Project #9794

Help an Orphan in Haiti Get Life Saving Surgery

by God's Littlest Angels Inc

I am happy to report two things on Frantina:

  1. She got the surgery she needed and is doing well!
  2. She is no longer an orphan!   Her adoption has been finalized and her adoptive parents have come to Haiti and picked her up and brought her home.

Throughout the process of all of the surgery and recovery, Frantina has not only captured the hearts of our staff, but her personality and her sense of humor carried her through it all very well.

Thank you so much for your support!   We couldn't have gotten her the surgery she needed without the help of so many of you!

Tom Vanderwell
Manager of Partner Relations

Frantina enjoying a milkshake!
Frantina enjoying a milkshake!

I am absolutely thrilled to report that Frantina is doing wonderfully.   She is back at the orphanage, she's still wearing her neck brace but she's playing, she's letting her real personality shine through and she's growing and developing well.   The doctors expect that she will make a complete recovery and will have little if any long term side effects from the illness and surgery.

I'm also happy to report that her adoption paperwork is finally "picking up speed" and that she will soon (within months) be joining her forever family where she will have a Mom and Dad to care for her and love her and tuck her in bed every night.

Thank you so much for your support for Frantina.    It truly is a situation where her life has been saved......

Tom Vanderwell


I am so sorry that I have not kept everyone updated about Frantina’s surgery.  Unfortunately, I have been sick with dizziness and vomiting while she was in the hospital and it took everything in me to drag myself to the hospital to spend every night with her.  

We went to the hospital on Tuesday and Vivianne sat with her in the neurosurgical ward in a chair all day because there was no beds AGAIN!  While we were there, some clowns came through the hospital and entertained the children.  Frantina loved them!  They made funny balloon animals for the kids.  Almost everyday, some group is coming through the hospital with small gifts for the children there.  This hospital has huge and was a leading hospital in advancing modern pediatric care in the Dominican Republic.

Then for the night, they put us down in Emergency Room in a small room with some chairs in it.  When the anesthesiologist came to see us about 10 PM, he could not figure out why they had put us down there instead of just letting us sit in the neurosurgical ward all night.  I said…I had wondered that too!  Finally, some people left the room which left a place for us to pull out a chair that made into a bed and Frantina was able to sleep some that night.  I read my book and listened to kids screaming in the ER as they were getting shots and IV”s started!  LOL
She was good the whole time and was not fussy at all.  She listens to me better than she does Vivianne.  She knows that I do not tolerate her being fussy for no reason.  So I stayed with Frantina at night and Vivianne stayed with her during the day.  Vivianne did better on the day shift.

At 7:30 AM, the surgery orderly came looking for us and had a difficult time finding where they had stashed us for the night!  He finally found us and took us up to the operating suite.

Thankfully, they did not start an IV on Frantina before surgery.  They waited until she got back into the operating area.  We got to see the doctors (there were 2 pediatric neurosurgeons this time) and they told us what to expect.  They said that if the screw that had come out of the bone could be reinserted, they would do that, but if the bone was too brittle, then they would take the plate out completely.

As soon as they came to take her from us, she started crying.  She kept saying “Ba Ba” (Kiss Kiss) and so we gave her a kiss and then she said ” I wuv u!”  It about broke my heart.  I didn’t want to let her go!

Vivianne and I went back to the hotel across the street to eat some breakfast and while we were finishing up, a Haitian mother who was in the neurosurgical unit with her baby called Vivianne to tell her that the surgeon was asking for us.  You can probably understand how that kind of scared us!  We hurried back to the hospital because it had only been an hour and he had told us to expect two hours.  But when we got there, Dr. Sanchez told me that all had gone well.  He said the screw was just too heavy for the bone and for now, the best thing to do was to take the plate out completely.  They said that the cylinder that they had put around her spinal cord was starting to grow bone around it but it wasn’t stable enough yet to go without her cerivical brace.  She must wear this for at least the next 3 months and we cannot remove it for any thing except changing her surgical dressing.  We’ll see how that goes.  

We are thinking bathing might be another time to change it if we can control her trying to sit up.  

Frantina has done fantastic this time after surgery!  She has ate and slept great.  I said maybe she didn’t sleep well because she was in pain.  We’ll see how she sleeps tonight here in the hotel.

The surgeon told us that we could go home on Friday but the Pediatrician didn’t discharge here until today.  I was not too happy because she was crawling all over her bed on Thursday!  She had an IV and antibiotics until Sunday night, so maybe it did her good to stay the extra time, but it was hard for Vivianne and I!   Even Frantina kept saying, “you wanna go?”  She wanted to stand up and the floor in the unit just wasn’t clean enough to let her stand beside the bed.  GLA orphanage is 100% cleaner than the neurosurgical unit here!  

The mothers and kids in the 10 bed unit are awake until 2 AM sometimes.  They are noisy and yelling back and forth to each other.  These children need their rest, but the nurses don’t say anything to the mothers.  There are no rules like that in the unit. Some nights, they are asleep by midnight, but that is seldom.  We are talking about kids with brain tumors, hydrocephalic children who just had shunts put in, spinal bifida babies, etc.  Sick kids!  The Haitian mother and I  had our kids quiet and ready for bed by 9 PM and we were quiet by 10 PM.  Haitian mothers understand about kids needing their rest and we are quiet because we don’t want to wake them up!  LOL  

I could not sleep there  even though the chairs were new and folded out flat but had about 1 inch of padding on them and was like sleeping on a plywood board!  They were so hard.  I told the other Haitian mother that I thought I had enough padding to make up for the hardness, but I guess I didn’t!  Her name is Nathalie and she told me that I should try sleeping on them every night for the last month!  Nathalie has been in the hospital with her baby for 6 months now and has 3 children at home with their father.  Can you feature staying day and night in the hospital with your baby sleeping on hard chairs with lots of noise, day and night, for six months with no break?  Yikes.  I would go crazy having to do that!

Once everyone went to sleep, things were quiet.  The night nurse either slept in a chair or on the examination table.  She did not get up even when IV’s pumps were beeping!  One time she told me to do something with Frantina’s pump, but of course, I could not understand her Spanish, so she had to get up and come and look at it!  She was not happy with me, but oh well, that is her job!!  I would have taken care of it myself but the pump was in Spanish too and I had no idea what it was saying!  LOL  During the last 5 nights, I was the only person in that unit that was awake the whole night.  I read several books in the last few days.  I am so thankful for my Kindle electronic book.  I do not know what I would do without it!

Frantina has been very congested since surgery and has needed around the clock nebulizer treatments to try and break up the mucous in her lungs.  She is much better now, but we just gave her a treatment here at the hotel.  She does cough pretty good now when we tell her to cough, so that is good.  She also came home on an oral antibiotic for 7 days.  Hopefully, this will be all she needs and once it’s done, she will be ok.

Frantina was so happy to leave the hospital today. We immediately went to the store  to get her some food!  She said she was hungry! She has been walking around the coffee table here in the hotel room and talking non stop.  I am so thankful that she is happy and able to do everything she did before surgery.  I was scared this time before surgery.  I was afraid that something might happen with her spinal cord.  But God heard our prayers and calmed my fears and she is fine.

We are planning on staying here in Santo Domingo for 2 days to be sure that everything is ok and then return to Haiti on Thursday.  Vivianne, Frantina, and I cannot wait to get home to rice and beans with meat sauce, and white rice with legume sauce, .  We have missed Haitian food so much!  We also miss everyone back at GLA.  I have so much to do to organize getting ready for IBESR authorization with their new policies.  

We just want to go home, because we all know, “There is no place like home!”
(Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz)


Frantina "waiting" for surgery in the hospital
Frantina "waiting" for surgery in the hospital

Frantina was scheduled to have surgery on Wednesday the 11th of April.  I made th-IMG_1247e trip to Santo Domingo and as usually for me, had a LONG bus ride from Haiti.  Others make that trip in 7 or 8 hours, I usually make it in 10!  I don’t know how I get so lucky!

Frantina had to be admitted to the hospital on Tuesday afternoon.  They don’t provide anything at the hospital.  You have to bring your own sheets, food for the caregivers, pillow, diapers, medication, etc.

We had been at the hospital some time, when the doctor told Katie MacGregor that Frantina needed one unit of blood from the Red Cross.  They said that we needed to go buy a unit of blood.  When we finally found the Red Cross, we go in and ask to buy a unit of blood. “NO WA”Y, they said!  We had to provide a volunteer to give a unit for the one we would receive.

Katie volunteered, but when they talked to her they said she couldn’t give because she had contact with Frantina and Frantina had Tuberculosis.  We explained that she was not contagious, because she had been on medication for over 2 months.  IMG_1244Then he explained that it was also because Katie had been in Haiti and their policy was no blood from anyone who had visited Haiti in the last 6 months.  Well, that left all of us out!  None of us could give.

Finally, the doctor took pity on us and let us have one unit of blood for her surgery and asked us if we could find one person who had not been in Haiti, to please send them to give blood.  They gave us the blood in a Styrofoam container and we had to take it back to the hospital for them to hold for her surgery.

Frantina could not have anything to eat after IMG_124210 PM on Tuesday night.  It was very strange having the anesthesiologist come to ask us questions and we couldn’t communicate with him. 

You have to have lived in a third world country to understand how it is in a hospital ward.  Everyone makes YOUR business their business.  So everyone is there trying to help with the questions and answers.  I don’t care how many times different people ask the same question in Spanish….it will always be SPANISH, and we don’t understand!!!!  Flirt maleWe did understand that she was not to eat after 10 PM and she would go to surgery at 8 AM.  Katie spent the night with Frantina at the hospital and she said Frantina did not sleep hardly at all because of all of the noise in the ward. She didn’t cry; she just talked all night!

At midnight, everyone stops what they are doing and sing and pray.  The kids and their moms are noisy.  Frantina is not used to the noise anymore.  She has lived since January in a quiet house of grown ups!

Vivianne and I arrived at the hospital at 7:30 AM to see Frantina before she went into surgery.  Around 8 AM, the head nurse came in and everyone stopped what they were doing and she prayed for all of the kids going for surgery this morning.  It was so moving and wonderful and we said that this was the hospital where we were supposed to be!

IMG_1268The doctor had two emergency surgeries on Wednesday and so a major case that was scheduled that was supposed to be done on Wednesday had to be postponed until today.  That meant that Frantina did not have her surgery today.  The doctor was really sorry, but this other little boy had waited 3 months in hospital to have his surgery done.

The doctor was going to keep Frantina in the hospital but I persuaded him to let her go home.  There was NO WAY Katie and Vivianne wanted to sleep in that uncomfortable chair by her bed for a week!

He said to me when I went back into pre-op to talk to him that he was postponing her surgery.  He said he could not do it on Friday, because he could not get an anesthesiologist on Friday.  He said it would have to be next Wednesday.  We could take her home and bring he back on Tuesday afternoon.

We signed no papers; nor filled out any forms.  It seemed very strange to Katie and I compared to life in the USA and Australia!  But before we could go, another doctor came in and told me that Dr. Sanchez wanted to see me back in surgery.

I went back into the Operating area and he came out of surgery and sat with me and explained that he had been thinking and will not do all of her surgery at one time.  He said it will be very difficult and serious.  He will need another surgeon to assist during the procedure.  He said that they will have to go from the front and from the back to remove the mass and stabilize her spine.  The mass is sitting on top of her spinal cord behind her lung.  They have to remove all of the mass (Tuberculosis), clean it all out, remove any bone fragments from her vertebrae, and then put metal rods into her spine.

He said that it will take him most of the day and he wants to be fresh when he starts the surgery.  he had not planned on doing it this way, so I am very happy that he thought about it more and decided to just do one surgery and not two.  But I am concerned after having talked to him about the seriousness of the operation.  I look around that hospital and think “How are they going to recover her here?  I see no ventilators, chest tubes, etc.  Those are questions I will ask him Monday when I talk to him.IMG_1272

He gave me a list of things for her surgery that I needed to go, find, and buy.  Who would have thought that Santo Domingo has a Medi Implante company?  They had the things on the list, but the price was astronomical!  Dr. Sanchez had told me that it would be expensive, but he thought it would cost about $2500 USD.  It was $6200 USD after a 12% discount because we do not have insurance for Frantina! (They brought me the quote of RD$242,000 and I did gasp!  Was a little better after she converted it into USD but not much!)  My heart just about stopped!  Who can afford to buy things like this if you don’t have any money?

The doctor at the implant office saw my shock and took pity on us and gave us a 20% discount which brought it down to $5800.  (Trying to get the money through our credit card into a Dominican Bank is another whole story that I won’t share, but will just say that I was rather angry with my credit card people and tears in the lobby of the bank happened!  The stress and the credit card people’s lack of sympathy was too much for my nerves!)

After watching a video on how they will remove the mass and put the rods on her spine, we have a much greater appreciation of the severity of this surgery.

We have had some tears today and have experienced an awful feeling of helplessness.  But we also know that God’s hands are on this child.  God’s hand will guide the doctor’s hands and your prayers will see her safely through.  I have to believe God has seen us through to this point and will be there to give us strength through out this whole surgery and recovery period.  God will have His angels in that surgery suite from the first cut to the last stitch when sowing up the incisions. 

But please above all, pray for Frantina and the doctors who be doing her surgery next week.

P.S. Note from Tom - we've had some donations that were sent in "off line" but we could still really use your help in paying for her medical care!

The Red Cross Office
The Red Cross Office
Katie carrying her blood in a styrofoam container
Katie carrying her blood in a styrofoam container
Frantina and Vivianne
Frantina and Vivianne
Can you imagine that many sick kids in one room?
Can you imagine that many sick kids in one room?



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Organization Information

God's Littlest Angels Inc

Location: Colorado Springs, CO - USA
Website: http:/​/​​
Project Leader:
Dixie Bickle
Colorado Springs, Colorado United States

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