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Friday, December 31, 2010

Sophiana

Behind my house lies the wreckage of a home destroyed in the earthquake. In the yard, behind this crumpled house, down a path lined by chickens and bushes, is a bright green wooden house. After the earthquake a family lived in the yard of the crumpled house as their own home was destroyed in the quake. Due to donations to our ministry's earthquake relief fund from people around the world, Child Hope/MdL was able to build a pre-fabricated home, this green house, for this family. The mother of the home works across the street from our boys home as a cook. She sells her food on the street. Everyone in our ministry refers to her as "The Happy Cook" because she always has a gigantic smile on her face.

About two months ago "The Happy Cook's" daughter, Sophiana, approached me saying her ear was hurting. Sophiana attends the school that it is a part of our ministry. I checked out her ear and started her on a week's course of Amoxicillin. The pain continued beyond the week. She saw me in the clinic and asked for help again. I am not very knowledgeable about ears and the treatment for ears (beyond Amoxicillin) so I instructed her to go see a doctor at a nearby hospital. A week later she approached me saying it was still hurting and the doctor she saw said it looked fine. No medicine prescribed. I gave her ibuprofen and had the principal of the school, Ivens, explain to her mother how to take her to the University of Miami Hospital that was created here after the earthquake. A few days later I ran into the the principal and Sophiana on the street, looking for me. Sophiana and her mother had visited the U of M hospital, but the guards would not let her in the gate. I was annoyed for her, but not surprised. Sometimes if you don't get there early enough you won't be allowed to enter to see a doctor at their clinic and if you don't look like you're in the midst of an emergency,  you won't be allowed to enter the hospital. In my mind, this was an emergency as the bone behind her ear was starting to swell and cause the ear to stick out.

Ivens asked me to take her to the hospital as, because I am white, I could have a better chance at getting her in. As much as I hate it, I knew this was true. The first time I took Sophiana there, we were told two doctors were in surgery, but all the other doctors (foreigners who staff the hospital for a few weeks at a time) had left due to the unrest from the elections. Because I was persistent, I managed to talk to a nurse who instructed us to come by early the next morning and Sophiana would see a surgeon. The next morning found those doctors absent with no plan to arrive that day. Sophiana saw another doctor who appeared to be an intern and did not get excited enough about the infection to satisfy me. She was prescribed a ten day course of Augmentin and we were referred to General Hospital to see an Ear Nose and Throat doctor. I've never been to this hospital but I'd heard stories. Antonio, who was driving us, said he would need to bring a mattress to wait if he were to go by himself. In other words, he would be sleeping there for a long time before he were to get seen. He had a little more hope if I were to go, but still thought we should find another place for her to be seen. Later that afternoon a nurse practitioner arrived with a team from Canada to stay with us for the week. He checked out Sophiana's ear and thought she should be hospitalized and started on IV antibiotics. The swelling from the ear had also spread to her eye. Her ear infection had turned into an infection called mastoiditis, where the bone behind and above the ear becomes infected. The worry is that it can spread to the brain and cause meningitis.
 
 
 The pictures are a bit grainy, but you can see the swelling (the shiny part) above her ear. Her eye was swollen shut for a day before beginning aggressive antibiotic therapy.

We checked out a few other hospitals that afternoon who refused to treat her and each recommended General Hospital. That night I sent out a few emails to missionaries here and to a doctor in the states who often volunteers her time in Haiti with other missionary friends of mine. This doctor, Jen Halverson, kindly called me that night and we discussed Sophiana's case. She passed on the girl's info to another expat doctor working at General Hospital and then we met her the next day. An ENT was also supposedly working there, but of course he was not there that day. The expat doctor, although specializing in TB, was very knowledgeable about how to treat the infection and suggested a course of antibiotics that I actually already had in stock at our clinic. I gave Sophiana five days of intramuscular injections of Ceftriaxone as well as oral Augmentin. I include these details in case medical people read this and take an interest in helping Sophiana.
At General Hospital we were referred to an ENT in the same area and we actually saw him later that day. He confirmed her diagnosis, took it very seriously, and agreed on the antibiotic regimen. After 5 days of Ceftriaxone IM, it was discontinued and she was started on Sulfacetamide ear drops and continued on the Augmentin. Fluid drained from behind the ear early last week, relieving much of the pressure and pain. This week I took Sophiana to another ENT recommended by Dr. Halverson for a second opinion. He recommended changing the ear drops to Ofloxacin and continuing the Augmentin for another five days. He has ordered a CT scan and recommends having a mastoidectomy performed, a surgical procedure where the infected portion of the mastoid is cleaned out. 

This blog post has two goals. One, to share what healthcare in Haiti is like and how difficult it can be to navigate. Two, to share Sophiana's medical and financial needs and ask for your help in meeting them. The cost of the CT scan is $275 US dollars. Each doctor's appointment is $34 US dollars. The cost of the surgery is approximately $12000 HD (I'm waiting to hear back from the doctor about the exact amount), which equals $1,500 US dollars. Added together, this amounts to $1,877 USD (I am presuming that she will need at least three more doctor's visits, if not more). We are in need of people who will consider contributing to the cost of the CT scan and to the cost of the surgery. With most Haitians earning less than $1 per day, this is obviously not something Sophiana's family can pay for. Without the surgery, she may not regain her hearing in the affected ear and the infection will most likely spread to her brain.  Please prayerfully consider how you may help her. If you are interested, you may donate here.  Please include a note that you are donating specifically to Sophiana's medical fund, as otherwise the money will be allocated elsewhere. All donations are tax deductible.

Thank you for reading and for your prayers on behalf of Sophiana. May your New Year be blessed!

Feasting and Celebrating

Last week was the culmination of weeks of preparation at MdL, creating a chaotic but exciting week. For over a month our kids have been practicing for our annual Christmas program, where we feed 400 adults and children from our community after presenting song and dance numbers and a nativity skit. Last week also included organizing gifts for our orphanage children, host a visiting team from Canada, and actually celebrating Christmas. The Manasseros also helped plan the wedding of one of our staff members, Fritzner, which was on Christmas Eve in the evening. I was involved in a bunch of medical issues with kids in our neighborhood and our kids starting the week before last and moving into this week. 

For the Christmas program, held last Wednesday, groups of kids were led by a teacher or dance instructor in a dance, a song, or a recitation of bible verses.  After a nativity skit performed by our kids, Marlval shared about Christ with all those in attendance, then food was served. Beforehand I was able to help our cooks and girls prepare some of it, much to the shock of the boys. Just because they don't see me cooking, doesn't mean I can't! 

The attendees: 

The line for people trying to get inside. Each child at our normal feeding program was given two tickets to invite friends or family members.

 Patrick as security

 Dave! Oh, how I love this child's eyes. and his smile. and his laugh. and...

The Big Boss. He (Fritz) totally cooks like this everyday...
 My darling Dieunithe

 Katrina's feet. Even her feet are cute.

Everyone was in their finest for the shindig.

 Cherley. Beautiful as always.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Props to Google!

Google, I was screaming last week, but this week we are totally friends! You gave me back my email address and my blog! I thought all my long hours of writing and recording my time in Haiti were gone, finished, zeroed out, but now you wiped away my tears (ok, I am being slightly melodramatic) and gave me back my words of the last year! Mesi mesi anpil! Jezi renmen ou! (ok, not really...). Word to the wise, and to myself, BACK UP YOUR BLOGS!

Monday, December 13, 2010

What we do when we feel cooped up

Exercising isn't easy here. There is a Gold's Gym, in fact, but its too far away from where I live. Plus, I'd feel a bit guilty going to the gym when people are starving outside. So, I do workout videos. I usually live with at least one person (I've had a bunch of different roommates and housemates in the last year. All have been amazing) who likes to exercise. Right now, its my dear roommate Kaitlyn (and sometimes Erta, who is always a hilarious workout buddy). We do Tai Bo, Pilates, Jillian Michaels, and sometimes the really annoying Tracy Anderson. But, when we need to step outside our bedroom and breath the gassy, dusty air, we go for a run. I don't even really like running. But it gives me a sense of freedom that is difficult to find here not having my own car. And, I get to see people I know every time I run. I almost NEVER run into people while I am out driving, running errands, or running when I am in the states. Here, I have to sneak away and hide in order to not see someone I know. I wonder what Haitians think of us running. "Oh, you fat Americans! Having to run your belly fat off while we starve." Its normal to receive comments (not sure if they are rude or encouraging) from people on the street or in cars. Or, to receive marriage proposals or whistles. If you're looking for an ego boost, come to Haiti! Going back to the states after being here, I feel pretty lame. No one needs a thing from me- not sandals, food, or medical care (unless I am in my workplace)- and no one takes one look at me and suggests marriage.

Last week, before the primary election results were posted, Kaitlyn filmed this video:

video

An awesome videographer staying with us, Adam, edited the video and put music to it. Sniff, sniff...Kaitlyn left for Boston today, not knowing when she will return. I love you, friend, and am thankful God brought you here to be my roommate and to work with our ministry!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I now pronounce you...

Today Kaitlyn and I had the great pleasure of attending the wedding of Zamor, one of our kids' tutors, along with a group of our girls. Mikerline, Cherley, and Isguerda were greeters/ushers and bridesmaids at the wedding.


Yesterday I asked Mikerline and Cherley what time we should arrive at the wedding. You may be thinking, "Shouldn't you arrive at least before the wedding is scheduled to start?" In the states, the answer is a fervent "yes." In Haiti, its "not really." From what I'd heard, weddings to do not start on time here. The bride, groom, bridal party, or all of the above may be horribly late. Mikerline and Cherley debated about the time we should arrive, then agreed 9:30 am. This morning I received a test message from Mikerline, who was already at the chapel, that we should get there by 10:00am. Right before I walked over to the girls home to round them up (at about (9:40), Monis, who works at the girls home, showed up at the guest house looking for soap for the girls. "The girls who are coming to the wedding are ready, right?" I asked her. "Two are and the rest are bathing," was her answer. I went back to my room to read for a bit, hoping that we wouldn't miss the start of the ceremony. When I arrived at the girls home I found two girls planning to go still in the shower. The others were running around fixing their hair. I put on my best stern voice and essentially told them to get their butts outside. After multiple rounds of this, I was informed by Jessica, a Haitian girl doing some of their hair, that she had just seen Zamor (remember, he is the groom) walking to the chapel on her way to the girls home. She approximated the time that she had seen him as 9:45. Ookkkaayyy... We were in good shape then. Eventually the girls got their butts outside and we began walking down the street. Kaitlyn and I were wearing sensible, but cute, sandals, whereas the girls all wore snazzy high heels. They didn't want to walk. Markenson was just pulling up at the boys home so we flagged him down to drive us to the chapel. When he finally arrived, he told us that he didn't have gas to take us. Like me, Markenson and most of our staff ignore my dad's instructions to leave half a tank of gas in the car. Isn't there a bunch more miles in the tank even after it goes to the empty sign, dad? We walked.


These are the models who live next door and we walked with to the wedding

We arrived at the chapel to maybe only five pews half filled by people. We were sooo not late. Kaitlyn, the girls and I walked out to the balcony to get some fresh air. While we were there, Enrique Pierre, a teacher at our school, asked me to take pictures as the choir walked down the aisle to their seats. I did so, then stood up again to take pictures once the music started for the ceremony. Apparently EVERYONE brought their camera to take photos and I would have to fight for my place to see the bridal party.

Wedding paparazzi

The nervous groom

To my utter horror/amusement, the first two flower girls who walked in slowly sauntered down the aisle to the tune of "Can You Feel the Love Tonight." I tried to restrain myself from looking at Kaitlyn, but I completely failed. She hid her face behind the program. Next, the music switched to "Colors of the Wind" from Pocahontas. Hopefully everyone thought I was just smiling and loving the ceremony. Isguerda and Cherley were two of 6 girls who lined up side by side in two lines, danced slowly down the aisle while crossing back and forth, making one line then two. After that, someone (have no idea about her title) walked in wearing a short white dress. Next, the bride. She was wearing white gloves, a frilly gown, and a white veil. Look at her:


I took some close-up pictures of her, the music stopped, then I sat down with the girls. I received a few looks from the other photographers, but whatever. I chalked it up to my severe WHITENESS and the fact that I was the only female amongst a bunch of male photographers. Katiana, sitting next to me, gave me a funny look then whispered, "Why did you sit down?" I answered, "Because everyone is at the front of the church now and I can get better pictures from here." "That lady wasn't the bride. Durlande (the bride) hasn't walked down the aisle yet," she answered with a giggle. WHAT? I snickered along with Kaitlyn then picked my white self up off the pew and stood up again. Sadly, the bride did not walk into the church to the tune of a Disney song, but she was beautiful. Here THE ACTUAL BRIDE IS, with her father:


The pastor preached, the choir sang, and then two women moved to the front of the church to sing. The song was "There can be miracles, when you believe... (I don't know the name of the song.) Its from "The Prince of Egypt", I believe! As the duet ended, ALL the photogs (it seemed like 20) began making their way to the front of the church. I knew from the last (but not as entertaining and beautiful) wedding I attended in Haiti that the excitement about THE KISS was building. Apparently, according to our girls, this is why most Haitians go to weddings. I fought my way for a good view, as before I left the house, this was Erta's request: "Get a picture of the kiss!" I really hoped that "Kiss the Girl" from The Little Mermaid would play, but alas. Zamor gave his bride a little peck, then was reprimanded by the crowd and commanded to give her another, better kiss. Here it is:


After this, we left with the girls who were not in the wedding and headed home. Kind of a boring end to a delightful morning, but we didn't have a car and didn't really know what was going on with a reception. Mikerline, Isguerda, and Cherley did go to it though. I'm sorry, but all future weddings I attend will have a lot to live up to now.

This evening Mikerline and I laughed about how I'd thought the wrong woman was the bride. It turns out the first woman I photographed was the bride's sister AND the godmother (its a Haitian tradition to have a godmother for a wedding ceremony. I'm not sure what her responsibilities are beyond that). If MY sister shows up wearing a beautiful white dress for MY wedding, causing people to mistake her for the bride, there's no telling what I will do to her. I know she would feel the same.

FYI: Obviously, I am not really a photographer. Sadly, the pictures turned out gross. The lighting was difficult to work with blah blah blah. I wanted you to get the idea of the wedding so I put them in anyway.




Friday, December 10, 2010

Sweetness

In the midst of the country's chaos and uncertainty, this face showed up:

He lives across the street with two girls who attend our feeding program. He might be a cousin or he might not be... the story isn't clear. His mother works as a merchant during the day so the girls, about 8 years old and 14 years old, are his caregivers for the majority of his waking hours. Its obvious they adore him, but the things he is leaning are quite suspect, such as a few swear words. He is Everyone's new favorite kid. He is quickly learning many people's names on our street. I often walk outside my house and hear him squealing "Boo" (yes, that's referring to me) or something similar. Multiple times he has run across the street with his short little legs and I've had to shout at him not to cross before I can reach him in time. Lucas and Alicia Simmons spotted him first (or so they say) and are trying to find a better living situation for him or help his mother find a job that allows her to be more present with him during the day.

Another one (I'm sure the first wasn't enough for you) of that precious face


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Election fiasco

In a previous post I talked about the Presidential elections in Haiti, before they happened. It was a disaster during and after, and probably before, too.

On the Sunday when people were supposed to vote, they found that ballot boxes were already stuffed with ballots voting for Jude Celestin. Many people reported that when they went to vote their names were not found on the list of votees. At other places, the names of people registered to vote were strewn all over the ground and trampled underfoot, preventing people from voting. This morning I learned that Celestin is current President Preval's son-in-law. Preval wants Celestin to come to power in order to protect Preval from going to jail for fraud. The favorite to win this primary election, Michel Martelly ("Sweet Mickey"), was not included in the final two last night, so its now between Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady, and Celestin. Apparently, earlier yesterday Martelly was in the lead to come out on top of the primary election. What happened later in the evening?

Last night as Kaitlyn and I went to bed we wondered whether we should stay awake awhile to see if "anything" might be happening. This morning people have been burning tires on Delmas (the street we live off of, but its not actually super close to where they are doing that) and throughout Port au Prince, to create a statement that they are not happy about the results of the primary elections. In some areas, people are shooting and throwing rocks. We are not driving anywhere today, school is canceled for those of our children who go to schools other than the MdL school, and we are waiting, praying, and pretty much carrying on life as usual. We are stocked up on extra food, water, and gas as needed. Our kids are doing well and learning much about politics in this time! Thank you for your prayers for Haiti. The final vote for President will not occur for a few weeks.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

This December....

Cindy walked to the guesthouse tonight at 10:00 pm- not a normal time for her to come around (she lives at the boys' home and takes care of the younger boys). She had a nine year old boy in toe. He goes to our feeding program. He showed up at the boys' home tonight saying his mother and father both died from cholera yesterday. Today he says his uncle, who he is living with, beat him and doesn't want him back. Where does he go? Cindy came by to get my opinion about what to do. Bill and Sue are asleep so we can't ask them what they want us to do and it doesn't seem right to send him back to his uncle or to the streets tonight. I made sure he hasn't had diarrhea too, gave him some water, and then Cindy walked back to the boys' home to wake up Marlval to seek his advice, both of us hoping he can stay there for the night. Please pray for sweet Aston tonight. The stories of people here always seem to be multi-layered (what we call "The Onion") and it can take multiple conversations to figure out what is really going on in their lives- where they live, who died, who is now responsible for them, what their names and ages really are, etc.

*Update: I wrote this Saturday night, but wasn't able to post it due to slow internet. This morning, Cindy said one of our staff ladies heard what Aston was saying about his parents and called him out on it. She went to fetch his mother down the street. His mother came, not looking at all worried, and took him home, but not before he pleaded with Cindy not to let his mother take him. What is the truth here? Is he afraid because he told a bunch of lies? Or is he afraid of his mother or other relatives? We may never know.

On a completely different note, here are some recent pictures of Maison de Lumiere kids and staff kids. I've started uploading my pics onto Flickr, so to see more, click on the slideshow to the right.






Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Life moves so quickly around here, from one disaster or disease to the next, that I sometimes don't have time to worry about each big event. A good thing, right? Right.... From cholera, to Hurricane Tomas, to cholera again, and finally to the elections this last Sunday (with cholera an ever-present threat threatening to devour our city, our children, our neighbors, our family, and our friends). Oh, let me throw in a sprinkle of a pregnant lady needing to deliver a baby but having nowhere to go, a friend needing to be hospitalized for severe diarrhea and vomiting (but not cholera, amen!), a school field trip being canceled due to threats of "shock" or "a tremor", and a teenage boy falling out of a truck then wood falling on top of him. How would I survive this tumultuous life without the One who gives me strength, allows me to throw my questions at Him, and makes sense in a sense-less world?

Let me write again what my friend Heather said: "Living in the states is like living in a sit-com. Things typically get resolved in about a half-hour. Life in Haiti is like living in a Shakespearean Tragedy." I'll give you some background story to explain this comment.

About two weeks ago Heather, a lactation specialist who moved here in August and works with Heartline, a program for pregnant and new moms, among other things, began helping a mother of twins who lives in our area. Heather lives about a 10 or 15 minute drive from us. Susette contacted Heather as this mother was having trouble producing enough milk to feed two babies and her babies are very small (3 lbs, 15 oz and 5 lbs, respectively). I examined the babies and found them extremely small for one month old and failing to thrive, but with no other overt problems.The plan was for her to eat at one of the orphanages daily and feed her babies some formula during this time. Its generally not a good idea here to give a mom formula to feed her baby(ies) as it usually results in the mom doing it exclusively her and her milk will dry up. This mom was already having difficulty producing enough milk for two babies so the goal was to feed her and hydrate her enough to increase her milk supply, as well as to help her babies gain weight by supplementing with formula. However, she hadn't shown up since we'd talked about it with her. While trying to figure out why she hadn't shown up and discussing alternate options to help her babies, Heather made the above comment. I'm not posting it here to minimize the problems we experience in the states or in other countries. I think it is a great analogy to explain the difficulties and seemingly insurmountable challenges people here face.

Here's what happening with the mother of the twins, Francois, now: last week Heather took her to Heartline where she was able to see other healthy, fat babies, other mothers learning how to take care of their babies, and learn herself how to care for and raise these children. Each week she'll go with Heather to continue her education. She is picked up by one of our staff members each day to eat her breakfast and lunch at the Manasseros (we found out she wasn't coming to eat at the orphanage because she lives too far away to walk with two babies), where we can check on her babies' progress and she uses a nursing supplementer, which gives her babies milk without having to use a bottle. To just give her formula to take home to feed the babies had many problems in itself: 1. Formula has many nutrients it lacks compared to breast milk 2. Will she always have clean water to prepare the formula, to wash the bottles, or to drink herself? If she doesn't, she'll surely give herself diarrhea (or cholera) or her babies and they could die 3. Formula is expensive. Please keep this family in your prayers. Francois lost her firstborn son last year. Pray for her to draw nearer to the Lord and for her sons to grow strong and healthy and to love the Lord as well.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Politics

Tomorrow, Sunday, are the Presidential elections in Haiti. Yesterday I found some of our kids passing out business card type cards to each other and to me. On one side of these cards is a picture of one of the candidates who is in the lead, Jude Celestin, and on the other is a picture of President Aristide with the words underneath, "Bon Retour," meaning "Good Return." Apparently this candidate has both the backing of Preval, the current president, and former President Aristide, who was ousted out of Haiti in 2004 and sent into exile in Africa. I admit I don't understand all of the history with Aristide, but around here, he is not a popular man. Today I found some of our boys burning these business cards in their backyard. Where did the cards come from? The sky. Word has it they were dropped out of a plane yesterday.

Today we have a curfew at 8pm- no driving after this time. Tomorrow there is a ban on driving all day, so no driving even to church, due to the elections. Earlier in the week, while discussing the elections at our staff meeting, we were told by the Haitians that there would likely be a driving ban on Sunday. As silly Americans we thought, how are people going to vote if they can't drive to a voting place?! But, Haitians can walk to where they are voting. Supposedly, the ban is to prevent people from congesting the roads, protesting, and reacting violently on the streets. However, rumor has it that the government wants the ban to prevent people from voting at all. With Cholera inflicting many, I am sure that voting numbers will already be down. School is also canceled on Monday for those of our children who go to schools other than the MdL school, in anticipation of possible riots or violence on the day after the elections.

Another lead candidate is Marline Manigat, a former first lady. She would be the first female president of Haiti. "Sweet Mickey" Martelly, a singer with a reputation for crude lyrics, is also in the lead.

I ask that you be in prayer for the elections in Haiti tomorrow. Pray that the next president will act with justice and mercy for the people of Haiti and be truthful in all his/her dealings, rather than be corrupt and out for money, as most politicians in this country (ha, not only here!) have seemed to be in the past. The results of the elections will likely not be decided or announced until December or January, so please continue praying beyond tomorrow.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Shakespearean Tragedy

While trying to help a mother of twins today, my friend Heather said, loosely quoted, "In the states its like living in a sitcom. Everything seems to get resolved in half an hour. Here (in Haiti) life is more like a Shakespearean tragedy." How right she is...

I'll explain later about what happened today. I didn't want to forget these words.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mama Bwooke

My mom visited Haiti for the first time this week! If you know me, you know how much this meant to me. I actually was able to spend a day in Miami before she arrived then we flew down to Haiti together.

In Haiti I, along with most foreigners I know, feel constantly dirty and sweaty. A dirty missionary. Most Haitians dress very nicely even if their outfits aren't expensive. You should see how they get dressed up for church or a party. During the two weeks leading up to my stay in Miami, my housemates (Lucas and Alicia Simmons, Kaitlyn, Matt, and I) joked about what I would do while I was there. How many showers would I take? How many lattes would I buy? What would I do with my time there? Here's the stats: one shower upon arrival, one upon departure (I thought about more, but I was too lazy to move from my king-sized hotel room bed!); one nonfat eggnog latte upon arrival and another upon departure; when I walked into my hotel room, I giggled in excitement and threw myself onto the bed, then burrowed under the covers to watch tv and read books for the duration of the afternoon. I dragged myself out of bed long enough to take a walk to buy Thai food then found myself once again cuddled up to watch a good episode of Dateline NBC. Anyone else love a good Dateline Mystery? I confess I was a total sluggard that afternoon.

When I found my mom in the airport (the Miami airport is massive) the next morning it was a lovely reunion after 6 months since I'd visited WA state. It was a delight to fly into Haiti with her- especially after having not flown into Haiti with anyone in at least 4 years. She was a good pillow too.

Each morning I tutor Junior, one of our older boys, for the GED which he'll be taking in a year or two. He has the opportunity to attend a bible college in CA. My mom played with Estaline and spent a few days helping a visiting occupational therapist to work with Estaline, while I tutored Junior. In the afternoons we ate lunch with the kids, attended the feeding program, and she assisted me at the medical clinic. This week seemed particularly eventful...even more than the usual for Haiti.

Monday:
Cindy planned a "quick" trip to Epidor (a sandwich/McDonald's type "fast-food" restaurant) for Joy, Brittany's mom, her friends Linda and Ashley, my mom and I. As we were attempting to pull away from the guesthouse, two of our girls, Katiana and Cherley, asked if we could take them to pick up the materials for their uniforms on our way back. They assured me they knew how to get there. Again, the words left and right were left out of the directions and a pointing finger was used. However, they got us there with only one missed turn. When we turned around, Cindy, driving the truck, was nervous that we wouldn't make it up the steep hill in the manual transmission truck. With lots of prayer and maybe a bit of fear on my mom's part, we were able to make the hill and the turn. This was my mom's first good look at the traffic and crazy driving of Haiti.

Tuesday:

After a normal, run-of-the-mill medical clinic where my mom helped me, I went out for a nice, leisurely run with Kaitlyn and some of our visitors for the week. Less than a block away from the boys' home Lucas and Matt drove by us and let me know that Emilien, one of our graduating boys, had been trapped under fallen wood while they had been at the lumber yard. He felt light-headed and had pain in his hips, but his vitals were normal and stable, he was not having nausea, he was able to walk, he had no abdominal or chest pain, and didn't believe the wood had fallen on his head. More of the story was revealed though once we were at the boys' home. Emilien had actually fallen out of the truck and then the wood had fallen on top of him. Although his exam seemed normal, it was difficult for his brother and the other boys to understand that since he was having pain and he had been in a scary accident. A visiting paramedic, Phil, and I eventually made the decision that I should take him to the hospital, mostly to reassure him and the boys that he was fine, aside from the pain. Lucas drove us, along with three other boys. I love seeing our kids step up to help their friends! At the first hospital, the doctor wasn't there (!) but he nurses said we could wait for a paramedic who would be coming in 30 minutes. I explained that a paramedic and I had already checked him out but we wanted him to see a doctor. The nurse gave him an injection of a drug called Diclofenac (like ibuprofen) for pain (drugs like morphine or oxycodon are rarely given here and difficult to find) and then we went on our way to another hospital (hoping they would have a doctor!). At the second hospital Emilien was quickly seen and prescribed oral diclofenac. Nothing more than what I would have given him, but at least he was reassured by a doctor that he was fine. The hilarious part of this experience was filling out the paperwork and paying for the visit and the medicine. While Emilien waited for the doctor, Willy B and I filled out paperwork: name, birthdate, problem, etc. The person who was supposed to help us with this, though, was not at her desk near the doctor's office. We walked across the hospital to find her. When we found her, she told us to go back where we were and she'd meet us there. Then, to buy the medication, we needed to go across the hospital to find the pharmacy. We tried to pay for the medicine at the same place we'd gone to originally to fill out his paperwork, which was near the pharmacy, but there was no one manning that desk. Again, go back across the hospital to pay for the medicine. Cross it again to actually pick it up at the pharmacy. Willy was like "this is so stupid" which it definitely was, but I've had to do stuff like this many times at hospitals in Haiti.

Emilien is doing well now and not complaining of pain. My mom stayed back that night with our other guests and staff, wondering if we ever have a normal, planned day in Haiti. The answer is no.

More to come about the other days my Mom was here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mud

We often find children standing outside our gate, hoping for food, sandals, or a band-aid. Last week Alicia found a young girl seeking help for her mom. A few weeks ago, when we had our board member doctor visiting, Dr. Eddie, I'd gone with him to visit this same woman. She was unable to walk for some unknown reason and had difficulty speaking. Dr. Eddie suspected botulism poisoning due to her symptoms, but without being able to do tests, we weren't able to help her very much. We did give her money to go to a hospital and a couple of friends or family members promised to take her. Since then I'd seen her daughters multiple times at our feeding program and they'd said she was better (although I don't know what her diagnosis was).

I recruited Erta to translate and Matt, who is working with our transition program for a few months, to drive to her home, which is a tent not too far from us. Normally we'd have walked, but we've been on a hurricane watch (more on that later), it was raining, and it was getting later in the day. I also anticipated that we might need to drive her to a hospital. We also brought along Dana, a nurse visiting us for the week, and an elderly neighbor of the woman. Upon arriving at her home we found the woman laying on a piece of wood covered by a rug which served as her bed. She shared that 10 days ago she'd had an operation to remove an ovarian cyst by a "blan" at a church. Instead of doing it laparoscopically (with a small abdominal incision using a video camera) it had been done vaginally. She described it like they'd ripped the cyst out of her. Reminds me of hack-job abortions. The day before she'd started bleeding vaginally and experiencing extreme pain. Her respiratory rate was 60, where normal is 12-20. Matt and her family helped her hobble to the truck and we took off, looking for a hospital where this woman (Tascha) had previously received care for another condition. What we didn't realize was what getting to this hospital would take.


The person directing us to the hospital doesn't exactly know the difference between their left and right. So, she pointed each direction with her finger at the exact time we had passed where she wanted us to go. Finally it was decided that I would verbalize the pointing finger's direction in the hopes that Matt would make the correct turn in time. The side roads were muddy from the light rain falling all afternoon. We pulled up to a densely populated tent city but couldn't drive far in due to our tires getting stuck in the mud. We decided to climb up to the hospital. After walking about a foot, we realized that we should check to make sure this hospital was actually open as some people standing outside their tents claimed it was closed and others, of course, claimed it was open. Erta and I began the hike, with the elderly woman, Mari, sometimes trailing behind and other times passing us by, as well as her fourteen year old son. Matt and Dana waited at the bottom with Tascha. We walked through the sticky mud that clung to my tennis shoes and created a second sole underneath Erta's sandals. The hill was lined with tents and sandbags that were used as stairs. At one point we looked back to find Matt, along with two Haitian men (unknown to us) carrying Tascha. These men were strong and motivated and whisked the woman away from Matt. Meanwhile, Erta clung to Dana and I to not get stuck or to fall in the mud. At the top of the hill, we found a small hospital in the process of shutting down. A Haitian woman speaking English explained that the hospital was closing due to the pending Hurricane Tomas. She suggested we try another hospital downtown that treats women with gynecologic problems. The men swept up Tascha in their arms and preceded down the hill. Erta's feet were so caked in mud that it seemed better to just walk without them, as grandma did and made it down with no problems. As we walked, Erta and Dana questioned why a hospital would close during a hurricane. Aren't they necessary during a crisis? They would run now? To me, it seemed like a better idea to pack up and leave if they couldn't handle the disaster and the patient load. During the earthquake, sometimes I wished that someone would tell me to pack up and leave. I felt like a fraud.

Tascha directed us out of the tent cities and through downtown to get to the second hospital. All the while, Matt drove with his head out of the car because the windows had difficulty defrosting. Upon arrival at the hospital, Erta and I took the lady inside, where they had a wash station for washing hands at the entrance (Cholera precaution). She was only able to bring one person past the entrance with her, her son. She insisted that we head back as it was dark. We gave her some money and wished her well, promising to contact her daughter to find out news about her.

The next day I saw her daughter at the feeding program, where she said that her mom wasn't able to stay at the hospital that night. They'd sent her home because that hospital only saw pregnant women. When we'd dropped her off, Erta had told them her problem. Why didn't they explain that they only saw pregnant woman? The daughter said her mom was going to try another hospital. Yesterday I saw her daughter again and she said her mom was feeling better after being seen at the first hospital we had traveled to that night. Sometimes it takes a story like this to get the medical care you need here.

Hurricane update: After much talk about Hurricane Tomas blowing through Haiti and preparing here at MdL as much as possible for its arrival, all we received was a little rain over a few days. This shouldn't minimize the fact that people in tents and inadequate housing are suffering much in this season. Out in the countryside, in cities like Jeremie, Gonaives, and Jacmel homes were flooded and a handful of people died. Please continue to pray for Haiti and its people. Pray that they will drawer nearer to God in the midst of their suffering and that God would provide for their needs.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pale vous Frances?

A few weeks ago our kids started school for the fall. This year the MdL school is being taught completely in French. This is a change as for the last two years the MdL school has been in English. Our older children had been going to Haitian school, which is in French, before the earthquake, but since then they'd all been attending MdL school in English. Some of our older children are going to two different nearby schools and the rest of our children go to the MdL school. Here's a peak at what the kids look like after they've had a long day....looking better than I do, for sure, after a long day!

Katrina

MarcKendy

Jennifer (Fritz's niece), Youdelka, and Cendy

Oline not wanting to show her face

Ruby, Fritz's niece. I could just eat her up!

Daphne, another one I can't get enough of

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Saturday



Yesterday Kaitlyn and I tackled a beautiful hike with Rod and Brittany and our new friends (since yesterday), Tiff, Jamie, and Katie, who teach at Quisqueya Christian School with Rod. We drove up to Kenscoff, which is about a 45 minutes up-hill from where we live, then parked the car to walk to Le Montecel, where camp was held for Maison de Lumiere this past June. The trail was surrounded by greenery and wildlife on every side. Adults and children alike were fascinated to see Rod and Brittany pushing a stroller with a white baby. Along the way, a family driving by us stopped their car to talk to Rod. They found out that Rod works at QCS, where a relative is a board member. They generously offered us to have lunch at their home, where they served meat and cheese croissants, apple pastries, and avocado sandwiches. We left wondering why they were so prepared to host seven other people? I LOVE Haitian hospitality! Something for me to strive to be like.





One child in front of her house ran inside to grab her friends when she saw Asher. They ran after him squealing, "Nou bezwen we babe blan! (I need to see the white baby!)"



On the way back many comments were made to Rod and Britt about Asher's legs bouncing around in his stroller and that he was getting too cold. Eventually, when an older man protested a bit too much, they gave in and covered him up even though he was already asleep and content. When a white person has a baby (black or white) with him or her it typically invites Haitians to give comments about how the baby is being taken care of, as in the money fiasco I created with Estaline.

The family we ate lunch with met us along the road again as we walked back. We were getting tired and had commitments to get back to in town, so we piled Asher (inside his stroller- don't judge please) into the back of the truck and we all held on to the stroller as we slowly made our way down the hill. When it comes to fitting people inside a truck here in Haiti, any number of people seems to work.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Black Shoes


Today we had our normal Tuesday morning staff meeting, where we learned from our new principal that all the children attending the MdL school (our kids in grades K-6, many of the children of our staff, and some children in our neighborhood) need black shoes. Here in Haiti black shoes that are typically worn to school cost around 800 Haitian dollars, which equals about $100 US. Um, hello? Am I not currently living in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere? A typical Haitian salary is less than $1 US per day. How does a Haitian pay for shoes for their child to go to school? Not only are special shoes required for all Haitian schools, they need to pay for tuition, books, school supplies, uniforms (pants or skirts and shirts), sometimes lunch (other times they are given a daily lunch that is included in their tuition), ribbons for the girls' hair, and I'm sure other items that I have forgotten to include. This explains why so many children don't go to school and adults are unable to read. Yet, how do so many children go to school with the cost so high? Sponsors, for one. Each child in our orphanage has sponsors from the states or Canada who donate a monthly amount to Child Hope, which pays for school-related costs, food, clothes, and medical care, among other things, for our children. Many of the children in our neighborhood who will be going to our school or others have sponsors as well who are giving just for school. In addition, hundreds of other organizations, such as Compassion International, pair up donors with children to send them to school. A huge Thank You to those who sponsor our children, those in our neighborhood, and through other organizations. You are making the difference between a child spending their days on the streets or sitting in a classroom, surrounded by books and learning and receiving a hot meal.

Someone asked what would happen if the kids in our school didn't wear black shoes. MdL is hoping to get this school accredited this year so someone who does the accrediting can pop by the school without warning multiple times a week to check on it. If they see that our kids don't match or look sloppy, it may take longer to get accredited.

This discussion about shoes and their prices started to seem ridiculous and I'm afraid I started to judge the Haitian culture as well. Why the emphasis on appearance when jobs are minimal and people aren't eating here? But aren't we (I), as Americans, just the same way? There are millions of homeless people in America as well. We love our fashion and we all want to look cute and shiny on our first day of school and every other day as well. We'll go into huge debt to buy clothes, cars, jewelry, and electronics. We are the same everywhere. We want to look good!

Because we want our kids to go to school (and most days they want to also), if you know of a place that will donate black dress or tennis shoes, please contact me. In the meantime, our kids will start at the MdL school this coming Monday, wearing whatever kind of shoe they have, hopefully being happy and thankful God has given them the opportunity to put on their backpack and learn French. May I remember to also be thankful for my clothing and my education that the Lord has been gracious to provide.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Yesterday afternoon I was hanging out at the boys home when Daniel sat down and told Cindy and I that he had just seen a goat have a baby. Actually, he got his words confused and said that he saw "two goats having a baby." It took a few hilarious minutes, but we finally figured out that he had seen two goats being born. Daniel asked to go show us where the goats were, near the clinic, so Cindy and I took a group of the younger boys to go check them out, stopping along the way to get Kaitlyn and my camera.

Mama goat and Baby goat

We were oohing and awing over the cute little goats in the bushes when we began to feel a few rain drops. Then quickly the sky turned dark and a swift wind blew over the neighborhood. We started running to get under shelter (I'm not scared of a little rain, but I didn't want my camera to get wet). I got inside the guest house gate, then peaked through its opening. A stream of parents and children who'd been waiting to enter our feeding program were running and screaming down the street in the drenching rain. When it rains during the feeding program usually we'll do a shorter version- feed the kids, but not have sports, coloring time, worship or a sermon. Today the people knew this rain was different. Erta was taking cover with me and said that people were thinking we were having another earthquake. It may sound ridiculous as an earthquake doesn't usually have massive winds and rain with it, but there is pervasive fear here about earthquakes and unusual weather. Also, many people's homes are tents right now....enough said. I put my camera away, grabbed my hooded jacket, and ran over with Kaitlyn to check on the girls. But not before seeing our big truck parked at the guesthouse with a tree branch lying on top of it.
**all further pictures are Kaitlyn's
The girls were all huddled together underneath the front awning of their house. My suggestions to go inside the house were ignored. Hey, a hurricane is coming, so let's stand outside! A few kids from the feeding program as well as our laundresses and cooks and their children took shelter there as well. Haitians love to sing, so to ease the distress and calm the situation, I suggested to Mari, a cook, that she begin to sing. Many of the children and adults were fervently praying as well. We watched as the storm thrashed around us and held the kids tightly when they screamed during the thunder. To lighten the mood (maybe I am inappropriate during a serious situation, but that's probably my coping mechanism) I began to briefly sing "raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens." As Daphne hid against my chest, I couldn't help thinking of The Sound of Music, my favorite movie, and the scene where the kids hide with Maria during the storm. A couple girls laughed as they remembered watching the movie. A brother came to get his four siblings at the girls home, walking through the door shirtless and shoeless, in boxers.

The girls home huddle

Boxer shorts boy with his siblings

Earlier in the day Susette had shared with the kids and I that a team from the states would be coming to spend the afternoon at the feeding program, leading worship and skits. This group is African American and the kids love them. During the storm a couple girls had asked if I thought the team would still come. As the rain and win finally let up, some girls peaked out the door and came running back, shouting, "The American Blacks are here!" Erta, Susette, and others rounded up the feeding program kids from outside, the girls home, and the near by tent cities (which I've heard was pretty much destroyed within minutes). We congregated inside the boys home and the "American blacks" performed skits, shared the bible, danced, sang, and worshiped with the feeding program kids and our kids. It was a beautiful blessing to all the kids and a welcome respite from the fear.

While we were involved in the activities at the boys' home, a team visiting from CA was down in a tent city, repairing some homes (tents). Kaitlyn took an awesome picture of one of the men they were helping, a father of one of our feeding program kids, walking down the street with a machete, taking branches and wood to repair his family's tent.

Machete Man

At the end of the "American Blacks'" time with the kids, we prayed together for the kids then the parents came to pick up their children. What did these families experience last night, in the cold and in the mud? Please keep the people of Haiti in your prayers, as they wait for the money that was raised to be given out to rebuild Haiti and homes.

Here's an article- Haitians Cry in Letters: ‘Please — Do Something!’-
describing the situation in Haiti right now.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Difficult, Mysterious, and Wonderful

Haiti....

Difficult:

Rain. "Yes!" I sometimes think when it rains. Its cooling off, I can just go outside to shower, and it reminds me of being in Seattle and makes me want to settle down with a good book, put on sweats, and drink coffee. The flip side: thousands of people are living in tents since the earthquake. A tent does not have a wooden or metal door. A tent does not have windows. A tent lets in rain, mosquitos, mud, and disease. Brooke, it is
not about you. A tent means that kids and adults are sicker, sleep less, and are preyed upon by rapists and thieves. Add rain to that and now you know (or maybe Haiti has fallen off your raider and you don't know. I pray that if so, maybe this blog or others will get it back on there.) why there is so much talk about getting housing for Haitians.

Pregnancy. I often have women come into my clinic asking to take pregnancy tests. A couple of months ago when there were two nurses visiting and helping, a 20 year old girl came in asking to take a pregnancy test. She seemed very sweet and innocent...and beautiful. Her test was positive. Other times, when I've had women test positive and I ask them how they feel about being pregnat, a few have said, "I feel nothing." This young lady's emotion was written all over her face. Tears sprung to her eyes. We prayed for her, I gave her some vitamins and instructions about going to another hospital for a more thorough exam and teaching, and then the three of us nurses sat there, quietly looking at each other with tears also in our eyes. On Tuesday of this week she came back. She'd recently had her period and wanted to do another pregnancy test. Before I handed it to her, she told me that when she told her parents that she'd had her period after already telling them she was pregnant, they told her they thought she'd taken a medicine to abort the baby. She swore to me she hadn't and I believe her. She took the test and it showed she was no longer pregnant... if she really was before. I explained that the first test could have been a false positive, told her to get checked out again by another doctor, then prayed for her. What hopes did she have for this baby and for all the newness it would bring in the midst of fear and uncertainty? She seemed upset again, but maybe she was actually relieved. Does she have money to visit a doctor? I pray so...now I wonder if I should have offered her some.

Why do I do this work here? Because Jesus has given me a love and compassion for the Haitian people that I never thought possible. As I learn every day here, its not about me. Its about glorifying Him, the one who gave His life for us and loves the Haitians and knows their pain more than I ever could.

Mysterious:
Poop. I recently had a conversation with an Haitian friend who started taking vitamins as he wasn't eating very healthy. His complaint about the vitamins? They make him poop everyday. "Well, how often did you poop before taking the vitamins," I asked. "Once a week," was the response. What The....? So the subject of poop came up once again in conversation with another Haitian friend. She was prescribed two antibiotics and if you are a doctor, nurse, or unlucky patient, you know taking two antibiotics at once can hurt the crap out of you! Her complaint: I'm pooping twice a day! Curiosity got the best of me and I asked, "How often did you poop before?" "Once a week. Sometimes once or twice a month." Are you freaking kidding me? Wouldn't one get a distended stomach with all that poop being kept inside? All this talk about poop transitioned into Cindy and I talking about Dr. Oz. You know the doctor who likes to wear his scrubs all the time on the Oprah show? I love the episode where he showed the intestines and described what normal, healthy poop looks like. Tonight I asked a group of our boys and a group of our girls how often they poop. Again, some said only once a week, others every three days. There was no embarrassment on anyone's part- just laughter. The girls said very few of them pooped the week they went to the Provence (countryside) to see their families because they facilities for doing so were less than stellar. I'm starting to wonder if what people call diarrhea is really that. Maybe its just that they are pooping more frequently than their normal? Let's get some more vegetables in the Haitian population!

To be continued.....




Saturday, September 11, 2010

Futbol

....or soccer. Yesterday the whole orphanage and many of its staff attended a futbol/soccer game by the Haitian Amputee Soccer Team, which was created after the earthquake. When I heard about it, I began to get all weepy. What hope this must give these people who have suffered so much in the last year. Each team member played without his prosthetic and ran around using crutches. I was inspired and I hope you will be too by just the pictures.

"When I lost my limbs in the earthquake I thought my life was over. But God helped me and now that I am playing soccer and working with great coaches, I have much hope for the future." - Cesar, Goalie.

The team has been invited to play in the 2010 Paralympic World Cup in Argentina this October. They need to raise $50,000 in order to participate. Go to www.iisport.org in order to find out more about it or to donate.

After the amputee team played, the older boys at our orphanage played Quisceya Christian school, a school for missionary kids and the bourgeois (elite, wealthier class). All of our kids and staff are excited when the boys or girls have the opportunity to play and have some real competition. Haitians are fantastic soccer players. Our boys won, 5-2!

Mdl boys
Semi