lundi 9 mai 2011

Haitian orphan having surgery in Austin

Leonise Louima, 10, to undergo heart surgery Published : Sunday, 08 May 2011, 6:14 PM CDT
Jacqueline Ingles
AUSTIN (KXAN) - Leonise Louima, a 10-year-old Haitian orphan, arrived in Austin Sunday evening after a long day of travel.
She will undergo heart surgery mid-week at Dell Children's Hospital .
Leonise Louima was born with patent ductus arteriosus or PDA . PDA happens when a blood vessel called the ductus arteriosus fails to close normally in an infant soon after birth. The condition leads to abnormal blood flow between the aorta and pulmonary artery – two major vessels that carry blood from the heart.
"I feel good," said Leonise after she arrived. Her host mother, Yvrance Joseph Volcy, a Haitian native who moved to the United State 30 years ago, translated for her. Leonise speaks French. This was her first time on an airplane.
With Haiti recovering from the devastating earthquake of January 2010, she can't get the surgery she needs at home.
"I am going to be there for her," said Volcy, who is also hosting the girl's aunt during her brief stay.
Lewis Lucke, a former U.S. Ambassador to Swaziland , was also at ABIA Sunday, but couldn't stay to meet Leonise when her flight became delayed.
He led the U.S. response team following the devastating earthquake in Haiti in January 2010. He will meet with her Monday and serve as her translator.
"I'm just going to be around to greet her, to make her feel at home and we have gifts for her and her aunt," said Lucke.
Lucke has never met Leonise or her aunt, but he did help them get visas to travel to Texas.
Austin-based HeartGift Foundation is helping this third-grader get the life saving surgery she needs at Dell Children's Hospital . The foundation provides life-saving heart surgery to children from developing countries.
Leonise couldn't undergo this type of surgery in Haiti.
Lucke, who visits there twice a month, said the country is still devastated.
"The crisis really has continued. The Haitian people are incredibly resilient. They need everything but mostly the world's attention," Lucke explained.
Leonise is from Gonave, about an hour drive from Port-au-Prince.
She herself is resilient, having lived through three hurricanes prior to that deadly earthquake.
She has also had to deal with the death of both her parents. Her father died in 2001; her mother died in 2005.
Volcy told KXAN she will sing to Leonise to help her feel at home.
"I will see Fara Jacka to her. All French children love that song. I will give her hugs too," Volcy explained.
Leonise is slated to undergo surgery on Wednesday at Dell Children's Hospital.
Lucke said Leonise will likely head back to Haiti a week after surgery.
Leonise lives with her aunt, her grandmother, her four sisters, her brother and several cousins back in her home country.

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