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Saturday, November 27, 2010


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.

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.


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


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.