Monday, November 11, 2013

HAITI :: A glimmer of hope

The ophthalmologist's office
When The Red Thread team sees the faintest glimmer of hope to improve the life of a child with a disability, we JUMP! Each child is treated as if they are our own. And, like any loving parent, we explore every option imaginable, even if it means coming to Haiti to accompany two blind boys to the ophthalmologist. So that’s just what we did.

The four-hour doctor visit

This past Thursday, Sonya took two St. Vincent’s students—Frenel and Geraldo—to see Dr. Reginald Taverne, one of the most highly regarded ophthalmologists in Haiti. In true Haitian style, the waiting room was hot and already brimming with patients. Thankfully, we were ushered into Dr. Taverne’s office right on time. As we completed paperwork and waited for the boy’s extensive eye tests to begin, we passed the time with stories, jokes, Kreyol lessons and drawings. 

Genie, Geraldo, and Frenel
Geraldo is quite a character! A sweet young man of 17 years, he is very passionate about life and optimistic about his future. He is also incredibly funny, joking around non-stop, eliciting giggles from everyone. At one point, he shared that at the age of 29 he was going to get married and begin to “multiply” the earth with many, many children. Great laughter ensued at the prospect, especially when it was established that he didn’t yet have a girlfriend!

During our wait, Frenel put out his hand toward the sound of Sonya’s voice. She touched his hand and he pulled hers into his soft grasp. His nimble fingers explored every nook and cranny of her fingers, hand and arm until his hand landed firmly in hers. It was almost as if he, this boy of 12, was reassuring her that all would be fine.

Which news do you want first?

The testing process was fascinating! Through these procedures, Dr. Taverne was able to see the tiniest details of each boy’s eyes to determine if either would be eligible for further treatment to restore any bit of sight.

Geraldo's test
Geraldo's eyes
Geraldo, having been blinded within the past two years due to head trauma, sustained detaching of both retinas. Dr. Taverne was able to drain the blood from the front of the eyes to more clearly view the retinas and assess the damage. The amazingly detailed photos showed the scar tissue and irreparable folding of the retina. The conclusion: there is nothing more that can be done. Not the news we had hoped to hear.

Frenel

However, the news with Frenel was quite different. An illness at the tender age of three took away the majority of his sight, leaving him only the ability to distinguish color and light sources. After a sonogram on his eye, Dr. Taverne offered a glimmer of hope for this child. While his left eye is completely lost from the sickness he sustained, his right eye may be operable. 

Dr. Taverne explained two very different procedures that might be an option for Frenel, following the results of one additional test that will be performed at a later date. Both surgeries present serious risk factors that need to be considered before any course of action is decided upon, discussions that will involve the surgeon, Frenel’s mother, St. Vincent’s, and The Red Thread.

A smile and a handshake

At the conclusion of the appointment, Sonya had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Taverne about The Red Thread’s care for these boys. She explained that we treat each child as though they are our own flesh and blood, doing everything we can to improve their health and wellbeing. She clarified that we would seek specialists in Haiti to perform any recommended procedures, and, only when all in-country options have been exhausted, would we put a child through the potential trauma international travel for treatment. 

With this reassurance, he smiled broadly, and shook Sonya’s hand. It was the start of another new relationship.

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