Haiti Clamps Down On Transporting Children Abroad
GWEN THOMPKINS, host:
Trying to get a child out of Haiti has become close to impossible. Following the arrests of 10 Americans for trying to take children out of that country, reportedly without proper paperwork. The Haitian government says it fears the threat of human traffickers. The situation has endangered some children who desperately need medical care. But recently, a medical team from Massachusetts helped get eight Haitian children to the U.S. for medical care.
Dr. Ian Goodman is on that team. He's a fellow in pediatric emergency medicine at Baystate Medical Center in Massachusetts. He joins us from member station WBUR in Boston. Welcome to the program, Dr. Goodman.
Dr. IAN GOODMAN (Fellow, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Bay State Medical Center, Massachusetts): Thank you very much for having me.
THOMPKINS: Well, tell me, now, what are the circumstances of these eight children?
Dr. GOODMAN: The five that are in Shriners Hospital in Springfield, Massachusetts, have extremity injuries - broken arms, legs. There's two in the burn center, in Shriners Burn Center here in Boston, who have severe burns over their entire body. And a seriously injured girl in my hospital, Baystate Medical Center in the ICU, with wound infections and broken bones.
THOMPKINS: And the children that you all were able to help, these eight kids, they were chosen for what reason? I mean, I would imagine there are lots of kids down there who are in similar situations.
Dr. GOODMAN: We selected children where the intervention of moving them to the United States would have the biggest impact on their life. For some of them it would save their life. For some it would allow them to walk again.
THOMPKINS: Mm. Now, tell me, I understand that you all had some last minute problems getting off the ground.
Dr. GOODMAN: Yeah, actually the biggest problem we had the last minute was getting to the airport. We had all our paperwork set up. we had this amazing gentleman named Sasha from the Noel Group who cut through administrative red tape like it didn't matter to him at all. At the last minute we had the U.N. call us and cancel our evacuation because we didn't have the prime minister of Haiti's signature.
As I did, like so many times that I was there, I called Sasha and told him the problem. Twenty minutes later we had the prime minister's approval for these children. And we had to get on ambulances and get to the airport very quickly because we were already later than we should've been.
THOMPKINS: I tell you, it must be a surreal experience for these children once they begin their recuperation period here, to sort of look out the window here to see a whole different topography. You know what I mean - a whole different world?
Dr. GOODMAN: Well, I think the most telling part of it was on the flight back from Cap-Haitien, Haiti to Bradley Airport in Connecticut. These children are without parents, and they've never been on a plane before and they're scared leaving the ground for the first time. Two kids had their first donuts.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Dr. GOODMAN: One little girl had her first chocolate chip cookie. And she'd eat around the chocolate chips and handed the chocolate chips back to me 'cause she didn't know what they were.
(Soundbite of laughter)
THOMPKINS: Did she ever realize that they were little slices of heaven?
Dr. GOODMAN: I think by the last one she actually took it and her face changed significantly.
THOMPKINS: Aw, that's fantastic. Now, are the kids going to eventually go back to Haiti?
Dr. GOODMAN: All of these children have families that miss them very much and love them very much and very much want them to return and our goal is to get them back.
THOMPKINS: In the meantime, do you all expect to make other efforts to transport other children who are in need of medical care of out of Haiti to hospitals in your area?
Dr. GOODMAN: When I left on Wednesday, another team from Baystate was on the plane that was coming down, and they have identified additional children that they're going to try to evacuate.
THOMPKINS: Well, good luck to you.
Dr. GOODMAN: Thank you very much.
THOMPKINS: Dr. Ian Goodman is a fellow in pediatric emergency medicine at Bay State Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts. He joined us from WBUR in Boston. Thanks so much.
Dr. GOODMAN: You're very welcome.
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