Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hello from Haiti

Hi, everyone! We arrived to Port au Prince yesterday afternoon after two easy flights from Nashville. Our only issue was with immigration after our arrival. We had no clue where were staying - at least not the street address - and that blank space on our immigration form earned us a trip to the boss's office. When the door to his small office opened, about eight people spilled out. It didn't take long to figure out why. The blast of cool air and the TV tuned in to the World Cup garnered quite a crowd! We tried to explain that although we know where we are going, we don't know exactly where. When the official finally asked, "Missionary?", we smiled and said yes. Close enough! And that became our address: missionary. 

We are staying at a home that is used to house the medical teams that serve one of the clinics here. It is the same house where Pete stayed in February.  Our meals are cooked for us and we have plenty of clean water, working bathrooms, and a comfortable place to sleep. The staff that works in the home (they cook,clean, and provide security) is wonderful. The doors and windows always remain open and we have numerous fans. The bugs aren't too bad and although it is hot, we can tolerate it fine.

This morning we rode through the community that is served by the people with whom we are visiting. This community, Pernier, is part of Port au Prince. The church and clinic operated by our hosts are here. The community, by American standards, is poor. Here, it is considered "middle-class." The roads are narrow, usually not paved, full of potholes, and if you drive, it is every man for himself.  People sit along the roadside on walls. There are street vendors everywhere -- selling sugar cane, food and drinks, mosquito nets, medicines, you name it. Just as many people are wandering the streets. They estimate unemployment to be at least 85%, so that explains the numbers of people milling about and trying to earn a living on the street. There are numerous buildings, many that house shops, but most are closed. Alleyways off the street appear to lead to numerous homes. They are concrete, cinder block, often falling apart, one room, and one after another.

This afternoon we will talk with the pastor of the church that runs the clinic. Later this week we will visit an orphanage, we will travel downtown where the quake damage is, and we will work a day in the clinic. I think Eddie and I have to learn a little nursing! At the clinic, we hope to meet the husband of one of the Haitian women who recently stayed with us. Finally, the church would like to build a Christian school, and we'll look at some potential sites for the school. It should be an amazing week. We miss our kids a TON, but all in all, we just know it is God's will for us to be here. We are very content.

Thank you all for your prayers. An enormous THANK YOU to the family and friends watching over our kids. We could not be here without you.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Joy and Great Food

Our kitchen will never be the same. Since our new Haitian friends arrived on Saturday, Guerda has taught me a thing or two about cooking.  She made for us: trout (head and all, by the way) and chicken, both cooked in sauce that you want to lick from your plate; rice and beans with black bean sauce; butter cake; sweet potato bread (like a bread pudding) with grated coconut, lime, sugar and spices; potatoes and cooking bananas (the green ones) with meatballs; and more. She can cook anything and do it well. We anticipated that Bertha would be on a liquid diet given her tumor but, that is not the case. She eats everything. You can imagine our surprise on the first night when Guerda took a full plate of food upstairs for her, and a clean plate returned a few minutes later. Her nutrition is good; the strength it gives her will allow her to better tolerate the surgery.  Bondye bon....God is good.

We spent yesterday at Vanderbilt for Bertha's initial appointment. Kari, the nurse who saw Bertha in Haiti then took on the US government to plead her case and obtain her humanitarian visa, drove from Knoxville to join us. It was a joy to witness their reunion. Bertha had a CT scan followed by a visit with Dr. Netterville, the surgeon. She negotiated the IV, the CT scanner, and the doctor's exam with ease. She does not speak English but, between the wonderful care of the Vanderbilt staff and Guerda's explanation of what was happening, the language barrier meant nothing. She was, in Guerda's words, "Relax!" Dr. Netterville, a distinguished head and neck surgeon, is a man with a heart of gold. He is an outstanding physician who embraces the opportunity to serve those less fortunate.  He and Vanderbilt are offering their services free of cost. We will tell them as often as possible: thank you.

Over the past week, bits and pieces of the women's story have surfaced: the story about Bertha's tumor, her quest to find someone who could help, the prayers and dreams of Guerda, and, once they heard the news about coming to the US, the difficult road to obtain a passport from their own country. That last one doesn't make sense, but such is the state of affairs of Haiti. For comic relief, there is the tale of their trip to the US. Guerda told this story to us yesterday while we waited at the hospital. I understood a lot of it (she speaks with me in French), but I didn't need to. Her facial expressions, her gestures - they told the story. We were rolling with laughter by the end.

Many thanks for everyone's prayers and offers to help. Bondye bon!

Friday, June 11, 2010

God's in control.....remain flexible

Pete just called from the airport to tell me that Bertha and her daughter-in-law did not clear customs in time to make their connecting flight. He spoke with the agent and found out that they are booked on a flight in the morning. We do not know their overnight arrangements. Please pray that they remain safe.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bertha arrives Friday!

Bertha (see previous posts), the Haitian woman in need of life-saving surgery, is set to arrive in Nashville on Friday night, June 11th, in preparation for surgery at Vanderbilt. Bertha was seen by the group of physicians with whom Pete traveled during his February trip. She has a mass on her jaw that prohibits her from eating solid food and it may soon obstruct her airway.

We expect Bertha to be here 4-6 weeks. We have one host family but are in need of others. If you are interested in hosting Bertha and her daughter-in-law, the time frame is flexible and funds are available to alleviate some of the cost. We anticipate other needs as well. Following is a complete list.  If you are interested in helping, please contact me at susantcobb@comcast.net.

1) Host family (period of time is flexible; funds available to alleviate some of the cost associated with this)
2) Meals for Bertha and her daughter-in-law
3) Rides to hospital for doctor's visits (pre-op and post-op)
4) Volunteers to visit with them at host home

At this point we will compile a list of volunteers. Once the surgery is scheduled and we can better determine dates/times, I will be back in touch with you.

Thank you so much for your help.