Via his Dispatches from Haiti blog in the Peoria Journal Star, Dr. John Carroll writes about Very Poor Mitchena. Click through for his photo of Mitchena—as always, Dr. Carroll's photography is beautiful and heartbreaking.
Mitchena showed up in the pediatric clinic in Cite Soleil in March of this year and I posted about her here. Her father brought her to the clinic after he checked himself out of the hospital in Saint Marc which is a city about sixty minutes north of Port-au-Prince. He had been sick with some unknown illness and had a dilapidated suitcase at his side.
Both Mitchena and her father looked terrible and pathetic. They seemed very poor and they acted the way very poor people act. They were meek and docile and seemed resigned. After thirty years in Haiti one can tell the difference between poor and very poor.
Mitchena didn’t talk and didn’t smile but she did cooperate for her exam which revealed that she had a big sick heart and a leaky mitral valve. Mitchena was in heart failure and taking no medication.
I advised Mitchena’s father to take her immediately by public transportation to a free pediatric hospital in Port-au-Prince. I gave him the directions by telling him the hospital was located “near the American Embassy”. He agreed and they shuffled out of the office. Neither of them showed any emotion at any time.
Bleak does not describe this scenario and I felt ill as I stared against the wall of my office and thought about Mitchena’s chances. I knew they were slim to none. But I tried to reassure myself that in Haiti there is always hope… until there isn’t. And Haitians push until their force is completely gone.
Mitchena is scheduled for heart surgery at 8 AM tomorrow morning to have her mitral valve replaced. I alerted an American team of physicians who were coming to the pediatric hospital that Mitchena was there and needed an echocardiogram and assessment. That was eight months ago. And thanks to this pediatric cardiovascular team Mitchena gets her chance that very poor people rarely get.
If Mitchena survives surgery I can guarantee you that her father and Mitchena will be the same. She will complain of no post-operative pain and their faces will be unflinching. And they will still be very poor.
If Mitchena does not make it, no questions will be asked, and her father will return stoically to St. Marc with his daughter’s body and his old suitcase. And life will go on.