It Takes A Village To Heal A Child



Recently the Center for Refugee Services worked with one of our families to provide their child with lifesaving surgery performed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital (CCH) in Ohio.

One of our client families had a child who was born with a condition that both seriously compromised his health, ability to live a full life and participate in normal school age activities of daily living.  After multiple surgeries, infections and long hospitalizations in San Antonio, the local surgeon recommended that the child receive specialized/life preserving surgery at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, which had expertise in his condition.

CRS reached out to Angel Flight (an organization that provides free air transportation in small private jets), Cincinnati’s Ronald McDonald House (for free housing), Catholic Charities Cincinnati and Heartfelt Tidbits (a refugee assistance program much like CRS, based in Cincinnati), trying to coordinate housing, transportation, and other emotional support and assistance during the parent and child’s multiweek stay.  This required the filling out of multiple forms for the housing and transportation, correspondence and calls.

In March, after several months of coordination among CRS, the surgeon at San Antonio’s Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital, the insurance provider and CCH’s surgical team, the surgery was on the cusp of being scheduled in Cincinnati, when Covid-19 brought all to a screeching halt.

In June, while Ronald McDonald House would not accept new families, other services began to open.  With the incredible help of and coordination from a stellar CCH surgical social worker, following several more surgery rescheduling over the summer, and multiple insurance approvals and re-approvals when the dates changed to pay for all of the medical care, air travel, hotels and meals, the parent and child were set to travel in August.

Following many procedures, exams and an 8-hour surgery performed by 2 surgeons, the child came through and began recovery. Throughout the 5 weeks of the family’s stay in Cincinnati, our CRS staff member had almost daily calls, texts and emails with the CCH social worker and the parent of the child.

There were many potential roadblocks and barriers, such as repeated difficulties finding a place to cash the parent and child’s weekly meal stipend check.  But the tenacity of the social worker and the parent ultimately won out. Additionally, Heartfelt Tidbits identified a local refugee family from the same culture who cooked and delivered many meals to the family at the hospital and hotel during their stay. They pointed the parent to where they could buy culturally appropriate/familiar meals and foods during their stay.

This parent must be congratulated for his perseverance and bravery, flying across the country with a very sick child for major surgery and with limited command of English.  But where there’s a will there’s a way. As the father stated repeatedly, “this surgery affects the rest of my child’s life.”

The surgery was a success and following almost 5 weeks of recovery in Cincinnati, the child recovered enough for the parent and child to eagerly return home to the rest of the family.

Now, the child is doing very well, has a much-enhanced trajectory for a normal life, and is attending school online. And CRS has many new friends in Cincinnati.