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A God of Second Chances: Haitian Man Receives the Gift of Sight, Twice

By: Danni Eickenhorst, Midland Division with an update from Kara Langford, Haiti

Photo by: Kara Langford

“God always comes through for me,” said Mackendy Charles a Haitian gentleman, who gave thanks to his sight first and foremost to God, and then to the doctors, and Salvation Army personnel who have twice come to his aid to save his sight.

In 2006, Charles, then 21, approached Salvation Army Envoys Steve and Ketsie Diaz, while he attended the Army’s Secondary School in Port-au-Prince. His eyes had been badly damaged from a childhood bout of Tuberculosis. His eyes were gray, cloudy, badly scarred and caused him great pain.

“My mom had spent all of her money helping me and we were out of options, so I approached Envoy Steve for help.”

Diaz arranged for Mackendy to see a specialist, who informed him the surgery and treatment he required was not possible in Haiti, and that without a double corneal transplant, he would soon lose his sight. The specialist informed Diaz that Mackendy would have to go to the United States in order to receive proper care. “We didn’t have the funds to help him,” recalls Diaz, who told Mackendy there was nothing more they could do.

Diaz did however reach out to friends in the United States – Dr. Schoults and Dr. Kiernan, an anesthesiologist and an ophthalmic surgeon, who agreed to perform Mackendy’s transplant free of charge, even getting the hospital to write off any fees.

Mackendy, as he was departing from St. Louis. (Pictured left to right: Envoy Ketsia Diaz, Kyle Diaz, Mackendy Charles, John Aho, Envoy Steve Diaz)

“I was very happy for the help these people gave me,” remembers Mackendy, “because I knew my family and I could not do it alone.”

Once in the United States, Mackendy quickly received treatment and afterwards, his vision improved dramatically – going from a 6 inch field of vision to more than 6 feet in the first day.

“I couldn’t see before. It had gotten so bad that I couldn’t read on my own. I was so happy to be able to read again.”

In 2009, Envoys Diaz were transferred to St. Louis, Mo., to be administrators at a community center leaving Mackendy. In 2010, a catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti.

“I was really worried. I lost my home. I lost my glasses. I lost my medicine. I couldn’t get to my doctor. My eyes kept getting worse, and I thought I would lose my sight again.”

As his vision worsen, Mackendy reached again. The doctors, hospital, and Salvation Army rose to the occasion, this time with the assistance of the South Side Lion’s Club in St. Louis, which paid for travel costs and associated fees. On Sept. 13, 2011, Mackendy returned to the states.

Michael Santangelo, president of the South Side Lion’s Club, recalled when Envoy Diaz first approached his fellow members for help. “It was a no brainer,” he said, “This is what we do. We deliver help when we can, and are especially motivated by protecting and providing sight.”

Diaz reconnected Mackendy with his doctors, who found that he had scarring, blood vessel damage and cataract growth. On Oct. 19, 2011, Mackendy underwent surgery to remove cataracts and scar tissue, and to replace one cornea. Following his procedure, he stayed with Envoys Diaz at their home until January when he returned to Haiti.

An Update From Kara Langford, Communications Officer, The Salvation Army – Haiti

Photo by: Kara Langord

Mackendy is back in Port-au-prince living in a tent with his mother in the IDP camp next to the Army’s Delmas 2 compound. He is satisfied with the results of the operation and though he’s had a bit of irritation in his right eye, he reports his vision is better and will have his first visit with his local doctor on March 2. Mackendy is enjoying his university studies in theology and is excited to graduate in July. He still travels, and studies, with the help of his cousin and doesn’t let his vision issues slow him down one bit. He was recently appointed the director of Sunday schools for his church. He is very thankful for all the opportunities he’s been offered through the kindness of others but recognizes that God is the one who made the way. “It was God’s plan for me not to lose my eyes,” he said.

Mackendy reports that his favorite thing to enjoy since his second operation is his girlfriend Melissa’s face.

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