“It was almost as if he was pregnant,” Joselaine says, her arm cradling her four-year-old son. “His stomach was constantly in pain, and it kept growing larger and larger. We live very far from Port-au-Prince, in a small placed called Lepal in the province of Petit-Goave. There were no hospitals around where we lived, but there was a small clinic being run by the UN.”
The staff at the UN clinic immediately recognized that the problem was going to be more than they could solve. Edume, Joselaine’s son, had cancer. In Haiti, pediatric cancer remains staggeringly under diagnosed, and the number of missed cases rises dramatically outside of the capital. It is estimated that 500 Haitian children a year fall ill with cancer, and St. Damien’s is the only hospital providing pediatric oncology.
“I am a poor lady,” Joselaine explains. While wealthier Haitians can often go to the Dominican Republic or the United States for treatment, those living in poverty have very limited options. “Where was I going to find the money to pay for the transport and the fees of a private hospital?” Joselaine asks. “It would have been impossible.”
The UN solved the transport problem by personally escorting Joselaine and Edume to St. Damien’s. Once she arrived at St. Damien’s, he was seen by the hospital’s chief oncologist who diagnosed a Wilms Tumor. She quickly called Edna Benjamin, surgery nurse and the coordinator for St. Damien’s Surgery Center.
“They told me the tumor weighed over seven kilos.” Joselaine says, still surprised by the large weight of the mass. “Seven kilos! In a four-year-old. But they took it out. I felt like I was in heaven. Ever since we stepped in through the front door, the doctors and nurses, they’ve all treated us so well. I had to leave my three other children with my husband in Petit Goave and I was so scared that without them, I would feel so alone. But I didn’t.”
“I always thought health was for those who had money, that without the necessary gourde you would never be able to find care for yourself or your children. But then I came here, and even though I came from a poor family, everyone I met showed me charity and grace. To look at Edume, to look at him so happy and calm, it feels like a miracle happened.”