On February 4, 2020, Claudia was shot with three bullets by home invaders. One of the bullets hit her sciatic nerve, rendering her unable to move on her own. Desperate to save her life, Claudia’s family took her on the hours-long journey from their home in Camp-Perrin (near the end of Haiti’s southern peninsula) to Port-au-Prince. The trip took hours along rough, rocky roads, which only exacerbated Claudia’s pain.
Claudia received treatment at three different hospitals over the weeks that followed. The third facility she visited was Hospital Bernard Mevs, which specializes in treating traumatic injuries like hers. Although doctors were able to surgically remove the bullets and repair Claudia’s wounds, she was still nearly paralyzed. She said, “After the bullets were removed, I lost hope because I couldn't do anything with my body.” She sunk into despair—how could she care for herself, and for her young daughter, when she was unable to move?
There are so many things I would not be able to do if I did not come to SCI Program. Now I can walk alone without the walker.
As Claudia recovered from surgery, one of the doctors at Bernard Mevs told her about St. Boniface Hospital’s Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Rehabilitation Program. The only program of its kind in Haiti, the SCI Program provides patients with the holistic care they need to regain their independence, reintegrate into their communities, and lead productive lives.
Claudia agreed to try the SCI program, although she was doubtful that she could ever truly regain her mobility and lead the life she once had. Once in Fond des Blancs, however, the program quickly exceeded Claudia’s expectations.
“When I arrived at the SCI center, I couldn't do anything myself," Claudia said. "I saw all of the resources, so I started to gain trust and confidence in St. Boniface Hospital. Because of the quality of care, I could get to my bed on my own in less than a week. I was so well received at SCI, and quickly started to receive physiotherapy and see all the opportunities [the program offered].”
In addition to physiotherapy, Claudia received psychosocial support to help her accept her injuries and look ahead to the future. She also learned how to use assistive devices, which helped her as she regained mobility in her legs. “I spent about four months in the center and then I [was able to come] home," Claudia said. "There are so many things I would not be able to do if I did not come to SCI Program. Now I can walk alone without the walker.”
One of the most important things Claudia gained at the SCI center was a sense of belonging. She said, “I have already formed a family with the other patients and the nurses, therapists and cleaning staff… It made me sad to think of leaving all of the staff at the SCI Center. When I left… I said a big thank you to St. Boniface Hospital, specifically the SCI program for the kind of care they gave me.”
When patients like Claudia return home, the SCI team continues to provide support to ensure patients successfully reintegrate into their communities and can live independently. The SCI team supports home-based patients through phone calls, home visits, and support groups. During home visits, the team provides wound care assistance, assistive device maintenance and adjustments, and a full mental/physical health assessment. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the team has also been distributing masks and hygiene kits to all program beneficiaries to ensure they can protect themselves against the illness.
Back at home with her daughter and walking on her own, Claudia has a message for the SCI Center staff: “I want to tell the SCI staff to never give up because they do everything they can for the patients, especially the nurses who are very [poised] in all they do. A huge thank you to the whole hospital.”