"We All Have Children"

The day and night of October 3, with Hurricane Matthew bearing down on southern Haiti, SBH’s Surgical team worked for over 15 hours straight.

That hadn’t been the plan. At 5 PM, with the day’s scheduled surgeries complete, plus two emergency C-sections and one emergency surgery on a one-day-old baby done successfully, the team was ready to go home to prepare their houses and families for the impending storm.

But the Emergency Room staff had two young girls who they suspected both needed emergency surgery for bowel perforations-a dangerous condition that causes far too many unnecessary deaths in places like Haiti.

The team did the first surgery, for a 14-year-old girl named Rose. Her perforation was caused by typhoid, which makes these long and complicated surgeries. Dr. Ward worried the other girl, nine-year-old Sheldine, also had a typhoid-caused perforation, but they wouldn’t know until they started operating.

The surgical team was exhausted, no one had eaten all day, it was 8:30 at night, and a massive hurricane was due to hit Fond des Blancs in mere hours.

Surgical team smiling

Dr. Ward went to talk to the team. “Does she need the surgery tonight?” one nurse asked.

“I think she will die if we don’t operate tonight,” replied Dr. Ward.

Then Eliana, a surgical nurse, looked at each of her colleagues in turn, and said, “Doc, you have children. I have children. We all have children… Let’s do this case.”

When Sheldine was prepped for surgery and under anesthesia, Dr. Ward turned to Shelly, the scrub tech, and said “I might cry if this is another typhoid perforation. “

Shelly replied, “No you won’t. We, all of us, we will be ok.”

They did the operation. It was a typhoid perforation. It took two and a half hours - they finished at 11:30 that night, and the hurricane hit just after midnight. But by then Rose and Sheldine were safe, recovering in their beds, side by side in the pediatric ward. Most of the surgical team went home to their families, and everyone stayed safe through the storm.

“I am so happy because I thought that Sheldine would die. She couldn’t breathe well, and she couldn’t walk. Now she is up walking again and feeling so much better,” says Sheldine’s mother Marie. Similarly, Rose’s father says, “Everyone here has made us feel so welcome. They are so kind. My daughter was in such pain, and now she has no pain at all. She is well, and I am happy.”