Program Saves Lives, Teaches Haitian Docs New Skills

FAIRFAX, Va. -- An Inova Hospital program not only treats patients from Haiti but also teaches Haitians how to offer the treatment themselves.

Just shy of 2 years old, Roberdine Fequiere would have died without heart surgery, according to doctors.

"With her degree of obstruction to her lungs, the surgeon said she probably had a month to live," said Inova Fairfax Hospital pediatrician Dr. James Baugh.

Roberdine was born with a hole in her heart, meaning her blood wasn't getting enough oxygen. Her only hope was a complicated heart surgery that can't be done in her native country.

"You would need a heart lung machine oxygenating the blood for hours while the heart is fixed and they just don't have that capability in Haiti," Dr. Baugh said.

But a new program through Inova Health System has allowed Roberdine and her doctor, Elsie Jean, to travel to Virginia. Not only was Roberdine able to undergo surgery, but the medical team at Inova Fairfax taught Jean about the procedure so she can take that knowledge back to Haiti.

"We're both helping a patient survive, but it's both the teaching and spread of information through the Haitian health care system and that ultimately will work," Dr. Baugh said.

One of the program's founders, Baugh, and his wife, Lisa, took Roberdine and Jean into their home during their stay. Lisa Baugh, whose own children are already grown, cared for the little girl, who arrived malnourished and sick. She had no idea just how dire the situation was.

"No one who saw her two, three weeks ago recognizes her as the same child," Lisa Baugh said.

Since her surgery, Roberdine is a completely different girl, the Baughs said. But more importantly, her life has been saved, doctors said.

"She's got pink lips," Lisa Baugh said. "She's got pink hands. She's got lots of energy."

"It's rewarding knowing that she's going home and she's going to live a normal, healthy life," Dr. Baugh said.

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