A teenage girl from Haiti thanks the people who saved her life. Doctors at Golisano Children's Hospital performed heart surgery on 15-year-old Samantha Cadet, their first patient through Partners in Health's Right to Health Care Program. Our Kat De Maria was there as she left Golisano for the last time.
SYRACUSE, N.Y.--For nearly her entire life, Samantha Cadet has been slowly dying from heart conditions that are treatable in this country, but not in her home of Haiti.
"Her family has been living with that for ten years, thinking she might not make it into adulthood," said Owen Robinson, with Partners in Health.
Through that organization, doctors with Golisano Children's Hospital met Samantha and other Haitian children in need of care. They took Samantha's case.
"Just the fact that Upstate was willing to step up with no hesitation and agree to take one was wonderful," Robinson said.
With care secured, advocates started to figure out the logistics of bringing Samantha from Port Au Prince to Syracuse.
"The plan was for her mother to come. But her mother was denied a visa to come to the United States," Robinson said.
"Owen handled the social aspects. He was mother, father, sister, guardian and took phenomenal care of her. And we handled the medical piece," said Carol Dawson, a pediatric nurse practitioner who helped with Samantha's care.
Others gave Samantha a place to live, bought her warm clothes and took her out.
Samantha had her surgery just a month ago.
"Her heart not only was extremely large but she developed a big fluid accumulation around the heart, and that had to be drained along with the surgery he did to close the hole in her heart and fix the heart valve. It was quite an extensive operation," said Dr. Frank Smith, one of Golisano's pediatric oncologists.
"We had to talk with her mother and make sure she understood there was a chance Samantha would not come home," Dawson said.
Samantha's operation, performed by Dr. George Alfieris, was a success. Her condition still requires attention. But she says she's looking forward to leaving the Syracuse winter, going home and playing soccer.
Samantha is shy and doesn't say much. But she had one very important thing to tell her doctors and nurses, and everyone who contributed to saving her life.
"Merci," Samantha said.
"She's a very amazing young woman," Dawson said.
For more information about Partners in Health's Right to Health Care program, visit www.pih.org,