Saturday, June 16, 2012

Olman Santeliz (Jarrod Brown)

Tonight's post is written by Jarrod Brown, the head of Mission Lazarus, a Christian group that I've worked with numerous times in Honduras on mission trips. This actually was an e-mail sent out to Mission Lazarus supporters on Thursday. There is no group or individual I know that has done more for the cause of Christ in Honduras than Mission Lazarus and Jarrod. Please keep the young man he speaks of in your prayers. It is a horrific story.
Mission Lazarus
Jose Olman Santeliz, better know just as Olman (Ole-man) came to live on the Mission Lazarus ranch as a teenager back in 2006 when his dad was hired as a ranch foreman. Where Olman was lacking in stature he made up for with a great smile, humble and loving personality, and respectful of authority.  When he graduated from high school, with no job opportunities around and no means to continue in college, he started working as a hand on the ranch.  His hard work and humble spirit allowed him to quickly move into other positions around Mission Lazarus including as the driver for our summer intern program.  All of the interns in 2008 and 2009 love Olman and Olman loved hanging out with his peers from the USA.  He wasn't embarrassed when they'd laugh at him because the only US music he knew or "liked" was Back Street Boys. He was always very careful when driving the interns and even when they'd harass him to drive faster, he followed the established rule to not go more than 45 miles an hour.  In late 2009, frustrated that I could not find enough qualified Christian local men and women to work for us I approached Olman to see if he'd be interested in going to college.  He was!  He wanted to study agricultural engineering.  I made a few calls and a friend was able to get Olman an appointment to take the entrance exam at the prestigious national agronomy school in Catacamas, Honduras.  Olman passed the exam and in early 2010 he was off to college, the first in his family!  This school, a former military school, still maintained a very strict environment.  Upon arriving at school Olman's head was shaved.  Trips back home to visit family were very limited.  For a young man who grew up on ranches in Honduras and Nicaragua in a tightly knit family this transition was very tough.  We were committed to Olman's education and made sure that he had everything he needed for college and that the university bills were paid. 

Olman, 24 and now in his third year of his Ag Engineering program, was recently invited to join a group that would travel to the US later this year to visit other universities.  Two weeks ago Olman wrote Ally and I asking if we'd be able to help him with the expenses to get his passport and visa.  We answered of course and we were excited about the great experience Olman would have.  Last Friday Olman was able to get permission to leave school to return home to get the paperwork that he needed for his passport and visa.  Early Sunday morning Olman's and his father drove to the bus station in Choluteca for Olman to catch the first bus to Tegucigalpa, and then on to Catacamas.  At the bus station, in an apparent attempted robbery, Olman was shot twice in the neck.  In the chaos Olman's father took off after the assailant and Olman was left in the car. Olman mustered the strength to drive himself across town, with his neck blown open, unable to speak, to the public hospital in Choluteca.  He did not quite make it when he stumbled out of his car and some police officers found him and drug him into the emergency room. 

Immediately the attending physicians realized that Olman's injuries were far more complex than what they'd be able to handle.  An ambulance was called and Olman, now accompanied by his uncle, headed to the capital, Tegucigalpa, without a Dr, nurse or even a paramedic.  Due to Olman's injuries he was unable to sit upright because blood would pour into his lungs and the same if he laid down on his back.  His only option was to sit with his head below his knees so that the blood would pour out of his neck.  After about an hour on the road Olman was really week and his uncle feared he was going to bleed out and die.  They stopped the ambulance in the town of San Lorenzo at another hospital where he was given a shot to control or slow the bleeding, then they continued on the road to Tegucigalpa.
Finally, after the long 3 hour journey they arrived in Tegucigalpa at the National Public Teaching Hospital. Now almost 8 AM, 5 hours had passed since the shooting.  Olman had yet to receive any medication for pain or bandages to cover his wounds.  In the public hospital in the capital he was told that they were on strike, the operating room was closed, that there was nothing that they could do for him.  Desperate for options Olman grabbed a piece of paper and told his family that he was dying, he was drowning in his own blood and he asked his family to try and get in touch with me, that I'd be able to get him into a private hospital where he could get treatment.  With this in mind they caught a taxi and headed to the Honduras Medical Center, a western style private hospital where my son was born by C-section in 2005.  Upon arriving at the ER his uncle with only about $800 in hand that had been loaned to him, was able to convince the hospital to help Olman, that there was an American that they were sure would help them with the expenses.  It was now 8:30 AM, 5 1/2 hours since the shooting, still no pain medication, still no bandages.  The hospital agreed and Olman was immediately prepped for surgery, what would turn out to be the first of five.

By chance I happened to be in Central America this week with meetings in Honduras and Nicaragua.  I received a phone call from Olman's mom about 9 AM on Sunday as I was driving to the capital.  When I got to the hospital at about 2 PM Olman had just come out of his 4th surgery and was in the ICU.  The Dr. told me that Olman could hear me but he was too weak to open his eyes and with a trach in his throat he would not be able to talk.  I encouraged and prayed with Olman and he squeezed my hand when I told him that I loved him. I fought back tears.  Overwhelmed at what had happened to this amazing young man who everyone at Mission Lazarus and my family love dearly.

I had to leave that afternoon due to previously scheduled meetings in Nicaragua but I arrived late last night back in Tegucigalpa and got to Olman's room about 9 PM.  He was resting after having undergone another surgery yesterday, number five, to put a plate in his jaw that had been broken by one of the bullets.  His face was severely swollen, his mouth wired shut, one of his lungs the Dr. told me still had a great deal of blood in it but in the grand scheme of things Olman had made it through the roughest part.  He took two bullets to the neck that destroyed his esophagus and windpipe but did not hit his spine, vocal chords, or any major veins or arteries.  That alone was nothing short of a miracle.

Unfortunately for most of Honduras the chance to make it to a private hospital does not exist.  And with a broken social services system they would have bled out, just like was doing, and they would have died because the surgeons or the hospital were on strike.

Today Olman is to be moved to a regular room.  He should be in the hospital for at least another 8 - 10 days.  I don't make a habit of asking for money but today we do need your help.  As of today, 5 surgeries and 5 days in ICU we owe $30,000.00.  Mission Lazarus operates month to month and depends on the generosity of thousands of interested Christians around the country.  If you are in a position to help, even if it's just $25, it would be greatly appreciated.  Don't consider this a quick donation to help Mission Lazarus, please consider this an investment in the future of a great young man, a young man who undoubtably will be used to transform lives here in Honduras.  If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me.   I'll be flying to the US tomorrow. 

In the mean time please pray for Olman.
All donations for Olman's treatment are 100% tax deductible.  They can be mailed to:

Mission Lazarus
PO Box 150524
Nashville, TN 37215

Please note: "Olman" on the memo line

God bless,

Luke 18:1
E-mail me at

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