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Friday, January 29, 2010

Quake pictures

On the Sunday after the earthquake, Dana, Ashley, and I were finally able to venture out of our neighborhood with Fritz to take an older lady, Ely, home. She had been waiting in our “hospital” for a few days to receive a cast and also didn’t have a way to return home as tap taps were operating infrequently and she lived further up the hill. Apparently someone had seen her crying on the street a day or so after the earthquake and had picked her up and dropped her off at our clinic. Below is the only picture I managed to upload from that afternoon. The internet has been extremely slow in allowing me to put pictures on here. This picture probably seems "tame" in comparison to what you have seen on tv or in newspapers. Of course the media doesn't portray things in the best possible light, so Haiti looks completely demolished to those who aren't here and often only the stories of despair or violence are shared. What I saw and have experienced didn't look that way. It will be interesting to get out more, hopefully this weekend.  What I have experienced in our neighborhood are compassionate people wanting to help their neighbors and family. I have seen strangers hold hands and sing praises to God from their tables that are used as hospital beds. I have watched children serve water to the sick, pick up trash, jump into conversations to translate, and lead adults in singing praises to God. Haiti is an island of beauty, mostly because of its tenacious, resilient, humorous, and kind people. 

Saturday, January 23, 2010


I'm starting to write about my experience during the earthquake itself and about the crazy week after... not that it still isn't crazy here. Here's a bit and I'll continue working on it.

Last Tuesday, January 12, 2010, Dana, Ashley (another nurse who recently moved here to work with our ministry), and I went out with our newest staff member, Desir, to buy cellphones for ourselves. We made a quick stop at the Petionville market to buy some supplies for the feeding program and I bought myself some hair rollers, in hopes that Navi, my lovely Haitian friend who is a nanny at the girls' home, might be able to do something with my perpetually dirty hair.

For some reason I left the bens (probably to get some medication for one our kids). I was just off the stairs that lead into boys home when I began to feel the earthquake. I looked at Cindy, another missionary with our ministry, and said “Is this a…!” “Yes!” she said and we both ran, along with two of our older boys, for the doorway that leads inside the boys’ home. As I heard many of our kids crying, someone handed me Daphne, our four year old who lives at the girls’ home. I only saw a small wound on the back of her head so I thought she was crying for this and out of fear. We called all of the kids out of the bens and boys’ home and headed down the street to see our other kids. I handed Daphne off  to Navi. Next, I heard that an elderly lady was pinned by some blocks outside her home. Robert, a visiting missionary, a few of our older boys, and I ran inside her gate to check on her. We needed a stretcher to get her out so some of the boys and I ran back to the boys’ home to take the wood off the top of our exam table in our clinic. Robert came back to me with Daphne while others worked on getting the lady out of her yard. Daphne would not allow anyone to sit her down, would not move her leg, and was inconsolable. Robert believed she’d broken her femur. Jim, another visitor, cut up some cardboard, I laid down on a picnic table that had been moved outside, and Robert laid Daphne down on top of me to put her femur in a splint, which obviously looked broken. I suggested we get Daphne to a doctor quickly, but someone said that hospitals would be full by now and difficult to access. I think this is when it hit me that this wasn’t a small “incidence” that hit our country. It was huge with a huge fallout. Or maybe it hit me a few minutes later, when people started walking or running up to Ashley and I with their injured loved ones. Throughout the night people walked up to our boys' home and drove up in tap taps (public transportation- taxi's that are painted in bright colors and often sport words such as "Mesi Jezi (Thank you Jesus) and Bondye Beni Out (God Bless You)) with the injured. I’ll highlight a few of the cases:

A young girl with a large scalp laceration, major blood loss, and swollen/bruised eye. Ashley tried to put an IV in her. We were in the dark by then and working out in the street, but flood lights were set up by our older boys. After a few attempts, success! We had maybe one or two bags of IV fluids so tried to save them for her. She made it through the night. I left for a few hours the following morning, and someone (hopefully a doctor) either discharged her or took her to another clinic or hospital. We also had a young boy in a similar situation who was probably stuck 30 times by Ashley and other doctors who showed up that night to get an IV. In my job in the states we had an "IV team" who focused solely on placing IV's and checking dressings for IV's, therefore I admittedly am horrible at placing them and didn't even try on this child. The next morning he was also taken to another hospital. Another miracle that he survived after blood loss.

Patrick heard word that his (and Phara's) mom was sitting outside a hospital waiting to receive care. After attempting to get care for Daphne (the hospital was not accepting more patients), Marlval drove Patrick to pick up his mom. She came back with a severely gashed foot and head laceration. Her foot was cleaned and dressed, her laceration sutured, and a bed was made for her on the porch in the boys' home. She stayed all week and left the following Monday morning with her other daughters to care for her. However, they lost their home and are now, I believe, living in one of the many "tent cities" that have been created since the earthquake.

Two Haitian doctors arrived who knew how to suture. Amen! I didn't have a clue and Ashley, Lord bless her, had done it a few times previously so was trying. We couldn't help laughing as these doctors couldn't keep their glasses on to see so required someone to hold their glasses on their faces and sweated profusely onto their patients.

Many many people were brought to us with broken legs and arms. We had our "handymen" visitors, Jim and Robert, creating makeshift splints out of cardboard and sheets. A few seemed to be suspicious for broken backs. What could we do? We kept them until a doctor could see them the next day or released them to try another hospital the following day. I wanted to shout over and over: "This is NOT A HOSPITAL! IT IS DIRTY BOYS' HOME!"

Throughout the night I kept asking staff members and missionaries who came to check on us if they had seen or heard from my close friend, Erta, who lives at and works with our ministry. She recently started college- a long time dream of hers- and she had been attending classes when the quake hit. Her dad showed up at one point and asked Marlval to drive him to look for her. Hours later they returned with the news that her school was in ruins and the few survivors had been taken to hospitals. I won't explain my reaction- you can guess. It was a long, horrible night after that. At around 4 am Bill and Sue convinced Ashley and I to head back to the guest house to sleep. Those of us sleeping there all piled into the living room on our mattresses. I was ready to give away all bunk beds in the house. I didn't sleep at all. Every time I closed my eyes I thought of my last conversation with Erta or pictured people coming up to me saying "Please help my child." The only response I could think to say was "I don't know how to help you." I felt so very inadequate.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Market

A few weeks ago a group of us living and visiting at the guest house made a trip to the Petionville market to buy some clothes. So many colors, people, smells (you take the bad with the good), and sounds that one can be overwhelmed. All the merchants want you to buy their stuff so they try to entice you by saying you are beautiful and you'd look beautiful in their shirt.  I was rebuked when I tried to take a picture of a display of wares because I wasn't buying anything from this merchant. So, I tried but I didn't see a need for a single burner or more kitchen utensils.

As a Christmas gift this year all of our kids received money to buy an outfit for church, dress shoes, and tennis shoes. I made a trip to a different market with our girls, some visitors, and a few of our staff to purchase their items. Amidst the singing Christmas tree lights, we moved from vendor to vendor to find the right shirt, skirt, jeans, or shoes. Fritz, one of our awesome Haitian staff members, was in charge of the money. I quickly realized that either these girls don't know how to barter or are so desperate to get what they have picked out that they are fine with the prices they are quoted. Each girl would desperately seek out Fritz to pay for their clothes or shoes, so that we could hear above the music playing and the crowds, "Fritz, Fritz, Fritz! Achte pou mwen (buy for me)! The merchants got in on the action too, pulling on his shirt and yelling his name. The girls often got mad and walked off in a huff when Fritz wouldn't buy their finds right away. Nevertheless, each kid made out with a bag full of nice clothes that made us look filthy in our clothes in comparison.

Petionville Market