back of the open cab truck we had used to haul our medicines and bags. He was cushioned from the metal base of the nine-inch cab by a series of student volunteers’ laps acting as cushions, with Jeanne cradling his head. It was getting close to 5:00 and Gaby’s mom had disappeared.
“Where’s Gaby’s mom?” I asked Serge.
“She had to go home. She said he needed a clean shirt and a new pair of shoes!”
No matter that he was too weak to stand. Haitian custom dictated that he couldn’t go to the hospital without a clean shirt and decent shoes! The students took advantage of the down time to wander off and peek inside the ounmfò.
Gaby was kept in Hôpital St. Michel for three days. The Haitian doctors there pumped him full of three antibiotics at once. He made a dramatic recovery. I visited him every morning, got a hug from his mom, and gestured to her with my hands together, signaling that our Voodoo/Western medicine approach was working. On the day of his discharge, she pulled me aside and showed me his bills for the hospital, the doctor, and the pharmacy. Paying the bills worried me. Three days in the hospital in Miami would cost tens of thousands of dollars. But paying Gaby’s bill was literally the price we had to pay to save his life, so I figured, if worse comes to worse, Evelyn and I would phone home and wire transfer the money. I added up the three bills and divided by 17, the conversion rate from Haitian currency, gourdes, to dollars. “That can’t be right,” I thought, as I checked my math again and again. One hundred gourdes each for the doctor and the hospital and 225 gourdes for the pharmacy—that’s 425 gourdes—25 bucks! I laughed out loud, which surprised and puzzled Gaby’s mom. I reached for my wallet, took out the correct amount of gourdes, and asked her to check to see if I’d given her the right amount. She kissed me on the cheek and ran to the cashier’s window. So life is cheap in Haiti, but saving lives is even cheaper. Gabuy’s life cost $30 total, if you include the $5 we gave to Madame Felice for her prayers.