A 10 year old girl named Cristamen arrived at St. Boniface, covered from head to toe in dry, scaly lesions. Her condition was so apparent that as she walked through the hospital campus, patients and staff couldn’t help but stare.
The young girl lives at an orphanage run by AMURTEL, an international nonprofit organization. She and her sister, Didi, who is her primary caregiver, live in the orphanage home with about 25 other children.
As Chirstamen’s skin condition worsened, Didi asked the AMURTEL staff to reach out to SBHF’s Director General Dr. Pierre, who urged them to bring Cristamen down for an appointment to see one of our doctors.
The 10 year old, with assistance from a volunteer AMURTEL case worker, traveled five hours to St. Boniface from her hometown of Bourdon, just East of Port-au-Prince, to receive treatment for her painful skin condition and poor eyesight.
Upon being seen, SBHF doctors diagnosed Cristamen’s condition as severe eczema, a chronic disorder with no known cure, and prescribed her various topical creams, ointments, and remedies to curb the uncomfortable symptoms. For most people who have access to care, eczema is a lifelong condition that is irritating and requires constant maintenance, but never gets as painful and debilitating as Cristamen's was when she first arrived.
She also received a comprehensive eye exam from Anshu Chandra, director of the Global Eye Project, who operates an optometry clinic at St. Boniface Hospital. The exam revealed that Christamen desperately needed corrective glasses, and once she was fitted for the perfect pair, the reserved young girl immediately became giggly and talkative.
Cristamen returned to Bourdon, where she enjoyed her new eyeglasses and took it upon herself to apply her eczema treatments daily. A week later, it was time for another long trip to Fond-des-Blancs for a follow up appointment.
This time, the bespectacled young girl was almost unrecognizable as she strutted confidently through the hospital. The lesions that once framed her little face are nowhere to be seen; her skin is no longer flaky.
When Cristamen arrived for her first visit, she couldn’t open her eyelids completely due to severe dryness and irritation, but now she’s blinking comfortably behind the lenses of her new glasses.
She laughs and jokes with the hospital staff, even breaking out some of the English and Spanish she’s learned at school.
“I love St. Boniface,” she says, practicing her English.“I feel so happy. My skin doesn’t hurt anymore, and people don’t stare,” she continues in Creole. “And I can see everything now!”
Cristamen will return to the orphanage in the next few days with a lot of newfound happiness and spunk. Unfortunately, with a condition like eczema, she and her caretakers will have to continually keep up with the treatments, or her skin will return to the state it was in when she first arrived at St. Boniface—or worse.
“With proper care she can enjoy a better quality of life than she’s been used to,” Dr. Pierre says of the girl’s prognosis. ”She smiles a lot now and looks self confident. She used to be very sad and shy.”
While the orphanage has limited funding and resources to keep up with consistent treatment, Cristamen will continue coming to St Boniface and receiving care at no charge for as long as needed.