February 18, 2011

23 Year-Old Haitian Amputee Begins Life-Saving Recovery After Gillibrand, Engel Help Extend His U.S. Stay

One-Year Extension Allows Haiti Earthquake Survivor to Adapt to Prosthetic Leg, Continue Engineering Studies in Rockland County

Rockland, NY – A 23 year-old Haitian engineer, who was trapped under a collapsed school in Haiti and underwent an amputation of his left leg, faced the threat of ending his medical recovery in the U.S. and returning to Haiti after his humanitarian parole was set to expire this week.   U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern) announced today they have secured a one-year extension allowing Ralph-Marie Gedeon to continue receiving critically needed care as he heals and adapts to his permanent prosthetic leg and completes his civil engineering degree.

“I am pleased that Ralph-Marie will be able to continue receiving the care he so desperately needs,” said Senator Gillibrand. “His survival and ability to walk is a true testament of his courage and his strength. No words could aptly describe the generosity, faith, and love that Ayal Lindeman and so many others have shown him. Now that the cameras are gone, we cannot leave the Haitian people behind. We must remain steadfast in our mission to see Haiti recover, overcome and succeed.” 

“I was very happy to help Ralph-Marie Gedeon stay in the United States,” said Congressman Engel.  “I was instrumental in getting the federal government to extend the Temporary Protected Status of Haitians in America after the earthquake so they would not be forced to return to a devastated country where they would only add to the burden of its recovery. I still believe in, and urge the government to extend, the TPS of Haitians here. Haiti is not ready to take its sons and daughters back just yet. We cannot add to the work of recovery there by forcing refugees to go home. I will also continue to fight for additional federal funds for local schools who are absorbing the added costs of educating Haitian refugee children.”

“Like so many in his country, Ralph-Marie has displayed great strength through great hardship,” said Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern). “Ensuring his recovery is part of our obligation to help the entire Haitian community and people heal, and I am so truly pleased he will be able to continue his life-saving treatment here. I also appreciate Senator Gillibrand for all her hard work in making this possible.”

“I would like to thank Senator Gillibrand, Representative Engel and NY State Assembly woman Jaffee as well as the American people for their assistance,” said Ralph-Marie Gedeon.  “I would like to salute the generosity of the American people for their help not only to Haiti but to the world.”

“Having served in the WTC disaster I consider helping others a ‘Debt Of Honor’, the world came to our aid and so it is that we assist the world,” said Ayal Lindeman.  “I have been to Haiti three times so far and worked as a medical responder / volunteer minister with a motto of ‘no matter what, something can be done about it.’ I am honored to be able to help and assist. New York is truly blessed to have a political representation who care about the issues of their constituents, are willing to lend an ear and roll up their sleeves and take action to help.”

As a result of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, 23 year-old Ralph-Marie Gedeon was buried alive for days after his engineering school collapsed on him. His father helped dig him out of tons of concrete. Gedeon later became one of hundreds of patients in the care of New York resident Ayal Lindeman, a nurse and emergency medical technician who went to volunteer in Haiti. Gedeon’s left leg was amputated in Port-au-Prince's General Hospital and Lindeman vowed that he would help get Mr. Gedeon post-operative treatment and a new prosthetic leg.

Last February, Gedeon was granted a one-year humanitarian parole in the United States. With the help of NGOs, church groups, and non-profits, he was transported to New Haven, CT. Under the care of orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Gibson at St. Raphael’s Hospital, and with generous private donations, Gedeon received a prosthetic leg and underwent 15 operations that saved his life, at no cost to the hospital.  

Through continuing generous private donations, Gedeon now receives critical outpatient treatment in Rockland, NY and lives in Spring Valley.  With Gedeon’s legal status soon expiring, Mr. Lindeman reached out to Assemblywoman Jaffe for help who then partnered with Senator Gillibrand and Representative Engel’s offices. In late January, Senator Gillibrand corresponded with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) supporting Mr. Gedeon’s request to legally remain in the U.S. for an additional year to receive necessary medical care. Representative Engel’s office also called on DHS to extend Gedeon’s stay. The US Customs and Border Protection of DHS granted the request earlier this week. 

Gedeon wants to concentrate his studies on mechanical engineering so that he can help create and develop prosthetics and eventually return to Haiti to aid the country’s thousands of amputees. The University of Miami granted Gedeon a full scholarship to continue his civil engineering studies. Gedeon is currently enrolled in an English as a Second Language class at Rockland Community College to fulfill the university’s degree requirements.