8-Year-Old David Inspires Hope in Haiti
Project HOPE had the pleasure this week of catching up with an inspiring pediatric patient from the USNS Comfort mission to Haiti.
When 8-year-old David Louizar arrived aboard the ship not long after the January 12 earthquake, he brought with him a particularly wrenching personal story. Like many quake victims, David’s home was leveled on the day of the disaster, trapping him under rubble and killing his three-year-old brother Chichanchie. Most of David’s right arm and leg were amputated and his face was severely lacerated. His family was forced apart as his mother and another brother found shelter with friends in a town several hours away and his father, Louis Fanford Louizar, accompanied David to the Comfort.
As David endured the surgeries required for the amputations, skin grafts and the reconstruction of his nose, he never lost his smile and his father never left his side. “My son tells me not to worry about him, but I do,” admits the soft-spoken man with never-ending patience. Louis keeps a passport-sized photo of Chichancie with him but cautions that he won’t bring it out while David is present because the boy can’t see it without crying. “It’s been hard to see David like this, but I always think about how much worse it would be if he was dead,” he says.
When David was discharged from the Comfort on February 23, he was sent to Saint Damien Hospital in Port-au-Prince, a 120-bed children’s hospital which has been receiving pediatric earthquake victims. Louis was able to join his son after a short period and the pair began to attend daily physical therapy sessions in which David is learning to walk again using leg prosthesis.
“The first day he was at therapy without his dad and he was completely depressed,” says Norma Isabelle Lopez, the center’s head physical therapist, who has been working closely with David. She commends the close bond between father and son. “Handicapped people are rejected in Haiti. We have many parents who would rather just leave their children with us because they don’t have the resources and just don’t know what to do.”
She adds, “It’s one thing for a child to be born with a disability. But when your child has been fine and then suddenly is not, there is a grief process.”
At a recent therapy session David used a walker to move around a large open-ended shipping container being used as a temporary physical therapy room. His huge grin was intact as he even began kicking a soccer ball around with others.
Louis explains how his son, who had been right-handed, has already learned to write well with his left hand. “On the ship, David couldn’t do very much. Now, he makes me stop doing things for him because he wants to try to do them himself.”
“He’s more independent, which makes him more happy,” explains Lopez. “These kids are finally starting to live a normal child’s life again. They don’t lose that sense of joy.”
And thanks to the efforts of several Project HOPE volunteers and staff aboard the USNS Comfort, David will soon be coming to the U.S. for further treatment at Children’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. The paperwork is in order and father and son are only waiting for a military flight to the U.S., which they are told will happen within the week.
Louis says that he couldn’t be more happy with David’s progress, but he is adamant when asked how he feels about his son, “The bottom line is that I accept him however he is.”
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