A 12-year-old Haitian
orphan with a large malignant tumor on his neck will hopefully receive desperately needed medical attention later today or tomorrow, thanks to a group of concerned South Floridians that includes Republican Sen. George LeMieux.
The boy -- volunteers believe his name is Esthelhomme Peterson -- has been accepted for emergency surgery at Broward General Medical Center. Pending approval from the Haitian embassy, the boy will be flown commercially to the U.S. and will be admitted to the hospital and treated by oncologists as soon as he arrives, according to several volunteers working on the case.
Lauren Odman, a registered nurse at Broward General and founder of the Peace Collective, met the boy, whom she affectionately calls "Peter" or "Spiderman," while volunteering in Haiti after the earthquake. She received word last week that the malignant growth on the boy's neck is restricting his breathing and that without serious medical attention, he will die soon. If treated quickly, the boy has a 95 percent chance of survival.
With the help of the charity Planting Peace and founder Aaron Jackson, Odman has been trying to arrange for the boy's treatment in the U.S. She had several phone conversations with Lemieux over the weekend in which he assured her that he would do everything in his power to assist the boy. A Planting Peace donor, a well-connected local attorney Jackson calls "Saint Bob," helped get the boy admitted to the hospital and put the volunteers in touch with the senator.
Odman says LeMieux was "very comforting" to her when they spoke. "He is very involved personally, very motivated. He wants to get this kid here and into surgery as soon as possible, and he's doing everything he can to cut through the red tape."
Odman says the senator told her that he visited Haiti with a group of senators right after the earthquake and that he was very bothered when other politicians felt like their presence was enough. "He said he wanted to do more. He was upset they couldn't do something more to help the people," Odman says.
Planting Peace has spent nearly $1,000 on State Department fees just to apply for the boy's temporary status. Jackson says the buearacracy involved in saving a dying child's life is "crazier than anyone knows." Before the State Department would allow the boy into the U.S., he needed an admitting hospital (and someone willing to sponsor his trip and the cost of his medical treatment). But several hospitals said they'd need clearance from the State Department. "It's like both sides were just using each other as an excuse to say 'No.' Meanwhile, a kid is dying."
Jackson says he doesn't even want to think about what would have happened if not for the serendipitous circumstances in this particular case and without the help of Saint Bob. "He is a beautiful person," Jackson said. "He has an amazing power to make things happen."
Jackson hopes to fly to Haiti today to escort the boy into the U.S.
Lauren Odman says Peterson's trip has been approved by all necessary parties. She expects him to be here by early tomorrow afternoon.
UPDATE: You can see a full update (with video) here.