By Chris Curry
Eleven-year-old Loveline (“Love”) has never attended school. About six years ago, she fell while crossing the rough terrain near her home in rural Haiti. Having been born with congenital pseudarthrosis of tibia, a disease characterized by abnormal bone formation, the fall was very serious. She broke both of the bones in her lower leg. With such a terrible fracture, her family scrambled to collect money for her treatment and set out for the Dominican Republic to have her leg treated. Unfortunately, on the long journey back home, the rough terrain again played a tragic role—her cast broke. Without a functional cast, the bones eventually healed, but at a painful angle, preventing Love from walking. Or going to school.
And this is how Love remained until November of 2007, when her family saved the money to travel to the hospital in Cange, operated by PIH’s partner organization in Haiti, Zanmi Lasante (ZL). The doctor took one look at her leg and her x-rays, and knew that the expertise required to fix these long-standing fractures did not yet exist in Haiti.
So he and the ZL team turned to Dr. John Birch of the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas. Dr. Birch’s team had the medical experience to do the complex orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation that Love would need, and their hospital made the services available to Love for free.
A team of PIH supporters and their families in Dallas pooled their time and resources, and opened their homes to Loveline, her mother and a Haitian nurse who traveled along to translate and assist in home care. Although Love's mother was scared at the thought of traveling outside of her hometown for the first time, she said, "I know that Love can't stay in the house forever, and if she would be able to walk she would have all the chances and opportunities in the world."
The surgery took place in September of 2008. Love went from a wheelchair and a cast to a walker and brace, and finally to a small plastic ankle brace. Early in 2009 Love was able to go back to Haiti to a wide-eyed and amazed reception—the little girl who had been immobile and confined to her home was now able to walk alongside friends!
Now with the support of Love's new-found friends in Dallas and the support of ZL, she is finally enrolled to start her first year of school in Haiti this fall. Dr. Birch’s team in Texas and ZL doctors in Haiti will continue to monitor her healing leg.