Edward, local doctors help Haitian heart patient.
Local doctors perform heart surgery on Haiti man
Haitian Hearts program helps Luckner Estime, 23, who had aortic valve replacement
By Melissa Jenco, Chicago Tribune reporter
October 31, 2012
Luckner Estime was already in the early stages heart failure when doctors in Haiti discovered his heart murmur last year.
Without the right tools, doctors in his home country couldn't perform the operation necessary to save the 23-year-old's life, but a team that included doctors from Naperville and Peoria as well as a host family from Wilmette stepped in to do just that.
"Now with the valve replacement once he recovers he should be able to do anything he wants to do at all," said Dr. Bryan Foy, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Edward Heart Hospital in Naperville who donated his time to perform heart surgery on Estime.
Estime's road to surgery in the U.S. started with Dr. Jennifer Halverson, a Minnesota doctor working in Haiti who discovered his condition and referred him to Dr. John Carroll, a Peoria doctor who started the Haitian Hearts program that has sent more than 150 children and young adults to the U.S. for heart surgery over nearly two decades..
"These kids … just need a good cardiac surgeon and team taking care of them, and if they haven't progressed too far we can add decades to their life span just with good surgical procedures and good follow-up care," Carroll said during one of his recent trips to Haiti.
Over the course of 14 months, Halverson and Carroll went through the lengthy process of applying for a medical visa for Estime and finding doctors and a hospital in the United States willing to donate time and resources to operate on Estime as well as a family who would care for him.
It was Jody Weschler, a former pediatric nurse, and her husband Frank, an internist at NorthShore University HealthSystem, longtime volunteers in Haiti themselves, who stepped in to host Estime at their Wilmette home.
"I think it's good for our kids to be able to see some of the challenges other people have to face and being willing to share the gifts they have with people here and abroad and doing it every step of your life and not just a day here and a day there," Jody Weschler said.
Estime arrived in Illinois in early September and weeks later, Foy performed his aortic valve replacement, a four-hour surgery that involves stopping and removing Estime's heart, replacing the leaky valve with a new one and then restarting his heart.
Jody Weschler said Estime "has quickly become part of our family." During the past two months he has been taking English classes and joined the family for a Cubs game and trips to Chicago museums.
As Estime continued to recover at the Weschler home, he said through a translator he is grateful for the surgery and the family's hospitality. He plans to return to Haiti this month and hopes to one day be able to attend college to study engineering or mechanics. However, he doesn't know if his family will be able to afford to make that dream a reality as they continue to rebuild their home that collapsed in the 2010 earthquake.
Foy said whether his pro bono patients come from Haiti or the Chicago suburbs, he hopes they will return the favor to someone else. Though he downplays his own role in Estime's successful surgery, he said working with Haitian Hearts has been inspiring.
"I'm impressed by the willingness of people to just give and give openly and give to people they don't know," he said. "It's an amazing thing to watch."
Naperville, Illinois (IL) - Edward Hospital and Health Services