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Global charity tug of war

By Judy Martel · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Posted: 4 pm ET

The story of the professional dancer who begged doctors to save her leg from amputation after being rescued from rubble of the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti is inspirational. Though the 31-year-old Fabienne Jean, who was featured in an article in The New York Times, eventually did lose her right leg due to massive infection, her tale of rescue and personal bravery is a touchstone for the heroic global efforts to help victims in the impoverished nation.

"It's a sad story, but what can I do? I can't kill myself because of this, so I have to learn to live with it," she told The New York Times following the operation. With that, Jean has become something of a public relations dream for charity. And two organizations are squabbling over who gets to write the ending to her story.

Jean, a dancer with Haiti's National Theater, was carried from the rubble into the General Hospital after the earthquake, and remained there among "dead and living all mixed up," she said for four days before surgery. She begged doctors not to take her leg, but it was too late to save it.

The doctor who operated on Jean is from New York's Mount Sinai Medical Center, which is petitioning the Obama administration for humanitarian parole so that Jean can enter the U.S. for more treatment.

The New England Brace Company Foundation out of New Hampshire, which supplies prosthetics, wants Jean to remain in Haiti for care, and is looking to her to become a spokesperson for the foundation and help with fundraising.

As for Jean, she views help from the U.S. as a blessing, and is steering clear of the dispute.

Charities don't survive without funding, and public relations awareness is a big part of raising much-needed money to continue costly operations like the ongoing effort in Haiti. This spat provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse of just how important it is.

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