A Brief History Lesson on Hôpital L’Eglise de Dieu Réformée
(Post 1 of 3)
July in Haiti is hot! I mean really hot—stifling might not be too strong a word! It is also humid, and air conditioning in the village of Saintard, Haiti is not easily found. The first week of July 2005 followed this meteorologic normal as temperatures climbed above the 100-degree (Fahrenheit) mark. During this particular week of July 2005, in spite of the heat and the humidity, 3 doctors and 3 support staff braved the elements and performed the very first patient exams at Clinique L’Eglise de Dieu Réformée, the forerunner of what would become Hôpital L’Eglise de Dieu Réformée. The stories of these three founding doctors are a microcosm of the life and plight of the political, economic, and social climate of Haiti, and how individual Haitian lives are affected. As the first blog of this three part series, I highlight Dr. Ernst Pady.
Ernst Pady was born at a time in Haiti’s history when vaccinations were even less accessible than they are today. During that time, the Pady children fought the normal childhood ailments. Unfortunately, Ernst could not escape the one ailment that would affect his entire life: poliomyelitis. During his childhood years, his polio symptoms progressed until his walking was affected, leaving him unable to walk without braces on both of his legs, and, eventually, the addition of canes became necessary for him to ambulate. As he fought the battles of getting used to special shoes, physical therapy, and his walking “assistance”, Ernst became interested in medicine and wondered if he could help people who faced challenges like he had faced. If becoming a physician was to become his reality, his entire family would need to sacrifice their time to transport him to school, and financially assure he could attend medical school. Also, Ernst would need to do his part, to keep his exam scores at the highest level so that he could be considered as a viable applicant for a Haitian medical school. His family provided an environment for him to succeed and encouraged him in the program, especially his mother. After years of hard work and sacrifice, Ernst Pady, attained his goal and became Dr. Ernst Pady. Since his dream was to serve vulnerable children who faced physical struggles as he had faced, Dr. Pady continued his education and became a pediatrician.
During his years of medical service, Dr. Pady was involved in providing education at the medical school he had attended, opened a private practice in Port au Prince, and even started a small primary school in his area for kids who were unable to find affordable education. One day in his private practice, Dr. Pady was asked to help a prematurely born infant with multiple issues. While the medical situation was familiar for Dr. Pady, he found himself in frequent conversations with a young pastor from the country village of Saintard who had traveled to Port au Prince with the tiny infant. The pastor shared his vision of someday starting a hospital in his village. The connection between Pastor Jean Marie Louis Jean and Dr. Ernst Pady was born. During the years that followed, the prematurely born infant recovered and Dr. Pady was convinced by his pastor and friend to lead the opening of a small clinic in Saintard, Haiti. Dr. Pady recruited a couple of recently-graduated physicians and a couple of nurses to join him on the journey to this newly opened clinic.
Years passed, and the small clinic envisioned and directed by Dr. Pady and Pastor Jean Marie, and with the foundational help of missionary Phyllis Newby, grew into a larger clinic and eventually became the Hôpital L’Eglise de Dieu Réformée.
In the fall of 2020, Dr. Pady suffered a minor stroke, resulting in a reduced ability to speak. As he recovered, he stayed true to his “calling” to help children, and accompanied younger pediatricians to Saintard, to make sure that the children at the rural hospital would continue to receive care.
In February 2021, Dr. Pady returned home from a long Friday of assisting with patients in Saintard. He was awakened the next day at his home in Port au Prince with the report of a young girl who had fallen and needed a wound dressed. True to his continued call, Dr. Pady put on his leg braces, grabbed his canes, and made his way to his car so that he could retrieve what the injured girl needed at his medical office. He stopped in front of his office and waited for a security guard to open the gate to the property. As security cameras captured the situation, a car pulled in front of Dr. Pady, two armed men quickly exited and approached Dr. Pady’s vehicle. When Dr. Pady opened his door, apparently following his assailant’s instructions, he necessarily needed to reach down and lift his braced leg out of the vehicle. On the video, it appeared that the armed man thought that Dr. Pady was reaching for a weapon or something other than his partially paralyzed leg, shots were fired, and the lifeless body of Dr. Ernst Pady was left outside of his vehicle.
The man who was originally called to help children, was en route to help a child when he drew his last breath. He had stayed true to his word to his siblings and his mother who had supported him through his childhood and his illness.
Thousands of children who faced challenges had been helped through Dr. Pady’s life of service, as a pediatrician, an educator, and a school administrator. The upheaval of Haiti had silenced a warrior of benevolence, but his legacy, his vision, and his smile continue in the many lives he touched, including us who serve at Hôpital L’Eglise de Dieu Réformée.
Thank you, Dr. Pady for your life of service. We know you are watching us from heaven, as you smile and walk, free of braces and canes.