Reinhart Koehler: Celebrating the Gift of Life at NPH

May this Christmas season bring you joy and peace and may the New Year be filled with satisfaction, good health, generosity, and love.
December 25, 2019 - NPH International

Juana rests after her recent surgery.
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Each Christmas when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we celebrate the gift of life and everything that affirms life: the joy and importance of family, love for life and one another, of peace, generosity and solidarity, prayer and coming together to worship.

It seems to me that this year we need the Christmas spirit more than ever. Over the past year, we have seen increasing violence and destruction around the world while politicians and political systems fail and often are the cause rather than the solution.

Yet, through what we do at NPH empowered by your generosity, we affirm the Christmas message day in and day out throughout the year. A wonderful example is 12-year-old Juana. Just like Jesus, she was born in very humble conditions, not in a manger but in a small mud hut in the rural mountains of Honduras. She was born with a physical condition that made it impossible for her to walk. A wheelchair was not an option in the steep and rough terrain where Juana lived, so basically she did not leave her hut nor did she go to school.

A wonderful small international NGO, Community Health Partnership Honduras, dedicated to community development and healthcare found Juana when she was 5 years old, contacted NPH, and asked us if we could help. While the initial consultation had been for medical reasons, we soon realized that by staying at the NPH home, Juana could receive continuous physical therapy and also begin schooling. Her progress has been absolutely amazing. Kudos to the teachers, physical therapists, and caregivers who care for Juana; but great praise goes to Juana, a young girl who by nature is quite shy, for the immense effort she put forward to progress.

One of my favorite moments with Juana was when I saw her walking with crutches for the first time. Sweating profusely from the workout and still not fully at ease using crutches, but there she went and I realized the enormous progress she had made. What I did not know at the time was that as Juana was getting older, she was at considerable risk to lose those gains she had worked so hard for. A neurosurgeon participating in a spine surgery brigade of One World Surgery met Juana and mentioned to us that he knew a pediatric neurosurgeon who could perform the surgery Juana needed to ensure she would not take a turn for the worse again.

The pediatric neurosurgeon agreed to volunteer his services and so did the hospital system and its staff where the surgery would be performed. Ronald McDonald House Charities made space available for Juana and her mother. Still, we had to overcome a mountain of bureaucratic hurdles including locating Juana’s father and getting U.S. visas for both Juana and her mother. But the stars aligned and on December 7 Juana and her mother traveled to North Carolina. On December 9, the surgery was successfully performed. The recovery is going very well and we are looking forward to a joyful reunion in Honduras on January 14.

Dr. Merlin Antúnez, medical director of the Holy Family Surgery Center, likes to say that if we do everything possible, God will make the impossible happen, and that is called a miracle. Almost anyone who saw Juana in her little hut might have felt pity and, at the same time, would have thought there is nothing that could be done. But just like baby Jesus in the manger brings out the best in us, Juana brought a group of people together who collaborated diligently with each other to make this miracle happen for her. Each one demonstrated the Christmas spirit of generosity, deep care, and love to make life so much better for one child.

May this Christmas season bring you joy and peace and may the New Year be filled with satisfaction, good health, generosity, and love.

Interested learning more about the different programs provided by NPH for vulnerable children in our nine homes across Latin America and Caribbean? Visit nph.org.

Children’s names have been changed to protect their privacy.

Reinhart Koehler   
President, NPHI

 

 

 

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