Helping Judeline Jean After the Haiti Earthquakes


Dr. Minkin and his wife, Mary Ann were featured in the Citizen-Times for helping Haitian earthquake survivor, Judeline Jean. Read the full story after the jump

By Casey Blake of the Citizen-Times from January 18, 2011

ASHEVILLE — They tell doctors not to get emotionally involved with their patients in the United States.

But Haitian earthquake survivor, Judeline Jean — who was trapped under three stories of concrete rubble a year ago — is now up and dancing because one Asheville surgeon did more than just his job for her.

Dr. Bruce Minkin, a hand surgeon with Carolina Hand and Sports Medicine, traveled to Haiti with his wife and nurse, Mary Ann Minkin, about two months after the January 2010 quakes.

The Minkins joined hundreds of other medical professionals and volunteers in the relief effort, but they ended up bringing something unique back home: Judeline.

Judeline Jean, now 16 years old, was trapped under the rubble of a three-story concrete building following the initial earthquake. It took her mother, Edeline, more than 24 hours to single-handedly dig her out.

“Judeline’s mother told us the story one night that I don’t think she’d ever told anyone,” said Mary Ann Minkin. “She kept her daughter on a door for nearly a month after digging her out, because they couldn’t even get a ride to the hospital. That’s how bad it was.”

Even after Judeline was transported to the hospital, she had to live in a tent outside the building for several more weeks before being seen. Her right leg was amputated, her left leg had severe nerve damage, and her left arm was crushed.

Eight months later, Judeline was the last remaining victim still recovering from injuries sustained in the original quake.

From tragedy to triumph

One week following the devastation in Haiti, the Minkins suffered a personal loss of their own: Bruce Minkin’s mother passed away. Minkin’s mother, Katherine Minkin, was one of the first members of the Memphis-based charity, the Tiara Tea Society, an organization that helps raise money for little girls’ medical bills. Following their trip to Haiti, the Minkins mentioned the young girl who stole their hearts to the Tiara Tea Society.

“They raised funds for her airfare and basically made it happen for her to be able to come here,” Bruce Minkin said. “It was a beautiful way to remember my mom, to help a girl through her organization.

“It was a real community effort to get her the help she needed,” he said. “We just did our part.”

CarePartners gave Judeline a new leg and provided physical therapy. Park Ridge Health donated her surgery and hospital visit, and Carolina Hand did hand surgery and therapy. By October, she was entirely functional and dancing in the Minkins’ living room.

“So many people opened up their homes, helped Judeline and translated. Enough money was collected to provide housing in Haiti until they get back on their feet,” said Mary Ann Minkin.

“This girl had a real resilience about her,” said Gary Stevens of CarePartners, Judeline’s prosthetist. “She had determination and faith, an attitude that was just unmatchable.”

physical therapy for girl with prosthetic leg

No crutches

Stevens replaced Judeline’s makeshift prosthetic leg with a more fitted one at CarePartners, where she was also given physical therapy. She is now able to walk without crutches or rails to lean on, moving completely on her own.

Today, Edeline already has a job, and Judeline starts back to school this week with her independence and spirit intact.

“One of the Haitian doctors we worked with asked us not to go home and only describe the devastation we saw,” said Mary Ann Minkin. “She asked us to also go back and talk about the hope that Haitian people have, and we did feel hope.

“Haiti was a poor country even before the earthquake — hunger is a way of life for them. They don’t expect anything, and they appreciate everything,” she said. “The earthquake placed the eyes of the world on them, and they find hope in that. A year later, I think Haiti is still measured by that sense of hope.”

“Judeline really represents Haiti the way we see it,” said Bruce Minkin. “She has been knocked down to the greatest possible extent that any human could even imagine, just as Haiti has been knocked down as much as any society could ever be. It was apocalyptic.

“But she’s strong and resilient, and came out of it dancing,” he said. “We know Haiti will do the same.”

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