By Jennifer Browning
Fifteen-month-old Margaret giggles and coos at Marie Lourdes as she kisses the child’s face. Marie, a cousin, started caring for Margaret after the child’s mother died during childbirth.
Today is especially hard for Marie, because it is Mother’s Day in Haiti. Tears stream down her face as she begins to talk about her cousin, Margaret’s mother.
“I am happy that even though she is sick, that she is able to smile,” Marie said. “But it should be Margaret’s mother here today, on Mother’s Day, making her smile.”
When Margaret was four months, Marie began to notice that something wasn’t right. As Margaret started trying to sit up, she wasn’t able to hold her head up.
“That’s when I noticed that something is wrong, because I have two kids and they never had this problem. I knew that something wasn’t right when she couldn’t hold her head up and sit up right.”
Marie took Margaret to the pediatrician who told Marie the child may have a brain problem and recommended a CT scan. After viewing the scan, the doctor said that it looked as though Margaret had hydrocephalus.
“The problem was that there was no one in Haiti who could do the surgery Margaret needed,” Marie said.
In most places, hydrocephalus is diagnosed shortly after birth, a somewhat simple operation allows a child a greater chance at a normal life. Unfortunately, this is rare in Haiti; instead when undetected, the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that flows normally through a healthy baby is blocked or unabsorbed. When this happens, the fluid creates pressure on the brain causing swelling, severe damage and eventually death.
Months later another doctor told Marie that he knew of a program that treated hydrocephalus at Hopital Universitaire de la Paix, which is where Project Medishare’s pediatric neurosurgery team worked out of before the earthquake. The doctors at La Paix directed Marie to Project Medishare’s nurse liaison Maguy Rochelin who assists with the pediatric neurosurgery program.
When Marie found Maguy, the nurse was working at Project Medishare’s field hospital.
“When we arrived at the hospital, to look for Maguy, doctors examined Margaret, because they could see her head was large,” she said. “They called Maguy to come see Margaret, and that is how we got into the program.”
Surgeons performed endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV) on Margaret this morning. This type of surgery allows for the CSF to escape relieving pressure on the child’s brain.
“I am so happy for what Project Medishare is doing, everyone here treats all patients as equals,” Marie said. “This hospital helps a lot of patients. I believe in the doctors who have come here to help Margaret, and I am so thankful.”
Click here to learn more about Project Medishare’s Pediatric Neurosurgery Program.