But, that’s ok because God wanted us busy with something else.
Let’s see how do I summarize everything….
Last weekend I headed to Port au Prince so that Tania could have one last surgery. LEAP was closing up her palette. This was the third time I have traveled to Port au Prince by truck in the last three months. The distance between Port au Prince and Cap Haitien is only 80 miles, but it takes a good 5 ½ hours to get to Port au Prince. Port au Prince is difficult to city to navigate because of all the "blokus." “Blokus” means traffic jam. I find this appropriate. I was beyond frustrated because after we arrived in the city it took us another 2 hours just to reach the hospital. We were in such a standstill that we decided to send Tania and Tania ahead on a moto just so they wouldn’t miss seeing Dr. Hobar for an evaluation. It was good to finally reach the hospital. I love the LEAP staff they are always so friendly and it is always good to see old and new faces. They blessed me by scheduling her surgery for 8 AM the following morning. They knew we had traveled so far, and it would have been difficult to wait two days. The next day there was a lot of waiting but I was perfectly okay with that. I had just been given the first of the Hunger Games series. I was occupied the entire time. She ended surgery around 2:30 and they had gave us permission to go home. Most patients need to stay a day, but they must think I'm getting pretty experienced with these surgeries....or maybe it's because I kept answering the "do you understand the discharge instructions?" question with "Yes....I mean my roommate is a nurse." That might of allowed us a little slack. We made that backseat into a bed, and baby Tania slept the entire time, only waking up to drink water. It was a little nervous because we drove 2 hours in the dark and pouring rain and someone was driving pretty fast... And um did I mention that most of the drive consists of driving up and down and around curvy mountain passes?? I'm lucky I don't know the conversion of km/h to mph. It was a little scarier this time. Amy must have texted me every 15 mins to make sure we were okay. But, we got home and Tania is recovering very nicely.
So now I’m sitting here writing this blog post a week later because Amy is making me and because there is a 17 year old girl sitting at our kitchen reading bible verses. Oh, why do we have a 17 yr sitting in our kitchen? Ah, yes… well last week while I was in Port au Prince I got a call from a medical doctor that was volunteering a few weeks of his time at our local hospital. The doctor was worried about a girl who had no where to go, no one to provide her with food, which was becoming especially dangerous in light of her diabetes. I told him that I needed to call Amy but that we would pray about this situation a little bit. A couple weeks ago we were also contacted by a family from the States that also knew of a girl that had diabetes around our area and they were seeking us out to see if we can give her assistance as well. We thought this was very interesting, and maybe a coincidence. But, we all know that with God in the picture there are no coincidences. On Tuesday we drove to the hospital and decided we would meet Kelinise.
We spent some time talking to our favorite Irish Sister before we were introduced to Kelinise. She looks after the least of these in the town that surrounds the hospital and so many of the patients look to her for hope and assistance. She lives at the hospital and is always walking around. We chatted with her for about an hour, and it was a good chance to talk to her about our project. Which by the way she thinks is great! She had done something similar while she was in Africa. She was so enthusiastic. It was nice to hear her positive feedback. Then she turned the conversation to Kelinise.
She confirmed that Kelinise had no where to go, but that she has a brother and friends that visit her. We thought it was interesting that she had all these people visiting her yet no place to call home. But it makes perfect sense we you meet her. Kelinise is 17 yrs old, but she looks like she's only 14 and everyone says that. This is her seventh hospitalization. The nurses, doctors, cleaning staff, security gaurds, families of other patients all know her. I’m also sure they all love her too, the way they all stop and talk to her when they see her. We knew she was special the first couple minutes we were in the room she shared with six other patients. Even without saying anything, she lit up the place. We asked her some questions and got bits and pieces of her story.
Over time we've learned that her mom is now paralyzed after a recent stroke. An an older half sister came to Haiti to take her mom back to the Dominican Republic to care for her. Kelinise wasn't invited. We are not sure where her Dad is but he has a total of 15 children, which in Kelinise words is too much, since other people have had to step in as parents for many of these kids. Only 4 of them share the same mother and father. Of the 4, a younger sister was taken in by a women in Port-au-Prince several years ago and again Kelinise wasn't invited. Her other older sister recently moved to Port au Prince with her newborn baby. Kelinise was left behind. Her brother is in a government funded school in town. She recently was living in house with a family. They had given her a place to sleep, but then they to decided to leave town. They left Ketlanise behind. Why? Why have all these people seemingly abandoned her? It’s not because she isn’t wonderful. It’s because she has type 1 diabetes.
Her disease is expensive and has cost her to be hospitalized seven times because she can’t afford insulin. And even when the hospital has the grace to give her insulin at a discounted rate she can't afford food to take with it. It is for this, that everyone has given up trying to help.
After meeting her we knew she will now be a part of our lives for a long time. But, we just needed to figure out exactly what that would look like. We thought about an orphanage we know and trust. It has both a church and a school attached. Amy knows the pastor very well and he was happy to meet with us on a moments notice. We explained the situation, asking mainly for advise. How do we know what is absolutely best for her? At this point we didn't quite have all the family details worked out.
H listened intently and we couldn't have been more delighted with his response. The first thing he said was "did you know that I have diabetes?" No we did not know that. And the second thing.
Why don't you let me take her for you. She can stay here and we will try her in school as well?
We were so excited to hear all of this. First of all, orphanages generally seem to be always full all the time. How unexpected it was to hear him offer us a bed. Secondly, the third trimester of school started two weeks ago. Kelinise has completed 5 years of school and would need to take the 6th year test in order to qualify for high school. It is unheard of for a school director to allow her to enter the 6th year at this late date. But we took a chance asking about these highly unlikely options and were met with a an excellent option for Kelinise.
Later that night we picked her up from the hospital and brought her to her new home. She seemed okay with this and Amy and I were suprised. She seemed happy to just to have a “temporarily place.” We discussed with the pastor all the special treatment she would need, and that we are going to need to bring her food and insulin. The problem with diabetes you need to be careful with the food you intake, and a bigger problem is that Haitians eat all the wrongs food. They don’t mean to it's just custom. The problem with insulin is that it’s hard to find, and it’s expensive. So we said goodnight to Kelinise and I spent the next day looking for some healthy food options and...insulin.
I went to 13 different pharmacies. I found only one pharmacy that had insulin, and it was his last bottle. In the bottle it was 1000 units of the drug, but Kelinise needs 1800 units each month. The bottle cost $25. So in order to survive she needs to have $50 a month to spend on just insulin alone. Most Haitians don’t have the money to travel to 13 different pharmacies to find the one bottle of insulin, and after that most Haitians don’t have $25 to spend on medicine for just one family member, even something as important as insulin.
I also went to several markets looking for snack foods and different foods she can replace with all the rice and spaghetti Haitians eat. This little shopping spree ended up being very expensive. When Amy got home she found me in my bed. I couldn’t stop crying. I don’t usually cry, but suddenly I was crying for all the people that have diabetes in Haiti. I was frustrated, and felt helpless. I started reading everything I could on diabetes since most of what I understood about having diabetes came from the time I had a roommate with the disease. We found ourselves measuring the appropriateness of certain meal options by saying...no Maria never ate that, and oh yeah, yeah, that's what Maria used to do.
I came across this website on the Crudem Foundation website.. It made me even more sad.
“In a poor country such as Haiti, early disease identification and management is essential. Haitians have no access to unemployment or disability financial support. There is no rehabilitation or long term care facilities in Haiti. Home health care is non-existent. There are no public measures in place to accommodate disability. Thus, at a certain burden of disease, survival in Haiti becomes impossible. The most effective medical intervention strategy in Haiti is to intervene early in the course of disease to assure the patient a high level of function and a minimal need for costly, frequent and potentially unavailable medical care.”
“Diabetes is defined as persistently elevated blood sugars. This results from either an absolute or relative insulin deficiency. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas undergoes an autoimmune attack which renders it incapable of insulin production (absolute insulin deficiency.) This typically occurs in younger people. They have a life-long need for insulin administration. In type 2 diabetes, insulin production is relatively inadequate compared to blood sugar levels. This usually occurs in adults, has a genetic component and correlates with obesity. Type 2 diabetics can often be controlled with diet and oral medications. At times, these patients may require insulin as well.”
“Type 1 diabetics are not commonly seen in Milot. This is most likely the result of premature death. Type 1 diabetics require insulin at all times. Without insulin, they rapidly develop a condition known as DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis.) This condition is characterized by elevated blood sugars, acid-base disturbance, electrolyte deficiencies and dehydration.” (to read on)
Kelinise has Type 1.
After Amy got home we went to the orphanage to bring her all of the food and insulin I had purchased. She checked her blood sugar level with the meter we brought her and it was too high. Way too high. Since we couldn't get ahold of her doctor by phone we decided to head back to the hospital to ease our minds. And make sure there wasn't anything additional she could do to regulate her sugar. It was the food she'd eaten that did it. Here she was given two nutritious meals, but they were too heavy, to high in carbohydrates and that put her over the edge. She was told to proceed with her normal dose of insulin that evening and that by morning her levels should be within in range again.
By this time Amy and I had decided she was going home with us, and she had no choice. We needed to monitor her and we felt like that could only happen at our house. We wouldn't be able to sleep if she was anywhere else! So here she is with us. And we enjoy her, alot. We are taking the weekend to watch how her blood sugar responds to certain meals and snack choices. We are still praying about the next step...what to do when the weekend is over. Maybe we'll be to figure out how to adjust what she'd be eating at the orphanage and she'll get to live and attend school with the other kids.
Whatever happens, Kelinise is not too worried about it. Amy asked her to show her her favorite Bible verse. She started reading Matthew 6 "...and do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air that they do not sow nor reap nor gather and yet your heavenly Father feeds them."
We ask you to pray for Kelinise and all the people that have diabetes in Haiti.