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Emmanuella Michel, 5, is so lively that it’s hard to picture how thin and fragile she was only two months ago. She is pictured with her aunt Checelie Michel and host brother Caleb D. Emmanuella came to the United States from Haiti for heart surgery in October and has been staying with Caleb and his parents Rick and Darla D. of Washington state. Because of this family, 5-year-old Emmanuella Michel of Haiti received a priceless holiday gift — a life-saving open heart surgery.
“It’s a Christmas miracle,” said her host mother Darla . “She’s just like a normal child now.”
During an interview just before Christmas, it was hard to imagine that the robust child bouncing around the newspaper office was gravely ill just a few weeks ago — until she lifted her shirt to show off a 6-inch scar down the middle of her chest.
Emmanuella now has a chance at a normal life because Rick, Darla and Caleb D. made it their mission to help Haitian children. The idea started when Caleb met a schoolmate who was born in Haiti.
“I met Joshua P. He was friends with Caleb at Whitney,” Darla D said. “I knew in my heart this was something I wanted to do.”
Not in a position to adopt, the D family, who attend The Bright Christian Fellowship, found another way to serve.
“Our family wanted to help children with medical needs,” D said.
Through the organizations Partners in Health in Haiti and The Medical Advocacy Team, a program of Remember International, INC. in the United States, they learned about the gravely ill Emmanuella. At 5, she was unable to walk and suffered terrible chest pain.
“They would just pray over her because she could not move. God sure answered those prayers, huh?” Darla said, getting a nod of agreement from Emmanuella’s aunt, Checelie Michel.
Emmanuella’s family saved up enough money to get her to a Partners in Health doctor, whose diagnosis was Tetralogy of Fallot. This is a combination of heart abnormalities, two of which are particularly dangerous: a hole between the ventricles and an obstruction of blood flow from the right ventricle to the lungs, according to the American Heart Association. Because blood can’t get to the lungs easily, it doesn’t pick up enough oxygen.
For Emmanuella, it meant she had no energy to grow and thrive — or even to walk. The D’s agreed to host her and Checelie while she underwent open-heart surgery. Medical and travel costs were covered by volunteer doctors, Partners in Health and The Medical Advocacy Team.
After she arrived at the end of October, the first order of business was to get Emmanuella seven immunizations that were required before surgery. The D's did this with the help of Rod Dalseg, Island Hospital’s director of diagnostic imaging. Darla said she was working at Calico Cupboard when a group from Island Hospital came in for a meeting. She asked if they knew of anybody who could give immunizations as charity, and Dalseg said he’d find out.
“He called me later and said ‘I have it handled.’ So that was a miracle,” Darla said.
Dr. Jeanne Olmsted at Fidalgo Medical Associates did the job. Emmanuella had heart surgery at Emmanuel Children’s Hospital in Portland two weeks later.
“She’s been a little trooper, and so has my husband Rick,” she said.
Many have chipped in to help Emmanuella and Checelie. People from The Bridge Christian Fellowship brought them clothes, and many have come into Calico Cupboard and offered money, clothes and food, she said. The owner of Papa Murphy’s gave them free pizzas.
“Pizza is their favorite food here,” Darla added.
Checelie is making headbands and selling them for $10 each to raise money to take back to Haiti. She said the money will help her and her fiancé build a house. Darla said anyone who wants to buy one can email for more information.
The D's family has appreciated being of service, and the experience has made them more appreciative of life in our country.
“You just think, you’re so grateful for what we have,” Darla said.
Saturday, January 2, 2010
Posted by Momto16 at 12:31 PM