Friday, February 26, 2010

Haiti Update 6

View from home where team stays
At church

I received the following email yesterday. I hope to get another one this morning and if I do I will pass it along but, last night the internet connection dropped. It also has been difficult for Pete to email many pictures because of the slow connection. We will post his pictures once he returns.

I have been here almost a week, and as I pass by the rubble I notice it even less. This is concerning. I don't like it. I will try to refocus today on the destruction.

The theme of the day yesterday was relationships. Lasting relationships.. Relationships formed with other team members and translators.

A relationship was formed with a Haitian who has been working in Boston. He is moving up the managerial ladder at HUD. He came down to Haiti to check in on his mother and nine siblings. All are safe. Yet his flight was a week away and he had a burning desire to help his people, so he walked into the ER I was running. "Do you need help? I just want to help. I will be available for the next five days." I told him that the translators make, if the funds are available, five dollars a day, which is quite good in Haiti. He didn't want money, only the chance to make a difference in his home country. Rarely do you run into acts of true altruism - but this is about as close as I have witnessed. We stood by each other for the ensuing three days, laughing(mostly at my Creole and him passing out at the sight of blood), crying, supporting, entrusting. I will never forget him; he served without accolades, newspaper articles, awards or even the thanks from the patients. He served because he loves his people, all people. He taught me a lot about true service. I will never forget his friendship. Alexander has impacted my life and brought me closer to my God.

Today we work a half day in the clinic and then we go out into the city for a first-hand account of the destruction. I will bring back pictures for all to see. I will try to tell their story. I love Haiti and my heart bleeds.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Haiti Update 5

Tuesday in Port-au-Prince. God's timing is perfect, as usual:

Sak Paze?
This means "what's up" in creole.

Two dollars and a plate of beans:

Yesterday was a little less chaotic which allowed me to stand back and observe more and soak in the stories. God provides these stories in our lives but we are often too busy to enjoy them. Is this the will of God?

Nearly the minute I got into triage, an elderly man came to me in respiratory distress. Obviously uncomfortable, and barely able to breath on his own, we attended to him immediately. His oxygen level was 80%, very low, near intubation low if the trend worsened. Yet his lungs were clear. No swelling. No chest pain. Heart rate in the low 100's - not too concerning. What was wrong with this guy? Finger stick -180 after he had a coffee with sugar in it, so not suggestive of diabetic ketoacidosis. What was wrong with this guy? Gave him oxygen, our one source of oxygen, and he did not respond as we would have liked. Labs showed no evidence of infection or anemia. He had no chest pain, no wheezing. Did he have a pulmonary embolism? I felt helpless and at a loss. He had to be transferred to a higher level of care. We didn't even have Xray running at the time. Yet the family had no money and the patient could not even walk fifty feet without laboring severely. I had two American dollars in my pocket and asked my translator to flag down a taxi for me. We went into the street and the very first car was a taxi. "How much to transport one patient and his two family members to general hospital?" He told us three dollars. I told him I would give him two dollars. He said "no, three dollars." Remembering that I had not yet eaten lunch, a large, tasty plate of rice and beans, I asked "how about two american dollars and a large plate of rice and beans?" Deal! This thin cab driver, before we could get the patient in the car with an IV still in his arm, had inhaled my lunch and had the greatest grin on his face. This is the story of two dollars and a plate of rice and beans. He willingly transferred my patient to general hospital, where hopefully my patient was afforded the proper medical care. I prayed for him this morning as well as the taxi driver - one very sick, the other very hungry. God bless them both.

Timing is everything:

I was asked to evaluate a girl who was carried in by her mom. The child couldn't walk. Mom had been carrying this child around for four years and wanted to know what was wrong with her. It was quickly evident that she suffered from cerebral palsy with mental retardation. Not a good prognosis, especially in light of the current conditions of the country. She needed a wheelchair and physical therapy at least for the family to be able to move on to some kind of normalcy. You could tell that mom was tired and at a loss for what to do. But as God has shown me over and over again, He provides the timing for incredible things. As she was waiting for the physical therapist to evaluate her, we received an enormous shipment of materials from Mexico - unannounced. I walked back behind the hospital where the supplies were being inventoried when I saw a row of 10 new wheelchairs. Wow. "Who do I ask if I can have a wheelchair for this girl?" In my brief tenure, I had been given the authority to make such decisions, and this one was easy. Wheeling this little girl out to her car, where her father was waiting, placing her in the car and folding the wheelchair so that it just barely fit into the trunk of this tiny car is a moment I will hold on to forever. They drove away with huge smiles on their face. Timing is everything. Thank you Mexico for giving this child a chance at independence and giving a mother rest for her back.

Brief observations
The ride home is a dichotomy of extreme poverty with the background of beautiful green mountains
People seem to know that we are here for them and thus treat us with that respect.
All my translators want me to sponsor them in the US to study - they know this is a way out. I think I might. Her name is Myriam.
Slowly people at the hospital are improving. This is good.

Wow........God is SO good! Thank you for your prayers. 

Haiti Update 4

I continue to be amazed at God's work in Haiti. I expected to hear about the poverty, the sickness, and the devastation. One only need to turn on the news to see this reality. It would be easy to consider these and surmise that there is no hope. But we are blessed.  We have the opportunity to hear stories that news anchors may see, but do not report from the perspective of one who expects God to show up. We do expect Him. And when we look at the details of the tiny miracles that occur each day, we know it could be only Him.

Pete's email about Monday. :

Two aftershocks in the middle of the night. Makes you wonder if the big quake will come again. I awakened to the same roosters and dogs and our Haitian housemates sleeping outside in the yard. Who can blame them?

How can a small town family doc from Smyrna, TN find himself essentially in charge of a hospital with an ER and tent city full of patients? Yesterday, by God's ordination, I was the only MD running the ER and the inpatients. We had an outstanding anesthesiologist and plastic surgeon inside, willing and capable, but their work was largely dependent on what we sent them from the outside. When I arrived a completely unresponsive man and an MVA with chest trauma were there waiting for me..... we hit the ground running. It is such a fluid situation. There is no certainty that anyone will show up to see the patients. Their lives hang on the thread of a few volunteers showing up that day. The Mexican navy has been here to help but they took two days off without telling anyone.

Through it all the people of Haiti continue to teach me patience. They are a rich people, expressive, thoughtful. But some of that has eroded into fatigue, doubt, skepticism.
I love caring for Haitians. In many ways I feel closer to these people than many of my own. You must feel them, listen to them, touch them to learn of their pain. We cannot simply whisk them off to the CT scanner or MRI because we don't have them. Often we are without xray. It is just me, the patient, a stethoscope and a story. Perfect but imperfect. It has taught me that in America we have lost the "touch" between doctor and patient.

A nurse came running into the ER yesterday and told me a little boy was crying in a tent, in excruciating pain. When I got there it was a seven year old boy who had a femur fracture with complete displacement. The only problem was that it had not yet been set and he had been off pain meds for more than a day. It made me think of my son who had the same injury when he was that age. Imagine if Buzz was unable to have pain meds and the pain he would have had to endure. But this child is my son, and it breaks my heart. He got pain meds and got near instant relief. He will get surgery today. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Haiti Update, #3

I received this email yesterday morning. Amazing stories. I imagine there are many more. If only these people had a voice.  We must do our best to "speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves."                        Proverbs 31:8                                                                                                      

Standing on the roof of the hospital with the USS Comfort in background.
I awaken today to the sound of roosters and barking dogs, and O yeah, a strong aftershock. I can see why Haitians would be tentative about going back into their homes.
We awakened yesterday to squash soup, the normal Sunday fare - delicious. Onward to church where we witnessed the most energetic service. They seem very authentic in their love for the Lord.
As the service ended, most of the Haitians wanted to touch our hands. One of the last families was a mom and her three young children. The youngest child was Christelle. Mom then told us that the baby was born on the streets of PAP the day of the earthquake. She named her daughter Christelle because it means "Jesus is here."

Even through all the devastation, the people believe that God is faithful and He is here.

Haiti Update, #2

Dear friends, we are so grateful for your support. I have passed along your thoughts and prayers to Pete and I know he and his teammates are appreciative.

The past 24 or so hours brought several measurable aftershocks to Haiti. In the early morning hours of yesterday and today, Pete was awakened by trembling. According to the US Geological Survey both  quakes registered 4.7. It was enough to make everyone spring from bed, and their Haitian roommates chose to spend the remainder of the night's sleep in the yard. I cannot imagine the fear they must feel with each tremor.

I have two days' of emails to share with you; I will post each separately. As you read Pete's comments, please do not take offense to the things he is beginning to question. I think it is natural for most who visit a third-world country to return with an altered perspective on their own life. We will be the first in line of those who may choose to do things differently.  From Sunday:

You can't come here and return to the lives we lead and be satisfied with the status quo. Putting a premium on material items, winning ball games, treating as many people through the day as possible, planning for retirement; these are concepts that don't exist here and it is a relief to leave them behind. We are focused on helping people here find their next meal, next pain medicine, next house. Each one is looking for God, looking for Him to deliver a sliver of promise and hope to them. God is faithful. He is showing himself and it is a joy to be a part of that.
Random thoughts:
I wonder if my 78 year old woman is still alive?
If she dies I wonder where her daughter will go and where her next meal will come from?
We go to Church today. Without speaking the language this service will have profound impact. Something will be different. God is wonderful in how many ways he shows His face.
Being down here I have met some incredible people, people who have given up everything at home to help the Haitians. Selfless is the word that comes to mind. People that want to and DO make a difference. So many times I have wanted to make a difference but didn't have the courage. Nelson my interpreter, Martin pharmD - Godly people.

The 78 year old woman was a patient of Pete's at the hospital.  Hospital admission guarantees a place for mother and daughter to sleep. Each receives one meal a day. When the mother dies her bed will go to the next patient, and the daughter must leave. She has no home, no family. Where will she go?  It is a problem faced by many.

I leave you with a picture of a precious baby girl who was treated in the clinic for scabies.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Haiti Trip Update #1 -- Thank You, Smyrna!

My husband, Pete, left for Haiti last week with The Chadasha Foundation. He is working in both a clinic and a hospital alongside an incredible group of physicians and nurses, trying to make a small difference in a country with great need. Before he departed, he was overwhelmed with support from the community of Smyrna: the Rotary Club, StoneCrest, friends, his office staff, numerous pharmacies and medical equipment companies, even people whom he had never met (and more -- please tell me who I am leaving out. Pete has the list). Donations came in the form of money, supplies, and equipment. When I spoke to Pete earlier today, he asked that I let each of you know that your donations have made a significant impact already. Let me explain.

Saturday, the team went to work in a local hospital. These are Pete's comments about the hospital and its patients:

Today we embark for the local hospital. Thirteen bed hospital that has fifty plus patients, most of whom stay in tents on the outside. Post-op patients that are still trying to learn how to walk after amputations. No prosthesis, no handicap parking, no jobs, no house to go home to - they lost their families, most of them. Their homes fell on them. I will be looking at the pharmacy to see if they can use some of the drugs we brought in. They will be a blessing and relief, though be it a short one, to many patients.

This hospital has a working operating room. The operating room has not been able to serve patients because there was no available pain medicine. Today, thanks to the generosity of many of you, that operating room is working. Pete delivered to the hospital pharmacy the medicine you graciously provided and it allowed doctors to resume operations. Praise God for meeting this need and thank you, thank you for your part in His plan.

Following are excerpts from another email. They are simply his impressions after his first day.

We got off a plane yesterday that cost about the same as it would to provide clean water for the entire city for years.
The stars here are beautiful.
Just downstairs last night looking at the vast amounts of medicine that the people of Smyrna helped to provide. Incredible. Not one wasted penny. Hitting the streets running>>>>
Today we will likely see 200 people between the three of us - scabies, "everyone has worms", post-traumatic syndrome, abscesses, HTN, DM, just to name a few.......
Tap-taps are awesome. It is the local, colorful buses that the people ride. they are fuller than the halls at a titans game.They are tap-taps, because that is what you do when you want to get off the bus.
People urinating on the streets - there is nowhere else to go.
Why do I feel so sorry for the dogs down here. Their bones so prominent. Tell Lulu next time she complains how lucky she is.

And finally, this one after his first day in the clinic:

Most of the people I saw complained of "my stomach hurts", "I have anemia", "my child has a cold" and in general were not a sick as i thought they would be. Yet a couple were very sick. To the point that on Monday when I have follow up with them I dont know if they will be back. Ever. Didnt know what they had. Helpless feeling. How do you treat an 11 year old girl with a mass growing out of her temple and a fever of 104. You give her a shot of antibiotics and 4 pain pills and you pray you see her again. CT scan of the head and bloodwork sure would be nice right now.

My last patient of the day was a 70 year old man who has a chronic indwelling catheter. He came to us wanting surgery on his prostate. He cannot urinate if he takes the catheter out. We were able to arrange for him a ride to the local hospital to meet a urologist. He said that he had been praying six years for this moment and he was just rejoicing in how faithful God is. Wow. Haitians are a patient people. I have already learned a lot from them and I know they will teach me a ton more.

The gentlemen in the top photo with Pete will be riding to the urologist tomorrow. I pray he finds the answers he needs.

More photos:
Remains of church. Notice beautiful arches inside.

Beautiful young girl with her father. She is an amputee. Pete got to hang out with her and her dad for awhile and he fell in love with her smile. He made up for the scary, bald/goatee look by giving her candy and a bracelet. :)

I will post more as I receive it. Thank you to the many who continue to pray for this trip and for, most importantly, the Haitian people.