Healing for Lesman

Cara Burke, of Springboro, Ohio, is a Healing the Children veteran at age 17.  Her mom Lisa is an HTC coordinator in the Cincinnati area where, in addition to coordinating, the family, which also includes dad Kevin, Lindsay, Anna and Caleb, have hosted 5 HTC kids. That includes Lesman Jordan, age 8, of Honduras, about whom Cara wrote this essay.  Lesman’s surgery was done by Dr. Kevin Yakuboff and Dr. Richard Kagan at Shriners Hospital for Children in Cincinnati.

It was the first time Lesman Jordan had helped his father make the Christmas fireworks in Honduras.  As he fetched materials, his father packed sour-smelling powders into ornate shafts, sealing them tightly.  When one rocket was ready to test, Lesman noticed that a pile of gray powder had spilled on the ground, and he shouted a warning too late.  His father, match in hand, lit the fuse, then disappeared into flames.  In a flash, Lesman’s life changed forever. 

Covered with third-degree burns, Lesman came to know a small, crowded Honduran hospital as home.  When his burns remained raw and tender for over three months, a team comprised of the First Lady of Honduras, the Ruth Paz Foundation, Healing the Children, and Shriners Burns Hospital cooperated to bring him to the United States for Treatment.  In Honduras, Lesman lived near a waste dump on a river; the only airplane he had ever seen was a filthy, discarded toy rescued from the garbage.  Now, looking out the window of a small, chartered jet, he parted company with his mother Maria and the rugged jungles of his homeland.

While Lesman was traveling to the United States, I was returning, rank and mosquito-bitten, from a rugged canoe trip in Canada.  When I arrived at home, my family presented me with a passport photo of a young boy’s lean, grave face.  With his serious expression, he appeared nearer age thirteen than eight. 

But when I saw him standing on our front porch a little later, his countenance proved anything but grave.  With a gleeful, toothless smile, Lesman greeted me for the first time with a genial embrace, his delicate figure nearly disappearing into my arms.

Lesman requires two hours of physical therapy every day.  First, my younger brother and sister, nicknamed the “cream team,” massage greasy ointment over his joints to prevent dry flakes and itching.  Next, I share the duties of the “mean team,” plying Lesman’s wrists 90 degrees to maintain range of motion.  I must also comfort his intermittent sobbing, “Ai ai ai ai.”  He accepts my sympathy with tear-stained brown cheeks and quivering elfin lips.  After the ordeal of therapy, soft, smiling sparks of resilience return to his eyes. 

Lesman loves to clean dinner dishes and afterward splash in the gray, tepid water.  He spreads a soapy white beard on his slender face, flanked by russet ears, and sounds a high-pitched, slightly nasal giggle.  The two of us begin a raucous, merry song of “La Cucaracha,” including the new verses Lesman has taught me. 

When Lesman returns home to Honduras, his memory will reside in oily fingerprints on our burgundy kitchen wall.  For over a decade, he will travel between two different worlds:  life in Honduras, his house by the river dump, and the squalid hospital; and visits to America, our sloping lawn, and pristine hospital hallways.  The measure of a society is how it treats its weakest members.  As part of a team, along with the Honduran First Lady, the Ruth Paz Foundation, Healing the Children, and Shriners Burns Hospital, our family has taken a weak member, Lesman Jordan, and made him strong again.

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