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a868: Haitian Hearts helping kids, one at a time (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

(The Daily Vidette, Illinois State University, 20 Feb 02)

      By Meghan Farrelly

   Despite current problems, the American health care system is
comparatively strong considering there are many places where health care is
practically non-existent. However, a local medical group is trying to
change that situation for the people of Haiti.
   Medical care and services are practically non-existent in Haiti.
"[Haitians] are unable to do anything, as their per capita income is less
than $250 a year. They live in dire, dire, dire poverty," John Carroll,
director of Haitian Hearts, said.
   Haitian Hearts is an organization that specializes in the treatment of
fixable heart problems, Carroll said.
   Developing nations cannot prevent or take care of health problems when
they come up, he added.
   He emphasized that the lack of medical care in Haiti is a social
problem. "Haiti has no infrastructure, or medical system to take care of
its people," Carroll said.
   Carroll makes trips to Haiti in search of candidates to bring back to
Peoria. And, within reason, he brings back whomever he can. The most
children Carroll has brought back to the United States at one time is
seven. In order to be brought back to the United States "candidates must
have a cardiac lesion that is curable with surgery," Carroll said.
   Carroll treats both congenital and acquired heart defects. Congenital
heart defects are those that people are born with. Acquired heart defects
are initiated by another health problem. For example, rheumatic fever is
caused by untreated strep throat, and can lead to rheumatic heart disease,
Carroll said.
   Carroll pays for the plane tickets to bring the children to Peoria for
their treatment. The Rotary Club North in Peoria has been helping Carroll
with the cost of the plane tickets to and from Haiti. They also have been
raising money for OSF Children's Hospital in Peoria to help defray the
medical costs and cost of the hospital stay.
   Each child is required to have a visa, and Carroll fills out the
application for the children.
   After the children are treated, they spend two to three months with a
foster family in Central Illinois. After the children have recovered they
are sent back to their family in Haiti.
   "They are ready to go back, and they are brand new little human beings,"
Carroll said.
   Anne Wagenbach, program coordinator for Haitian Hearts, is responsible
for finding the foster families the children stay with. "We can tell them
[foster family] some of what to expect, but each child is different,"
Wagenbach said. Wagenbach is also responsible for setting up the children's
doctor's appointments and working to help solve problems.
   Becoming a host family used to be very flexible and was based a lot on
word of mouth.
   "We would get people who wanted to host, but I was not familiar with
them," Wagenbach said.
   Now the aspiring host families fill out a questionnaire and provide
references prior to hosting, Wagenbach said.
   Although it is not a requirement, Wagenbach said having someone with a
nursing or medical background is helpful. She said that background comes in
handy if the child is really sick or needs a lot of medical attention
outside the hospital.
   Carroll began his trips to Haiti to work in makeshift clinics 21 years
ago. Since 1995 Carroll has brought back nearly 80 children for treatment.