Mathilde held her arms close to her chest as if to hide what lay beneath, but the smell of infected flesh unmistakable.
There was nothing more to be done at the hospital and she was being discharged. During this process, she mentioned that she had no money for the trip home to her village and had not eaten that day: the very little money she had left was needed for food. This situation was explained to Dan Scoppetta, a Connecticut doctor touring the hospital after a week-long surgical trip to another part rural Haiti.
With tears in his eyes, he offered her some money for the trip home. Scoppetta could not get her out of his mind: how could it be that this woman had received no prior care? But, advanced medical care in the capital city of Port-au-Prince was impossible, as Mathilde had no family there. She had hid her “condition” until it was too late. Ultimately, the social and financial cost of Mathilde’s care was too great.
Scoppetta was haunted by Mathilde, and though she could not be saved, she was not forgotten. She was soon brought back from her village to the St. Antoine, the Haitian governmental hospital in Jeremie. A nurse gently cleaned the wound as you can see in the image below.
From St. Antoine, she was brought to the hospice of the Missionaries of Charity in town. She was fed, her wound dressed and she was nursed with loving care. Her husband and children made the trip to see her over the next two weeks. The smell was gone, and her pain under control because of a small gift of medicine, one that many outside of Haiti take for granted. Shortly after, she died. She was 52 years old.
Help save the lives of mothers like Mathilde.