Veronica Desir was two years old when the earthquake struck. Her 12-year-old sister felt the ground trembling and rushed to cover the tiny toddler. When the shaking was over, the older girl’s breathing came to a halt. Veronica, cocooned in the enclosure of her sister’s body, was still alive.
Her father rushed to grab her and ran towards the Doctors Without Borders field hospital. Test showed that that the girl’s leg would have to be amputated immediately.
“I felt so alone,” Veronica’s father recalls. “My wife had also been killed in the earthquake, and to have her and my daughter gone, while I was watching my other daughter get her leg cut off was unbearable. I begged for mercy, and I begged for strength.”
Veronica was transferred from the field hospital to the NPFS St. Damien Pediatric Hospital, and it was there that she met Kay Germaine Director, Gena Heragty and psychotherapist, Norma Lopez. As Veronica would be staying as an inpatient at St. Damien’s to insure proper healing of her leg, they commenced therapy with her immediately.
“She expressed an enormous amount of both physical and emotional pain, and rejected all forms of physical contact. But we started very slowly, minimal movements and she started to steadily improve.” Norma continues: “Veronica’s dad was a wonderful father- he was by his daughter all the time, and always encouraged her on her path to recovery. He helped her to show restraint, love, and understanding, despite the loss of his wife, daughter, home and job. Everything he had worked for and loved was under that rubble. It was only his daughter, whom he continues to provide for with care and devotion. It was only his daughter, who continues to illuminate him with joy and tenderness, that gave his life meaning.”
Veronica was soon discharged from St. Damien’s in stable condition with her stump healing without complications. Her right leg was very weak, and she could not put weight on it without the aid of crutches. She was given a brace and then after a few months was fitted with a prosthesis. Finally in October, Veronica was able to take her first steps alone.
Today, as Haiti approaches the anniversary of the earthquake of January 12th, Veronica walks alone. She runs up and hugs all those who help her, and engages without hesitation her classmates and teachers. In a country where so much has not changed, the metamorphosis of this three year old, and the strength and resilience of the man who loves her, gives hope and promise for the year and times to come.
Veronica’s father has been employed as a teacher in the St. Germaine Special Needs school.