Visiting Daniel

by JOHN CARROLL, MD

Port-au-Prince.

I checked on Daniel again the other day. He lives in a slum in Port-au-Prince called Project Drouillard which is considered to be part of Cite Soleil. The abject squalor of both places seems the same to me.

I carefully climbed the steps to his second story flat and entered the dark room which he and his five siblings share. Daniel looks better to me than he did in January and he proudly showed me his new Haitian passport which had been issued to him the day before. It took a month of hard work to get this and he keeps the passport tucked inside the front cover of his Bible.

However, we still have no medical center to accept Daniel for his heart surgery. We have contacted about 15 excellent people and medical centers but still don’t have a definite “yes” from anyone. I told Daniel I have no place to take him with his shiny new blue passport and all he did was calmly nod his head yes. He seems like an innocent man on death row who is still optimistic that his execution will be put on hold.

I remember the day in 2000 that Haitian Hearts had a group of five or six kids gathered and ready to go the next morning to the States for heart surgery. I put the kids and their family members in a guesthouse so I would not “lose” any of them in the chaos and mayhem of Port-au-Prince. We had a private jet arranged to come to Port-au-Prince to get all of us the next morning and everything needed to proceed smoothly for us to make it out.

The night before we were to leave I received a message from someone in the States involved with the flight that there would not be enough seats on the plane for all of us to fly. One of the kids would not be able to go. And so I had to decide which one would not go.

Daniel was the oldest “kid”. I factored in all of the various cardiac pathologies and the social conditions of the children involved and chose Daniel as the one who would not be on the plane the next morning. I remember telling him that he would not be making the trip and that we would try and bring him on a subsequent trip. Daniel took the news just fine and did not complain one bit and neither did his older brother who was staying with him.

When morning came I received another message that the pilot would make an exception and he did have an extra seat after all. (I think it was because an adult could hold one of the sick babies on her lap during the flight, but I can’t remember for sure.) I excitedly told Daniel the good news that he would be flying with us and would have his heart surgery. He responded with very little emotion.

Daniel hasn’t changed much since 2000. He is now a courageous Haitian man who is unafraid and takes each day as it comes. We need to give Daniel another chance. He has much to teach us.

John A. Carroll, M.D. is a physician working in Port-au-Prince.

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