Haitian boy returns home after life-changing surgery in Dallas

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by MONIKA DIAZ

WFAA

Posted on November 5, 2010 at 11:12 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 27 at 3:30 PM

PETIT-GOAVE, Haiti  - Two months ago, WFAA introduced you to a Haitian baby who received medical treatment in Dallas. Now, he's back home in Haiti with his mother and family.

Fabienne Francois and her baby boy Orleans headed home to Haiti after a life-changing experience in Dallas.
   
"I need to see my family," said a joyous Francois as she sat at the airport with six-month-old Orleans in her arms.

But, she was also leaving a new family behind in Dallas. 

"She's a really neat person," said Dr. Craig Hobar, LEAP Foundation founder and craniofacial surgeon. "And the baby, you see the baby, and it has the best attitude and spirit, just always happy."

They are two families grateful for Orleans' every breath.

Three months ago, doctors thought Orleans would not survive. Neither did his own mother, who came close to losing him twice.

"I was sure he would have died because of his condition," Francois said.
       
Born with a small jaw, Orleans would choke on his own tongue. But, a second chance at life came after Hobar and Medical City Dallas stepped in to help. Doctors attached tiny screws to rods into his jaw to stretch the bone. The surgery saved the baby's life.

"That brought his tongue forward and gave him room to breathe behind his tongue," Hobar said.

One day after arriving in Haiti, Orleans was back in the operating room for another surgery. WFAA cameras were there as doctors removed the rods from his jaw. The procedure was a success.   

"His jaw is almost normal," Hobar said. "There's really not a lot more we have to do for that. The big question is how his tongue is going to develop."

Hobar and the team will keep an eye on Orleans as he grows, but their concerns go beyond the operating room. The family came home to a country still in ruins.

"She left after the earthquake," said Heather Early, LEAP Foundation. "She left devastation. She left a tent. She left all these things and she hasn't been back in months. So, for her to come back, I was thinking, 'I wonder what her heart is going through right now?'"

But, Francois' heart was in her hometown. She wanted to be with her family in Petit-Goave, about 45 miles from Port-au-Prince.

WFAA made the journey with her. Her first stop was her mother's house.

"My mom," she said with excitement as she introduced Hobar to her family.

Francois and her family lost their home during the earthquake. In Petit-Goave, families are struggling to find shelter. But, for Francois, it was a new beginning.

"Welcome to my house," Francois said while giving WFAA and Hobar a tour of her new home given to her by the LEAP Foundation.

It's a three-room house with furniture and an outdoor kitchen and bathroom.
   
"Thank you for all the good things because I couldn't help my daughter," said Francois' mother. "I am happy she is home. I had lost hope until now."

It was a happy ending for a medical mission that started out changing one life, and ultimately changed so many along the way from Haiti to Dallas and back.

"See you buddy," Hobar said giving Orleans a kiss goodbye. "Take care of yourself. I love you."  
 
"Every one of the lives we've come across, they have changed my life," Hobar said. "That's the one great thing; that's the formula. You give, but you get a lot more back."

This was the second trip to Haiti for WFAA's Monika Diaz and photojournalist Juan Renteria since the earthquake.

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