it wasn't yet time for her monthly appointment but she checks her sugars at home. they'd been high. she suspected another infection. i knew she was going to the hospital today but i didn't ask if she had money to get there. i didn't want to know. she called several times between 8 am and 9 am. i didn't answer. I wanted to pretend that if i didn't answer my phone that it meant she'd be fine. if i didn't answer the phone I wouldn't have to deal with where she was or how much money she didn't have or how we'd get it to her. i picked up on the sixth time and she was fine. she was at the hospital and had already been seen by the best doctor this side of heaven (in my opinion). she was waiting for the lab orders. she had, in fact, had enough money to get to the hospital and enough money to take the tap-tap back into town. she would wait for us under the stop light. yes, the same place where we met up with her after last week's dressing change to give her money to get home.* the lab tests would cost $300 gouds.
here is her story.
we had to meet kelinise today, on the side of the road, to give her money for laboratory tests she will have done on thursday at the hospital.
*home. it's not her home exactly. it's the home of someone her father knows. he has to pay this individual for her to stay there. with what money? i don't know. he has 14 children. he loves kelinise and is generous with her. but she is not welcome in his wife's home. he works in the fields and sometimes sends coconuts and avocados to Jenn and I when Kelinise makes the hour trip into Cap Haitien and then on to Milot for her doctor visits. her mother? Kelinise's mother has a total of six children but a stroke paralyzed her and rendered her unable to care for herself. she is now living with an adult child in the Dominican Republic. her house? the house where Kelinise used to live with her mother is being rented by another family. they don't want kelinise to stay in the house unless her brother is there with her. they fear her illness. what if something happened to her in the middle of the night? then what? maybe they fear that they'd have to rush her to the hospital if something went wrong. that would cost them money.
no one wants to be responsible for these expenses. no one.
her brother? her brother sounds like a nice guy. we've talked to him on the phone a few times. he cares about kelinise too. but he's trying to put himself through school. he would have only one year of school left had he not failed the national exam. twice. you only get two chances or you lose the school year. kid's in Haiti go to school for 14 years not counting any years that have to be repeated. it's hard to say if a 21 year old putting himself through school will have it in him to push through not one but two more years at this point. for many kids in the Haitian school system, that's just the end of the line.
kelinise is 18. she's in 5th grade. Or she would be in 5th grade if she was enrolled in school. many people have given up on her education. the director of her last school took her books and her uniform and told her not to come back. she was too sick. children in Haiti get punished for being sick.
in the time we been connected with kelinise she's been hospitalized 4 times, been prescribed 6 different blood pressure medication, suffered from 4 painful abscesses, begun treatment for neuropathy, been diagnosed with retinopathy, and gone from taking 30 units of NPH insulin a day to 45 units. after today's visit she thinks the doctor will increase her dose again.
Jenn's quoted this article before but I think it's worth revisiting. there's an article posted on the hospital's website that discusses diabetes in depth. it doesn't talk to much about type 1 diabetes however, except to acknowledge that many cases of DKA (super high blood sugar that leads to shock) were seen after the earthquake when children lost access to their source of insulin. and then it says this line: "Type 1 Diabetics are not commonly seen in Milot. This is most likely the result of premature death."
we actually have two 18 year old friends who've defied the odds and are living with type 1 diabetes. the difference between Kelinise and Milonia is that Milonia has a mom. she has someone that she can call during the day when she isn't feeling well. she has someone that believes in her enough to send her to school even though she might not be able to attend everyday, even though she might never make it past the 5th grade.
God caused our paths to cross with Kelinise's. we weren't able to turn away or say, "no." we fell in love with her smile and the way she said "take me with you" the day our American doctor friend called to tell us about a girl who was diabetic and living by herself; a girl he didn't think would survive. our involvement in her life has been tricky and delicate. her family situation is complicated and messy. we've tried to tread softly and we've tried not to screw up.
to be completely honest we don't know what to do. we buy some food items for her each month yet after last month's visit the doctor called us into her office and told us that kelinise has lost too much weight. of course, we see it too. she couldn't more than 80 lbs.
"we do give her food. maybe she's sharing it," we offered.
"she's definitely sharing. they will always share. maybe you just have to give more" the doctor concluded matter of factly. "i'll try and get her into the food program at the hospital. it's for TB patients and i don't know how much pull i will have but i'll try."
we thanked her and she thanked us back with unexpected sincerity. her and her husband, the hospital's lead surgeon, love kelinise. they treat her in a special way. they go the extra mile and they know she can't pay them back for it. i'd be lying if i told you i didn't wish that some nice Haitian family would just take her in. they'd be my first choice.
so we pay for hospital expenses and transportation to and from the countryside where she lives near her dad. this allows her to receive care at Milot hospital's diabetes clinic whenever she is feeling ill. we buy her insulin and insulin syringes, vitamins and the medications prescribed for her pain and hypertension. and we wait outside the room when she is getting her abscesses drained.
we were with her in the hospital the day she turned 18. the physician was about to send her down to the peds ward because she looked no more than 14 and was wearing barrettes. A nurse piped in and told the doctor she was 17. i told the doctor that today was her 18th birthday. the doctor wished her a happy birthday and made a joke about the barrettes. i came back to her hospital bed later and the barrettes were gone. 18 year olds don't wear toys in their hair.
statistics meet kelinise. kelinise meet adulthood.
oh wait. you've been an adult ever since the day you were diagnosed. You've know this life ever since your family, hard as they tried, stopped being able to do anything to ease your pain.
we had to meet her on the side of the road today to give her 300 gouds ($7.50). no one else had that money. in Haiti $7.50 is too much. people die because $7.50 is impossible.
no one wants these expenses. and no one wants to watch a family member suffer. we get it. we understand. how she has survived this long…only God knows.
it feels heavy.
she has people who love her but they fear her illness. they fear the cost. they abandoned her. but now that she has access to medical care they've gotten her back. little by little we've watched her let them back into her life.
she used to say she had nowhere to go. at one time she chose an orphanage over her family. now, at the end of a long day at the hospital she heads back up to her dad's.
i've cried for her many times. i've woken up in a panic wondering whether she's still alive. i've fallen asleep praying for her. truth is we can't love her alone. we might need some more help.
i'm posting about kelinise because that hit me today. the whole $7.50 thing… i'm glad she feels like she has access to medical care. it's a human right, isn't it? but in the hands of her family she wouldn't. she wouldn't have access to medical care and that hurts. this is the very thing that makes us so passionate as we sit here in Haiti and fight for families and fight to create this thing called Second Mile Haiti…it's helping families get to a point where medical care is manageable and accessible and parents can ensure this for their children.
we want to open this up to the great community that reads this blog and follows our progress with Second Mile Ministries. $7.50 might sounds like nothing. it is. it's nothing. when she's not doing so well the visit total can easily climb closer to $75 (thus the statistics).
here is her story.
i'm curious to see what God does through this group of people. i feel like we've set our sites too low on this one. i feel like He wants to invite us into the big plans that he does have for her scarred and sacred life.
maybe its not too late to enroll her in school? maybe its vocational school instead? maybe she'll play a part in the future of Second Mile Haiti.
i sort of love the word. maybe is made possible by the words of Phil 4:13. "i can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." whenever you think of it, please pray for our little friend. pray that God's plans for her life are realized and please pray especially that our humanness doesn't do anything to get in the way of that.
and if you can contribute a small monthly sum towards this young lady's future please note 'kelinise' in the comments section when setting up your donation.
to God be the glory for all He has done for his precious daughter.