Haiti, the Long Defeat


Jean-Baptiste, Maxime, and Yarnie have all died in the last few years.

All three were young Haitian Hearts patients who were operated at OSF-Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria a decade ago.

However, OSF’s administrative and legal teams in Peoria would not allow any of them to come back to OSF for heart surgery.

If you would have asked me 10 years ago if I would have guessed that OSF would do this, I would have said no.

The  Sisters’ OSF Mission Philosophy includes the following:

“We care for the whole person, in their physical, emotional, spiritual and relational dimensions. Our concern extends to all persons we encounter, turning no one away for reason of race, color, religion or economic status.”

Obviously the Sisters Philosophy does not apply to Haitian Hearts patients.

So how could OSF’s administrative and legal team dictate who lives and dies?

* * *

Peorians are very afraid of OSF. And they should be. One host mom was “threatened” when she disagreed on the “embargo” of Haitian kids returning to OSF.

Jean-Baptiste, Maxime, and Yarnie’s doctors would have liked them to be able to return to Peoria for heart surgery. But they had to be very careful too.

We are a small community and OSF is strong in so many ways. It is all about money and the business community walking lock- step.

And where was the Catholic Diocese of Peoria?

Where was Bishop Daniel Jenky? His front door is only six blocks from OSF’s front door.

What has he said in public about dying Haitian Hearts kids?


He fears the money and power at OSF as well.

The Rev. Martin Luther King, while imprisoned in a Birmingham jail in 1963, wrote the following about the church community:

“There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period that the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was the thermostat that transformed the mores of society.”

Unfortunately, our Church leaders in Peoria acquiesced to OSF regarding the lives of Haitians. The largest downstate hospital in Illinois and its power were deemed more important  by the Church than the lives of Haitian kids who had no power.

In the last few years we have buried Haitian kids while OSF- Children’s Hospital of Illinois was building a new 250 million dollar state-of-the-art facility here in Peoria.

* * *

So what do I tell Jenny and Henri?

Jenny Guillaume and Henri Andrik both had heart surgery at OSF in the late 90′s.  Both survived the earthquake and both need repeat heart surgery now. I examined both of them several weeks ago in Port-au-Prince.

Should I tell them they don’t count? That they had their chance? Should I tell them the truth that our big Catholic medical center does not want them back?

I can’t find other medical centers in the United States to accept them. Other centers think Jenny and Henri are OSF’s medical and ethical responsibility. And they are of course.

What if the few remaining Sisters at OSF and The Catholic Diocese of Peoria stood together and demanded that the Sister’s mission statements be followed at OSF regarding Jenny and Henri? (Bishop Jenky told me that the Sisters still own OSF.)

OSF’s legal team and administrator would back down.

Haitian Hearts would bring both of these young adults back to Peoria and reunite them with their host families.  I paid Children’s Hospital of Illinois 23,000 dollars cash for Jenny’s first surgery and Haitian Hearts has donated over 1.1 million dollars to OSF- Children’s Hospital of Illinois. We would pay OSF partial charges for both Jenny and Henri. (The doctors always do their work pro bono.)

So that would be good for Jenny and Henri, because right now they don’t have long-term futures in Haiti with their failing hearts.

And it would be good for the Sisters because their Mission Philosophy would be followed as Haitians would not be excluded.

It would also be great for the attending medical staff and nursing personnel at OSF.  The vast majority of physicians and nurses have enjoyed extending their medical expertise for the welfare of Haitian patients.

Medical students at University of Illinois-College of Medicine in Peoria and the young Resident Physicians at OSF would benefit educationally from taking care of the sequelae of rheumatic heart disease which afflict Jenny and Henri.

And other medical centers in the United States would see OSF putting the patient ahead of profit and maybe they would do the same. And we could all benefit.

Goodness can snowball if given the chance.

And the slope of the “long defeat” would not be so steep.

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

More articles by:

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

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