Thursday, December 5, 2013
Ever since her son-in-law's best friend was pulled from the rubble in Haiti four days after the earthquake, Pam Lee of Kennebunkport has been on a mission to bring the young man to Maine for treatment.
Maine Medical Center has offered to help him, and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree is working on the case. But red tape and tumultuous conditions make the gravely injured man's future uncertain.
Lee said the fact that Salvent Kesnor, 25, survived a spinal fracture that paralyzed him from the neck down is the result of efforts by people in Maine who refused to give up.
''This is a big one to take on,'' she said.
Lee and her husband, George, have never met Kesnor, but established a long-distance friendship with him through their son-in-law, Gabidson Boisrond, who grew up in the same suburb of Port-au-Prince.
Kesnor, an artist, had supported his four siblings since his parents died several years ago, by doing construction work around the country. He was in a store in Port-au-Prince when the quake hit.
Lee said Kesnor remembers being hit on the back of the neck by the building's roof, drifting in and out of consciousness and finally feeling the weight of rescue workers walking above.
His friends and family learned that he was alive from a radio report that said Kesnor and three others had been found in the building's wreckage. Kesnor was wearing a work badge, which allowed him to be identified.
His friends, including Boisrond's brother, James, a theology student, rushed to the site and found Kesnor lying on the sidewalk, unable to move.
James Boisrond bribed Kesnor's way into a hospital, whose staff took an X-ray, fitted Kesnor with a cervical collar and attached him to a board. He lay in a hospital hallway for the next four days, with James Boisrond by his side, making sure he got water.
Soon, family members and friends ran out of money to pay the hospital and Kesnor was put back on the street. Boisrond dragged him to the relatives of Kesnor's girlfriend, who were living outside their destroyed home.
Meanwhile, Lee and Pingree's office searched desperately for a hospital that could treat him. They eventually found a hospital staffed by Partners in Health, a Boston-based health care organization, and friends scraped together enough money to take Kesnor there in the back of a hired pickup truck.
Meanwhile, Jan Carter of Portland, who flew to Cap Haitien in a cargo plane Jan. 24 to distribute medical materials donated by Mainers, was asked by Pingree's office to help get documents to officials that would allow Kesnor to be treated on the Navy's Comfort medical ship.
Carter embarked on a five-day journey, with help from Argentinian and Chilean authorities and several rides in military tanks -- one lasting 17 hours -- to deliver the documents.
''Something just kept saying to me, 'This is just one person, but this one person is very important,''' said Carter, who arrived back in Maine on Sunday.
Finally, Kesnor got word that an Army helicopter was on its way to pick him up. He was transferred to the medical ship, where Dr. Dermot Killian, who worked for many years at Mercy Hospital in Portland, had been informed of Kesnor's case.
On Sunday, Kesnor had surgery to stabilize his spine. Lee said doctors told Kesnor that he will be a quadriplegic for life.
''To be a quadriplegic in Haiti, even in the best conditions, is a death sentence,'' Lee said.
On Monday, Gabidson Boisrond left for Haiti with Partners in Development, a Christian service organization. He hopes to see his friend and bring back his own 11-month-old daughter, Roshlyne, who is in the care of his family.
Pingree and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins have been working to speed up the process.
Lee is looking for a rehabilitation facility in Maine to help with Kesnor's long-term treatment, and she is prepared to take care of him herself after that.
''He could have a very good life,'' she said.
Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at: