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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.