Local Pastor Nearly Dies Helping in Haiti

Despite amputation caused by malaria, pastor plans to return to helping Haiti

Brian Kelso has led many mission trips to Haiti. For years, he has been traveling there three times a month, bringing supplies and volunteers.

“We do food distributions. We'll do temporary housing, especially after the earthquake. We have a couple of orphanages we're building,” said Kelso, pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Southwest Ranches.

But when he returned from his last trip in August, something was different and that something nearly killed him.

“I got just a massive headache across my forehead and the top of my head then I really got feverish," Kelso said. "Basically all my vital organs were shutting down.”

It was a severe case of malaria. When going to Haiti, he never took pills to prevent this potentially deadly disease transmitted by mosquitoes.

“I had 20 percent malaria in my blood," Kelso said. "The doctors told my wife if you have 5 percent of malaria, you only have a 5 percent chance you're going to live.”

The solution was grim. Doctors might have to amputate some limbs to save Kelso's life.

But Dr. Blain Shatkin recommended Kelso start hyperbaric oxygen treatments at Memorial Hospital Pembroke. In the chamber, he is breathing in 100 percent oxygen under pressure, which helps deliver oxygen-rich blood to tissues that would otherwise die.

Dr. Shatkin, who is the medical director for the hyperbaric unit, says the treatments worked “and instead of having a below the knee amputation we were able to remove only half his right foot and on the left, we just had to remove some toes.”

Not quite a miracle, but the treatments have been effective. For the first time since his illness, Kelso will return to his church to preach this Sunday.

Kelso doesn’t focus on why this happened, he simply feels blessed to be alive. He still plans to return to Haiti and hopes to get back to missionary work in January.

“The little bit of suffering that I've gone through is nothing compared to the suffering the people of Haiti go through everyday,” he said. “So many times we don't feel the Lord the same all the time. But to know that even in the midst of death he's still there is a tremendous sense of comfort.”

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