Oniste and I left her cousin’s home in LaPlaine at noon on Wednesday July 24. And after only one car breakdown on the way to the airport in Port-au-Prince, we arrived at the very crowded American Airlines terminal. Fourteen hours later at midnight we arrived in Denver. Oniste handled the trip well and ignored the stares she received in the airports. She had become very used to stares during the last three years of her illness.
On Friday July 26 after an MRI and CAT scan at Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, Oniste was given a general anesthetic and underwent a four hour interventional radiology procedure by Dr. Wayne Yakes. Dr. Yakes was able to successfully embolize and obstruct feeding vessels to the massive tumor on Oniste’s forehead. This was done to minimize the amount of bleeding she would have during the surgery to remove the tumor.
Over the weekend Oniste, who had been admitted to Swedish after the radiologic procedure, rested very well. Her surgery to have the tumor removed was planned for Monday July 29 by vascular surgeon Dr. Christopher Morin.
On Sunday night Oniste and I talked how this was the very last night she would ever go to sleep with the weight of her tumor oppressing her physically and psychologically. She was so happy to be at the end of this road in her life.
The next day Oniste entered the operating room, was put to sleep, and Dr. Morin removed the mass quickly after making two very large elipitical incisions from just above her eyebrows to the top of her forehead. He was able to scoop out the massive tumor with the palm of his hand as the tumor abutted the skull bone. He then carefully closed the wound. Oniste only lost three hundred cc’s of blood…not very much for the size of this lesion.
She quickly woke up in the recovery room and when she was fully awake the nurse showed her what she looked like in the mirror. Oniste was delighted to see herself and exclaimed “alleluhia”. The grotesque mass disfiguring her forehead was gone.
Over the next few days Oniste did well and was discharged from Swedish on Thursday. The Denver metropolitan Haitian community had heard about Oniste and Nehemie, a lady in the community, called me and offered to host Oniste in their home after she was discharged.
At 5 PM on Thursday August 1, Oniste left Swedish a “free woman”. She was no longer being stared at as she climbed into Nehemie’s car for transport to her new home in Denver.
Oniste was discharged a week ago today. The results of her pathology report of her tumor are still pending.
When Oniste arrived in Denver two weeks ago she was very anemic and malnourished. She had lost twenty pounds in Haiti. She was hungry in Haiti but just could not eat because it hurt too much for her to chew. Now that the mass is gone, she is eating very well. We have her on vitamins and iron replacement also.
Oniste is walking with much more spring in her step and speaks very strongly and confidently now. She is anxiously awaiting to hold her three year old daughter Lynsey in her arms again.
Neither Oniste or I think she had much time left in Haiti. Something positive had to happen quickly for Oniste and it did. We are very grateful to the kind Swedish Medical Center’s staff, Drs. Yake and Morin, and for all the Haitian community here in Denver who have cared for and embraced her. All of these people have enforced and gave real meaning to the Haitian statement “tout moun se moun” (every person is a person).
John A. Carroll, M.D. is a physician working in Port-au-Prince.