Friday, July 6, 2012

Team 15 May 24, 2012, 2:00am We have just arrived home. Our clinic week is over and our feelings are mixed. There is the emotional peace and satisfaction of providing medicine and immediate medical care for so many who otherwise would continue with an infection or chronic condition that causes suffering and worse, possibly death. The reason for our medical preparation and pharmacy inventory is to provide the best and safest care for patients, the environment and MTM. Everyone knows such preparation takes days/weeks/years of organization and study along with the help, mentoring and prayers from many. No matter the extent of our preparation, the assaults onto our emotions continue to catch us off guard when we see a patient that is beyond our expertise, the resources in our clinic or the availability of care in Haiti. We have been lullabied each night by a rhythmic cadence of bitty tree frogs, tropical bugs and nightingales and awake to the blasts from roosters and dogs versus the electronic chime from our cell phones - the first reminder of our day that life is very different here in Haiti. The missioners all agreed that they were underprepared for the rigorous walk of 1.3 miles "down the mountain, across the river and up the second mountain". Even though I mentioned that the grade is steep and the "road" is uneven and rocky, it doesn't penetrate the optimism of the missioner until they make the trek in the Haitian heat following a heavy rain. The deeper perspective is appreciated when watching the villager walk evenly and methodically over the same terrain balancing a large bucket of water on their head, limping gracefully with a recent injury or chronic arthritis or lovingly cradling a sick child or two while covering 2-3-4 times our distance... likely being both hungry and thirsty. Similar to our communities, the villagers arrive to their destination either late at night or early in the morning to secure a spot in line for something they really want, but it's not for a concert ticket or a new technical gadget. Via binoculars we see their line snaking around the clinic at sunrise. We are well rested and have eaten a delicious, nourishing breakfast, filled our water bottles, donned our sturdy and well fitting shoes. Our backpacks are filled with a change of clothes (walking clothes are too sweaty to wear all day), our recharged otoscopes and extra peanut butter sandwiches. Those team members unable to make the daily walk (and that is many, including me!) travel in the bed of a pick-up truck or on the back of a 4-wheeler. Our fragile microscope is secured in the lap of a missioner sitting in the cab of the truck. Villagers and missioners all have arrived at the same destination, readied for the day, however we are all now very humbled. Always but never the same... Our ride through Port-Au-Prince was routine with our team and cargo traveling the familiar road up to the guest house and back to the airport, but my eyes could not dart fast enough from side to side to take in the newness. The only sign of rubble was organized into material piles being used for construction. All pancaked buildings were cleared. Instead of tattered and dilapidated tent cities, restored parks, new stone walls, fresh concrete buildings, sidewalks and curbs were budding. More than 5 new lots filled with dump trucks, heavy machinery and cranes dotted the main street we traveled. The energy of vendors, construction workers, patrons, airport 'Red Caps' and Haitian flags waving proudly was penetrating; but that has always been. President Martelley and his wife are speaking of education and health care as a priority. I am aware that other parts of the country may not be advancing in the same way, but optimism seems possible. Knowing that my description of our clinic days can be repetitive, I do want to report that we continued to see hundreds of patients of all ages ranging from pregnant women, newborns, children and adults up to 88 years old! The typical maladies are: infections, infestations, scabies, wounds, worms, malnutrition and chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, thyroid and others, which occur in all body systems. Most conditions we are prepared to treat, some are so severe we are stifled and broken hearted. What's never the same are the mothers, babies, children, the people... each face, each story, each life being unique and precious and worthy of whatever medical care we can provide. Our team of 26 is talented and diverse with our hearts, hands and feet well synchronized by the beat of compassion. The stoic nature of our patients can at times interfere with our history taking, and it's not until we do our physical exam that we find a significant problem. The same complaint of fever/cough/not eating in a child or headache/acid/knee pain in the adult just touches the surface of infected skin, scalp, ears, pneumonia or severe malnutrition in the child or out of control blood pressure, GI disease or chronic arthritis in the adult. I try to check what village my patients are traveling from but sometimes things are so busy... I cared for a 5 month old baby with a cleft lip and palate who was cocooned in a tattered blanket. The baby had a fever and was coughing, but was not irritable. Her mom was quiet and stiff. I examined then treated the baby for an ear infection, watched the mom gently and with expertise feed the baby with a bottle she adapted for the child's deformity, and I packed up a bag with formula, rice cereal and a lovingly hand-made blanket. The baby's mom was struggling to carry everything when my student noticed that she had an injured elbow and knee. After inquiring about the mom's injuries we learned that she had taken a motorcycle-taxi to the clinic, carrying the baby, all the way from the slums of Carrefour, which is significantly further from the clinic than the airport and took several hours to get to the clinic. During the ride she had fallen off the motorcycle but managed to protect her precious daughter, then got back on the motorcycle and made it to the clinic; no matter that she herself was frightened and injured. Such faces and stories of each patient are never the same. We look deeply into both and find resiliency, strength, devotion and hope. That seems to always be the same. Thank you for following our trip this week and for praying us through. Please know each kindness shared with us is deeply appreciated. Thank you team. Thank you MTM. Thank you Lord! May 16, 2012, 10:20pm Bonswa! Just a quick note to let you know we arrived safely with all of our suitcases and supplies, that we made it to the guest house with the rain holding off until after we were unpacked. We readied ourselves for the week with thanks and prayers, a delicious meal, several meetings and now a night's rest. More at the end of the week!
Team 14 March 19, 2012, 9:15pm Bonswa to our dear family and friends as we listen to the critters and creatures of the night and feel the cool breeze against our skin. It has been 3 days since I wrote last and the days have been filled with sunny skys, a couple of meaningful thunderstorms to fill our team house water supply and truck rides with waving love filled children sharing their smiles and excitment as we bump and sway past them gripping our railing and treking up the mountain to start our day.. The lines of familiess have been long and patient as each day we have seen more and more of our Haitian families. Melissa our very favorite patient who suffered severe burns 4 years ago came bouncing into the clinic with her 2 brothers smiling and carrying on like she owned the place! (She does....emotionally) She has recovered with healed brown supple skin....truly God's plan and care through that team 4 years ago who could offer cleaning and special care to her face and Mom's love restored. Today we dedicated our care to 216 patients. Each day the lines are longer. It will be hard to leave tomorrow after our last day of healing. The needs were varied the last 2 days of care with many pregnant ladies having us check their beautiful babies to be. I never get tired of the smiles on their faces as they hear the heart sounds and receive a diaper pack, onsie and a beautiful handmade baby blanket or baby jacket donated by one of you. Scabies, scabies, scabies was the diagnosis of the day. Prayerfully we were able to relieve itchy skin and treat infection of the bumps and lesions. This time of year we see many of our our friends with allergies, cold symptoms, and some pneumonia. We have treated some quite severe asthmatic patients these several days and thanks to your donations have the medications we need to keep them breathing well and safe. I can't say enough kind words regarding my team members. Selfless, dedicated and hardworking are words that come immediately to mind. Thank you familes for sharing these gracious indiviuals who are now family on a different level. Not only are we all able to work together and accomplish any task but each is more fun than the next...ask them about the game "Garbage". Karen now has a new title of Activities Director. This is a promotion for Karen who is our charismatic coordinator of EVERYTHING and everyone! Seriously we are sad to be engaging in our final day of care tomorrow but always anxious to see each of you as we travel home. Please keep our Haitian families in your prayers as we attempt to meet their needs tomorrow and prepare the clinic for the next team. We had many patients tonight at our meeting for which we prayed. Please pray that God will keep them safe, heal them according to His plan and bring those back to the clinic as we have directed. We will begin travel early on Wednesday.... traveling into Port-au-Prince at 6AM. The team wants to play "Garbage" at the airport....they crack me up....we'd probably get kicked out for the noise! So Orevwa for now, merci for your thoughts and prayers and see you a couple of days. Vanda and Team 14 Team 14 March 15, 2012 11;35 pm Bonjou from Haiti - The rainshower with brilliant lightning and thunder has passed after a bright day of sunshine and cool breezes. I sit with the crickets chirping and pray that the roosters are crowing a bit later this next morning! The team arrived in Haiti without any difficulties this trip from a quick luggage check\in process to a smooth flight and accountability for all our 42 suitcases and carry ons!! Moving through the airport was remarkable for the improvements to the airport and the elbow grease of the team. Greeted by Willem's warm hug and smile, we embraced another winding ride through Port au Prince and up the mountain. Yes, there is change with a stirring of activity, vendors sharing their wares and our Haitian friends bustling about hand in hand with their children. As we weave through the streets there are fewer tents and a clearing in the central park. Willem explains that the people have been given funds and have moved prayerfully to a permanent home. As always. Beth serves us a lovely Haitian meal and spoils us with homebaked rolls and bread. Tired from the day's travel we bunk down with prayers for a productive day to come. So back to the roosters.....lets just say they outdid themselves last night! A symphony of sounds unlike what we hear near our homes, but here in our home away from home the roosters crowed, the dogs barked and howled, and we chuckled, snuggled in with pillows over our heads or listened to our protectors as they carried on.... Our smooth transition into care on this our first day was awesome!! Team members seeing what needed to be done and all the suitcases unpacked in the clinic on this day so we could move forward with our medicines, care products and love. We had seen our Haitian families walking up the mountain well before we left our coffee cups to head over to the other side of the mountain and the smiles and waves we experienced were delightful and fresh. To say the least we had a full day of care to the hustle and bustle of our patints and their families. From little ones shivering as we apply cream for scabies to our pregnant mom's wanting reassurance of a healthy baby and feeling the angst of the malnourished yet the hope that we can provide by offering medicated peanut butter. I write this a bit late this evening as power is not always available but I wanted to get a note off to share with you that we are off to a productive week. Please pray for our Haitian friends to continue to travel to us and for those that we have asked to return for continued care to be able to trek over the mountain without incident. (It gets very slippery after a rainstorm.) We keep in mind how essential that precious water is for our friends yet difficult for travel on these steep mountain paths and roads. I would love to share more with you in a few days. Again, please lift up all in prayer....lovingly as my Haitian shower awaits me. Vanda and Team 14

Thursday, January 12, 2012

January 12th in memory

Good morning dear friends in Haiti, in the states and "Earthquake Team" on this day of memorial -
I just want to acknowledge my thoughts of you today. I want to remind the "Earthquake Team" of the significance of their bravery and service that dreadful night and the days following. Willem spoke about the earthquake from his heart to our group 2 nights ago, recollecting much of our experiences together, thanking both our returning team members and those of you unable to return to Haiti this January. He reminded us of God's perfect timing, using Katia and the woman with the ripped off face to bring us to the hospital and the hundreds of others so severely injured. He expressed the miracle of our endurance, skills of our teamwork, abundant supplies from MTM and was very grateful. However, the needs in Haiti remain overwhelming but not insurmountable. The Haitian people have pride and desire, strength and resiliency. To be sure, these are my sentiments as well.
My prayers today for the people of Haiti (as they are everyday) are for unending hope, persistent fortitude, peace that surpasses understanding and to be the recipients of much assistance this year.
With great love and respect for each of you -

Team 13

Bonjou encore from Haiti –
January 12th, 2012. The 2nd anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti and a permanent mark on my calendar. Ironically, it is also the birthdate of a young man we sponsor, Sadrac, for his school attendance at Mountain Top Ministries (MTM). For me it will always be a day of reflection, remembrance and respect for those who died, suffered and served, along with a day to celebrate the life of Sadrac and all others who are working so hard to survive. Sadrac comes from the extremely poor mountain village of Bonga. From the MTM school and clinic he must walk down the rigorous terrain of the steep mountain, traverse over, up and behind another mountain to reach his home. With the strength and energy of his youth, he tells us his hike takes him about 2 hours each way. Even if I was equipped with good climbing shoes, sunscreen, water bottle and food pack I doubt I could make this trip back and forth in one day. He had a fever yesterday but came to school anyway because school means everything to him. He turns 18 today and is in 7th grade. There is no school in his village, so he was significantly older than other children by the time he could make it all the way to MTM to attend school. As I examined him in the clinic I saw a very large cellulitis on his lower right leg which certainly was very painful. He produced not a wince or flinch as he received bilateral injections of a thick antibiotic into his thighs at the end of his school day. I was glad we were able to treat him, but heartache superseded joy as I watched him stoically and routinely head home, reaching his home well after dark and knowing the difficulty of his path.

We completed our week caring for over 900 patients who found their way to the clinic. As God would have it, many of our clinic patients had significant and complicated disease processes spurring “pathology rounds” for at least 2 hours each night as we discussed each complicated patient’s case and attempted to develop a workable plan. There was no irony in our team’s professional constellation which included a practicing pathologist, a variety of experienced providers and 10 eager graduate level students. We also went to each classroom at the school (600 students), proving the students with de-worming medication, tooth brushes, fluoride varnish and an assessment of their skin and general health. Many children already had significant tooth decay, and were especially eager to receive this treatment – and a new toothbrush. Others had teeth with perfect white enamel, and opened their mouths equally as eagerly, hoping to keep away the cavities that are so hard to treat because of lack of available dental care.

Our non-medical team members continued to be amazing anticipators, keeping each station well stocked with essential medical supplies, health packs, diaper packs, baby blankets, medicated salt and medika mamba (fortified peanut butter produced and purchased in Haiti). Scabies treatment applications, injections, and fearful anticipation continue to produce cries from the babies and toddlers which mingled with much laughter and friendly chatter as the sounds of the busy clinic hit a sustained crescendo throughout the day. One of our team members was in the storage closet sizing up a pair of crocs for a patient when the door was accidentally closed and left her alone inside the small, dark room. She sat there for several minutes just listening to the cacophony of the clinic, visualizing the resiliency, strength and stoicism in every sound – then wiped away a few tears, emerged from the closet with the elusive size 7 crocs and continued on…

For you to be able to fully empathize, I want to tell you about Guerrier, a gentleman who made his way to the clinic on our second day in Haiti. He had significant 2nd and 3rd degree burns on his face, neck, chest and back following the pattern of the spray from a blown hot radiator gasket. His skin was blistered and charred. For four days he came back and forth to the clinic, enduring an excruciating debriding process without facial grimace, sounds or reports of pain. As the cool mountain air blew in from the open windows his body’s reluctant but uncontrollable shivering was the only evidence of his discomfort. He denied hunger or thirst, but when offered a peanut butter sandwich and Gatorade he ate and drank with vigor. The nurses tended to his wounds with skill and tenderness, and on our last day of clinic they taught his 11 y/o son how to help care for him over the following weeks. I have no reticence regarding his ultimate survival, but the endurance, strength, resiliency and stoicism observed in Guerrier, in all the other patients we saw this week, and in the country of Haiti humbles me lower than I can get just by falling onto my knees.

As we drove in the daylight back to the airport for our return home, there were still some very raggedy tent cities, but I was very moved by the open spaces I could now see in Petionville, Delmas and PAP. The acres of defined, square imprints on the ground, separated by only a foot or two of space were still fresh reminders of the thousands of families who lived in such close proximity, under such dire sanitation and social conditions. Despite all the dismal reports of lack of progress (which are true and Haiti needs an abundance of help), I do also want to report the small things.
Brian, some of our guys and a few MTM students were painting a new classroom at the MTM School and were wrapping up their work because they had run out of paint. As they were cleaning up they noticed a very young boy, definitely less than 4 or 5 y/o, scraping the paint remnants from the inside of the empty bucket with a paper plate and putting the scraped paint into the empty paint tray. When he could get no more paint off the side of the bucket with the paper plate, he took his hand, digging deep into the bucket and continued to wipe away all the remaining paint. At this point, the guys were really concerned about the mess the toddler had made with yellow paint on his hands and arms up to his axillae…but not to worry…with absolutely no cues, the little boy then went over to another bucket which was filled with water which they had been using for clean-up, and he submerged his arms into the water and scrubbed all the paint off of himself. Needless to say, the guys were very amused but also in awe of this little boy’s resourcefulness and instinct to conserve and use.

Our friends in Haiti have faith and hope. They have endurance and motivation. Thank you for your continued and various ways of support. We are very grateful!
Brian and sue

Team 13

Bonjou from Haiti January 8, 2012
Our arrival on January 4th was uneventful from the logistics point of view: O'Hare was ready for all missioners who were eager and on time, all perfectly packed and organized luggage (none over 50# and all inventory accounted for) was waiting for us at the Louveture International Airport along with Willem's robust embrace, many friendly porters, lots of muscle and elbowing, a bit of chaos from customs to the parking lot... but in comparison to previous years...all without a glitch! It was dark with a lot of airport traffic leaving PAP, so Willem took a less familiar route up the mountain. Laborers at construction sites were evident, vendors were packing up for the day, less rubble was obstructive and new sidewalks with new drainage ditches were a happy site. At first Brian and I almost felt like we were about to embark on a Caribbean vacation with 26 best friends but the drive through PAP quickly sobered our meandering thoughts. Garbage and broken buildings were our first jolt, and then came the pass by the first of still many tattered, worn-out and forlorn tent cities with so many families still displaced. Two years of living in conditions without safe shelter, sanitation, clean water or regular food. It's hard to observe so closely this heartache and uncertainty of humanity. There are still many reminders of the ravages Haiti has endured.

The rooster calls, blasts of dogs barking and the aroma of Haitian coffee and breakfast are a certainty early each morning, so there is no chance of over sleeping. An orderly line of hopeful patients snaking around the clinic has been our view from the binoculars each morning, motivating us to organize and get up to the mountain quickly. Many of the team are taking the 30-45 minute trek by foot, experiencing both the rigor of the villager's daily walks, a sweaty start to their day but a burst of energy from each smile and enthusiastic greeting received. Children peek out of door frames and run out to the road, waving and grinning, peeping past their strewn laundry amidst roosters, wash bins and water buckets. It's an emotion that's hard to describe...the joy of a child, the pain of poverty, both at the exact moment. It's the same emotion we feel at the clinic...the joy of helping a person out of their physical suffering from injury and infection, worms, scabies, hypertension, seizures and so many other medical problems while at the same time feeling their pain, knowing their hardship. It's a human experience that will never be fully describable.

We had 3 days of intense clinic, with all 28 of us working in synch: doing our medical passion; passing out health packs, Crocs and salt; filling hundreds of prescriptions while providing education to each efficiency that is truly amazing! The school children will return from their winter break today so we are also readying ourselves for applying fluoride varnish to all 600 student's teeth over the next 2 days.

Thank you for thinking of us and praying for us through each day. So much more work today, so don't stop yet ... more stories at the end of the week.

Blessings to you!
Sue, Brian, and Team