Behind my house lies the wreckage of a home destroyed in the earthquake. In the yard, behind this crumpled house, down a path lined by chickens and bushes, is a bright green wooden house. After the earthquake a family lived in the yard of the crumpled house as their own home was destroyed in the quake. Due to donations to our ministry's earthquake relief fund from people around the world, Child Hope/MdL was able to build a pre-fabricated home, this green house, for this family. The mother of the home works across the street from our boys home as a cook. She sells her food on the street. Everyone in our ministry refers to her as "The Happy Cook" because she always has a gigantic smile on her face.
About two months ago "The Happy Cook's" daughter, Sophiana, approached me saying her ear was hurting. Sophiana attends the school that it is a part of our ministry. I checked out her ear and started her on a week's course of Amoxicillin. The pain continued beyond the week. She saw me in the clinic and asked for help again. I am not very knowledgeable about ears and the treatment for ears (beyond Amoxicillin) so I instructed her to go see a doctor at a nearby hospital. A week later she approached me saying it was still hurting and the doctor she saw said it looked fine. No medicine prescribed. I gave her ibuprofen and had the principal of the school, Ivens, explain to her mother how to take her to the University of Miami Hospital that was created here after the earthquake. A few days later I ran into the the principal and Sophiana on the street, looking for me. Sophiana and her mother had visited the U of M hospital, but the guards would not let her in the gate. I was annoyed for her, but not surprised. Sometimes if you don't get there early enough you won't be allowed to enter to see a doctor at their clinic and if you don't look like you're in the midst of an emergency, you won't be allowed to enter the hospital. In my mind, this was an emergency as the bone behind her ear was starting to swell and cause the ear to stick out.
Ivens asked me to take her to the hospital as, because I am white, I could have a better chance at getting her in. As much as I hate it, I knew this was true. The first time I took Sophiana there, we were told two doctors were in surgery, but all the other doctors (foreigners who staff the hospital for a few weeks at a time) had left due to the unrest from the elections. Because I was persistent, I managed to talk to a nurse who instructed us to come by early the next morning and Sophiana would see a surgeon. The next morning found those doctors absent with no plan to arrive that day. Sophiana saw another doctor who appeared to be an intern and did not get excited enough about the infection to satisfy me. She was prescribed a ten day course of Augmentin and we were referred to General Hospital to see an Ear Nose and Throat doctor. I've never been to this hospital but I'd heard stories. Antonio, who was driving us, said he would need to bring a mattress to wait if he were to go by himself. In other words, he would be sleeping there for a long time before he were to get seen. He had a little more hope if I were to go, but still thought we should find another place for her to be seen. Later that afternoon a nurse practitioner arrived with a team from Canada to stay with us for the week. He checked out Sophiana's ear and thought she should be hospitalized and started on IV antibiotics. The swelling from the ear had also spread to her eye. Her ear infection had turned into an infection called mastoiditis, where the bone behind and above the ear becomes infected. The worry is that it can spread to the brain and cause meningitis.
The pictures are a bit grainy, but you can see the swelling (the shiny part) above her ear. Her eye was swollen shut for a day before beginning aggressive antibiotic therapy.
We checked out a few other hospitals that afternoon who refused to treat her and each recommended General Hospital. That night I sent out a few emails to missionaries here and to a doctor in the states who often volunteers her time in Haiti with other missionary friends of mine. This doctor, Jen Halverson, kindly called me that night and we discussed Sophiana's case. She passed on the girl's info to another expat doctor working at General Hospital and then we met her the next day. An ENT was also supposedly working there, but of course he was not there that day. The expat doctor, although specializing in TB, was very knowledgeable about how to treat the infection and suggested a course of antibiotics that I actually already had in stock at our clinic. I gave Sophiana five days of intramuscular injections of Ceftriaxone as well as oral Augmentin. I include these details in case medical people read this and take an interest in helping Sophiana.
At General Hospital we were referred to an ENT in the same area and we actually saw him later that day. He confirmed her diagnosis, took it very seriously, and agreed on the antibiotic regimen. After 5 days of Ceftriaxone IM, it was discontinued and she was started on Sulfacetamide ear drops and continued on the Augmentin. Fluid drained from behind the ear early last week, relieving much of the pressure and pain. This week I took Sophiana to another ENT recommended by Dr. Halverson for a second opinion. He recommended changing the ear drops to Ofloxacin and continuing the Augmentin for another five days. He has ordered a CT scan and recommends having a mastoidectomy performed, a surgical procedure where the infected portion of the mastoid is cleaned out.
This blog post has two goals. One, to share what healthcare in Haiti is like and how difficult it can be to navigate. Two, to share Sophiana's medical and financial needs and ask for your help in meeting them. The cost of the CT scan is $275 US dollars. Each doctor's appointment is $34 US dollars. The cost of the surgery is approximately $12000 HD (I'm waiting to hear back from the doctor about the exact amount), which equals $1,500 US dollars. Added together, this amounts to $1,877 USD (I am presuming that she will need at least three more doctor's visits, if not more). We are in need of people who will consider contributing to the cost of the CT scan and to the cost of the surgery. With most Haitians earning less than $1 per day, this is obviously not something Sophiana's family can pay for. Without the surgery, she may not regain her hearing in the affected ear and the infection will most likely spread to her brain. Please prayerfully consider how you may help her. If you are interested, you may donate here. Please include a note that you are donating specifically to Sophiana's medical fund, as otherwise the money will be allocated elsewhere. All donations are tax deductible.
Thank you for reading and for your prayers on behalf of Sophiana. May your New Year be blessed!