Christina is one of the many children we have connected with in Haiti over the years. Her story is nothing short of miraculous and, by supporting this project, YOU have been an integral part of her success.
An otherwise completely healthy infant, Christina was born with a birth defect that caused severe clubbing in both of her feet. Over the years she endured multiple unsuccessful surgeries and castings to correct her condition, after which she was no closer to walking than she was the day she was born.
In 2013, the tides began to change for Christina. No longer would she be resigned to life in a wheelchair, but rather to a newfound hope of planting both feet on the ground (something her condition never allowed her to do) and even walking independently!
Through our partnership with West Tennessee Haiti Partnership (WTHP), Dr. Bheki Khumalo (clubfoot specialist / Memphis, TN) and Dr. Georges Beauvoir (surgeon / Port-au-Prince, Haiti), Christina's first successful surgery was completed in August 2013. The skilled surgical team performed a tendon release, bone and soft tissue correction, and finally a foot rotation on her right.
After her foot healed, Christina's second surgery was completed in February 2014 on her left. When the stiches were removed, she was able to wear a boot and worked with a physical therapist to strengthen her legs.
In April came Christina’s miracle! Our partners from WTHP were conducting a clinic at Christina’s home, St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince. Dr. Jenn and Tiffany (visiting physical therapist and nurse respectively) began stretching Christina's legs and ankles, encouraging her to begin putting weight on her feet. Then it was time for Christina to stand up. With support of each arm, Christina put one foot in front of the other and took THE FIRST STEPS OF HER LIFE!
After 16 years of thinking walking was something unachievable, she was able to take her first steps and one of our partners from WTHP was able to capture it on video - see link below! The footage is raw but heartwarming. Christina is a bright, energetic girl who is well on her way to leading a more normal life now that both feet are corrected. She will continue to work with therapists to walk and become increasingly independent.
Christina may never have taken these steps without your support for which we are eternally grateful. We invite you to continue to be a part of this life-transforming process, helping kids like Christina, kids whose biggest obstacle in life was being born into poverty where adequate medical care isn't an option as their families struggle to put food on the table.
The cost of both surgeries - $3600!
The long-term effects - priceless.
What does our name mean? Over the past 10 years we've answered this question dozens of times, but our recent encounter with Widline, a 14-year-old Haitian girl, explains it beautifully. We'd like to share her story with you.
The Red Thread Promise's name is rooted in an ancient Chinese proverb that speaks of a silken red thread of destiny that connects us all. It is said that this thread may tangle or stretch, yet never break. People who are destined to connect will do so, regardless of location or circumstance. When we feel the tug of the red thread from a child in need, it is our promise to help.
Over the past few months, Widline began tugging. And it's through an unlikely set of circumstances that we met her.
In the summer of 2012, in a small village on the far west peninsula of Haiti, Widline was with friends, doing what they usually do when the intense Haiti heat reaches the brutal point; they were taking turns jumping off a ridge into the Grande Anse River. Childhood fun turned to tragedy when Widline made her final jump. As she began the plunge into the cool river, she struck a submerged tree limb, sustaining serious injuries that left her in severe pain.
Doctors are rare in her isolated community. She hurt constantly for four months before she was able to be seen. The initial diagnosis: a spinal injury for which she received a brace and crutches. But her young body had already begun to heal incorrectly, leaving her with a permanent limp and pain, unable to navigate the dirt paths safely in her community, go to school or help around the house. Her life was turned upside-down in a single moment.
American volunteers working in her village came to know Widline and her family. Touched by her circumstances, they wanted to help this little girl. The red thread became visible as their team began the lengthy process to secure her a passport and raise funds for corrective surgery in Chicago (USA).
Knowing that it may take the better part of a year for Widline to make it to the states, mutual friends of both organizations asked if The Red Thread could help. A storm of emails and conference calls ensued, making the red thread visible again, as we connected Widline to our partner, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Bheki Khumalo (TN). Dr. Khumalo agreed to see Widline during his visit to Haiti the next week. Following a series of x-rays and a full evaluation, it was determined that she did not have a spinal injury, but rather a fractured hip. Dr. Khumalo proposed a comprehensive plan for her treatment in Haiti, saving thousands of dollars and avoiding the tremendous culture shock that a child from a remote village would likely sustain in urban Chicago.
The red thread wove its silken way through this child’s journey: from a remote village to a team of American volunteers to the Red Thread Promise, and finally to Dr. Khumalo. Each of us felt its tug, urging us to work together for this ONE child’s health and wellbeing. Sometimes it takes money; sometimes a volunteer willing to go the extra mile; and sometimes it takes phone calls and emails to make a lasting difference in a child’s life.
That’s what The Red Thread Promise is all about: advocating for needy children to provide the best medical care available to kids like Widline who have no access to the treatment they need to lead healthy, productive lives. That’s her story and our story, connected by the red thread of destiny. That’s who we are. And we’re glad you’re a part of it.
When The Red Thread team sees the faintest glimmer of hope to improve the life of a child with a disability, we JUMP! Each child is treated as if they are our own. We explore every option imaginable, even if it means coming to Haiti to accompany two blind boys to the ophthalmologist.
So that’s just what we did. This past Thursday, Sonya took two St. Vincent’s students—Frenel and Geraldo—to see one of the most highly regarded ophthalmologists in Haiti.
The testing process was very thorough, allowing the doctor to see the tiniest details of each boy’s eyes to help determine if either would be eligible for further treatment to restore any bit of sight.
The doctor explained two very different procedures that might be an option for Frenel, following the results of one additional test that will be performed at a later date. Both surgeries present serious risk factors that need to be considered before any course of action is decided upon, discussions that will involve the surgeon, Frenel’s mother, St. Vincent’s, and The Red Thread.
At the conclusion of the appointment, Sonya had the opportunity to speak with the doctor about The Red Thread’s care for these boys. She explained that we treat each child as though they are our own flesh and blood, doing everything we can to improve their health and wellbeing. She clarified that we would seek specialists in Haiti to perform any recommended procedures, and, only when all in-country options have been exhausted, would we put a child through the potential trauma international travel for treatment.
With this reassurance, he smiled broadly, and shook Sonya’s hand.
We are thrilled to share news of our hearing aid program in Haiti. Thanks to your generous support and our partnership with Team Canada Healing Hands, we were able to provide 15 digital hearing aids for students at St. Vincent's Center for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince!
Our partners, Team Canada Healing Hands conducted the hearing clinic where audiologists ran extensive testing on each child while audioprosthetists fit and programmed the hearing aids. Your donations provided the hardware: 15 brand new digital hearing aids that should last a minimum of 4 years, customized for each individual’s hearing loss.
We produced a short video that gives a virtual tour of the hearing clinic at St. Vincent's and shows how your contribution makes a differene. We hope you'll take a look (click on the link below entitled "Hearing Aid Video") and share this project with others. With your continued support, every hearing-impaired child at St. Vincent's will benefit from this gift!
It was such a joy to visit St. Vincent’s last week during our trip to Haiti. As soon as the kids saw us on campus, we savored hug after hug, kiss after kiss, and greetings in sign, Kreyol, English and French. After more than 2 years of work at St. Vincent’s, we can’t begin to express how wonderful it is that we now know these children so well that all of our faces light up when we see one another. We wouldn’t exchange those moments for the world!
Students donned new (to us) school uniforms, the latest school trend in hair braids and proudly showed off their new digital hearing aids! Thanks to our partnership with Team Canada Healing Hands, many more students are reaping the benefits of better hearing.
To date, The Red Thread Promise has purchased $21,000 worth of brand new digital hearing aids for hearing impaired students at St. Vincent’s. Team Canada purchases the aids at a deep discount and brings teams of audiologists to Haiti to test the children. Much like testing for glasses prescriptions, these specialized tests—performed in a sound-proof booth—help audiologists determine the exact type of hearing loss (i.e. high pitch vs. low pitch) for each individual child.
Following testing, if it has been determined that hearing aids will help the child, molds are made of their ear(s) for a custom fit. St. Vincent’s staff is working directly with the audiologists to learn the process of mold making, practicing every step of the way under the tutelege of Team Canada’s professionals. After the molds have set, the hearing aids are programmed specifically for each child’s individual hearing loss. The aids wrap around the ear and are fed through the mold directly into the ear.
In the past, the children have received analog aids, which act simply as a volume amplifier, increasing all sounds like a remote control on a TV. Digital hearing aids will better serve the children’s individual needs. Each is customized to amplify only what needs to be amplified, maximizing the benefit of the hearing aid for each child. And, if treated with care, they should last 6 or more years!
Our goal is to ensure that EVERY hearing impaired student at St. Vincent’s receives aids as necessary. With new students coming through their gates on a regular basis, the need continues. Your support helps us realize this dream and for this we thank you!
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