Monday, April 27, 2015

Mondesir is on his way!

Mondesir, February 2015, in Port-au-Prince.

Today, 41-year-old Mondesir is flying to Denver where he will have aortic valve surgery. This is Mondesir's second trip to the United States. Haitian Hearts brought him in 1999 for valve surgery also. Second open heart surgeries are frequently more complicated than the initial surgery. We are very thankful to have located a surgeon and a hospital willing to care for Mondesir.

It takes a lot of hard work and some miracles to bring patients from Haiti to the United States. Everything from finding a hospital and host family to getting the patient a visa to coordinating pre-op care in Haiti is a tough battle that often requires a divine assist.

Last week, after Mondesir received his visa, we bought him a round trip plane ticket to Denver. His cousin Franceska, who helped coordinate many of the details in Haiti wrote John an email that in its imperfect English more perfectly communicated her gratitude:

Hi Dr John,
Well received .Thanks a Milliiiiion .
Thanks to everyone that help that comes true.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Daniel's Words Of Wisdom

We have a Haitian Hearts patient, Daniel, who had heart valve surgery last year. He is recuperating in the United States as he learns to regulate the blood thinners that he will have to take for the rest of his life. 

Daniel sends us frequent, grateful tests and emails in his fractured English. But somehow, even though he confuses his pronouns and makes other grammatical mistakes, his messages are more true than if they were written in the King's English. Read the following and see if you know what I mean.

Hi dr John how are you and your familly all is fine ok for me good by thank God. I say thank you Jesus and you too ok you miss me so much, I love love love you fore ever God bless you, good job dr John by
Hi dr John my good Daddy! How are we all is good by thank God? For me it's ok. God bless you Dad ok have a good day hi for your wife
         Hi Dr John this is Daniel, how are you doing and your family, i think by thanks God everything          is good for you. For me it's well because Jesus is very good for we. Ok the pleasure is mine to              write you for tell you: Happy birth day to you my Dad I love you so much and I ask and praying          God for just for give you a long time the life and blessing you for ever ! Hi for your family and             have a good night by Thanks God I love you Daddy bye !!!
Hi Dr John this is Daniel, how are you doing and your family everything is fine with Jesus ? THe check today is 2.9 it's good. Don't forget I would like to go in your home please ok have a good night with Jesus hi for your wife God bless we and I love you so much Daddy ! 
         Hi dr. John how are you today ? This is Daniel anything is good so thank you so much for                    contact your searching for me oh i love you so so much ! good job my Dad I think God can                  open  more doors for and me, protect you in all danger hi for your wife  and I love we !

         I'm Daniel dr John how are you and your wife im for she. Don't worry because God is big and I          trust in him, I took my responsability I'm never miss my medication. ok God bless you, I love                you Dad !
Hi Dr. John. this is Daniel, how are you today? Your wife is well hi for her, have a good night with Jesus i love us.
          Hi dr John how are you today ? I'm so great because my coaguChek car is working right by               thanks God so the results is: 2.6 okay have a good afternoon with the big Jesus my defenser                 bye love you !
Immigration writed me, he said he works for me.

My favorite phrases:  Hi Dr. John, my good daddy; ok have a good night with Jesus; God bless we;
good job my Dad; I love we; Don't worry because God is big; your wife is well hi for her have a good night with Jesus i love us; have a good afternoon with the big Jesus my defenser.

And last and most improbably: immigration writed me, he said he works for me.

Daniel, I hope it's so.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Circumscribed lives

Above are two pictures of Anderson. On the top John is examining him in 2000. Anderson has a small hole between the lower two chambers of his heart, but fortunately this defect doesn't affect his heart's functioning.

The picture below was taken yesterday by John. Here is what he wrote in his email accompanying it:

Haiti is chucked full of young men and women just like him that are so aggressive and want to make something of themselves. He will stare away from me sometimes and think of his future and he shakes his head no....there is a sadness about him at age he thinks his dreams are not going to work...he made the shirt you see...he made it from cloth and he went to a sewing school when he left here this morning..he says he is learning how to make pants now...I felt so sorry for him. Gave him 15 dollars US....think about him, Maria, and we need to remember to push Luke as hard as possible...
So, this raises some questions I frequently think about. Anderson is not the poorest of the poor in Haiti. But he has much potential and talent that is not being developed because of where he lives, his life circumstances. Typically, we feel badly for the person living in poverty--Anderson--but this this loss of what he could contribute to the world is a huge loss for ALL OF US.

As many of you know, John and I adopted Luke from Haiti. He is flourishing here, and we are grateful. But there are thousands of kids in orphanages in Haiti and millions more with their families who don't get the opportunities that Luke and many of the children who were born in developed countries have.

The flip side of this consideration is the one John alludes to when he says we need to push Luke. Those of us who have had the good fortune to be born in a circumstance--or who make their way to a circumstance--that allows us to develop and contribute need to push ourselves and not just sit around watching TV and eating chocolate. I remember John examining a patient whose situation was especially hard asking, "Why was I born in the United States and Jean Baptiste was born here?" This fact made such a profound difference in their life paths. On this side of eternity, it's an unanswerable question. But the important thing for those of us who do have these huge advantages is not to squander them. We must follow God's will, or further the process of evolution, or make a contribution to the world or however you want to put it. Just do something to make yourself a better person and to help others. Everyday.

I've started a blog about life at and I invite you to check it out.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Fastina Jacques Oswald Derestil 1993-2014

Fastina in Haiti, 2006
We are heartbroken about Fastina. This beautiful, young wife and mother died on December 27, 2014. She was 21. It is very hard to get our minds around her death.

Fastina had much hardship in her life, but there was also a storybook quality about it. She was born poor in Haiti, and when she was a little girl, developed rheumatic fever from untreated strep throat. Her rheumatic fever destroyed her mitral valve, which is normally a death sentence in a third world country like Haiti. But when she was seven years old, Fastina had the good fortune to be brought to Peoria by John, where she had her mitral valve repaired. She returned to her mother and their home on the side of the mountain above Port-au-Prince.

Fastina's repaired valve held up for about five years. When we were in Haiti in 2006, her mother told us her daughter "couldn't walk up the mountain." She was short of breath. Her mother brought Fastina to us, and I remember this 12-year-old girl, who struggled to take a few steps. But more than the struggle, what I remember is the elegance and dignity that Fastina possessed as she stood there before us, calmly trying to catch her breath. She stayed with us in Haiti for awhile as John adjusted her medicines. Fastina was quiet and low maintenance with a shy smile. It didn't take long to realize that she was an old soul--wise and mature beyond her years.

God smiled again on Fastina, and we brought her back to the United States again--this time to Joliet--where she had an artificial heart valve put in. These valves don't wear out, but they do require that the person take blood thinners for the rest of her life. Realizing how hard it would be to care for their daughter in Haiti, Fastina's parents signed consents for Sean and Allyson Oswald to adopt Fastina. She joined their happy family, which already contained one of its three Haitian daughters, along with their four daughters and one son.

Another of Fastina's gifts was her intelligence. She's testing close to her grade level in math, said Allyson, shortly after Fastina came to live with them, an amazing reality given her health and background. Fastina did well in school. She was fluent in three languages and had been accepted to the Methodist School of Nursing.

And then an it-only-happens-in-the-movies kind of thing occurred. Fastina and another former Haitian Hearts patient, Caleb Derestil, met in Peoria and fell in love. Like Fastina, Caleb had also been brought twice to the United States by John for medical care. He became part of Mick and Karen Kenny's family, joining their three boys and Haitian daughter. Fastina and Caleb were married on August 24, 2013. At the reception, a sign on the wall read, "Two Haitian Hearts Beat As One!"

In early December, Fastina and Caleb joyfully welcomed a beautiful, healthy baby boy, Caiden Nehemyah. The new family was home together to celebrate Christmas. A couple days later, Fastina was rushed to the hospital, where she died eight hours later. It seemed so wrong. The young women with all the last names--Jacques, her birth name, Oswald, her adoptive name, Derestil, her married name--indicative of all the people who loved her, was gone. She had so much to live for.

One more story about Fastina gives a little bit of solace. It was the end of her first trip to the United States, and she was getting ready to return home to Haiti. Her host mother was realizing that she might never see this seven-year-old girl again and as if to comfort her, Fastina whispered to her host mother, " Don't be sad. I'll see you in heaven."

Yes, Fastina, we'll see you in heaven.

Fastina with Caleb and Sean and Ally Oswald
August 23, 2013

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Tale of Two Heart Patients

In the last month, Haitian Hearts has brought two patients to the United States for heart surgery. Daniel and Princess are both from Port-au-Prince and both have heart problems. There are other similarities in there cases, but also differences.

Daniel is 33 years old. He contracted rheumatic fever, which damaged his heart valve. In 2001, John brought him up and he had valve repair surgery in Peoria. Daniel is a quiet, prayerful man, who imbues those around his with his faith.

Princess is five and a half months old. She was born with a congenital heart defect called AV canal. With this defect, there is a hole between the upper two chambers of the heart and a hole between the lower two chambers of the heart. Despite her impaired health, Princess was a bubbly, smiling baby who charmed all in her path.

About nine months ago, Daniel began calling John, telling him that he was having difficulty breathing. On one of his trips to Haiti, John examined Daniel and sent him for an echocardiogram. His heart repair was failing and he likely needed an artificial valve.

When John was in Haiti in February, Princess's parents brought their daughter to John for examination. With a respiratory rate of 60 a minute and a heart rate of 150 a minute, Princess had been in and out of hospitals during her short life. John prescribed some lasix for her to get rid of fluid and help her breathe.

Back in the States, John searched for hospitals for his two patients. He presented Daniel to multiple hospitals. Daniel was accepted by Swedish Medical Center in Denver. John presented Princess to hospitals in four countries: Israel, the Dominican Republic, Canada, and the United States. She was accepted by Nationwide Children's in Columbus, Ohio.

Daniel flew to Denver in April. He had successful heart surgery and is now in the process of getting the proper amount of blood thinners into his system. Blood likes to clot around artificial surfaces, so Daniel will take blood thinners for the rest of his life.

Princess's heart surgery last week appeared to be successful. But several hours after surgery, her little heart, which during the months of her short life before surgery had to tolerate improper blood flow, gave out and she didn't survive.

Two patients, two different outcomes. We celebrate Daniel's new healthy life, while we grieve precious Princess. It's especially painful and unnatural when babies, who are so new and fresh to this world, die.

Daniel and Princess shared one more similarity.

If Daniel had been prescribed a few pennies worth of penicillin when he contracted strep throat, he wouldn't have gotten rheumatic fever and damaged heart valves. In the developed world, Princess's heart defect could have been diagnosed in utero. She would have had surgery a few weeks after birth, before her heart changed so much to accommodate the unhealthy blood flow.

Both Daniel and Princess were both victims of poverty.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Alleluia! He Has Risen! 47

"Give us a holy courage to seek new paths, that the gift of unfading beauty may reach every man and woman."
          Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel

On this Easter Day, I give special thanks to Pope Francis for the deeds and words of his life. As the leader of the Catholic Church, he is setting an example of Christianity and goodness in action. I also give thanks to God for my husband John and the example of his life, filled with hard work and caring for many people. He is my hero and an inspiration to many. John also took almost all of the pictures that accompany this Haitian Lenten Series. If you feel moved by the words or pictures on this blog, I hope you will reach out to Haiti or the developing world and make a friend there.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Haitian Lenten Series: Joy of the Gospel 46

"Sometimes it seems that our work is fruitless, but mission is not like a business transaction or investment, or even a humanitarian activity. It is not a show where we count how many people come as a result of our publicity; it is something much deeper, which escapes all measurement. It may be that the Lord uses our sacrifices to shower blessings in another part of the world which we will never visit. The Holy Spirit works as he wills, when he wills and where he wills; we entrust ourselves without pretending to see striking results. We only know that commitment is necessary."

         Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel

Friday, April 18, 2014

Haitian Lenten Series: Joy of the Gospel 45

"We may be sure that none of our acts of love will be lost, nor any of our acts of sincere concern for others. No single act of love for God will be lost, no generous effort is meaningless, no painful endurance wasted. All of these encircle our world like a vital force."

           Pope Francis, Joy of the Gosepel

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Haitian Lenten Series: Joy of the Gospel 44

"We do not live better when we flee, hide, refuse to share, stop giving and lock ourselves up in our own comforts. Such a life is nothing less than slow suicide. . . . If we are to share our lives with others and generously give of ourselves, we also have to realize that every person is worthy of our giving. Not for their physical appearance, their abilities, their language, their way of thinking, or for any satisfaction that we might receive, but rather because they are God's handiwork, his creation. God created that person in his image, and he or she reflects something of God's glory."

        Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Haitian Lenten Series: Joy of the Gospel 43

"When we live out a spirituality of drawing nearer to others and seeking their welfare, our hearts are opened wide to the Lord's greatest and most beautiful gifts. Whenever we encounter another person in love, we learn something new about God."

       Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Haitian Lenten Series: Joy of the Gospel 42

"Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others. He hopes that we will stop looking for those personal or communal niches which shelter us from the maelstrom of human misfortune and instead enter into the reality of other people's lives and know the power of tenderness."

         Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel

Monday, April 14, 2014

Haitian Lenten Series: Joy of the Gospel 41

"We need to implore his grace daily asking him to open our cold hearts and shake up our lukewarm and superficial existence. . . . Moved by his example, we want to enter fully into the fabric of society, sharing the lives of all, listening to their concerns, helping them materially and spiritually in their needs, rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep; arm in arm with others, we are committed to building a new world. But we do so not from a sense of obligation, not as a burdensome duty, but as the result of a personal decision which brings us joy and gives meaning to our lives."

       Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Haitian Lenten Series: Joy of the Gospel 40

"I am far from proposing an irresponsible populism, but the economy can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison, such as attempting to increase profits by reducing the work force and thereby adding to the ranks of the excluded. . . . If anyone feels offended by my words, I would respond that I speak them with affection and with the best of intentions, quite apart from any personal interest or political ideology. My words are not those of a foe or opponent. I am interested only in helping those who are in thrall to an individualistic, indifferent and self-centered mentality to be freed from those unworthy chains and to attain a way of living and thinking which is more humane, noble and fruitful, and which will bring dignity to their presence on this earth."

        Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Haitian Lenten Series: Joy of the Gospel 39

"As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world's problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills."

      Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel

Friday, April 11, 2014

Haitian Lenten Series: Joy of the Gospel 38

"The need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed, not only for the pragmatic reason of its urgency for the good order of society, but because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises."

        Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Haitian Lenten Series: Joy of the Gospel 37

"No one must say that they cannot be close to the poor because their own lifestyle demands more attention to other areas. This is an excuse commonly heard in academic, business or professional, and even ecclesial circles. . .  none of us can think we are exempt from concern for the poor and for social justice."

        Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Haitian Lenten Series: Joy of the Gospel 36

"True love is always contemplative, and permits us to serve the other not out of necessity or vanity, but because he or she is beautiful above and beyond mere appearances."

        Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Haitian Lenten Series: Joy of the Gospel 35

"'Implicit in our Christian faith is a God who became poor for us, so as to enrich us with his poverty.' This is why I want a Church which is poor and for the poor. They have much to teach us. . . in their difficulties they know the suffering Christ. We need to let ourselves be evangelized by them. The new evangelization is an invitation to acknowledge the saving power in their lives and to put them at center of the Church's pilgrim way. We are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voice to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them."

         Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel

Haitian Hearts patient #171!

Four-year-old Lerrison Woodson had successful open heart surgery at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida last week! He is pictured above with his mother, wearing the scarf on the right, and his hospital and host family team (AKA Haitian Hearts Team!) Behind his mother is Kathy Arnold, nurse coordinator, who helped arrange the whole thing.

We are so grateful to All Children's, Kathy, the host family and interpreters, and Dr. Jeffrey Jacobs, pictured below, who performed the miracle known as open heart surgery and made Lerrison's heart whole.

Lerrison has already been discharged from the hospital. He will continue to heal.

And there will be high fives for everyone!

Monday, April 07, 2014

Haitian Lenten Series: Joy of the Gospel 34

"God's heart has a special place for the poor, so much so that he himself 'became poor' (2 Cor. 8:9). The entire history of our redemption is marked by the presence of the poor. Salvation came to us from the 'yes' uttered by a lowly maiden from a small town on the fringes of a great empire. The Savior was born in a manger, in the midst of animals, like children of poor families; he was presented at the Temple along with two turtledoves, the offering made by those who could not afford a lamb (Luke 2:24, Lev. 5:7); he was raised in a home of ordinary workers and worked with his own hands to earn his bread. When he began to preach the Kingdom, crowds of the dispossessed followed him, illustrating his words: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor  (Luke 4:18). He assured those burdened by sorrow and crushed by poverty that God has a special place for them in his heart: 'Blessed are you poor, yours is the kingdom of God' (Luke 6:20); he made himself one of them: 'I was hungry and you gave me food to eat.' and he taught them that mercy towards all of these is the key to heaven (Matt. 25:4).

         Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Haitian Lenten Series: Joy of the Gospel 33

"We are not simply talking about nourishment or a 'dignified sustenance' for all people, but also their 'general temporal welfare and prosperity.' This means education, access to health care, and above all employment, for it is through free, creative, participatory and mutually supportive labor that human beings express and enhance the dignity of their lives. A just wage enables them to have adequate access to all the other goods which are destined for our common use."

       Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Haitian Lenten Series: Joy of the Gospel 32

"With due respect for the autonomy and culture of every nation, we must never forget that the planet belongs to all mankind and is meant for all mankind; the mere fact that some people are born in places with fewer resources or less development does not justify the fact that they are living with less dignity. It must be reiterated that 'the more fortunate should renounce some of their rights so as to place their goods more generously at the service of others.'"

        Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel

Friday, April 04, 2014

Haitian Lenten Series: Joy of the Gospel 31

"If we, who are God's means of hearing the poor, turn deaf ears to this plea, we oppose the Father's will and his plan. . . A lack of solidarity towards his or her needs will directly affect our relationship with God. . . . 'You yourselves give them something to eat!' (Mark 6:37): it means working to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor, as well as small daily acts of solidarity in meeting the real needs which we encounter. . . . The private ownership of goods is justified by the need to protect and increase them, so that they can better serve the common good; for this reason, solidarity must be lived as the decision to restore to the poor what belongs to them."

       Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Haitian Lenten Series: Joy of the Gospel 30

"An authentic faith--which is never comfortable or completely personal--always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it. We love this magnificent planet on which God has put us, and we love the human family which dwells here, with all its tragedies and struggles, its hopes and aspirations, its strengths and weaknesses. The earth is our common home and all of us are brothers and sisters."

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Haitian Lenten Series: Joy of the Gospel 29

"It is no longer possible to claim that religion should be restricted to the private sphere and that it exists only to prepare souls for heaven. We know that God wants his children to be happy in this world too, even though they are called to fulfillment in eternity, for he has created all things 'for our enjoyment.' (1 Timothy 6:17)"

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Haitian Lenten Series: Joy of the Gospel 28

"One who accompanies others has to realize that each person's situation before God and their life in grace are mysteries which no one can fully know from without. The Gospel tells us to correct others and to help them to grow on the basis of a recognition of the objective evil of their actions but without making judgments about their responsibility and culpability."

       Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel

Monday, March 31, 2014

Haitian Lenten Series: Joy of the Gospel 27

"We need to practice the art of listening, which is more than simple hearing. . . Listening helps us to find the right gesture and word which shows that we are more than simply bystanders."

       Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Haitian Lenten Series: Joy of the Gospel 26

"We are not asked to be flawless, but to keep growing and wanting to grow as we advance along the path of the Gospel. . . No one is more patient than God our Father, no one is more understanding and willing to wait. He always invites us to take a step forward, but does not demand a full response if we are not yet ready. He simply asks that we sincerely look at our life and present ourselves honestly  before him, that we be willing to continue to grow, asking from him what we ourselves cannot yet achieve."

        Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Haitian Lenten Series: Joy of the Gospel 25

"I believe that the secret lies in the way that Jesus looked at people, seeing beyond their weaknesses and failings: 'Fear not little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.' (Luke 12: 32)"

       Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel

Haitian Lenten Series: Joy of the Gospel 24

"I think of the steadfast faith of those mothers tending their sick children who, though perhaps barely familiar with the articles of the creed, cling to a rosary; or of all the hope poured into a candle lighted in a humble home with a prayer for help from Mary, or in the gaze of tender love directed to Christ crucified. No one who loves God's holy people will view these actions as the expression of a purely human search for the divine."

      Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Haitian Lenten Series: Joy of the Gospel 23

"The salvation which God has wrought, and the Church joyfully proclaims, is for everyone.  .  .The Church must be a place of mercy, freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel."

         Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Haitian Lenten Series: Joy of the Gospel, 22

 "Let us ask the Lord to help us understand the law of love. How good it is to have this law!"

          Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel