College Medical Mission Offers Hope to Haitian Girl

Critical Surgery to be Performed at Lutheran Hospital

HUNTINGTON, IN -- Her name means "hope," but until recently, eight-month old Gerline Espoire had little to hope for. The Haitian infant was abandoned to die after unsuccessful surgery for hydrocephalus, a serious condition involving fluid build-up on the brain.

Missionary Ruth Zimmerman rescued Gerline and took her to the Notre Maison orphanage in Port-au- Prince. It was there the Haitian tot met a group of Huntington College students. The college team, led by Huntington physician Bill Webb, had come to the impoverished Caribbean nation to participate in a wide variety of learning experiences and volunteer service projects. Their three weeks in Haiti during January Term focused on the completion of a medical clinic in the rural village of St. Ard.

Disfigured by the swelling of her head but still alert and charming, Gerline stole the hearts of the Huntington College team. Immediately upon the team's return to the United States, Dr. Webb began an effort to bring the Haitian infant to Fort Wayne for life-saving surgery.

Gerline and her Haitian attendant Gertrude Bienamie will arrive at Fort Wayne International Airport on Tuesday, February 27, at 10:27 p.m. on American Eagle flight 4392. They will be met at the airport by Dr. Webb and the Huntington College volunteer team.

She will be taken to Lutheran Hospital and scheduled for neurosurgery later this week. Dr. Isa Canavati will perform the delicate procedure. He will insert a shunt to drain the excess fluid and prevent its reaccumulation.

"This procedure is risky," explained Dr. Webb. "Gerline has a very advanced case. However, death is certain if surgery is not done soon."

American Airlines, Lutheran Hospital, and Dr. Canavati have all donated their services to restore hope to the tiny Haitian girl.

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Heather Barkley
Director of Communications
Joanne Green
Sports Information Director