Bruised But Not Broken

Bruised But Not Broken

By: Sean Sheridan

When they strike, the flashbacks hit hard and fast.

This one is no different. Ferlandie Fadius' eyes roll back in her head. Her knees buckle. She's going down.

We grab her arms before she hits the ground and struggle to lay her back on the table where she has just had an MRI.

Doctors at the Polyclinique du Centre de Scanner Computarise in downtown Port-au-Prince are trying to determine if the 19-year-old Compassion Leadership Development Program (LDP) student who was pulled out of rubble the day of Haiti's earthquake has any cranial or brain damage.

After a few moments Ferlandie comes to, startled. Spotting the wall next to her, she panics and passes out again, all before she can even sit up.

After what seems like an eternity, Ferlandie finally recovers. The episode is over. Like her, we are all shaken.

"Almost all Haitian people are like this," Dr. Joseph Junot, the psychologist who has spent the last hour with her, tells us as we shuffle out of the exam room, sobered by what we have just witnessed. What happened in the earthquake is clearly not over.

"She is suffering from flashbacks," Junot says quietly.

"She has depression, anxiety and a great deal of post-traumatic stress. But she will be OK."

Ferlandie, trudging behind us with a somber look on her face, might be hard to convince.

"When I am somewhere and I see walls," she says, "it's like I am back in the earthquake."

A tragic day

"I was inside my home when it hit," Ferlandie says.

"I had just come back from school. All of a sudden the house was shaking, and I could feel it coming down."

Her cousin and sister were also in the house. Grabbing her cousin's hand, Ferlandie dragged her toward the back door of the small home, which was part of a two-story apartment building.

Then the door, floors and wall crumbled down around them.

"The next thing I knew I was on the floor with concrete on my head and a dead body across my lap," she says quietly.

"It was my cousin." Her sister, nearby, had also died and was completely buried. It would be seven hours before Ferlandie was freed.

To reach her, friends broke apart the concrete slabs with their hands, hammers and other tools they had rummaged from the area.

"Each hit on the concrete reverberated throughout my whole head and body," Ferlandie says.

Healing from the hurt

Although her MRI results later showed no damage to her brain, Ferlandie is still healing from the trauma. "This is why we are trying to get her the best care possible," says Jeff Bercy, Compassion Program Implementation Manager.

Compassion is covering the costs of caring for Ferlandie and many others like her.

Ferlandie had come to Port-au-Prince a year earlier from an outlying area where she had been a sponsored child because she was accepted into Compassion's Leadership Development Program.

The Leadership Development Program identifies Compassion-assisted youth who have leadership potential, and sponsors assist them with college tuition, textbooks and other school-related expenses.

Compassion also provides spiritual training and mentors for each student. The invaluable training and support students receive give them an opportunity to become a powerful part of changing their nations.

Ferlandie had taken full advantage of the program, studying education at Université ‘uisqueya in Port-au-Prince. She was partway through her second semester at the university when the earthquake struck. Her school was flattened.

Since Ferlandie was unable to make the trip home to the country, Bercy and his family took her in. They will continue to look after her while Compassion ensures she gets the care she needs.

Meanwhile, Compassion staff members in Haiti are grappling with ways to get LDP students back into their studies. They are considering transferring
students to universities in rural areas and looking into online education or even internships. But this too will take time.

"I do not know why I am alive and my sister and cousin are dead," Ferlandie says. "I know there must be a reason. I don't know what it is, but God does."

This is the raw faith that first thrust Ferlandie into the Leadership Development Program, and the faith that will help her and other students devastated by the earthquake to become Haiti's future doctors, teachers, pastors and leaders.

It will not be an easy road. But with Compassion's help and support, this is one road down which Ferlandie is more than willing to walk.