Jacklin Saint Fleur: “He Was A Revolutionary”

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Courtesy of Jacklin Saint Fleur

Jacklin Saint Fleur, chief of operations at Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais, wrote this reflection following the death of Paul Farmer:

When someone we know passes away, the degree of our pains and our sadness is related to the suddenness of the death. February 21, 2022 will be remembered as the date that left us petrified, speechless, by the terrible news of Polo’s death. From Rwanda to Haiti, from the U.S. to Russia, Malawi, Mexico, Lesotho, Sierra Leone, Peru, Liberia, Kazakhstan, where Partners In Health is accompanying and giving hope to thousands of unfortunates, we were devastated. For me, it was unthinkable.

The scope of our sorrow can also be graded on the scale of our relationship with the person. Most importantly, the joy, the attention, and love we inherited from him/her. Here, let me thank Polo’s family, including his mother, brothers and sisters—especially his wife, Didi, and the kids, for giving us the unique opportunity to enjoy his kindness, generosity, deep affection, and unconditional altruism. For being close to the family, I know it’s meaningful for them. I think it’s an excellent time to express our gratitude for all the sacrifices they have made.

Our trouble to cope with the loss of our relatives is also tied to remorse—the unpleasant feeling that there is something we were supposed to do and we didn’t. In my last WhatsApp exchanges with Polo, I had the opportunity to express my love and appreciation for him and he did the same. However, I will never forgive myself for not having time to unveil the statue we erected at HUM for him. We also wanted to surprise him by handing him a Haitian passport, but the ongoing situation in Haiti made it very difficult. Still, I wake up every day with the painful regret of not doing enough to make it happen.

Paul was a great father taking care of his family, a passionate physician who treated his patients with compassion, respect, and dignity, a great professor who helped his students mastermind the most complex concepts, and a loving friend with a great soul. A global health visionary who dedicated his life to improving human health and advocating for health equity and social justice worldwide. A great philanthropist who impacted the lives of millions.  

Most importantly, he was a revolutionary who spent his entire life fighting social, political, and economic inequalities and their impact on health and well-being. Polo is a hero, a chief commander who died on the battlefield, taking care of patients and teaching students in Butaro, Rwanda. As followers, let his spirit guide us to pursue his legacy and fight for a better world. That is the only way to mourn our friend, mentor, teacher—one of the most outstanding leaders—and he will be proud of us.

Thank you.

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