Contradictions abound in Haitian life

Joy and sorrow share the water.
Mitch Albom

Mitch Albom

March 6, 2023

Moise is having a seizure.

It is the kind of sentence you dread when running an orphanage. The sudden, burst-in-the-room, out-of-breath interruption that changes everything you were doing and everything you had planned to do.

When? How long? Where is he now? How’s be being treated? Who is here that can get him to the hospital? 

There is a laundry list if protocol questions that we run down, even as we rush to the child’s side. Moise, just 10 years old, was indeed having a seizure. His arm and leg were flapping uncontrollably. His face was twitching. His eyes were glassy and he was unresponsive, making a high, guttural sound.

Scary? Hell, yes. Concerning? Of course. Overwhelming? It can’t be. There’s no time to be overwhelmed. We have faced this type of thing before. 

Within minutes, Moise was on his way to the hospital, the nearest one to us, a few miles away.

But that is hardly the end of a medical issue here.

It’s usually just the start.


Now all this was happening when so much good was taking place at the Have Faith Haiti orphanage. Bulldozers were moving earth for an upcoming soccer field. Plumbers and electricians were hard at work in the new kitchen that your donations have made possible, and painters were finishing the new nursery that your donations, in part, have also made possible.

Our home is improving in great leaps, and the kids gather behind construction fences or on mounds of dirt just to watch, wide-eyed, at all the changes you have helped make possible. 

It is the yin and yang of being here. So much good, set against so much suffering. 

So many new possibilities. 

So many old problems to deal with.

Good grief

Moise is Chika’s younger brother. Some of you may recall Chika as the lovable, bossy little girl who was the subject of my book “Finding Chika.” She came to us when she was barely three and stole our hearts. At five, she developed a facial droop, which was ultimately diagnosed as the byproduct of DIPG, a deadly brain tumor that would, two years later, take her life.

But that diagnosis didn’t come in Haiti. It had to wait until we got Chika to the U.S. It took months. And this is the dilemma we face every time we have a serious medical issue with one of our kids. 

Do we trust the care they are getting here, or do we need to leave the country?

In Moise’s case, the treatment wasn’t comforting. Whatever medication they had at the hospital wasn’t effective against his seizure, so we had to drive around, on a Sunday evening, until we could find a pharmacy that sold a version of phenobarbital.

We raced it back to the hospital for the doctors to administer.

All this time, Moise’s seizure continued.

Yes. You read that right. You have to get your own medicine here. You also have to go someplace and get blood drawn, then bring it back in case they need it for your loved one’s potential transfusion. 

Not only is the staff care here not what we are used to in the U.S., but supplies, equipment, and medication are frequently absent. Hospitals are severely short-staffed, if they are open at all, given the current violence in the country.

Thus, whenever we get one of those breathless, burst-in-the-room announcements — Moise is having a seizure — a whole series of worries begins, not just for the child, but how we are to navigate his or her treatment.

Awfully good

The good news is, Moise, with the phenobarbital administered, eventually stopped his shaking. We got him a CT scan, which was negative, and arranged for an EEG test, but we haven’t been able to get the results because gangs started fighting near the hospital and so it shut down and hasn’t re-opened.

Another thing to deal with.

Meanwhile, Moise came back to us, and we’re taking it easy with him. He is great, as easygoing as so many of our kids are. You ask him how he feels and he says “Good.” You ask him if anything hurts and he says “No.” you ask him if he wants to play in the yard, he says “Yes.” He is all smiles again, and solid as a rock, maybe the strongest kid we have ever had.

But I worry about him so much, given our history with Chika. Bad old memories mix with good new memories, and that is how it is here, in the sunshine of late winter, in a land of such joy and such dysfunction. We go to sleep hoping only to be awakened by the sound of the morning bulldozers, and not someone rushing in the room to share bad news.

you rock

Make a Garden Grow

Garden stones — in support of the building of a vegetable garden and chicken coop — at Have Faith Haiti are still available.

With a donation you will become part of the building blocks of food security — and your name will be painted onto a garden stone by our children.

Mission to

With your help, we can move mountains

Support the continued building of a new home for Have Faith Haiti through the Mission to Move Fund this Giving Tuesday.


  1. Caryl Blevins

    Oh, Mr. Mitch, how horrifying it must have been to see this precious child seizing for so long. Praying fervently for Moise and for you and all the children and staff and volunteers. May you all be blessed with good health and His benevolence and protection.

  2. Andrea Corbin

    I am so very sad to read of Chikas seizures. My son experiences seizures. His dosage of one medication was lowered from 200 mg to 100 mg. I still have the 200 mg medication if you find the need for it. It’s Lamectal. Let me know I can have it shipped. Thank you for being a blessing.

  3. Paulette Ren

    You are doing such a wonderful job for these kids under such troubled times.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.