A Tent for the Haitian Woman No One Thought Would Survive
April 21, 2010
It was January 2010, a week and a half after the 7.0 earthquake hit Port-au-Prince. Benitha, a dying Haitian woman in a ward at General Hospital, called out for help—to no one, to everyone. Earlier that day, attempts to help her failed because they didn’t have the needed equipment or medications. Medical staff were stretched far beyond their ability to cope—with a handful of doctors covering the entire compound and hundreds and hundreds of patients in urgent need of care, there was nothing more they could do for Benitha. The woman was literally drowning in her own fluids.
The nurse on the ward was Scientology Volunteer Minister Ayal Lindeman. “I went up to Benitha and put my hand on her shoulder,” said Lindeman. “I told her ‘if this is it—if you are going to go on this part of your journey and this is how it’s going to be, then you’re at least going to know you’re cared for, you’re at least going to know you’re loved, you’re at least going to know you matter and you’re not going to be alone, and I don’t know what else I can do for you—but at least I’ll do that.”
While scouring the hospital to find anything he could to help her, Lindeman met a Cuban-trained Haitian pediatrician in one of the many tents of the hospital compound. Hearing of the woman’s condition, the doctor told him of a procedure often done in Cuba without high-tech equipment. If Lindeman could scrounge the parts to create the device he would need, they might be able to save her life.
Lindeman built the device from a 16-gauge needle, intravenous tubing and regulator wheel, an empty water bottle that he cleaned out with bleach, and some tape to make a butterfly valve. With this apparatus, they worked together and removed two liters of fluid from the woman’s abdomen. Her blood pressure dropped six points and she started to recover.
Lindeman remained in Haiti for four weeks, leaving in mid February only to bring three patients to the United States for care they could not get in Haiti. He returned to Haiti in March. He describes walking back onto the ward at General Hospital and seeing one the most beautiful sights of his life—a huge smile on the face of the woman whose life he helped save. Benitha was alive, recovering and making plans for life outside the hospital. Having lost everything she owned in the earthquake, she asked Lindeman for one more favor: a tent to live in when she got out of the hospital.
“From a woman everyone feared would never live through that night, this was one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard,” said Lindeman.
Back again in the United States, Lindeman was checking out the price of tents at a local store one day after work, still in his scrubs. Another shopper noticed his Project Medishare for Haiti bracelet and asked if he had been to the country. “When I said yes, she said she had donated money for Haiti but wanted to do something where she knew she had really made a difference,” said Lindeman. “I told her about the woman who needed a tent, and she insisted on paying for it on the spot. She had bought Benitha a home.”
The Scientology Volunteer Ministers program was described by L. Ron Hubbard in the following terms when he created it more than 30 years ago: “A Volunteer Minister is a person who helps his fellow man on a volunteer basis by restoring purpose, truth and spiritual values to the lives of others.”