Written by: Sydney Miller, Director of Storytelling at myLIFEspeaks
Joel is a dear friend of myLIFEspeaks, member of our village commUNITY, and an active participant at our weekly elderly program gatherings. He is also the father of one of our beloved House Parents, Mirlande. Joel is a friend to all and he loves to sit on his front porch and greet everyone walking by with a smile and a “Bon jou”!
Joel has diabetes and due to a lack of medicine, testing units, and diabetic education in Haiti, his diabetes was poorly controlled. Five years ago, he developed a small open sore on one of his toes. The infection continued to get worse. What started as a small infected area developed into a large wound. Joel ended up having his leg amputated below the knee to stop the spread of the infection. He was devastated to lose his leg but grateful to be alive.
We had a prosthetic leg made for Joel. He started rehabilitation at LIFE therapy, gaining his strength back and learning to walk again. He was able to resume daily LIFE activities, care for himself, and even participate again in Zumba at myLIFEspeaks elderly program. Then in 2019, Joel developed another small sore on the big toe of his remaining foot. We immediately jumped into preventative action. LIFE clinic began to treat and monitor him closely, but the infection continued to spread. Joel nearly died this second time due to the infection and septic shock.
The first hospital turned him away saying, “There is nothing more we can do”. Between violent riots at the time, hospitals refusing to take him, and the ambulance helicopters being grounded due to a storm; the odds of survival were stacked against Joel. But we were not going to give up on him. Much like the paralytic’s friends in Luke Chapter 5 carried their friend to Jesus, despite odds and roadblocks, the myLIFEspeaks’ community rallied around Joel and persevered despite the variables stacked against him.
In Luke’s Gospel, it was the faith of the friends and their determination that ultimately was a catalyst for a miracle. We believed that Joel could be saved and we were going to do everything in our power to get him the help he needed. Like the paralytic’s friends, we too believed in a miracle.
Joel was unconscious and clinging to LIFE. Miraculously, we were able to get him to another hospital that admitted him in Port Au Prince and into emergency surgery to amputate his other leg and stop the infection. However, he was in such a bad state we weren’t even sure he’d survive the operation.
Before he went to surgery, myLIFEspeaks Public Health Liaison at the time, Rhonda, stepped in with Joel’s family and asked to pray over him before they took him back to the operating room. As everyone gathered around his stretcher and laid hands on him and prayed, all the nurses and doctors working in the emergency room and those waiting for him for surgery all quietly came into the room and joined us in prayer over Joel. Like the paralytic in Luke 5, Joel was metaphorically being lowered down through the roof on a stretcher surrounded by the power of prayer.
Like the paralytic in Luke 5, Joel was metaphorically being lowered down through the roof in a stretcher surrounded by the power of prayer.
The surgery was successful. After a few days at the hospital, his body stabilized without the infection and he was able to go home. A true miracle. The community of Neply rallied around Joel and helped with meals and housework while he regained strength. LIFE therapy staff also lived next door to Joel and were able to check in on him, do exercises with him at home, and get him a wheelchair.
Today, Joel is independent and able to transfer in/out of bed, his chair, and get around as he needs in his home. For a while, Joel was noticeably depressed having not only grieved losing a leg and his independence one time but now twice. However, through encouragement, prayer, and the love of an entire village community wrapped around him, Joel is now back to himself.
He attends weekly elderly programming with a little help from myLIFEspeaks staff coming to pick him up. Joel is also able to attend church, a priority for him, with the help of others driving him. He doesn’t let his inability to walk stop him from doing the things he loves and from having a good attitude. Despite all he has gone through and all he has lost, he still thanks the Lord and trusts in Him. Like the paralytic lowered down through the roof, it is our faith in Jesus that ultimately heals and saves us; whether on this earth or in eternal LIFE.
One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on, and went home praising God. Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”