugs grab them. The victims are then transported to one of the local slums where gangs move the abducted around and make ransom phone calls from the ubiquitous cell phones which many people carry. Sometimes the abducted person is moved to another gang. Unless you live in the slum or are a gang member, no one can enter the slum safely, including the 9,000 UN soldiers in Haiti.

This week, at several schools in the capital, men would show up after school was let out saying they were the child’s guardian and that they were there to walk the child home. They have shown false ID’s and stolen the child. In an incident that made international news, a vehicle with seven children on board was hijacked by armed thugs just north of Port-au-Prince, and the kids taken. (All the children were released unharmed several days later.)

Several days ago a spokesman for the United Nations police force in Haiti said, “Now the kidnappers target children because they know the children are our hearts. They want to hit us in the heart so they can get the money more rapidly.”

The residents of the capital are even helping police in door-to-door searches for the missing children. Fear of kidnapping has led many schools in the capital to close until after the Christmas holidays. The number of children in their school uniforms, laughing and talking with each other while they walk down the sidewalk to or from school, has decreased.

Haiti’s infant mortality rate is one of the highest in the world, most Haitian kids do not get enough to eat, suffer parasites, lack primary medical care, and carry heavy loads of water on their heads. When you think that Haiti’s children could not suffer any more injustice, you find out that you were wrong.

They start kidnapping them.

Elephantiasis in Haiti

When I got off the full tap-tap this morning in front of the hospital, many people were crossing the street, buying and selling things on the corner, and a couple of men were fixing flat tires. Children were also heading to school in their fresh uniforms.

At the very back of the tap-tap, standing in the street, was a 60 year old appearing man who had dropped his pants in a very innocent fashion to show all of the people in the vicinity his huge scrotum that was hanging down in front of him. His face was pathetic as he was searching everyone’s eyes. He was looking for some spare change so he could eat or “find” medication. He was filthy. People stared at him, but did not laugh, and then turned back to what they were doing or headed on their way. No one offered him anything.

This man’s serious problem is called filariasis and is caused by a parasite spread by mosquitoes. The parasite has different stages and causes the lymphatic system to become blocked. Severe swelling can occur in dependent areas of the body. When the anatomy becomes very swollen and distorted the condition is called elephantiasis.

There are 120 million cases of filariasis world wide with at least 40 million having severe deformities as did the poor man in the street. Haiti has its fair share of elephantiasis.

The lady pictured above has a severe case of elephantiasis also. She is a clinic patient in Cite Soleil. She has had this swollen right leg for over 25 years. Medication will not help her now other than to treat bacterial or fungal infections that may superinfect her damaged extremity. Can you imagine limping around fetid Soleil with a right leg like this?

Below is a water canal in the middle of Soleil that dumps directly into the Bay of Port-au-Prince. It breeds mosquitoes which will carry the parasite and will make the lives of others as miserable as hers and the man behind the tap tap.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Faith in Haiti

Water in Haiti

Haiti’s trees have been cut down. We all know that. The poor farmers cut down the trees because they needed to turn them into charcoal in underground stoves. They need a fuel source and need to sell the charcoal for money.

Now since there are very few trees on the mountain sides, and when the rains come hard, the topsoil is carried away. Since the trees and topsoil are gone, the rainwater is not sufficiently absorbed into the underground water source called the aquifer.

The Port-au-Prince aquifer is ever shrinking and with a lack of pressure in the underground water source, salt water is leaking in. Thus, there is not near enough clean from the 18 springs that supply water for the three million people in the capital.

In fact, greater than 60% of eight million Haitians do not have access to clean water. Haiti ranked last on the International Water Poverty Index.

Haitian kids as young as four years old carry water in plastic containers. Children walk many miles in the countryside and the cities to bring water back home for the family.

Poverty has caused Haiti’s ecologic suicide which has contaminated Haiti’s water. And the bad water is killing Haiti's babies.

Haitians Are Afraid

Everyone is scared.

Everyone is fair game to be taken. Haitians with means are leaving the country.

Mothers have no money for food for their children. They have no money for a simple doctor visit. They are afraid to go on the streets with their children.

Parents are afraid to send their children to school. One did yesterday and the child did not come back.

Hospitals do not have adequate medications or bed capacity. Doctors working for the State of Haiti are not paid and go on strike frequently.

The psychiatric hospital in Port-au-Prince is full.

A Haitian policeman told me today that when people don't "put their heads together" and work out problems, "they can act like savages". He then asked me to buy him a car.

Only a few people on both sides of the Haitian economy are paralyzing this country.

People are running to get out of the capital. People are trying to leave the country.

Everyone is scared.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Haiti--The Pearl of the Antilles

Haiti breaks your heart in more ways than one.

Haiti Kids

One picture is worth a 1,000 words...

The Face of Aids In Haiti

Go to Live From Haiti to see the face of AIDS in Haiti.

Supposedly eight million people live in Haiti. Four million are under 14 years of age.

We are in the 25th year of the AIDS pandemic. Haiti has lost 400,000 people to AIDS during this time.

Experts see no end in site for children orphaned by AIDS. Also, one-fourth of children born to HIV/AIDS infected mothers are carriers themselves. Even though highly active antiretrovirals are advertised as available for kids in Haiti, they are harder to comeby than some would believe.

In the streets of Port-au-Prince one use to see mainly boys years ago darting in and out of traffic begging. Now there are many girls begging for money for themselves and their families.

Orphanages are filled to capacity with beautiful children with hollow looks on their faces. They need to be held.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Open Letter to The Catholic Diocese of Peoria and OSF

December 3, 2006

Dear Bishop Jenky, Sister Judith Ann, Keith Steffen, and Paul Kramer,

I have been following the weather conditions in Peoria from here in Haiti. The snowfall, winds, and cold seem to have partially paralyzed central Illinois.

Haiti’s condition is actually much worse than Peoria, even though the weather is much nicer. The people here suffer every sort of injustice known…except snow and ice.

Please prayerfully consider accepting Maxime Petion at OSF for evaluation of his heart. I e mailed you about Maxime 6 weeks ago, but didn’t hear back.

Maxime was operated several years ago at OSF when he was 17 years old. He is suffering greatly in congestive heart failure.

It is my understanding that OSF’s International Committee is going to meet this week and discuss whether Maxime will be accepted at OSF. Unfortunately, no Sisters sit on this Committee.

As you know, Paul Kramer, Director of Children’s Hospital of Illinois, called the American Consulate in Port-au-Prince several years ago to stop Haitian Hearts patients from obtaining visas to travel to Peoria. Mr. Kramer sits on the Committee. Also, OSF’s legal counsel, Doug Marshall, wrote me a while back stating that OSF will not accept any Haitian Hearts patients even when full or partial charges were offered. These actions by OSF’s leaders are opposite to the Sisters Mission Statements and the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services written by the Catholic Bishops in the United States.

His host family in the Peoria area are very concerned about Maxime and even suggested to me that they come here to be with Maxime and his family. Political violence and kidnappings in Haiti are at an all time high, so I have discouraged his host family from traveling here.

Haitian Hearts will offer you $10,000 up front for Maxime’s life. I am pleading with you to give Maxime another chance at OSF.

He will die soon unless something is done very quickly.



Sunday, December 03, 2006

Structural Violence

I remember the first time I read about “structural violence” regarding the poor in developing countries. I did not understand what the author was writing about. Medical students don’t take courses in structural violence. We may know about the Sylvian fissure, the coronary sinus, and oncotic pressures, but structural violence was definitely not mentioned in my training. Until I came to Haiti.

Farmer, Nizeye, Stulac, and Keshavhee wrote a great paper called “Structural Violence and Clinical Medicine”. The bottom line is that until doctors understand structural violence and do something to change it, all of the molecular biology and genetics in the world will not significantly help the world’s poor.

The authors define structural violence as…” social structures—economic, political, legal, religious, and cultural—that stop individuals, groups, and societies from reaching their full potential. In its general usage, the word violence often conveys a physical image; however according to Galtung it is the “avoidable impairment of fundamental human needs or…the impairment of human life, which lowers the actual degree to which someone is able to meet their needs below that which would otherwise be possible.”

Structural violence is often embedded in long standing “ubiquitous social structures, normalized by stable institutions and regular experience.” Because they seem so ordinary in our ways of understanding the world, they appear almost invisible. Disparate access to resources, political power, education, health care, and legal standing are just a few examples. The idea of structural violence is linked very closely to social injustice and the social machinery of oppression”.

Farmer goes on to say that, “With few exceptions, clinicians are not trained to understand such social forces, nor are we trained to alter them. Yet it has long been clear that many medical and public health interventions will fail if we are unable to understand the social determinants of disease.”

Anyone with a third grade education should be able to understand this. Structural violence as a concept is not hard to understand. But it is a scary concept to people that have because those of us who have do not want to lose any of it.

Haitian Hearts brings children from Haiti to the United States for heart surgery. That is challenging to many people with Haitian kids invading their neighborhood and medical center. The same people that are challenged seeing these kids in their community would be fine with the concept of throwing some money at them in Haiti to put them in school or give them some rice and beans each day.

The child pictured at the top has very aggressive tuberculosis. The social structures in the world did not allow this child to “reach his full potential”, i.e. good health. This child definitely had “disparate access to resources…”

The picture at the bottom is a photo of a crushed empty bottle of Pedialyte lying in a puddle of sewage on a major street in Port-au-Prince.

Thanks to Haiti, even I can understand the danger and damage and death created by “structural violence” in the world.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Ground Zero Haitian Blogs

This little girl is from LaSaline, one of Haiti's infamous slums. She lives near the wharf where the sea containers are stored.

To see how a large Catholic medical center and Catholic Diocese in the midwest are neglecting Haitian children that desperately need heart surgery, go to Peoria's Medical Mafia. Also, go to Live From Haiti to see what is happening in Port-au-Prince from ground zero.