Friday, June 10, 2011

Team 12 May 2011

May 20, 2011, 7:05 am

Bonjou -

The sun is rising, the mountains are cresting, the fog is dissipating and the roosters are in competition with the rhythmic little tree frogs. It is a morning to reflect and be thankful for our safe arrival, for all our luggage to be in tow, for the open arm greetings from our hosts, a delicious meal waiting to be enjoyed and a good night's rest following our first day in clinic.

As we landed in PAP and taxied to the jet way, I summoned my emotional and physical strength in anticipation for the typically chaotic bag retrieval process, armored with a buddy and check-point-check system that rivals the best. We were again greeted with a calypso band in the airport, setting the tone of relaxation rather than stress... lovely! The post-quake make-shift hanger-turn-customs building now had a drop ceiling with inset lighting, fans, signage and an impression of permanence. Haitians are certainly industrious, always making the best of what they have! The next surprise came as we braced to lumber our loads through the long walk over erratic concrete, preparing to ward off the well-meaning but unsolicited assistance by avoiding eye contact and repeating "no, mesi", (which feels unnatural since all we want to do is embrace each hard working man's assistance)...instead we had several airport "porters" who had quickly corralled all our ribboned and numbered suitcases while we were in customs, definitely marking their luggage territory from all the other prowling porters. What a pleasant surprise. No uncomfortable rejection process! Next we enjoyed a smooth exit through the newly created curbed and roofed promenade all the way to the parking lot. The tone of progress was set.

As we drove from the airport through PAP the shadows from rubble piles were fading, scaffolding embraced many damaged buildings, street vendors were in abundance and people were milling about with their loads. New curbing was evident as well as several new stoplights, neither, however, replaced the prominent traffic rules of horn blasting. The tent cities have not changed much, but there was evidence of more permanent temporary housing sprouting about.

Yesterday, our clinic began with a line of more than 100, all holding a rendezvous slip, which is the ticket for a "first in line" follow-up visit. WOW! That was amazing to see how well the system is working, how sustainable the care has become, and how many returned on the date requested. There have been 1-3 teams a month here at MTM post-quake, and consistent care is now the norm. Our team meshed immediately, working symbiotically right from the start. Our missioners all have come with a servant’s heart, no task snubbed, no job too big or small.

Thank you for anticipating our safe arrival, praying us here!
I will report our clinic stories at the end of our week. Please know how much we feel your support and prayers as we bring you with us, helping us care for each precious person.
With great fondness and appreciation :)
Sue Walsh & Team 12

May 25, 2011
Fini Bonjou -

Waking this morning for an early departure it was still dark, and I lay in bed listening to the orchestra of sounds. Caribbean night frogs croak with an interesting combination of musical cadence and wood instrument rhythm, sharing the beautiful rolling French accent of the island. On the cusp of dawn the small tree dwelling birds sweetly flirt with each other as their early chirps lilt through the air, officially starting the concert. Morning doves tandem in quickly with their gentle, consistent coo calls like a clarinet joining the playful flutes. Without being obnoxious but rather quite complementary, rooster calls join in with essential accents to the ensemble as would a saxophonist, along with an occasional donkey bray and several deep lows from a lone cow, definitely rounding out the musical score. The dogs are quiet and will blast soon if someone walks past the compound gate, but for now the air is gentle and soothing, and I love it! I feel sorry for all trippers who wear ear plugs to sleep, because once the house and the rest of the mountain wakes up, the serenade is over.

We had a wonderful, productive week, with our clinic counts again rounding 1000 along with completing the application of the fluoride varnish on the teeth of all the school children with a total of treating 600 students throughout this year. I don't mean to always report "numbers"; it's just that it is so emotional for us to see the seemingly endless lines, and endless needs. I think we all find a form of comfort in this counting, knowing that we saw all who came to us throughout our time here. Of course we had experiences that ranged from heartaches to belly laughs. Heartaches came as we saw both advanced lymphatic filariasis (elephantitis) and early signs of the condition, knowing that the best we can offer is the hope of preventing advancement. Elephantitis is the descriptor of what the filarial worm does to the extremities and scrotum as it clogs up the lymphatic system, causing both to enlarge with the size and appearance of an elephant, causing significant pain and immobility. Prevention, with no cure available, is our goal by treating everyone with the de-worming medication albendazole, and distributing medicated/fortified salt to each family, every trip. We have been doing this for several years, and the Haitians now know about the special salt, and request it :) For other conditions that were severe, we knew that many teams will follow us, including surgical, dental and ophthalmology, so the range of treatment continues to expand with the expertise of all who visit MTM. We were quite amused when a young man reported his litany of complaints including headache, anemia, gripe (a constant cold), backache, acid, dry eyes, trouble reading (requesting reading glasses) with the finale of ailments being "infecion vaginale"... Not sure if the interpreter was confused with his translation or what - but because "infecion vaginale" seems to be the complaint of every female, young and old, it was quite humorous as I was jokingly consulted for this "unusual complaint" which has now spread to the male population!

We are so grateful for all the supplies and medications you have helped us provide. Treatment of hypertension and other chronic diseases seem reasonably well controlled, allowing for a better quality of life, and we had proper antibiotics for all organisms causing infections of all ages. We had the pleasure of having Dr. Tom Keys, an internist and infectious disease specialist from the Cleveland clinic, on our team this trip who helped us with many complicated cases, bring a new depth to our clinical expertise, along with so many other very knowledgeable, skilled and compassionate RNs, nurse practitioners, pharmacist and our indispensible 'non-medicals', who keep all supplies/medications inventoried, stocked and humbly keep the clinic flowing.

In spite of still acquiring scabies and worms regularly, many children are strong and healthy, so treating their recurring infestations continues to relieve their discomfort and suffering, but their overall health is good. We saw no severe malnutrition! Each pregnant mom we cared for, about 35, (here I go counting again!) each child whether they were moderately malnourished or growing nicely, along with an amazing number of people over 60 years old received medika mamba, which is a fortified peanut butter where the peanuts are grown, picked and manufactured into a paste in Haiti. Everyone received vitamins and a health pack as well. We also had the privilege to give to each mom a lovingly made baby blanket and an enthusiastically folded diaper pack for each new young life they were carrying, including those still cradled in the wombs of the strong Haitian women. This mountain oasis at MTM is doing wonderful things for many, and Little by Little is so blessed to be partnering with them.

An excruciating reality of the continued needs of Haiti came to me as I passed through the slum of Carrefour, a very troubled area of PAP, and saw masses living in garbage and rubble reaching proportions that go beyond description or comprehension. Please continue your thoughts and prayers for Haiti.

Again, it was a privilege and pleasure to serve in Haiti with an amazing team of giving, humble teammates, supported by you daily. Thank you for helping us with this mission.

With abundant love and gratitude -
Sue and Brian et al

Addendum: internet was spotty and travel was long but we did arrive safely back to Chicago. Thank you for your traveling mercies prayers!

Team 11 March 2011

March 26, 2011, 8:07 pm

Bonswa to our dear friends and family,

As we settle into our evening activities I wanted to share some of our experience with all of you. Each of us so appreciates your support, your love and your prayers as we move through each day of this work.

Each day is beginning with a glorious blue sky and warm breezes that should envy all of you! :) We gather each morning to a scrumptious meal of fruit, oatmeal and this morning PANCAKES as we contemplated the large crowd of our Haitian friends awaiting us on the top of the moumntain. Many of the team love to walk the mountain roads and traverse across the riverbed greeting friends and patients along their away....a "Bonjour" creates a smile and a wave that is heartfelt and heartwarming all in one.

Our days have been filled with patients needing many different levels of care. Skin infections, malnutrition and asthma remain on the top of the list with an assortment of less severe conditions such as allergies, colds, diarrhea, fevers and pain of all sorts being frequent concerns. (Can YOU imagine carrying 30 pounds of water or vegetables on top of your head, up a steep mountain in cruddy shoes?)... and our favorite moments involving our pregnant mom's first hearing their baby's heartbeat and the new moms bringing their tiny new wee ones for us to see and ooh and ahh over:) It is also truly uplifting to see former patients who share a hug and Haitian team members who work with us on each visit....again sharing hugs and laughter as well as working so diligent and hard to help us meet the needs of our precious folks.

The team is lively, bright and filled with love for these people and our mission. It is a joy to lead this group. Please know everyone is safe, well and enjoying this opportunity to serve. Keep the team in your prayers that we may continue to do God's work and pray that our Haitian brothers and sisters will continue to find us in the days ahead. We noticed today that their needs become greater as our time here lengthens and they come from mountains away.

God bless and keep each of you and know you are loved here in Haiti by Team 11.

Blessings for a restful night,

Vanda & all of Team 11