Community, COM Students Help Dying Leukemia Patient Rescued in Haiti
An African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child” and in that theme, the Central Florida, UCF and UCF College of Medicine communities have come together to help a Haitian man who was dying of advanced leukemia.
Three College of Medicine students encountered 20-year-old Ginel Thermosy in June as they were providing relief work in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. Ginel was being treated at a field hospital in Port Au Prince and doctors had given him just two weeks to live. First-year medical student Anika Mirick met Ginel in the hospital and with fellow students Luke Lin and Lynn McGrath, helped arrange to have Ginel flown to Orlando and treated at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, the sponsor organization that donated Anika’s four-year scholarship.
But the generosity didn’t stop there. Anika, a graduate of Dartmouth College, contacted the local Dartmouth alumni association. That group, including Thaddeus Seymour, Jr., vice president of health and life sciences at Lake Nona, and Kevin Walsh, an Orlando city official, helped get word to the Global Haitian Advancement Through Education and Sports (GHATES) foundation. GHATES is a Haitian relief organization in Orlando that is based in Jeremie, Haiti, Ginel’s hometown.
GHATES has now helping Ginel enroll in English classes, make friends in the local Haitian community and communicate with his family back in Haiti. “We are not heroes,” said GHATES founder Marc Jean-Louis, whose mother lives in Jeremie and is actually friends with Ginel’s mother. “Anika and the other medical students are the heroes. We’re just fortunate to be in a position to help.”
Ginel received chemotherapy and other treatment at M. D. Anderson and then stayed at an outpatient center for treatment. The story of the village continues there as well. College of Medicine assistant professor Dr. Garrett Riggs contacted Helen Donegan, UCF vice president of community relations, for help. Within the day, Helen had rounded up Central Floridians who donated a total of $1,000 for Ginel’s stay at the outpatient center. Meanwhile, Brittany Armstrong, branch manager of Seacoast National Bank in downtown Orlando, worked with Anika to set up a trust fund for other community donations to help Ginel.
Anika spoke with Ginel’s doctors recently and said they believe his treatment will keep him in remission for about 20 years, a lifetime compared with the two weeks of life doctors in Haiti had given Ginel. Marc, the GHATES founder, says Ginel and his family back in Haiti are extremely grateful for the community’s love and care. That gratitude is illustrated in the nickname Ginel and his new friends in Orlando have given Anika: “Angel.”