Saving Wilson's Leg

A young Haitian man sits on a hospital gurney, his left leg fully bandaged in white. He is wearing blue shorts and a green short-sleeved shirt.
Wilson on August 29, 2021.

“I thought I was going to lose my leg,” remembers 19-year-old Wilson.

On the morning of August 14, 2021, he had been out tending his goats and sheep in the mountains of Beaumont, midway between Les Cayes and Jérémie on Haiti’s southern peninsula.

“I felt shaking. I tried to run but a rock hit me on the head and knocked me to the ground. I felt woozy and I couldn’t stand on my leg. It was broken. I spent five days out in the brush. When the tropical storm came, I was sitting under a tree. My shirt got wet, and I squeezed water from my shirt to drink.”

“My friend was looking for me. He was calling out my name and I answered. He carried me home on his back.”

Wilson then spent more than a week at different health facilities in his area, but none of them were able to provide him with the specialized orthopedic care he needed – care that is scarce in Haiti. On August 28, Wilson’s brothers managed to get him airlifted to St. Boniface Hospital.

Close-up of a metal contraption with rods, nuts, and bolts sticking out of a young man's left thigh.

The fixation device in Wilson's leg kept his bone stable while it was healing.

“I had never been to a hospital before. I went in a helicopter and we landed in a field. An ambulance brought me to the hospital. As soon as I arrived, they took X-rays and saw my leg was badly broken. I thought I was going to lose my leg but I realized they had put a rod into it.”

The very same day Wilson arrived at St. Boniface Hospital, an orthopedic surgery team inserted a fixation device into his left thigh. That device kept his fractured femur stabilized and aligned as the bone healed.

But it wasn’t only the surgical specialists that made SBH stand out to Wilson. “From the moment I got here, the nurses started taking care of me. When I was in the other [health facilities], they didn't do that for me,” he says.

Three months after the initial surgery, Wilson returned to SBH to have the fixation device removed from his leg.

By then, a full orthopedic surgery program had been established at the hospital, directed by Dr. Schiller Alexandre. The program includes an outpatient clinic, an operating room reserved for non-urgent orthopedic surgeries one day per week, and orthopedic surgeons available to respond to emergencies at any time. Orthopedic patients can also receive physical therapy through our Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Center, established in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. 

Dr. Alexandre performed Wilson’s surgery himself. 

Back home in Beaumont, Wilson is able to do everything he was doing before the earthquake. He declares, “If I had gone [elsewhere] for surgery, I wouldn't be here today.”

In a hospital setting, a man wearing a white shirt and blue jeans squats to examine the leg of a young man in shorts and yellow shirt. Both are wearing face masks.

Dr. Schiller Alexandre, Chief Orthopedic Surgeon, examines Wilson’s leg.