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Do Jimmy Kimmel and Haiti Have Anything in Common?

Photo by John Carroll.

No one hears the cry of the poor or the sound of a wooden bell.

— Haitian proverb

This past Spring on his late night show, Jimmy Kimmel tearfully told the world that his baby boy Billy was born on April 21 with severe heart disease called Tetralogy of Fallot. Shortly after he was born, Billy’s nurse was examining him and heard a heart murmur that should not have been present.  Many pediatric specialists were immediately consulted, and at three days of age, little Billy had his first heart surgery (of a three-stage procedure) and did very well.

Jimmy went on to say that Los Angeles Children’s Hospital, where Billy underwent surgery, was full of babies from all different socioeconomic backgrounds. He also told the viewing audience that there was a proposal to defund the National Institute of Health for 6 billion dollars and that it should not happen because it would imperil children’s medical care across the US.

Jimmy opened his monologue last night holding Billy in his arms only one week after Billy’s second heart surgery. Billy looked absolutely great.

Once again, Jimmy was tearful as he told us about his son. He explained that Billy will have one more surgery at an older age. Jimmy said that the fight is not over for the millions of children whose health is threatened right now because of the potential loss of a very important program called CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program). CHIP is in serious need of funding because Congress recently failed to approve funding for it. Democrats and Republicans have always overwhelmingly supported it – until now. Jimmy said CHIP is being used as a bargaining chip and encouraged everyone to call the House and Senate at (202) 225-3121 to tell them to take a break from tax cuts and fully fund CHIP now.

Jimmy Kimmel is obviously emotional about the rights of all children in the United States to be granted health care and pleaded not to let partisan political squabbles divide us. His own critical experience with his son has forced Jimmy’s hand to advocate for all children.

Compare Ichna to Billy. Eight-year-old Ichna was born in Haiti with a large hole in her heart and lives in a slum in Port-au-Prince.  I examined Ichna for the first time in October.  Unfortunately, it is too late to operate her. She has irreversible high blood pressure in her lungs due to her heart problem. If her heart had been operated when she was a baby, she would be fine today. But now her days are numbered.

I have a feeling that if Ichna were Jimmy’s daughter, he would not have handled it well if Ichna were denied surgery as a baby. However, Ichna’s mother’s love for her daughter doesn’t count in Haiti. She has absolutely no voice.

I guess one could ask: Should I be comparing Ichna to Billy? Are we comparing apples to apples?  My answer is yes. They are both little human beings who happen to be separated by some water.

Does Ichna have the same rights as Billy Kimmel? The World Health Organization  Constitution states that health is a FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHT.

“The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.

“Almost 70 years after these words were adopted in the Constitution of the World Health Organization, they are more powerful and relevant than ever.
Since day one, the right to health has been central to WHO’s identity and mandate. It is at the heart of my top priority: universal health coverage.

“The right to health for all people means that everyone should have access to the health services they need, when and where they need them, without suffering financial hardship.

“No one should get sick and die just because they are poor, or because they cannot access the health services they need.”

(Statement by Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General–December 10, 2017)

Ichna has the same basic rights as Billy, but her rights are not honored and never will be in her lifetime. Even if her mom could read, she would not believe these words in the WHO Constitution. They are words formed from ideas at big expensive tables, but these words are just blowing in the breeze. Ichna has no national television audience watching her. And she has no one except her mother who will cry for her when she is gone.

It’s hard to hear two worlds away
The sound is dull and quickly fades
The wooden bell of Citè Soleil.

(Bryan Serchio)

 

More articles by:

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

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