Physical therapist Heather Champagne of Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford works with Jodeleine Pierre, 8. (Photo by Jack Sheedy)
HARTFORD – Physical therapist Heather Champagne was trying to get Jodeleine Pierre to bend her knee, but the young Haitian girl, whose right leg had been amputated below the knee after the 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince, was having trouble understanding English.
"Pliez le genoud," said her guardian, Sister Marie Verlaine Cadet, a Daughter of Mary Queen Immaculate and principal of College Marie Reine Immaculee in Roche-à-Bateau, Haiti, a children’s school about eight hours west of Port-au-Prince.
Sitting on a mat, Jodeleine gave a bright smile and bent the knee on her damaged leg. The temporary prosthesis swung under her. She bent the other knee and stood without even pushing herself up with her hands, while Ms. Champagne and Sister Cadet applauded.
The April 25 therapy session took place at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, where days earlier, 8-year-old Jodeleine underwent surgery to prepare her for a new prosthesis. Much of the cost of the surgery and related services was donated after a Catholic mission group called Little Children of Mary learned of Jodeleine’s needs and decided to help.
Jodeleine and Sister Cadet were staying with Helen Maciolek, a Somers resident and member of St. Martha Parish in Enfield, while Jodeleine was undergoing medical treatment at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Mrs. Maciolek learned of Jodeleine’s plight while staying on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts several months ago. Members of Little Children of Mary, which is based on the Vineyard, had gone to Haiti in November 2010 in search of any earthquake victim of small stature who could use a prosthetic leg that had belonged to a family member who had died. Sister Cadet thought she knew just the person – Jodeleine.
On Jan. 12, 2010, the day of the massive, 7.0-magnitude earthquake that leveled much of Port-au-Prince and surrounding towns, Jodeleine was with her two sisters and her mother Madeleine, who was pregnant. As the building they were in collapsed, Madeleine called the children to her so she could protect them. All were buried in the rubble. Only Jodeleine survived. She was found the next morning, her right leg crushed.
"Her leg was there, but it was dead, so they had to amputate her leg," said Mrs. Maciolek. "And as she grew, the bone started coming out the bottom of where they amputated it, so that’s why she’s here."
As it turned out, the prosthesis that the Little Children of Mary wanted to donate was not a proper fit for Jodeleine, but because her wound was painful and infected, they wanted to help her anyway. The group searched for a medical facility not far from Martha’s Vineyard and discovered Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford. Mrs. Maciolek and her husband Keith live 25 minutes away from Hartford, so they took in Jodeleine and Sister Cadet.
"I’m just graced with giving them a place to stay," said Mrs. Maciolek. "She’s learning how to play the piano a little bit, and learning English, and coloring. She knows the whole Divine Mercy chaplet."
Mrs. Maciolek has been to Haiti several times herself with the Little Children of Mary, but not since a couple of months before the earthquake, when she developed dengue fever there. She decided not to risk further illness and has not returned.
"So the Blessed Mother is bringing the mission here," she said. "When you give yourself to God, he takes you and does whatever he pleases."
Dr. Jeffrey D. Thomson, director of orthopedic surgery and the surgeon who operated on Jodeleine, said the bone was sticking out of her amputation stump, where there was an infection.
It was a two-step procedure, he said. First, the surgical team shortened the bone and cleaned up the infection with a device he described as "a glorified sponge" that connects to suction tubing to pull infection away. Second, she returned three days later to have the wound VAC removed and the incision sewn up.
The procedure is called an amputated stump revision, he said. "She had what is a below-the-knee amputation, so you could say it was a BKA revision."
He added, "It was a pretty straightforward operation, but without it she wouldn’t be able to walk. We just had a lot of people who helped take care of her."
One of them was Dr. Robert S. Lin, who made and fitted the finished prosthesis. "The main thing is to try and get alignment so that the mechanics of how she walks is as normal as possible," he said. "We’re looking for comfort in the fit of the socket, restoring function, her gait pattern, her walking pattern and making sure it’s as functional as possible."
The prosthesis can be lengthened as she grows, he said, although in a few years she will require a new one.
As the April 25 physical therapy session neared its end, Ms. Champagne expressed satisfaction at Jodeleine’s progress and cheerful attitude.
Jodeleine was fitted with her completed prosthesis on April 30 and returned with Sister Cadet to Haiti a few days later. She will live with her father, Jean Jocelin Pierre, in Les Cayes, Haiti.
Informatiom is available at