By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
BETTENDORF — In a desperate measure to get help to remove a tumor affecting her, Claudami Jean Lor of Haiti sent an email plea to the United States.
The email titled “Demande d’Aide” (a plea for help) was sent to various groups and eventually ended up with Dr. Mark Blaser, a physician and member of the St. John Vianney Haiti Committee in Bettendorf. St. John Vianney Parish has a sister parish in Jean Denis, Haiti.
Blaser, an allergist with Medical Arts Associates in Moline, Illinois, said that through a series of what he calls “miracles” he was able to get help for Claudami. But it took time.
Claudami, 33, is a single mother and a nurse in Haiti. She met St. John Vianney Haiti Committee members on their medical missions to Haiti.
During a farewell party Aug. 23 in Bettendorf, Claudami shared her thoughts about what it took to get to the United States, her surgery, and preparing to go home. She spoke through interpreter Dimy Doresca of the Haiti committee.
She told The Catholic Messenger that her thoracic shwannoma tumor was inoperable in Haiti. The non-cancerous tumor affected her right shoulder and limited sensation and lifting capabilities. That affected her ability to lift her daughter and to do her work as a nurse. She had the tumor for about 12 years but never mentioned it to the Haiti committee members. In desperation, she sent out the email in June 2014 seeking help.
Blaser looked at Claudami’s CT reports (written reports of the advanced x-rays) and showed them to colleague Dr. Nathan Durick, a radiologist. Durick texted his friend, Dr. Rammohan Marla, a vascular surgeon. “He immediately agreed to help,” Blaser said.
Doresca’s mother-in-law, who was in Haiti, brought the CT scans of Claudami’s hand and shoulder to the Quad Cities. Meanwhile, during a party, Blaser ran into Rick Seidler, president and CEO of Unity Point Trinity in the Quad Cities. Blaser explained Claudami’s situation and identified the doctors willing to help her. Seidler agreed to offer hospital services at Unity Point.
Haiti committee members Ken and Cathy Miller offered their home to Claudami for her stay in the U.S.
By November 2014, schedules were worked out to perform Claudami’s surgery. But her visa to the United States was denied. Letters from various people, including U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), were written on her behalf. In April 2015 her application was accepted.
On June 4, Claudami arrived in the U.S. where more tests were completed in preparation for surgery. “Her condition was more complicated than the physicians had hoped,” Blaser said. The surgery could not be done in the Quad-Cities. Hearing the disappointing news, Claudami lay on the floor crying, Cathy Miller said. The physical pain was unbearable and Claudami was afraid nothing could be done. “I laid on the floor with her and told her something would happen.”
Blaser talked with Dr. Chandan Reddy, a neurosurgeon at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, who agreed to accept the case. Funding, however, was the next roadblock. “It took almost a year to get her here. We couldn’t stop trying,” Blaser said. Anonymous donors came forward to pay Claudami’s medical bills.
On July 28 the surgery finally took place. “I was very excited to finally find help,” Claudami said. After surgery she was in less pain, had motion in her arm and fingers and was able to lift her arm over her head. She gained strength from physical therapy, which will continue in Haiti.
During her stay in the United States, Claudami communicated with her family through phone calls and Facebook. To communicate with her host family, Claudami and the Millers used “Google translate” on the Internet. “It’s not perfect,” Cathy laughed.
“We were empty nesters so we didn’t give it a second thought to hosting Claudami,” Cathy said. “I saw someone who was in need of help. I could give her shelter and food. I opened my home to a complete stranger.”
Claudami was excited to head home Aug. 26 and to hug her daughter with both arms. “I have been spoiled here.”
She thanked everyone involved in making the surgery happen. “I had no hope before this group. They found a solution and God bless all of them. I will go back home and help others.”