Sure, that may be an odd title for an update, but the news is wonderful! If you've been following our care of little Christopher from Haiti, you already know that at a very young age he was diagnosed with sickle cell disease in his home country. The Red Thread Promise has been supporting his medical care for almost 3 years as he waited for his adoption to an American family to be complete. Thankfully, the wait is over!
In January, Christopher was finally issued his passport and came to the US to be with 8 new siblings (4 adopted from Haiti as well) and 2 loving parents. And, true to our word, we continued to support his care for the disease by arranging for him to be seen by sickle cell specialist, Dr. Julie Kanter in New Orleans, Louisiana.
On March 10, The Red Thread converged on the pediatric unit at Tulane Hospital for Children and the Sickle Cell Center of Southern Louisiana. And there he was, Christopher, on US soil! It was a beautiful moment that we had waited so long for—in his mother's arms, watching classic cartoons in the waiting room.
We were ushered into an exam room and met by very friendly social workers and Dr. Kanter. She explained everything that would happen that afternoon: blood tests, pathology, a "sickle cell 101" session, etc. We discussed Christopher's current health and reviewed what we knew of his care and treatment in Haiti. Following our appointment, Dr. Kanter would review his labs and determine the kind of sickle cell he has, make referrals for specialists closer to the family's home, and develop a long-term treatment plan.
The next morning we returned for the follow up and Dr. Kanter delivered the best news that we could have hoped for: based on extensive blood work and tests, Christopher does not have sickle cell disease! However, she did determine that he does have sickle cell trait, the genetic code for passing on the disease. After the jumping for joy and dancing concluded, we asked Dr. Kanter two key questions:
Dr. Kanter suspects that a single test was done by the Haitian doctors to form their opinion. She explained that this particular test is by far the least expensive and that it will indeed pick up any trace of sickle cell. However, Dr. Kanter explained that the test does not distinguish between sickle cell disease and sickle cell trait, a critical distinction. Unless the hospital did further testing—like what was done in Louisiana—the doctors incorrectly concluded that he has the disease. We are unsure if this additional testing is even available in Haiti. However, we learned valuable information about sickle cell disease and trait that will help us in our support of the next child. And, the news is positive for other orphans suspected of having this painful disease—blood can be drawn on the child in question and brought to the US to complete the test and get conclusive results.
For Christopher this means that he won't have to be on penicillin and folic acid for the rest of his life or undergo yearly testing to detect his propensity for strokes. He won’t have painful episodes that often lead to hospitalization and blood transfusions. Since he has sickle cell trait, it does mean there is a 25% chance that he will pass along the trait or the disease to his children.
We couldn't be more thrilled with 3 years of work on behalf of this one precious child:
Together, we did for him what we would do for our own child: get testing done, get second opinions and explore all options for treatment. We rest assured that our love for every child knows no boundaries, in sickness and in health. And we are thankful for your support.
You’ve seen this adorable face for the past two years in numerous reports. The Red Thread Promise has been supporting little Christopher over that time, providing medical care and hospitalization during the treatment of his sickle cell anemia since 2009.
Just this week, we received word that Christopher will be traveling to the United States to be united with his forever family at the end of January! But his care by The Red Thread Promise will continue. Christopher will spend about 5 weeks with his new family in Texas before he and his parents travel to New Orleans, LA to meet with a sickle cell specialist. This generous doctor has offered to help us continue his care, running the necessary tests, after which she will meet with Christopher's parents to discuss the test results, as well as a short- and long term treatment plan for his care.
Because of your generous donations, The Red Thread Promise can continue to support his medical care until after the doctor has met with the family and a clear plan of action is set in motion. We will send Christopher home knowing we have done the best we can so he can live a happy and healthy life with as few sickle cell episodes as possible.
During our many visits to Haiti since 2009, we have taken a long, hard look at some basic necessities that, while abundant in many parts of the world, are at a premium in Haiti. One of those critical necessities is potable water.
Potable water is pure enough to drink with a low risk of harm, both immediate and over the course of time. In Haiti, thousands upon thousands of people have inadequate access to potable water. Water sources are often severly contaminated, as most recently demonstrated in the cholera outbreak which plagues the country to this day. (For the latest in the cholera epidemic, please see: http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/haitians-risk-cholera-deaths-as-aid-agencies-withdraw)
The Red Thread Promise is working with several other agencies to install a large water filtration system at St. Vincent's Center for Handicapped Children in downtown Port-au-Prince. St. Vincent's serves children with a variety of disabilities (including hearing impairment, sight impairment, loss of limbs, etc), providing an education, medical services and home for students and orphans in their care. During the months at the height of the cholera epidemic, the Center's Director had to make critical choices with St. Vincent's limited funds: provide a meal or fresh water for the students. Naturally, water was the choice. Students went with little to no food for some time as funds were constantly being used to purchase expensive clean water.
Working together, our team is currently fundraising and planning for the installation of a water filtration system so that the Center's Director no longer has to make this critical choice. Once in place, a constant source of potable water will be available for the Center, staff and students. Extra water will be sold to the public for a nominal fee in order to generate enough income for the filtration system to be self-sustaining. Routine maintenance will keep the filtration system in operating condition constantly so no child has to go without water.
Thank you for your supporting The Red Thread's efforts to provide clean drinking water to orphans and students at St. Vincent's as well as the people in the surrounding area.
Christopher is an orphan in Haiti who suffers from sickle cell anemia. Sickle cell anemia is a disease passed down through families in which red blood cells form an abnormal crescent shape. The fragile, sickle-shaped cells deliver less oxygen to the body's tissues. They can also get stuck more easily in small blood vessels, and break into pieces that interrupt healthy blood flow. Almost all patients with sickle cell anemia have painful episodes (called crises), which can last from hours to days. These crises can affect the bones of the back, the long bones, and the chest. (Excerpt from PubMed Health)
The Red Thread Promise (TRTP) has been funding Christopher's medical needs since he was a toddler. We have loved being a part of his life, watching him grow and always enjoy visiting him whenever possible during our frequent trips to Haiti.
TRTP received a beautiful note from Christopher's forever mother, Jana, who is anxiously awaiting the final adoption paperwork to be processed.
In her note, she states "The Red Thread Promise has been such a HUGE part of bringing Christopher home. We would not have been able to get this far without you. Rachel [orphanage director] says that Christopher has been in much better health since TRTP has supplied the orphanage with a constant supply of medicine and vitamins for him and the other children. We are grateful for the monthly funding you continue to supply for his care while he is in Haiti."
"Our [adoption] paperwork is at the office of the Minister of the Interior in Haiti, the last step before being issued Christopher's passport and visa. As soon as we arrive in the states, we anxiously look forward to meeting with the sickle cell specialists that you have arranged for us in Louisiana. It is amazing that you were able to make this connection on our behalf to help us prepare a long-term plan for Christopher's care. We will think of you every time we look at our precious son. We look forward to the day that we are able to bring him home to stay."
It has been and continues to be our pleasure to support children like Christopher in their time of need. We too look forward to when he is able to go home to his forever family. He will always be in our hearts.
There are 15 children at Rivers of Hope, and they are doing well. Christopher and Stanley have sickle-cell anemia, and we remain committed to helping with their medical costs. 4 children are available for adoption; if you are interested, let us know! We are expanding past Rivers of Hope to work with other similar orphanages and others' childrens' facilities - stay tuned for exciting updates! In the meantime, prepare yourself for unbearable cuteness:
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