On the 9th anniversary of the devastating earthquake that took hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced millions, we celebrate the triumphant spirit of the Haitian people. LEAP was present in Haiti on Day 4 after the earthquake and sent 20 teams of volunteers from all over North America during a 6-month period. Our teams treated over a thousand severely injured patients and performed more than 400 life-saving and life-mending operations. Knowing in our hearts that Haiti is one of the most underserved medical communities in the Western Hemisphere, particularly for orphan children, LEAP continued to serve after the earthquake needs resolved.
Nine years later, we have built a tremendous relationship with Hopital Espoir in the highly populated capital city of Port-au-Prince. LEAP travels biannually to Port-au-Prince and provides plastic, ENT, urology, and general surgical care. Seeing the need for the children, LEAP partnered with Janet and Pat Ortega in 2014 to build a pediatric ward. In 2016, we partnered with Ellen and Clayton Kershaw and built an extended emergency room, outpatient clinic, and an additional operating room through generous funding from Kershaw’s Challenge and with a construction team led again by the Ortegas. These construction projects have helped Hopital Espoir expand their capabilities to provide medical and surgical care to thousands more children in need.
As we remember the earthquake, we would also like to celebrate the triumphant spirit of a very special young lady, Mariline. Mariline was just a few months away from graduating with a finance and accounting degree and was waiting for an afternoon lecture to begin when the earthquake caused her school to collapse. All of her classmates perished from the incident. She later described how they would all talk to each other, pray with each other, and then another voice would be gone. Mariline was trapped under the rubble for 2½ days, almost to the point of impossible survival.
Her brother received a call at 2:00 in the morning from a man who had been searching rubble all over Port-au-Prince to find trapped victims. The man heard Mariline’s faint voice, and she told him her brother’s phone number. He gave her brother exact instructions on where to find Mariline. Mariline’s brother was convinced that this man was an angel – he certainly was a man sent from God. He went to the exact spot the man described and dug a space through the rubble to get to Mariline.
Mariline lost an arm and a leg, and we were asked to see her at Hopital Espoir because of our reconstructive abilities. This was LEAP’s introduction to Hopital Espoir. We gave Mariline as much help as we possibly could in Haiti, but with a critically low blood level and septicemia, it was clear she would not survive there. Port-au-Prince had been depleted of all blood products and strong antibiotics at this point in the relief care. We were told it would be impossible to get approval to get Mariline out of Haiti in such a short time, and time was very short for Mariline.
Through our senator’s office, we were given contacts in Washington D.C. These tremendous government employees went into their federal offices on Easter Weekend and worked with their counterparts in Haiti to get the necessary approval. Soon, Mariline was on a plane with Dr. Ale Garcia-Mitchell heading to Dallas. Baylor Hospital (now Baylor Scott and White) partnered with LEAP to get Mariline the medical treatment she needed, which included multiple transfusions, IV antibiotics, multiple surgeries, and rehabilitation. Hanger Prosthetics made beautiful prosthetic limbs for Mariline, and she and her sister Myriam stayed in Dallas for 5 months. She and Myriam now live happily with their aunt in New Jersey and have built great and wonderful lives.