Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Medical team donates surgery to heal Haitian girl

Dr. Jeff Jacobs checks on his Haitian patient, Deve Vilsenat, 2, as her father Michelet Vilsenat caresses her Thursday afternoon at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa. Deve had heart surgery through the hospital’s Gift of Life program.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

Dr. Jeff Jacobs checks on his Haitian patient, Deve Vilsenat, 2, as her father Michelet Vilsenat caresses her Thursday afternoon at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa. Deve had heart surgery through the hospital’s Gift of Life program.

TAMPA — Deve Vilsenat's 2-year-old body would not allow her to run and play with other children without getting winded. Sick since infancy, she was hospitalized four times.

Her father, woodworker Michelet Vilsenat, spent all his money seeking help for his daughter, but the small Haitian island of La Gonave didn't have the doctors or facilities to treat her.

On Thursday, with the help of humanitarian groups and medical workers, Deve got a chance to be a child.

Surgeons at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital repaired a blood vessel near Deve's heart that had failed to close normally after birth. The condition, called patent ductus arteriosus, results in abnormal blood flow and can lead to heart failure.

Left untreated, Deve most likely would not have survived childhood, surgeon Dr. Jeff Jacobs said.

The hole in the little girl's blood vessel was so large that an initial attempt to plug it was scrapped, and Jacobs operated.

It took the surgeon an hour to repair the opening, successfully capping off a journey that began months ago when a doctor doing humanitarian work in Haiti learned of her plight.

A local non-profit group, Help Brings Hope For Haiti, arranged for a plane owned by a retired South Tampa businessman to fly Deve and her father to America after the pilot dropped off medical supplies in Haiti.

Father and daughter, who have been living in a tent because their home was destroyed by the earthquake, arrived last Friday. Deve's mother and 5-year-old brother stayed behind.

A local Rotary group, which runs the hospital's Gift of Life program, took care of the paperwork, adding Deve to a list of more than 120 children around the world who have undergone free, lifesaving heart surgery at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital since 1996.

Deve's surgery cost about $20,000, said Heidi Hess, a pediatric nurse practitioner who runs Gift of Life. The clinical team donated their service, and the local Rotary chapter will donate $5,000 to the hospital. It's a relatively small price to pay, considering past surgeries have cost up to $200,000, Hess said.

For the family, no amount of money could express their appreciation.

After emerging from surgery, Deve wrapped her fingers around her father's hand and whispered, "Papa."

With moist eyes, her father said through a translator: "We can't ever repay you. Hopefully when you get to heaven, God will have a star for you."

Deve and her father will remain in Tampa for about two more weeks with a host family until she heals completely from surgery.

Jacobs said situations like Deve's remind him why he became a doctor. Deve should not need any more surgeries or suffer any more effects.

"She's basically a normal kid now," Jacobs said. "She's going to go back to Haiti and be a little girl and she's going to get to grow up."

Dong-Phuong Nguyen can be reached at (813)909-4613 or nguyen@sptimes.com.

Medical team donates surgery to heal Haitian girl 05/13/10 [Last modified: Thursday, May 13, 2010 10:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Shark Week 2017: Michael Phelps races a shark and other must-see specials

    Blogs

    It's that time of year again. No, not back to school month or geek convention season -- it's Shark Week.

    For almost 30 years, Discovery Channel has brought a full week of special programs on the toothy underwater predators through Shark Week.
  2. HomeTeam 100: Players 51-60

    Footballpreps

    TAMPA - Wharton defensive back AJ Hampton will help lead the Wildcats into the 2017 season. Taken 7-6-17 by Scott Purks
  3. Clearwater Beach driver's roommate thought she could help turn his life around

    Crime

    CLEARWATER — Ryan Michael Stiles wanted to start fresh. Sarah Lynn Wright wanted to help.

    Ryan Michael Stiles, 27, is seen while driving his vehicle on Clearwater Beach Thursday, July 20, 2017. Stiles was stopped on the north end of Caladesi Island after driving up from Clearwater Beach, police said. [Facebook]
  4. The Iron Yard coding academy to close in St. Petersburg

    Business

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Iron Yard, a code-writing academy with a location in downtown St. Petersburg, will close for good this summer.

    Instructors (from left) Mark Dewey, Jason Perry, and Gavin Stark greet the audience at The Iron Yard, 260 1st Ave. S, in St. Petersburg during "Demo Day" Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, at The Iron Yard, which is an immersive code school that is part of a trend of trying to address the shortage of programmers.  The academy is closing this summer.  [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  5. Florida's unemployment rate drops for fourth straight month

    Markets

    How low can Florida's unemployment go? Pretty low, according to the state's latest unemployment numbers. The Sunshine State's unemployment rate dropped to 4.1 percent for June, down from 4.3 percent in May, state officials said Friday morning.

    Florida's unemployment level dropped to 4.1 percent in June from 4.3 percent in May. |  [Times file photo]