Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The wheelchair

I was walking through Providence 2 months ago and I stuck my nose into the men's post-op ward, looking for a patient I knew. Instead I saw something that struck me as truly beautiful: a young woman was shelling a basket of beans and the patient in the bed beside her was helping.

The scene got even more touching as I met them. The woman was Yolande and the patient was her husband, Jean Carlo. He had been in Port-au-Prince in January 2010 when the earthquake hit and he was buried in the building where he was working. It was 3 days before Yolande heard the miraculous news that her husband and the father of her 3 children had survived! In the immediate aftermath, Jean Carlo lost his left leg above the hip and a year later, he lost the right leg due to infection in his injuries. He'd been in and out of the hospital since the quake and when we met, he still had an open wound on the latest amputation site and had been in Providence for 3 months.

We became fast friends and I have visited them every week or two. Jean Carlo, despite his tremendous loss, is always smiling and interested in my work. Yolande, quieter than her husband, still has a confidence and a poise that is rare among young Haitian women. In the post-op ward with them are 2 burn victims who we've taught to do basic physical and occupational therapy to prevent complications; when the instructions got difficult, Yolande offered to be their coach and help them remember what to do. In a country of broken marriages and constant infidelity, I am so impressed by her faithfulness. She comes to the hospital every day after their children go to school to bring Jean Carlo food, to bathe him, and to just keep him company. She stays until the afternoon when she goes home to do all the same things for the children. And somehow, she remains cheerful and hopeful.

Jean Carlo was released from the hospital after a skin graft 2 weeks ago. I'd been plotting since I first met him and with the help of my friend, Adam, I was able to get a hand-crank wheelchair for him. We delivered it this week and watched with pride as Yolande helped Jean Carlo climb into it and then loaded his two little sons in too. Jean Carlo rode that wheelchair down the street and back, with a huge grin on his face.

I know that a patient's personality and attitude shouldn't necessarily affect the care he receives, but let's be honest, it does. It was a pleasure to go out of my way for Jean Carlo and Yolande and if I can ever say that a couple "deserves" special treatment, they are that couple.


Mama Beth said...

Kez, this post made me cry. How that earthquake lives on and how lucky the people are to have you there.

Dannae said...

as an OT this makes my heart so happy! You rock sister!