Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Looking Back....OSF and Willie Fortune

What was happening in 2004 at OSF was unimaginable.

OSF was going to let Willie die in Haiti from a worn out pacemaker. And Willie had been on the cover of the Children's Hospital of Illinois (CHOI) magazine a few years before. Now he seemed to mean nothing to CHOI.

At the same time, Jackson Jean-Baptiste was becoming more ill in Haiti and OSF would not allow him to return to OSF either. Jackson would be dead in early 2006.

Read how OSF's administrator seemed to find some humor in Willie's picketing the hosptial. Doesn't seem possible, but it happened.

Peoria Journal Star
June 16, 2004


Haitian Hearts doctor pickets Saint Francis

PEORIA - Dr. John Carroll and Willy Fortune, a 16-year-old heart patient, picketed OSF Saint Francis Medical Center on Tuesday because the hospital has refused to provide heart care to Fortune.

"I'm asking for a good pediatric cardiology exam," he said. Haitian Hearts is willing to fully pay for the care, Carroll added, but St. Francis has refused.

Fortune received a pacemaker at St. Francis in 2000. When St. Francis would not replace it this year, Carroll arranged for Fortune to have the surgery done May 21 at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital in Nashville, Tenn. More care is needed, he said.

"You just don't replace a pacemaker and forget about things," Carroll said.
Carroll said he should not have to take Fortune back to Nashville. "He's here. This hospital has a value system. He's a St. Francis patient."

On Tuesday, Carroll carried a sign with a photograph of Fortune on a poster the hospital used in 2000. It stated "Willy, a mended Haitian Heart at Children's Hospital."

Fortune said he was feeling "good, but was hungry after a long day of picketing."

St. Francis spokesman Chris Lofgren said the hospital would not comment on Carroll, an emergency room physician for 21 years who was fired in December 2001.

Last year, Haitian Hearts became an independent foundation that can accept tax-deductible gifts, and continues to raise money to bring Haitian patients to the U.S. for heart and other care. In 2003, it brought in 16 patients. So far this year, the organization has brought in three patients, Carroll said, and others are planned.

Haitian Hearts was once a part of Children's Hospital at St. Francis, but the hospital severed ties with the group in July after the two entities could not agree on several issues. Since then, the hospital has refused to participate in Haitian Hearts' program.

Carroll also said the Illinois Attorney General's office has been investigating whether St. Francis misused funds donated to its Children's Hospital that were earmarked for Haitian Hearts. People have told him about donations which never were credited to Haitian Hearts, Carroll said. He complained to the Attorney General's Charitable Trust division, he said, and provided the office with records.

"We responded in detail" to the attorney general, Lofgren said. "As far as I know, it's over."

A spokesman for the attorney general, Scott Mulford, said Tuesday that the office is still "looking into the situation."

Carroll said people should be alarmed about St. Francis' refusal to provide care for Fortune.

For the hospital to refuse care to a former patient "is unprecedented," he said. "Where are the Catholic ethicists at St. Francis?" he asked.

My Comments from today March 25, 2009:

1. My wife Maria and I were working in Haiti in early 2004.

2. Willie’s mom brought him to me because he was short of breath. He could walk up a small incline, but walked slowly and was quite short of breath. My exam in Haiti revealed that his pacemaker was malfunctioning. Willie’s pacemaker was on a back up mode which was keeping him alive. He needed a new pacemaker.

3. Willie had been operated at OSF in Peoria in 2000. He had an extended stay in the hospital. Willie had a permanent pacemaker put in at that time. Many excellent people took care of Willie at OSF.

4. However, OSF would not accept Willie back in 2004 even with Haitian Hearts offering complete charges for the new pacemaker. The pacemaker would have been donated by the company for an international patient, and so would not have cost OSF anything. And pacemakers are frequently placed as outpatients.

5. His host family in the Peoria area was shocked and worried. We all thought this may be the end for Willie. We wondered how OSF could turn their back on this young man after he had survived two heart surgeries at OSF a few years before. This did not seem possible.

6. So for the next few months we looked for another medical center in the United States to accept Willie Fortune.

7. In a convoluted fashion Willie was accepted at Vanderbilt Children’s. Haitian Hearts donated $5,000 dollars to Vanderbilt Children’s for the procedure.

8. When Willie showed up at Vanderbilt Children’s, they kept him in the hospital and performed the procedure in a semi urgent fashion. The Vanderbilt Children’s Administrator questioned OSF’s medical ethics when OSF refused Willie.

9. Willie did great after receiving the new pacemaker and came to Peoria to live with Maria and me while he recovered. We walked along the Rock Island Trail and he was able to walk well.

10. For the first time in all of Haitian Hearts history, a physician at OSF who had taken care of Willie in 2000 refused to give Willie a complete cardiac exam in his office. The physician was very frightened to check Willie.

11. So, as the article states, Willie and I picketed OSF. While we were picketing OSF’s administrator Keith Steffen showed up at Sister Canisia’s big plate glass window that looked out over Glen Oak Ave. Mr. Steffen stood slightly behind Sister Canisia and threw back his head and acted like he was laughing at Willie and me on the sidewalk. Sister Canisia could not see Mr. Steffen’s antics. Willie witnessed all of this too but did not understand the inappropriate behavior of Mr. Steffen.

12. The article states that hospital spokesperson Chris Lofgren had no comment. What was Mr. Lofgren to say? Should he have said that everyone at OSF felt great rejecting Willie and that OSF would have left Willie in Haiti to die from a worn out pacemaker after OSF had been offered full charges by Haitian Hearts?

13. And I asked in 2004 where OSF's ethicists were. I am still asking the same question in 2009.

14. Pictured above is Willie's mom in Haiti a few months ago. What right does any medical center have to turn down her son? What right does any medical center have to turn down her son after full charges have been offered for his medical care?

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