We are the conduits.

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Yesterday, I found myself filled with exhilaration, and kept repeating “this is amazing”, “the doctors will be thrilled”, “this will help so many people” and other similar sentiments. No matter how many times I’m on the receiving end of donations, I always get this “high” feeling, knowing I’m going to be able to pass them along to people in extreme need. Once again, we would like to express our sincere appreciation to Brother’s Brother Foundation (www.brothersbrother.org) who has provided us with thousands of dollars of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals for our work in Honduras.

Next month we will have the opportunity to hand carry several large bags containing everything from pain relievers and antibiotics to braces and IV sets. My mind spins as I picture the people who will come to our house looking to see my husband (a.k.a. “the American doctor”), to helping patients in our town’s Centro de Salud (health clinic) to meeting with our Honduran doctor/friend and sharing these gifts.

Brother’s Brother Foundation gives us the means to help save lives, alleviate discomfort, and enable us to support trustworthy doctors within country. Access to health care in Honduras is extremely limited for many reasons…distance in rural areas, affordability, lack of medicine/supplies etc. Doctors are required by the government to work part time in public hospitals, but often go months without pay. The hospitals are ill equipped and we’ve seen Coke bottles holding used syringes, newborns lying under light bulbs instead of being in incubators, and people turned down for operations because hospitals didn’t have oxygen. How refreshing it will be to offer sterilized gauze, surgical blades, and garments and help reduce the possibilities of infection. How fortunate we are to be able to offer parents medicine to help reduce their children’s fevers or treat their infections, often keeping a more serious problem from developing.

We are the conduits…connecting valuable resources with wonderful people in need.

Our Summer Ritual Continues

Noel and Astrid Summer

On June 24th, Noel (13 years old) and Astrid (10 years old) returned to our home for nine weeks. In 2006, Noel received life-saving cardiac surgery, and two and half years later Astrid arrived for neurosurgery to correct her “tethered” spinal cord and orthopedic surgery for her “cavus” foot.

Both children were here for their annual check-ups at Tufts Medical Center and Shriners Hospital for Children (Springfield). Adjustments were made to Astrid’s AFO (ankle foot orthosis) which she is required to wear throughout the day. Noel underwent an electrocardiogram, ultrasound and stress test. Doctor’s determined his heart is in worse condition, and he will need another surgery in the near future.

We’re grateful for the free care provided by Dr. David Dvaric and Shriners Hospital, and the token amount paid to Tufts for the services of Dr. Michael deMoore and others. Once again, we received complimentary flights from American Airline’s Miles for Kids in Need program who have helped enable Esperanza to bring many patients from Honduras to Boston.

Although the primary purpose for the visit is medical, it has developed into so much more. Astrid and Noel have become integral parts of our family and we have journeyed with them as they have grown from a toddler and a pre-schooler to a pre-teen and teenager. We have shared our values, goals and traditions, and they have taught us about their beliefs, customs, and the realities of living in the third world. It continues to amaze us how they are able to adjust back and forth between two families, two languages, and two cultures.

Not only do they have the good fortune of coming to the U.S. for medical care, they have been welcomed into the homes of many families. These kind and generous people have afforded them the opportunity to travel to new places, experience different adventures and provide financial assistance for their housing and education. Noel and Astrid certainly are blessed, but with it comes expectations and a sense of obligation to their own families. During the school year, they travel to receive a better education and work long hours to complete their extensive homework. While they are here, they want to earn money to help provide necessities for their families. They have their own inner struggles knowing they have plenty of food to eat, are living in a safer environment and aren’t there to help with chores and their younger siblings.

We enjoy having the chance to shower them with love and attention, encourage them to pursue their dreams, support them through their struggles…and then it’s time to let them go…and return to their other homes.

Little did we know…


Five months ago we were excited and relieved that Ostin had finally arrived for treatment in the U.S. For the previous year and a half, we had been actively advocating on his behalf for treatment of his lymphatic malformation. Once he was accepted for treatment and we had obtained funding, the next decision to make was whether to bring him alone or with his mother. We have brought many children here to live with us, the youngest being less than a year. And we had only brought one mother in the past. It certainly has it’s trade offs…on the one hand you have a parent in her late teens with her own issues and an additional person living in the house…on the other hand, it allows for more freedom, not having sole responsibility of the child.

We have had a relationship with Ostin’s mom, Karla, for the past three years and have been impressed with her sense of responsibility and deep appreciation for our involvement. But it’s one thing to have brief meetings with a person, and another thing to have someone move into your home for four months. We were not disappointed at all. Karla is mature beyond her years and was respectful, insightful and helpful.

During the course of Ostin’s treatment, Karla told us she was having pain in her mouth. Fortunately, we have a relationship with the kindest, most generous and expertly skilled dentists, Michael Coppe D.M.D. and his daughter, Carolyn Coppe D.M.D.. These two dentists have graciously provided free dental care to all of our Esperanza patients.

X-rays were taken and it was quite understandable that Karla was in pain…she was in need of 15 fillings, 1 crown and four root canals! Dr. Coppe’s office soon became Karla’s “home away from home”, and she spent endless hours there. The entire staff welcomed her, and Erica (who is bilingual) became her constant companion. Karla was referred to Dr. Ali Sarraf, an endodontist in the same building, who generously provided Karla’s root canals.

Karla was absolutely amazed by the dentists “gentle touch” and explained her experience in Honduras where the dentist was “so rough”, and “you had to drink your own blood.” Karla had learned to live with the pain, and eventually she would have had all four (top) front teeth pulled, with no hopes of any replacements. Receiving all the dental care truly was life changing, and her smile is worth more than a thousand words!

From A Statistic To Member Of Our Household

Ostin Pudding

He’s no longer a number…he’s more than a name…he started as a patient…and now he’s one of “our” kids. The statistics are staggering, more than 80% of Hondurans do not have health insurance. Three years and five months ago we first heard the name “Ostin” and learned he was in need of medical attention. At first we helped from a distance…communicating with doctors in San Pedro Sula and sending money to cover the visits and transportation. Next, we were able to meet him and his family in person. We contacted doctors at prestigious hospitals in Boston, listened to their advise about protocol for treatment and forwarded that information on to the doctors in Honduras.

We continued to visit Ostin, reassuring his parents we were still committed to helping. Many months would pass, and eventually we helped obtain a drug from Japan which the doctors in Honduras were able to inject into Ostin. We returned to Honduras and accompanied Ostin and his mother to medical appointments. Initially, the drug seemed to work and Ostin was showing improvement. Months would pass, more injections would be given, and then we would return for another visit. At last, the doctors felt they had done all they could do for Ostin and he would need to go to the States for more treatment.

Many more months passed as we coordinated doctors, hospitals, financing, and visas. Ostin arrived here 10 weeks ago and since then has undergone two big surgeries and other procedures. Once a child moves into your home, he/she is no longer a patient…he/she becomes one of your own. We know his fears, what makes him happy, his favorite foods, the toys he likes to play with. Sometimes it’s a slow process, other times it’s more immediate, but they crawl into your heart.

Having a child living with a serious medical condition is extremely stressful. We try focusing on one medical appointment or procedure to the next, but then there are unpredictable setbacks in his health or unforeseen issues with financing and the feelings of frustration and disappointment escalate.

Loving a child who has no health insurance and has one opportunity to receive medical treatment before returning to his life in poverty adds a whole new dimension…especially when you feel like you’re his voice.

From Toddlers To Teens, Inspired By Others With Lymphatic Malformations


Last month we returned to Lenox Hill Hospital for Ostin’s second surgery. We had the pleasure of meeting little Nora, who instantly charmed us with her out going personality, adorable smile and abundance of love (blowing kisses to all)! Nora, her mom, Carrie, and grandma joined us in the playroom where we had an opportunity to share “our stories.” Nora is a 16 month old girl who was born with a lymphatic malformation, similar to Ostin’s. It is incredibly comforting to be with children and their families who can relate to your situation, discuss different treatment plans and explain where they are on their journey. Carrie really inspired us with her strong faith, extensive knowledge of this medical condition and great sense of humor! As Carrie describes on her blog,littlelightofminenora.blogspot.com, Nora’s name means “light” and she truly is the light in their loving family.

The month before, we had been sitting in the same playroom, when we had the good fortune of meeting a 16 year old girl, and her father. Her dad inquired about Ostin, wondering what type of diagnosis he had. We knew it was a “safe” environment and he was truly asking out of concern. When I responded, “he has a lymphatic malformation”, he turned to his beautiful daughter, and said, “so does she.” This articulate and poised young lady proceeded to share her experiences in a very factual, easy going manner. She had been born in Mexico and at the time of her birth, her father knew that something was “wrong.” Unfortunately, the doctors denied his insight and no treatment was offered. When she was two years old, the family traveled to the United States where medical care was available, and they settled into their new environment. It’s been a financial struggle for this family of five…the father works two jobs and can only afford health insurance for his children, not for his wife or himself. Yet, he never complained. Receiving medical care for his daughter was his priority, and he knew he was more fortunate than others.

We were grateful they are fluent in Spanish, and left Ostin’s mom, Karla, with them so they could have the opportunity to talk. They learned Karla and Ostin are from Honduras, and living with us while Ostin receives medical treatment. The father told me that Karla has the desire to learn English, and then quietly handed me $50.00, saying, “could you put this towards that?” At first I resisted, but looking in his eyes, I knew this was a gift from his heart.

True example of generosity…the person with the least, offering the most.

This Semana Santa We’re Celebrating Another Miracle

Karla with the doctors

Semana Santa (Holy Week) is a hugely celebrated time in Honduras. Most businesses are closed, transportation is limited and people spend days cooking special foods. Many people head to the water…the beach, the river or a local pool. Just after midnight on Holy Thursday, people gather on the streets of Comayagua with their brightly colored sawdust and cardboard stencils to create the beautiful alfombas (carpets) depicting religious scenes. Just nine hours later, there will be a holy march over the alfombras, marking the stations of the cross in remembrance of Good Friday. On Pascua (Easter), people will celebrate the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection.

This week we will celebrate many of these traditions at our own church. However, our thoughts will also be on the “miracle” of Ostin’s medical treatment and the team providing his care. Under the leadership of, Dr. Milton Waner, “ an internationally recognized pioneer in the development of successful treatments for hemangiomas and vascular anomalies”, he is joined by Dr. Aaron Fay, “a pioneer in the field of orbital surgery and vascular malformations” and Dr. O, “a head and neck surgeon specializing in the surgical treatment of hemangiomas and vascular malformations.” We couldn’t be more fortunate in having been introduced to such a specialized and experienced group which provides world-class care. Please visit http://www.vbiny.org to learn more about The Vascular Birthmark Institute.

Today marks the seventh week since Ostin and Karla arrived to the United States. It has been an amazing experience to watch the physical transformation of Ostin’s face. He arrived with the left side of his face distorted…his eye pushed out of its socket, his cheek and chin line far greater than the right side of his face. After two surgeries and one steroid injection, his eye has been re-positioned into the socket, and the swelling in the cheek has been substantially diminished. This week Ostin’s stitches will be removed and he will receive another steroid injection in the eye. In three weeks, the doctors will address the corner of his mouth and under his jaw which they hope to treat with sclerosing injections.

May you all discover and celebrate your own “miracle” this week.

Back in NYC for Ostin’s Second Operation


Yesterday, we arrived at The Ronald McDonald House at 9:30 a.m. to pick up Ostin and Karla. Everyone was familiar with the pre-op routine…no food or drink, and keep Ostin as distracted as possible so he wouldn’t obsess about it. He was admitted to Lenox Hill Hospital and we were sent to the pediatric floor where he was assigned a room and given the freedom to play. Later, the crew from Inside Edition arrived to take some pictures and videos. Ostin was shy at first but then took command of the situation…he hid behind his iPad and filmed all the crew, while greeting each one with “hola!” He thoroughly entertained all of us.

We headed to the pre-op room for consents, questionnaires, and monitoring. The whole process went much more smoothly than last time. Once again, Karla walked Ostin into the O.R., and returned in tears…this is the hardest moment for her. She called her husband in Honduras and was able to update him about the operation. He would then share the news with his family and then their church, where they have been lighting candles and constantly praying.

The operation took about 5 1/2 hours, and the doctors explained it was called “a face lift incision” (a surgical line starting from above his ear to bellow his chin). They were able to successfully remove the lymphatic debris. Preserving the facial nerve was especially difficult due to the lymphatic matter being “cemented” around the nerve. Both surgeons were pleased with the results and explained he will return home with a drainage tube (which will remain for up to 4 weeks), his stitches will be removed in 10 days and he will have another procedure in 4 weeks. Ostin and Karla were settled in for the night.

This morning when we arrived Ostin was in a significant amount of pain but just as defiant in taking any medication. He had already ripped out his IV so they were no longer able to administer it that way. One brilliant nurse injected his medicine into a juice box, and with tremendous amounts of coaxing (and bribing), we were able to get the medicine in. This operation was more extensive, covering a larger area and we expect the recuperation to take longer.

Thank you all for your continued support.