On Monday, a week ago, David Senatus, our 15 year-old young man with the heart condition, was admitted to the hospital in Haiti. It was determined that he had an infection in his heart and was in grave condition. He was having heart failure.
We had been working to get the travel documents in hand for the March 24 departure that had been scheduled, but instead began working to get them sooner so he could get to Arkansas and have the surgery done sooner. One day into working with the Embassy, we found out that the Haitian Immigration office is back up and operating and we had to have passports for David and Gilbert before we could get the new travel docs.
I alerted the Consular Officer I had been working with to the urgency of getting David to the States with the new illness that had developed. They were very helpful, but still we had to work around the slooow Haitian system. The doctor caring for David also took the initiative to write an emergency proclamation to the Haitian passport officials to expedite David’s passport.
By Friday we had the doctor’s letter, the Embassy’s letter for expedition and were ready to go to the passport office, but it closed early. So we waited. David has not been able to lie down. If he gets any sleep, it is in a sitting position or laying on two or three pillows propped against his dad’s chest.
On Sunday evening (that was just last night – seems like a week ago!), Tonya (HFHC Operations Manager) contacted me and said that a man named James, a 4-year med student on sabbatical (financial as he put it) was working right now as a journalist and was in the DR with GO Ministries. If you recall, it was GO that flew me out via Santiago, DR back in February for the birth of my grandson. Anyway, James said there was this shipment of medical supplies that had been sitting in the GO warehouse for a while. There was some problem with how it was addressed and so they could not send it on. He saw that it said Hope for Haiti’s Children on it. It bugged him that some ministry was missing their medical supplies, so he started looking on the internet for Hope for Haiti’s Children. He called Tonya and they started talking about this shipment for us. Tonya put me in touch with James. I was pretty sure, but not positive that the shipment was not for us – no one had mentioned sending us anything through GO. In his conversation with Tonya, she had mentioned something about David and his condition. This caught James’ attention and he just jumped on it with me. First off he said we can get him out on a plane in the morning. The plane leaves at dawn. I was like, “huh?”
I said, well let’s wait a minute, they don’t have their passports yet – we were going first thing in the morning to work on that. James said, “They don’t need them. This lady, Robin, can get them cleared“. At first I was getting excited that this could happen, but a little farther into the conversation, I started having visions of orphans with no documents crossing the Dominican border and me sitting in jail.
So I said to James, “I’m sorry, but I have to ask this question – is this really on the level, the up and up?”
He said, this is what Robin does for a living and that she would not put a multimillion dollar business in jeopardy. So I got Tonya on a different Skype page and asked her to look into the C.A.R.E. organization. She found them to be reputable, so I said let’s go for it!
After scanning and emailing lots of docs and through lots of Skyping and emails, Robin said go on to bed and check your email early in the morning. The plane will be in PAP at 8:30, but they are not cleared in Florida yet. We’ll know by 6 or 7. So I was in bed by midnight and up by 3:45 to check email.
We live an hour from the airport. The hospital is another 30 minutes on a good traffic day. We don’t have good traffic days here anymore. So it took me almost two hours to get to the hospital. The doctor was working to get all the records ready to send with David, but the generator at the hospital was having mechanical problems and there was no electricity from the city power company. We were cutting it close now, since it was almost 9:00 and we were still waiting on records. The pilot had a limited amount of time to be on the ground.
Long traffic story short, we were almost to the airport when I got a phone call. It was a reporter (sorry – I think her name was Carrie?) from MSNBC. They were waiting for us in the airport. Ugh, I thought! This could jeopardize everything! Robin had just told me that the airport had been taken by the Haitian authorities, so the lack of docs could be an issue. Just what we needed – to draw attention to our situation! The news reporter assured me they would be discreet. Well, they weren’t exactly, but it turned out just fine. They also had two doctors with them, who immediately examined David to make sure he was stable enough to travel. MAF was gracious enough to let us invade their office so the doc could hear David’s heart sounds.
Okay, so it was finally time to leave. We started walking to the plane and a few steps into it David had to be carried. He could not get enough breath and his heart was hurting. He was carried the rest of the way and immediately put on a quickly jerry-rigged oxygen flow. He recovered fairly quickly. Did I mention that CARE wanted to send a doctor or nurse along to monitor David in flight, but could not find one on short notice? They found a 4-yr med student on sabbatical – whose name was James. So I got to meet this man I had spoken with the night before and who had orchestrated this event taking place.
At this point I want to note how great all of these people were – so kind, gentle and caring to David and his father – James Lea, Robin Reissler, the two doctors (I am sorry – I am the world’s worst at names!),Gary Lewis the pilot, the co-pilot, the reporter, the camera crew.
David and Gilbert were strapped in and ready for take off. At 11:45 they were in the air and on the way to Fort Lauderdale! That was one exciting moment!
I heard that they made it into Ft. Lauderdale and cleared immigration and customs with no problems, but David’s vitals became a concern. The paramedics gave him a better oxygen mask, and he was stabilized and off to Little Rock. My understanding is that David even got to fly the plane a for a while! What a great experience for him!
David is now in ICU at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, with his oxygen in and a grin from cheek to cheek on his face. (Side note: one of the doctors who came to the airport did her residency at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and under the same surgeon who will do David’s surgery. She confirmed what we had already heard – that this is a fantastic hospital and that David will receive the very best of care.)
The doctors are concerned with his condition and began evaluating him immediately. No word yet on when surgery will be done, but it should be soon.
Prayers were answered rapidly and in ways “beyond what we could ask or imagine”! Thank you to each one of you who has said even one prayer for David–but I know many of you have been fervently praying for him.
Oh and did I mention that the medical shipment sitting at Go Ministries was not for Hope for Haiti’s Children? It was for Help for Haiti’s Children. What a goof James made! 🙂 God indeed does work in mysterious ways!
David is sponsored by one of my Bunco buddies, Jeanine.
All writing and photos property of LoneStarLifer. 2010