In January 2010, Richard Yepez, a contractor specializing in the installation of VSAT satellite systems, heard the news of the now infamous earthquake in Haiti. Richard had only heard of the small country in passing, where he could not remember. As he watched the gruesome images on television, he racked his brain until it finally came to him: he had once done a job with a man from Haiti. He picked up his cell phone, found the man’s contact information and called. He wanted to know how he might be able to help.
|Chad Perlyn, a well-regarded pediatric plastic surgeon at Miami Children’s Hospital and Chief of Plastic Surgery at the Florida International University College of Medicine, knew Haiti and its struggles all too well. Chad had visited the country, just a few hundred miles south of his native Miami, several years earlier and had fallen in love with the people, their beautiful spirit and heartwarming generosity. As soon as he heard about the devastating quake, he packed his bags and caught the next flight south to lead one of the first teams of pediatric surgeons to the country.|
Like so many other volunteers, Richard and Chad gave all they could to the victims of the disaster. Chad, with his specialty in medicine and surgery, healed their bodies, while Richard did what he could to heal their souls. “I couldn’t help them medically but I had a satellite phone, so I went around and asked people, ‘Who in the world do you want to call? Who do you want to tell that you’re alive?’ That seemed to make them smile.”
|During the course of making his rounds with the satellite phone, Richard enlisted the help of a local boy to help him translate. In return for his service, the boy asked Richard for a favor: “My sister is very sick,” he told Richard, “will you help her?” Richard vowed he would do everything in his power to help this boy’s sister. The boy, named Mackinson, quickly brought Jessica to meet Richard. That’s when Richard learned of Jessica’s debilitating condition and the hundreds of tumors that covered her body. One tumor, on her leg, had grown to massive conditions and the giant growth now limited her ability to walk. He repeated his promise, this time to Jessica herself. Richard was committed to healing this girl.|
|It was a twist of fate that had bound Dr. Chad to Richard’s mission. In his endless search to make good on his promise, Richard had sent information about Jessica and her disease to hospitals all over the country. Though immigration issues and the prohibitive costs of U.S. medical care stalled these efforts, someone remembered Chad’s passion for Haiti and forwarded him the request with a short note: “I thought you might be interested.” Touched by Jessica’s condition and Richard’s commitment to her, Chad volunteered to bring the care directly to Jessica in Haiti.|
Before committing to doing the surgery, Dr. Chad evaluated the facilities at Hôpital Sacré Couer to determine if a major surgical undertaking could safely be done there. He was more than impressed with the hospital’s facilities, operating room, blood bank, and ICU. In addition, Dr. Chad flew to Haiti, accompanied by Dr. Sissey from HSC to meet Jessica and talk with her about the operation. It was clear that Jessica had neurofibromatosis and fortunately after a biopsy by Dr. Sissy, the leg tumor was known to be benign.
A few months later, Richard returned to Milot with Dr. Chad and four other medical professionals, including Dr. Kimberly Kimmel (pediatric anesthesia), Jennifer Charles (physician assistant), Carolyn Domina (operating room RN), and Kristy Stahl (surgical technician). As soon as they landed they went straight to the hospital to greet Mackinson who eagerly brought them to his waiting sister.
Dr. Chad and the medical team then met with Dr. Jerry Bernard and the Haitian medical team at Sacré Couer to coordinate the plan. From the beginning, it was planned that this would be a coordinated effort with both the Miami team and the Haitian team working together to help Jessica. After a day of preparations, it was time to begin the operation.
|The next morning Jessica was brought into Operating Room 1 at the hospital. When she entered she had a massive tumor on her leg that had taken years to grow to such a tremendous size. Eight hours later, the tumor was gone.|
Dr. Chad and Dr. Bernard, with the help of the team, had removed the entire mass.
When Mackinson told his family that Jessica’s surgery was a success, her father collapsed to the floor. He could not believe that her daughter was now free of the huge burden anchoring her life down. As Jessica herself emerged from the anesthesia and began to recover in the following days, she could not be stopped from walking around the hospital ward on her new leg.
Jessica continues to do well. Though Richard, Dr. Chad, and the rest of the team are now back in the USA; she is receiving superb care under the guidance of the physicians at Hôpital Sacré Coeur.
“Because of Hôpital Sacré Coeur and the CRUDEM Foundation, Jessica is standing on her two feet and walking towards a new future,” said Dr. Chad. “I am sure that with such an amazing organization, this will be the case for many, many more Haitians to come.”
CRUDEM, earthquake, haiti, Hopital Sacre Couer, leg tumor, Milot, Plastic Surgery, Richard Yepez, Surgery, VSAT satellite systems
Richard’s Promise to Jessica, Fulfilled at Hôpital Sacré Coeur.
Video from Ray of Manna Institute for Human Development.