Should I get on the plane with this little baby or not? I am in Port-au-Prince with 18-month-old Sophonise and five other Haitian children–all with a potpourri of heart problems. And I am afraid. I want all of them to survive the 90-minute plane ride at 39,000 feet to Miami. But I am most concerned about Sophonise.
Those were my thoughts and sentiments in 2003 at the Haitian airport. All of the kids had been accepted by two pediatric medical centers in south Florida. And all of them needed heart surgery.
During the preceding months in Haiti, I had examined Sophonise and explained to her father and her father’s sister the seriousness of Sophonise’s heart condition. (Sophonise’s mother was dead.) I had tried to get Sophonise accepted into a hospital in Cuba for heart surgery, but I was unsuccessful. But then the medical centers in Florida accepted Sophonise and the other five kids— we were so fortunate. Sophonise’s father listened carefully and agreed for her to have surgery in the United States.
At the airport, I was worried whether Sophonise could tolerate the plane ride. She had complex congenital heart disease (Tetralogy of Fallot with hypoplastic pulmonary arteries) which made her blue…and any crying on her part only plunged her oxygen to lower critical levels. But I knew she needed to get out of Haiti and have her little heart operated as soon possible. If I backed out then I didn’t think she would get another chance.
While sitting at the gate with five kids surrounding me and Sophonise in my lap, a small group of Americans walked up to me. I had met them in Haiti and they were headed to Miami also. And an angel lady in the group asked me if I wanted her to hold Sophonise on the plane ride to Miami. I immediately jumped at the chance and explained to her Sophonise’s condition and why crying was a bad thing. She understood completely and took the baby from me. Sophonise seemed to be quite comfortable in her arms.
So we all got on the plane and I got to tend to the other five kids who seemed to be having a fine time. And the lady held Sophonise a few rows back.
Well, the flight went fine. Sophonise slept much of the flight, thank God. We landed in Miami and Sophonise and the other children seemed no worse for the wear. We herded the six kids though US customs successfully as the customs officer reviewed all of their passports and visas and smiled while he said “good luck.”
So this was all good news. The bad news was that the nice lady and her group were going to a different gate for their connecting flight than I was with the six kids. And Sophonise would have to be carried by me to our final destination. I was very grateful for their help and I reluctantly said goodbye.
After I made it to our connecting gate with the kids, I sat down with Sophonise and took her pulse. It was 160/min. But she was not overly blue and seemed pretty comfortable and was taking some formula quite well. On other trips to Miami from Haiti, I had taken children straight off the plane to Miami Children’s Hospital because the kids looked so bad when we landed. And at times the kids ended up in the intensive care unit. But with Sophonise I decided to press forward to our next destination which was an hour away. So we all boarded the plane again.
Sophonise did not get stressed and did very well during this flight also. I don’t remember her crying. I thanked God repeatedly for her stable condition when we touched down.
At the airport hospital representatives, a pediatric cardiology nurse practitioner, and six host families were there to meet us. I had never met any of this large diverse group including the host parents and so it was quite a happy experience in the airport gathering the kids and luggage and reassessing the kids to see if any of them needed to go to the ER that night after the flight. After determining that they all looked pretty decent, including Sophonise, I explained to each host family what was wrong with their “new Haitian child.” Many phone numbers and addresses were exchanged. I explained to Sophonises’s host family the severity of her problems and they understood. With all the kids accounted for, we all headed out of the airport.
I stayed with one of the host families for the next two weeks as the surgeries were done. I was present for each of the six surgeries and all went well. Including Sophonise’s surgery.
Sixteen years have passed and Sophonise is now almost 17 years old. I never returned her to Haiti due to the fact that she needed more heart surgery with close followup. Her Haitian father agreed. Her visa was extended here in the United States.
An incredible Haitian-American lady named Claire in Florida accepted Sophonise in her home and took care of her. And she kept in touch with Sophonise’s father on the phone and even traveled to Haiti in the mid-2000s to meet with him in Port-au-Prince. He agreed that Claire should adopt Sophonise because he obviously could not provide her with the medical care she needed in Haiti.
Unfortunately, after January 12, 2010–the day the Haitian earthquake killed several hundred thousand people in less than a minute–Claire lost touch with Sophonise’s father. He no longer answered his phone when Claire would call. Claire even flew from Haiti to Port-au-Prince and went to his neighborhood in search of him. None of the neighbors even knew who he was or whether he survived the quake. Sophonise’s father seemed to have disappeared. (During the years after the quake, many people in Haiti told me almost the same thing. Their family members just never returned home after the “goudougoudou”. They had disappeared, too.)
Sophonise was declared an abandoned child after the earthquake which allowed Claire to formally adopt Sophonise.
Sophonise is now a senior in high school in Florida. She is doing very well and her heart health is stable.
I don’t have the proper words of appreciation to express my love for the people who have sustained Sophonise. I dedicate this little post to Claire and the entire medical community in south Florida who gave Sophonise the chance she needed.
Anderson is a 22-year-old young Haitian man who lives in a slum located just off of Route 9. I won’t name the place, but it borders Cite Soleil. I first met him in 2001 when his concerned mother brought her four-year-old son to me for a presumed heart problem. Anderson has a Ventricular Septal Defect which is a hole in the lower chambers of his heart. However, the hole with the loud accompanying murmur does not harm him and does not require surgery or medication.
During his short life, Anderson has survived multiple natural and manmade disasters including hurricanes, tropical storms, an epic earthquake in Port-au-Prince that killed hundreds of thousands of people, vicious UN versus gang wars, a thriving slum kidnapping business which reached its peak in 2006–2007, epidemics of cholera , chikungunya, and zika, bad governments with corrupt politicians, horrible roads, urban decay and pollution, and lack of virtually all basic necessities.
However, using ways unknown to me, for the past two decades Anderson has appeared unexpectedly for short visits in the Soleil clinic. And this has allowed me to watch this young man grow up. With the advent of social media, Anderson now actually gets on my nerves with his constant stream of texts. He has turned into a relentlessly driven person– always trying to improve himself in the face of daunting local barriers.
Recently, Anderson told me that he is becoming a tourist guide. I don’t know why Haiti would need more tourist guides right now…but WHATEVER. And he pleads with me saying that he wants me to give him English lessons on WhatsApp. Anderson states that he wants to become a “better listener”, which I find interesting since Anderson “pale twop”. He wants me to send a one-minute audio recording each day so he can learn to speak like we do.
Luke, my 16-year-old Haitian son, sent Anderson an audio message the other morning intending to help Anderson. Luke told him about a book that he is reading. Anderson answered Luke back in very respectable English that “reading was a good thing for Luke to do”.
This audio exchange was interesting for me to hear. Anderson, who has very few material possessions, was encouraging my son to read books. Other than the ubiquitous Haitian bible, I doubt there are more than one or two other books in Anderson’s house. Yet, there he was encouraging my son to “make something of himself”.
Comparing these two guys–
Anderson has grown up “looking for food” each day. Luke has never looked for food one day in his life in the States. Food is always there.
Anderson has had few cups of cold clean water in his lifetime. Luke has cold clean water every day from the kitchen sink.
Anderson hears gunshots at night as violence erupts from one slum to another. Luke has rarely heard the live sound of a gunshot.
Anderson’s house has no electricity and private wifi for him is only a dream. Luke takes power 24/7 for granted and could not imagine life without a fast internet connection.
Anderson’s chances of going to the university are small. He has no money. Luke is expected to go to the university and he assumes he will.
Anderson has been given very few opportunities. Luke has been given many opportunities.
Anderson, with his naivete and innocence on his sleeve, completely believes he will be successful in life. He works with a passion. Luke expects that he will be successful too. But his passion is not as intense living in a soft society that coddles its people and gives everyone a participation trophy.
There are hundreds of thousands of Andersons in Haiti. There are millions of young men like Luke in the United States. I want both guys to “succeed” but success for either young man is not guaranteed. Supporting Anderson is so different than supporting Luke.
Finally, this Anderson/Luke comparison begs the most important question:
Written by Katie Stadick, Dietetic Intern, OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center
Fats play an important part in our bodies and can help keep us healthy. Omega-3 fatty acids are a great example of a type of fat that plays an important role in our health. It is true that fats have many helpful benefits, but not all fats are created equal.
What are the different kinds of fats?
Trans fats are mostly found in processed foods. They raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. It is recommended to avoid eating trans fats.
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. They are often found in meat and dairy products. It is okay to eat saturated fats in small amounts.
Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. These can help reduce bad cholesterol in your blood. Unsaturated fats can also have a positive impact on your health when eaten in moderate amounts.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fat. There are many different types of omega-3 fatty acids, the most common being: Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
What foods contain these different types of omega-3 fatty acids? ALA is plant-based and can be found in plant derived oils – such as soybean and canola oils. It can also be found in flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and avocados. EPA and DHA are found in fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines. These fatty fish have a higher omega-3 content compared to fish with lower fat contents such as tilapia, cod, and bass. It is important to eat foods that have ALA, DHA, and EPA because they all help with different functions in our bodies.
How much omega-3’s do we need in our diet? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults eat 8 ounces or more of a variety of seafood (fish or shellfish) per week. They also suggest choosing seafood choices with higher amounts of EPA and DHA to help provide the total package of nutrients.
Why do we need omega-3 fatty acids in our diet? Omega-3’s play an important role in how our immune system functions because they are considered anti-inflammatory. Eating enough omega-3’s has been shown to reduce the risk of certain pro-inflammatory diseases like heart disease and can help with depression symptoms. Omega-3’s have also been found to improve overall brain health and can lower triglyceride levels for a healthy heart.
Bottom Line: It is important to eat foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids like fatty fish and plant-derived oils. Consuming a diet rich in these omega-3 fatty acids can have many positive health-related benefits and lead to a healthier heart.
See below for a delicious Salmon Taco Recipe to help increase the omega-3 fatty acids in your diet!
Salmon Tacos with Roasted Corn Salsa
Enjoy a fun twist on tacos with heart-healthy fish and a fresh vibrant salsa!
12 ounces frozen, skinless salmon, thawed
8 corn tortillas
Salt-Free Taco Seasoning
½ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon paprika
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon black pepper
Roasted Corn Salsa
1 cup frozen roasted sweet corn, thawed
½ cup diced tomato
½ cup diced cucumber
¼ cup diced red onion
2 Tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1 Tablespoon lime juice
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Bake salmon as directed on package. Add baked salmon to medium bowl and shred with fork. Set aside.
In a small bowl, mix salt-free taco seasonings together.
Add 2 ½ teaspoons of seasoning mixture to shredded salmon. Mix until well combined. Set aside.
Combine all roasted corn salsa ingredients in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Warm corn tortillas as directed on package, if desired. In one tortilla, place 1 ½ ounces of shredded seasoned salmon and ¼ cup of salsa. Fold in half. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
Per 2 tacos
Total Fat: 5 g
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Sodium: 107 mg
Total Carbohydrate: 37 g
Dietary Fiber: 7 g
Sugars: 6 g
Protein: 23 g
“Fats”. American Heart Association, https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats. Accessed 2 April, 2019.
“Office of Dietary Supplements – Omega-3 Fatty Acids.” NIH Office of Dietary Supplements,
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-
HealthProfessional/. Accessed 2 April, 2019.
Riediger, Natalie D., et al. “A Systemic Review of the Roles of n-3 Fatty Acids in Health and
Disease.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association, vol. 109, no. 4, 2009, pp. 668–679.,
doi:10.1016/j.jada.2008.12.022. Accessed 2 April, 2019.
Written by Emma Elsasser, Dietetic Intern, OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center
Did you know that 1 teaspoon of table salt contains 2,300 mg of sodium? The Dietary Guidelines recommend eating 2,300 mg of sodium per day or less pending medical conditions. Those with heart disease should aim to eat 1,500 mg of sodium or less per day. Too much salt can raise your blood pressure and your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Salt can be found in packaged foods, baking mixes, snack foods, sauces, condiments, and seasonings. Seasoning blends may not taste salty but could still contain sodium. Now that it’s grilling season, look to buy or make your own salt-free seasonings. You can still boost the flavor of your food without all the extra salt!
How do I know how much sodium is in a food?
The amount of sodium in a serving of food is listed in milligrams (mg) on the nutrition label. Look at both the Serving Size and the Servings Per Container to figure out how much salt you are eating. For example: In 2 teaspoons (or 1 serving) of taco seasoning, there are 380 mg of sodium per serving. There are six servings per container. Therefore, the whole seasoning mix contains 2,280 mg of sodium.
Choosing individual spices or herbs can help you create your own mixes without the added salt. When choosing these, look for seasonings without salt in the name, such as garlic powder over garlic salt. Below are some recipes for easy salt-free seasoning mixes.
Makes ¼ cup of seasoning.
3 teaspoons chili powder
3 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 ½ teaspoons onion powder
1 ½ teaspoons ground black pepper
5 teaspoons dried basil
2 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
2 ½ teaspoons dried marjoram
2 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
5 teaspoons dried basil
2 ½ teaspoons dried parsley
2 ½ teaspoons ground black pepper
2 ½ teaspoons lemon zest
Some seasonings pair better with certain foods. Try adding one or more of the following options to season your meat or vegetables. The following are some ideas from the American Cancer Society:
Beef: bay leaf, grape jelly, marjoram, mustard (dry), nutmeg, onion, ground black pepper, sage, thyme
Use ¼ teaspoon of dried herbs (or 3/4 teaspoon of fresh) per pound of meat. Add ground spices to food about 15 minutes before the end of cooking time. Add whole spices at least 1 hour before the end of cooking time.
Making your own seasoning blends can be an easy way to limit sodium in your diet. You can personalize seasonings to boost the flavors of your food. Try making a Mexican, Italian, or lemon pepper mixture, or create your own, to add to your favorite foods!
“Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 Eighth Edition.” Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/. Accessed 15 April 2019.
“Hold the Salt: Healthier Ways to Season Food.” The American Cancer Society, 12 July 2017, https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/hold-the-salt-healthier-ways-to-season-food.html. Accessed 15 April 2019.
“Shaking the Salt Habit to Lower High Blood Pressure.” The American Heart Association, 2016, https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/shaking-the-salt-habit-to-lower-high-blood-pressure. Accessed 15 April 2019.
Written by Amy McMahon, Dietetic Intern, OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center
When we think about eating healthy we often think about paying more money. Choosing the healthiest foods that fit our budget can feel overwhelming and stressful. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you smart shop and eat healthy on a budget.
Make a plan
Having a plan can save you time and money. Start with writing down the meals and snacks you would like to eat for the week. Use the same ingredients in multiple meals for the week to avoid buying a wide variety of products. Next, create a shopping list with each ingredient that you will need to buy. Writing down a list will help you keep track of the amount of food you need to buy. When you are shopping, only buy foods on your list. This will prevent temptation to spend money on extra foods that are not needed.
Shop the sales
Spend less by looking for food that is on sale or has a coupon. Advertisements are a great way to see foods that are sold for cheaper. You can also use ads to compare store prices to find the best deals. Look for grocery store ads and coupons in the newspaper, online, or posted in the store. Most stores, such as Hyvee, Kroger, Walmart, and Schnucks, have free phone apps that are helpful tools to find ads and coupons.
Buy cheap foods
When looking for cheap fruits and vegetables try buying frozen or canned. These will last longer than fresh produce and are usually cheaper. If you prefer fresh fruits and vegetables, look for produce in season. If unsure which produce is in season ask a grocery store employee. Fresh produce in season will taste fresher and cost less. Canned meats such as canned chicken and canned tuna, are also a cheaper option. Check the food label on the back to avoid added salt and sugar. When shopping,consider buying nutritious food that are lower in cost such as beans, peas, eggs, peanut butter, brown rice, and oats. Buying foods in bulk can help you get more food for a lower cost. When looking at the price sticker on the shelf look for the unit price. This price will tell you how much each ounce costs. You can then compare these prices with similar products on the shelf. Often times generic brand products are cheaper than the name brand and taste just as good.
Consider when food expires to prevent throwing away food and wasting money. When planning meals for the week eat fresh produce and meats earlier in the week and save the frozen foods for the end of the week. When shopping buy products with later expiration dates to avoid food spoilage. If you notice food getting close to expiring, make large meals to freeze and reheat as leftovers. Other foods you can freeze include breads, casseroles, and soups.
Try one of these shopping tips to cut costs and stay within your budget at the grocery store. These tips will help you include healthy and nutritious food year round!
Imagine that you were in Peoria this morning and that you needed to take your little boy to the pediatrician. Let’s say he had been sick for four days with a fever and cough. He is whiney because he is sick and, as usual, you had no food to give him this morning. And you hadn’t eaten either.
Imagine that you do not have a car and so you walked down Main Street carrying your boy. During your walk, you noticed that there were not many people out this morning and you wondered why. So you stopped and asked where everyone was and you found out that a Peoria policeman had just been shot and killed by a local gang at the corner of Sheridan and Main.
So imagine that you were scared but that you needed to get your boy to the doctor and so you kept walking. But when you arrived at the top of Main Street hill, you saw a young man casually walking towards you with a Colt M4 automatic weapon. You held your breath and he walked right past you barely glancing your way.
Well, this exact scenario happened to a Haitian friend of mine this morning when he took his baby boy to the pediatric clinic in Cite Soleil. My friend, like many other parents, often risk their lives as they seek medical care for family members.
Haiti has run aground at his point. As Miami Herald journalist Jacquie Charles tweeted this morning, “The gangs are growing becoming more entrenched, police have no means & parliament no political will. Everyone in society paying the price.”
Fanel Delva, a Haitian blogger, recently posted this on the collapse of Haitian society:
“Nothing is safe in this country. Not even the rise of the flag. To live in this corner of the earth is the choice of the real fighter. The latter must fight against insecurity, lack of access to health care, unemployment, indecent proposals, lack of road infrastructure. Here all conditions are met to die every sixty seconds.”
And today gunshots rang out today near the American Embassy in Port-au-Prince. This will not be met with an improvement in the U. S. State Department travel advisory–currently at Level 4.
Regarding the Haitian situation, my friend ended his text to me today with the following:
“Since you cannot eat, you cannot find your health. You cannot find electricity, and you can’t send your kids to school. You can’t find money to pay for your rent, and you cannot find work. You can’t take care of your family, and you know you have died even though you haven’t entered the cemetery.”