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UCLA Operation Haiti

Tales from Haiti: Johnny D.

When Johnny D. arrived at the hospital, he fled from human touch. By his last day at the hospital, when he was discharged to a Haitian orphanage, he had been transformed. Above: UCLA Nurse Jessica Kubisch holds Johnny D., who offers a fistbump to 3-year-old patient Emmanuel.
When Johnny D. arrived at the hospital, he fled from human touch. By his last day at the hospital, when he was discharged to a Haitian orphanage, he had been transformed. Above: UCLA Nurse Jessica Kubisch holds Johnny D., who offers a fistbump to 3-year-old patient Emmanuel.
I fell in love in Haiti. His name is John Doe. Johnny D. A boy without a name.
 
When he first arrived aboard the Navy hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, he was a wild feral child. A hunted, beaten look in his eye, he shunned human touch, responding like an injured, kicked animal. The only words he spoke were Creole curses, and he did not know his name, so the Navy affectionately called him Johnny D. John Doe. Abandoned outside a clinic in Port-au-Prince, he was rushed to the USNS Comfort for treatment. His scrawny limbs were smaller than an average 3-year-old's, and this tiny child appeared about 6 years old. A dental exam revealed that he was actually closer to 11 or 12.
 
Diagnosed with xeroderma pigmentosum (a cancerous genetic disorder in which the skin has difficulty repairing itself after exposure to sunlight), severe malnutrition and squamaus cell cancer of his right eye, Johnny D. had not only survived Haiti's devastating earthquake and his fatal condition, but this scrawny boy had also survived on the rough streets of Port-au-Prince without parents and without love.
 
At first, he acted like an abused animal, cursing the doctors and nurses as they held his deceptively strong, skinny body still for tests and treatments. Taking his food, he would go to a corner and squat, wolfing the meal off the floor. Refusing to be touched, Johnny D. neither laughed nor smiled.
 

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