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Love at First Sight

“Odilon, a tall, quiet 15 -year-old boy with a penchant for Jordan sandals, hobbled into our lives on a¬†Tuesday¬†morning at the Poverty Resolutions medical clinic. Odilon was ushered towards my “station” and as he sat across from me, Bobby, one of our translators for the day and a Poverty Resolutions staff member, told me that Odilon had “stepped on a piece of glass” 8 days ago and needed his foot checked. Odilon’s foot was wrapped loosely in gauze, and as I proceeded to unwrap the gauze, the odor of an infection permeated the room and I realized that this was likely some piece of glass. Instead of unwrapping the dressing, we took a “field trip” to the grassy area outside of the clinic and set Odilon in a plastic chair. From there, “Operation Odilon” began, and we undressed his foot to find a gaping wound that ran from the ball of his foot to the beginning of his heel (which we later found to measure approximately 3/4 of an index finger in depth). A large blood clot had formed in a protective fashion within and around the wound, and to explore it in depth to “fish out” remaining glass would have increased Odilon’s risk of infection. The wound required debriding (removal of unhealthy tissue) and immediate antibiotics stronger than those available in the medical clinic. We proceeded to flush the wound with water, attempting to clean the area and remove any remaining glass or outside contaminants from the periphery and superficial aspects of the wounds. Odilon was started on oral antibiotics available in clinic and his wound was cleanly redressed. Thus began our daily visits with Odilon, and the highlight of my days at Poverty Resolutions.

Megan, the resident social worker, myself, and one of the Poverty Resolutions staff members who translated would see Odilon each morning (and often afternoon) to clean the wound and redress it, ensuring that Odilon was taking his antibiotics and pain medication. Due to a Haitian holiday, we waited two days prior to taking Odilon to the local hospital, run by American physician Mark Brown. The experience was a bit more amazing for me than for Odilon! Megan, Betty, Odilon and myself left for the hospital where Odilon had his wound surgically debrided. We were allowed into the sterile OR and Megan held Odilon’s hand while his foot was poked and prodded for 45 minutes. The physician pulled out glass and pieces of grass from the wound during the debridement. Unlike standard protocol in the US, the Haitian physician decided to suture his wound versus “packing the wound”. With packing, the dressing is inserted into the wound and removed daily, but with Odilon’s lifestyle (walking to school and through his neighborhood daily, lack of knowledge about the imperative need to keep the wound clean, his love of soccer!, et cetera), the decision to suture it was one that I believe worked out for the best. After a Sprite for Odilon, we loaded back into the van and made our way home. Odilon continued with antibiotics which the nurse at Poverty Resolutions expertly delivered and Megan went above and beyond to visit Odilon at his home during the weekend to change his dressing and ensure that the wound was clean and that he was healing.

Prior to leaving Haiti, I continued to see Odilon daily to change his dressing, talk with him, and communicate with him about his foot. If he had waited a few more days, or not come into the clinic for treatment, Odilon could have easily lost his foot through gangrene or a massive infection. It truly did “take a village” as everyone from visitors (like myself), to Megan, to Poverty Resolutions staff, to the resident nurse, to the individuals and physicians at the local hospital, worked to ensure that Odilon was receiving the best treatment possible. On our last day at the site, I was introduced to Odilon’s mother and his little brother, Edwin.

Odilon’s mother was so expressive of her gratitude and thanks, repeating that “God sent us down to Haiti” at this time and for this purpose to aid Odilon. She was aware that the hospital bill was hundreds of dollars and that Poverty Resolutions had paid this fee. She expressed how grateful her family was as they would “never be able to afford a hospital visit for Odilon”. This interaction, the “human-ness” of it, touched me in a way I will not soon forget.

I have seen more of Odilon’s foot over the past two months than I care to admit! It continues to heal and Megan and Betty have taken Odilon back to the local hospital for checkups since his initial visit. Megan has graciously “kept me in the loop” by texting pictures and using Facebook Messenger to send me pictures of Odilon and even a video. The people I met in Haiti and through Poverty Resolutions had such an impact on me and had such an impact on Odilon. Without this community, his outcome would not have been one to celebrate but due to everyone’s continued care, he is back on the soccer field (right where a 15-year-old should be). Whether it was love at first sight for Odilon (I doubt it), it was for me, and I knew that I would be honored to “sponsor” such a kind soul who touched my life. I look forward to visiting again in 2018 and seeing Odilon! Until then, thank God for Meghan, her pictures and her videos!”

-Jill Vanak, recent trip participant