Eighteen-year-old Smysshell Delva is taking his first steps across a personal finish line. The young man from Haiti has just undergone hip replacement surgery at Saint Francis Hospital. It’s one of the first times he’s walking without pain in more than two years, after the deadly 2010 earthquake that devastated his country.
“One of the walls of the school is collapsing down, hits him on the back and throws him,” described his father Louicito Delva.
According to his father, Smysshell was practicing with his basketball team after school when the quake struck. Out of his teammates with him on the court that day, Smysshell was the only one who made it—albeit badly injured in his right leg.
“The number of orthopedic surgeries was astronomical. Some 1500 orthopedic surgeons went to Haiti after the earthquake as volunteers,” said Dr. Todd Mailly of Saint Francis Hospital.
Dr. Mailly was one of those who rushed to help. That’s where he met Smysshell, whose injury was healing poorly after brutal surgery in the Dominican Republic. Dr. Mailly knew Smysshell needed state-of-the-art assistance which he could only get in the U.S.
“It was basically a square peg in a round hole. He couldn't walk. It was severely painful,” described the doctor.
Smysshell is one of Dr. Mailly’s youngest hip replacement patients, and though he may never play basketball like he used to, he is looking forward to walking freely.
“The dream changed. He would like to be a doctor to study medicine so he can go back and be just like Dr. Mailly,” said his father.
And in another bit of good news, his father tells NBC Connecticut that a couple of weeks ago, Smysshell found out through Facebook that two of his old teammates survived the earthquake. He plans to return to Haiti in about two months.