January 17, 2011
By Rachel Turner
Tamaka Ezca passed into the arms of Jesus at 7:25 p.m. tonight, January 17, 2011, at the University of Miami Hospital in Port-au-Prince. Named “the most beautiful girl in Haiti” by nurses, her smile captured the hearts of many.
After six days of struggling to live, Tamaka’s oxygen levels dropped too low, and her enlarged heart could not work fast enough to keep her alive. “All hands were on deck,” said Dr. Ronye Emory. “We had two surgeons, one cardiologist, and a pharmacist working over her. She just couldn’t do it anymore.” Her mother’s cries filled the pediatric ward as she mourned her daughter’s death. The medical staff was stunned and sad.
Many in the US and in Haiti rallied together to try to save Tamaka’s life after cardiologist Dr. Clint Doiron and his partners from the Chadasha Foundation met her on Friday. “She has rheumatic heart disease caused by untreated strep throat,” said Dr. Doiron. “She will not live without immediate help in the US.”
That day, members of Chadasha began contacting US hospitals asking them to host Tamaka. Dr. Jenny Chapman from Huntsville, Alabama, immediately joined those trying to help Tamaka, and soon secured a place for her at Huntsville Hospital with help from colleagues.
Surgeons, EMTs, relief workers, and contractors traveled to Port-au-Prince’s General Hospital throughout the week to donate blood for Tamaka. The goal was to raise her hemoglobin level for her scheduled flight on Thursday morning.
But even with so many people reaching out to Tamaka, she didn’t make it.
This is a story that has replayed many times in Haiti, but those who reach out must not grow weary, for eventually, change will arrive.
Perhaps telling beautiful Tamaka’s story will make a difference for the next heart patient that needs to be sent immediately to the United States. Perhaps her story will grow awareness for the need of medical and surgical cardiac care in Haiti.
One thing is true, those who were touched by Tamaka’s smile will not forget. May her memory continue to spur change.
Monday began as a good day. I was busy working on plans for Tamaka's transfer while seeing patients in the office. I had 2 computers going side by side working the issues at hand. 2 letters for the visa were completed and an e-mail at lunch and I knew that the letter from the hospital was completed as well. The other parts were being worked well and for once it really seemed that this was coming together. I picked up the letter from hospital and rushed home to get the letters scanned in to our colleagues in Haiti to piece together for her visa application.
There was a little bump midday as Michelle (the missionary currently caring for my sweet Haitian daughter Melissa) informed me that Melissa was sick. For those who are new to my blog, Melissa is a beautiful infant with Down's Syndrome and congenital heart defect that was abandoned on a previous trip.
Oh. No. You see through these last few days with Tamaka I have struggled with a transfer of emotions regarding the specific illness Tamaka had. This type of infection in the heart and heart failure are likely issues for Melissa someday. It was a glaring reminder as to the fragiligy of Melissa medical conditions. (see previous posts for more info). I tried to shrug it off and press forward with the tasks at hand.
Much of the remainder of the afternoon was spent in getting the letters scanned to those who are going to submit the medical visa. Once that was accomplished, I had moved on to planning the coordination of the transport from the airport to the hospital. News came that Tamaka's mother would not be travelling with her but a dear Haitian friend Yanick would travel with her. This was very exciting to plan hosting this dear friend here in Huntsville for awhile.
We sat down to a dinner of Chinese take-out and my cell phone rang. It had been beeping and chirping all day with texts and e-mails, but it rang this time and a Haitian number was on the caller ID. It was Greg giving the news that the Lord had released Tamaka from the bondages of our world and taken her home. My first question to him was, "Was her Mom with her?" This is important in my mind that she was not alone in that moment. Blessedly, he described her mother and father were with her. We hung up and before I could process it, I knew many had to be notified. An hour or so later of calls and messages, I was getting the kids ready for bed. My sweet husband mentions, "you know, that will be us in 10 years."
I stopped right in my tracks...
"What do you mean?" I asked, but I knew. You see Melissa has a severe heart defect which we know will not allow her to grow into an adult. That one infection could cause heart failure and the like. He was right. The unimaginable grief Tamaka's dear parents are suffering right now, is an inevitable grief we will face some day.
But what my sweet husband did remind me was that the important thing was that we fill her little life with all the joy and love we can for however long we can. Wow! In a scenario when many wouldn't want to even open the door to this challenge and heartache some day, he was there. Ready to show God's love.
For those who missed it, I posted an incredible song on Facebook written from the perspective of the loved one who has passed away. It is "heaven's perspective". It was originally written by Mandesa for a sweet patient of mine who's precious first born son passed away at birth. It is to remind us that they are in such a better place and we will see them again in the blink of an eye. I will share it with you below.
Through God's mercies and blessings,