Diabetes in Haiti: Saving Chilaire's Feet

Chilaire Charles was living and working in the Dominican Republic when he started losing weight, suffering from insomnia, and generally feeling what he describes as “sidelined”—unable to go about his daily life as he was used to, and feeling tired and ill all the time.

He went to a doctor in the Dominican Republic who diagnosed him with diabetes. For several years, Chilaire was able to get care and medications to keep his diabetes in check and continue working. But eventually, his treatment stopped working, and his symptoms returned.

With no family in the DR, Chilaire had no one to help with his care, so he returned to Haiti. “Once I returned, I started going to a hospital in Port-au-Prince to try to get care and treatment for my condition. But most of the time I could not get in there, and could not get the care I needed despite my diagnosis. I tried going to three different hospitals, but without success.” As his diabetes became more and more uncontrolled, Chilaire was less able to get around and try to seek care, pushing him into an all-too-common cycle for diabetic patients in Haiti: when they go to a medical facility they are unable to be seen, or get the medications they desperately need, so they get sicker and sicker and then are unable to even leave the house to seek out care.

I thank St. Boniface for renewing my hope.

Chilaire Charles

Out of control diabetes can lead to circulation issues in the feet and legs, and Chilaire’s feet started showing signs of damage. “My feet were not good to see, and one hospital I went to talk about amputating my leg.” He could not go through with the surgery, and so in June 2017, he decided to go home to Cote de Fer, where his family is. “Just in case I died…” he explains, “it seemed better to be with family.”

Neighbors in Cote de Fer told him about SBH, an hour away in Fond des Blancs, and the good care many of them had received there for little or no cost. His family brought him to our doors, where he was immediately admitted and assessed. His blood sugar levels were extremely high, and his feet were showing severe signs of diabetic damage, but our staff decided to wait and see if they could get his diabetes under control before resorting to amputation.

Three months later, Chilaire’s diabetes is finally under control. He has been receiving inpatient treatment at SBH, and his feet have improved to the point where everyone is hopeful he will not need an amputation. With good ongoing adherence to medications and treatment, Chilaire should be able to return to normal life. He smiles, “I’m getting better, and I feel more confident about my future. I thank St. Boniface for renewing my hope.” Of course, getting access to diabetes treatment in Haiti is difficult, as Chilaire has experienced first-hand, but if he stays in the Fond des Blancs area he can always come to St. Boniface Hospital for his medications and check-ups.