Red Tape Stalling Haitian Boy's Lifesaving Surgery

Monday, Mar 15, 2010  |  Updated 8:45 AM PDT
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Stanford Doctors in Haiti

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI - JANUARY 26: A doctor holds a patients hand during surgery at the University of Miami Miller school of Medicine hospital-Haiti as they help the people injured during the massive earthquake on January 26, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The University doctors and others have been working non-stop to help victims of the earthquake. Relief supplies and medical help continue to arrive in the country as governments and aid agencies launched the massive relief operation after a powerful earthquake that may have killed thousands. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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A 7-year-old Haitian boy could receive potentially life-saving heart surgery for free if the U.S. government would allow him to enter the country.

Sacramento Metro Fire Capt. Barbie Law met Lovensky Alexandre and his mother while working in a clinic as a paramedic in Carrefour, Haiti.

The boy suffers from a congenital heart defect. He came into the clinic because the earthquake leveled his family home and destroyed his heart medicine. The child was suffering from chest pains.

"He's 7 years old and he can't run and play like normal children do," Law said. "Because he gets chest pain, the oxygen demand on his heart is too great."

The first time he came into the clinic, Law said there was not much they could do for him. But a return trip convinced her that she must do something for the boy. Law returned home to Sacramento and devised a plan. She contacted a local pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Hessam Fallah, to review the medical records of the child.

Fallah said based on the records, the child has a congenital heart defect that causes congestive heart failure. He requires medications and is in and out of the hospital. Fallah said the defect could be easily repaired with surgery.

Since the earthquake, there is no quality care for the sick boy's condition.

Sutter Medical Center has agreed to donate all of its services and several doctors will donate their time too, to perform the surgery. However, the child and his mother cannot enter the United States at this time.

Law secured Haitian passports for the pair, but the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince is not processing visas for tourism or medical reasons at this time, and is focusing its efforts on Americans in Haiti. So Law turned to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency for help. She has applied for humanitarian parole for Alexandre and his mother.

Officials in Washington, D.C., said medical issues are a reason that is often granted humanitarian parole. They could not comment directly on Alexandre's case.

Alexandre is now living in the streets of Haiti where illness and disease are rampant. His weakened condition makes him more susceptible to respiratory illness.

Law hopes to have an answer soon.

"There were so many people I wasn't able to help, and I felt like this was the one person I could make a difference in their life," Law said. "And I just felt compelled to do it."

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