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#5235: Ailing Haitian boy,mom are reunited (fwd)
Published Monday, October 2, 2000, in the Miami Herald
Ailing Haitian boy, mom are reunited
After furor, mother gets 6-month visa BY EMILY BLISS
Marie Sanon may finally be able to get some sleep. Sanon, who flew in
from Haiti Sunday to be with her 13-year-old son as he battles
a dangerous form of leukemia, said she has not been able to sleep in
weeks. ``I couldn't sleep because I've been thinking about my son,'' she
said in Creole as she held her son, Gallando Etienne, who translated.
``I will be able to sleep now.'' Etienne, an only child, and Sanon were
together Sunday for the first time since 1998. The two had been
separated since Etienne left Haiti and his mother behind to live
with his aunt in Lauderhill. After Etienne told Sanon about a month ago
that he had been diagnosed with leukemia, she applied to the U.S.
embassy in Port au Prince for a visa. The embassy turned her down,
triggering an uproar from Florida politicians, advocacy organizations,
ethnic groups and Etienne's doctors at Broward General Medical
Center. After many letters and calls to U.S. Attorney General Janet
Reno's office and the U.S. State Department, the U.S. embassy in Haiti
revisited their decision to turn down Sanon's application.
On Thursday, embassy officials granted Sanon the six-month visa that
would bring her to the United States for the first time. She laughed,
explaining that though Etienne is much taller and his voice is much
deeper than the last time she was with him, she had no trouble
recognizing him. Etienne, who is being treated at Broward General, said
he planned to take his mother out to dinner Sunday night. Sanon, who
could hardly hold back tears, said she`He mostly cries. He said he
was so happy that his mom's coming.'
-- RAMSEY PETIT, Etienne Gallando's cousin will hug her son a lot
during their time together. Etienne, who spent three weeks in the
hospital after his diagnosis, is now living in his aunt's apartment and
going to the hospital a few times a week for chemotherapy treatments.
Ramsey Petit, 8, a cousin with whom Etienne lives, said Sunday that he
hadn't seen Etienne smile so much in a long time. ``He mostly cries,''
Petit said. ``He said he was so happy that his mom's coming.' Etienne,
who doctors have said is clinically depressed, said he felt physically
and emotionally better now that his mother is with him. When Etienne
found out Thursday that his mother had gotten a visa he ate a
sandwich -- the first meal he had had in a long time.
Sanon's arrival in the United States marks the first time a Haitian has
been granted a visa to come to South Florida for reasons of compassion,
according to Sandra Francis-Volcy, an administrator at the law firm
Mondesir, Estimé-Thompson & Alexis, P.A. The firm did pro bono work for
Etienne's relatives. The case is also special, Francis-Volcy said,
because many different ethnic groups rallied around Etienne's case.
``I'm tired of this separatist stuff. We got help from everyone,'' she
said, explaining that African-American, Haitian, Cuban and Anglo groups
all called her wanting to