My name is Erin Kloos and I am a returning volunteer to NPFS and St. Damien Hospital. I would like to introduce myself as the new main author of this blog as I will be responsible for its content over the next year.
I first arrived in Haiti in October of 2007 and spent the following year working and living in Tabarre at St. Damien Hospital. As of my return to Haiti almost two weeks ago, I am delighted to see many positive changes at the hospital and within the organization. New health-related educational programs have been instituted, beautiful new flowering shrubs have been planted on the hospital grounds and Kay Germaine, the therapy program for special needs children is fully up and running. Unfortunately, there are a couple faces that are missing from St. Damien, but that is to be expected in a hospital…I suppose.
When I was still new in Haiti, Kennens was already a “regular” at St. Damien. He had battled cancer for many months but unfortunately his disease was not curable. One night I was playing cards with Kennens when a pair of shy eyes and crater-deep dimples peeked around the corner. It took some coaxing, but 8-year old Sebastien, the newest resident of Kay Mango (AKA the cancer ward) eventually joined us for a game of Casino
Sebastien warmed to me but remained bashful until one night when he surprised all of us, his mother included. He and Kennens had both just returned for a treatment trip to the Dominican Republic and as it was also Kennens’s 15th birthday, I baked a cake in celebration. Sebastien provided the entertainment with his expert dance moves and his unique renditions of “Happy Birthday.” It was like he was a brand new kid, still sweet but with no inhibition. At one point, he even stopped his dancing to suavely steal a kiss on my cheek – a move he repeated a few times in the months to follow.
It wasn’t until he left the hospital the next day that I learned that after eight weeks of surgeries and radiation treatment, Sebastien was a failure to treat. Like Kennens, his case was terminal
I have met a few other children in the hospital who seem to live as uninhibitedly as Sebastien did. Unfortunately, they too had close relationships with death.
Five months after I returned home, Sebasiten passed away. Only three months later, Kennens lost his battle as well.
I loved these two boys and I am happy that they both received the best care possible at St. Damien Hospital. In spite of our loss, it is a comfort to know that they both died in clean beds with caring staff fighting for their lives. I take inspiration from Kennens and Sebastien and so have assembled a video of the two best dancers I have ever known. You can watch my short, amateur video above.