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