Sunday, February 14, 2010

Haitian Man Gets Lifesaving Care on USNS Comfort

Kesner Salvant, 25, from Port-au Prince, Haiti, smiles at his friend James who is carefully feeding him. "Enough peas," he says, and James puts down the fork and stops feeding him. He takes away the food and begins carefully moving a paper cup filled with water out of which Kesner can drink with the help of a straw.

Both young men were brought to the USNS Comfort two weeks ago, Kesner with a broken neck, James, who survived the earthquake without injury, as his care taker.

"When the earthquake happened I was on my way from work," Kesner recalls. "I worked as a security guard for a construction company. I was on the street trying to catch a bus when I saw a huge crowd of people running towards me. Everyone was screaming. All of a sudden, I saw the light poles moving. I didn't know what was going on. I ran into a building to seek shelter. I didn't know we had an earthquake."

The building Kesner sought shelter in collapsed. He was buried in the rubble for four days before rescuers found him and brought him to the nearest medical facility. But his misfortune didn't end here. "It took twenty-four hours," he says "before I saw a doctor. They took an x-ray but told me there was nothing wrong with me and sent me away."

Kesner was taken to his girl-friend's house where he stayed for the next week. "I was in much pain and it didn't get better," he remembers.

When Kesner finally reunited with his friend James, things finally took a turn to the better. James called his older brother, Gabison Boisrond, who lives with his family in Maine, United States. Gabison and his mother-in-law talked to a physician on the phone about Kesner's injury.

"The doctor said my neck is likely broken and that I need medical attention immediately," Kesner explains.

This prompted James’ brother and his mother-in-law to contact Congresswoman Chellie Pingree from Maine to ask for help to get Kesner on the USNS Comfort where he could receive the proper treatment.

"The office of the Congresswoman contacted a local Haitian politician, Charles Henri Becker. He helped to find Kesner at his girl-friend's house and to get me to the ship," James says.

Once on the Comfort, Kesner underwent surgery within a few days. It took two neurosurgeons and six hours to operate on Kesner's two broken neck bones. During the surgery four screws were inserted into the two vertebrae which then were connected with rod. Both, screws and rod are made of titanium.

"It's a miracle he is alive and not paralyzed" says US Navy Commander Dennis Rivet, one of the two neurosurgeons who operated on Kesner. "His C1 and C2 (cervical vertebrae) were broken."

Dr. Rivet explains that Kesner's spinal cord was still untouched and not displaced but that any wrong move could have caused further damage and paralyzed him for the rest of his life or killed him. "He is a very lucky man," Rivet says.

Kesner, who did well in surgery and is recovering quickly, is now prepped for his transfer by Project HOPE volunteer Carma Erickson-Hurt who discharges patients from the USNS Comfort.
When she visited Kesner at his hospital bed earlier today he called her 'immigration'. "Most patients are calling me immigration now because they know I am the one who sends people home or to the United States," she says with a smile. Carma is waiting for the papers for Kesner and James to cross to the United States. Kesner will undergo further treatment in Maine.

When asked whether he wants to go to the United States, Kesner answers, "Yes I do." Then he looks at his friend James who has cared for him for the last two weeks, fed him, washed him, and cheered him up when Kesner felt hopeless. "But we want to come back to Haiti. Haiti needs us. Haiti is our home," he says.

Help HOPE provide long-term medical relief efforts in Haiti. DONATE NOW
Story and photos by HOPE volunteer and photojournalist Astrid Riecken

1 comment:

  1. This is a fantastic story! James is my brother in-law and Salvy is my husband's best friend. It is amazing to see pictures of them. What has been so tremendous is the number of people who are involved in his case; who have helped get Salvy aboard the Comfort and also get him the services he will need once he is off the Comfort. Thanks for posting this.