Saturday, February 20, 2010

More Healing in Haiti

Overnight, some more rain came and got our little boy we rescued yesterday's document's all wet. His name was washed away and nobody remembered what it was. We knew he was 12, but that was all. Since his mother had left, there was no way to find out either. Some of the other guys around the place suggested that I should be the one to name the kid since I had found him. I liked that idea. I put a lot of thought into it and decided to name him "Joshua Emmanual". Joshua means "God Rescues". I started planning his baptism, including a downloaded script and baptism certificate.

I was the charge nurse today and stayed very busy. I was busy coordinating the ER, OR, and tents. We only had 2 other nurses doing individual cares on like 70-some patients. We did get a new nurse today from Florida. She works as a prison nurse down there. When she showed up, she brought toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo and more stuff for us all! I was so excited not to have to brush my teeth with only half a toothbrush anymore and to have some conditioner finally!

In the ER today we had some highlights. One guy came in with a hole in his head that went entirely through his skull and to his brain. You could even see the gray matter! This man is a living miracle becasue he has been walking around with this hole in his head for the last 10 days and not gotten an infection. Another highlight of my day was passing by one of the tents only to see this young girl sitting on the edge of her bed, singing to herself and crying. She was alone and was coping with a rather fresh leg amputation. I can only imagine what was going through her head, what kind of loss she's experienced in the last month, and how she must envision her future to be. I sat down beside her quietly, put my arms around her and just rocked her. She continued to cry and sing softly. I cracked a little big here. Her pain chiseled away at the wall I'm having to reinforce around my heart to stay strong. I cried with her for a bit, we sat in quietness, and although we could not speak in another's language, the message of compassion and empathy were clear.

I noticed on our walk into the hospital today that my boots are finally broken in! This makes me very happy because I was worried about my feet getting wrecked in the process. When your in a place like this, you just can't afford to have your feet fail you.

The big highlight of today surrounded our favorite little "Joshua Emmanuel" who we had rescued from the streets last week. It was his baptism day! I went around to the different tents gathering families and visitors, we set Joseph up with a fresh new sterile gown, got out some baby oil, and clean water. We had one of the translators read a whole little thing about baptism in French to Joshua and the crowd. Then, we explained to Joshua that he was so very special and reminded him of how much God loves him. We went on to tell him his new name and why we chose it. He was smiling so big and was so excited. Everyone started singing together and clapping hands.

I've married couples before, but I've never baptised anyone before. I wasn't really sure how to do this, but I figured I didn't really have to know because it's about letting God show up and do his thing. I took the bowl of baby oil and made a cross on Joshua's head and told him that he was God's own. Then said a few words, took a scoop of fresh water and poured it over his little head, saying "I baptise you in the name of the father, the son, and the holy spirit." I cracked on that last line a bit becasue it was pretty intense! There were some others crying too. Then, everyone started to sing and clap again. Joshua was so happy about all the excitement and attention. There were angels in that tent! After the baptism, one of the women who had come to participate said she wanted to be his mom! Then, some of the other ladies were arguing about who would be his godparents, it was so sweet. This kid is so wonderful. He's got cerebral palsy,can't walk, can't talk, and looks like he's 4 when he's really 12, but when he smiles... he lights up the entire room. His face is filled with joy, innocence, and excitement for the moment. He's special alright, and he truly has touched my life.

Being here on a long-term mission is challenging in many ways, but one way that's particularly difficult are the continuous hellos and goodbyes. Just as soon as your getting to know someone really well, it's time you have to say goodbye. It's a sort of up and down roller coaster. Today, we had to say goodbye to three of the best guys we've had down here. Doc Bjorn and his medic staff Shannon and Adam are incredible. These are the kind of guys that if I'm every in a trauma incident, I want treating me! We had to send them off to the airport today, riding in the back of the truck, wind through our hair and laughing the whole way.At the airport, we were able to check on our options for flights out of the country when its time. We learned that the military has been "evacuating" any medical professionals on military planes for anyone wanting to return to the U.S. over the last few weeks. However, now that the commercial airlines are starting to reopen, they've been complaining that they aren't getting any business becasue the medical professionals keep taking the free flights out. Apparently, they ceased operations. Bummer. While leaving the airport, we saw dozens of soldiers escorting many orphans out of the country. It was quite a contrast seeing strong uniformed officers holding sweet, young and fragile children.

Back at the hospital, we got lots of new nurses today, about 6 of them. That was a real relief for us because we've been running ourselves ragged. I got everyone orientated and assigned to tents. For the rest of the day, I was in the ER with Doc Marty and Emergency Med Nurse Bob doing major dressing changes. We found some old speakers that hooked up to my Itouch and did our work to the sounds of Frank Sinatra and Michael Bouble in the background. We were dancin' and the patients were smiling. It was a productive day of work. During a lunch break, I went out to the back with the French Medical Team. I've had a few different types of MREs down here and can confidently say the French have the best taste when it comes to their rations. In one box there is a little stove, matches, water purifying tablets, coffee, tea, milk, hot chocolate, rehydration packets, Salmon entree, some sort of pate, sweet and salty crackers, fruit chew bar, nouggut bar, jelly, and chocolate pudding! It's really pretty neat! The French guys helped me get my little oven set up and then we had a little gourmet French ration picnic on a warm afternoon in Haiti.

Walking into the hospital today, we passed a church service that was going on in someone's front yard. It was packed, there were hundreds of Haitians pouring in to the crowd. I went over with a friend of ours, waited in line with everyone else and we went up to the priest and got some ashes on our forehead. It can't already be "Ash Wednesday" can it?

At the hospital today, everything was flowing pretty well. We were having trouble moving patients in and out of the ER where wounds are dressed and debrided under anesthesia. However, as always things end up working out in the end. On a positive note, Joshua, the little boy we rescued last week had his mother show back up. After she said those hurtful things about her son and left, we thought she had completely abandoned him. Turns out she has 2 other kids who she went back to and found out that a bunch of their stuff had been stolen. She says she had been trying to sort it all out, but her son nearly died and she disappeared for 5 days. I just can't fathom doing that! Either way, it's good that she came back because if she hadn't showed up by Friday, we were going to start making arrangements at one of the orphanages. However, it was a bittersweet day though because as Joshua's mom came back, two girls came in with a newborn baby found in a dumpster. The newborn had been abandoned by the mom.

Josh and I took off a little early today and went for a hike through town for some photography. We ended up getting way more than we could have hoped for. We went on quite an adventure! As we were walking, we started chatting with a Haitian guy with pretty good English. He was there with a couple of his relatives and gave us a few pointers on places to check out that were pretty intense. He ended up coming with us to translate and navigate. We went into the deepest of the slums. To get there we had to go through alleys, through some people's houses, and crawled over rubble. We finally got to the middle of the Haitian ghetto called what sounds like Sofu.

Just steps into the slum, we encountered a chilling sight. To our right was a small dead baby laying on the burnt-through coils of a mattress. Our translator explained that the house had exploded from a gas line. The corpse just laid there partially melted and deflating and everyone just kept walking by as though it was just another piece of rubble. I wasn't sure if we should do something with the body. Should be bury it? Take it somewhere? Cover it? What was the culturally appropriate thing to do here? If we did do something would if be offensive and be interpreted as pompous Americans who don't think the Haitian people know how to take care of their dead? We decided it was best to just leave the little body where we found it and keep moving. I said a quick little prayer for the baby's soul and we continued our journey.

We slinked our way through tiny passageways among a maze of makeshift homes constructed from sheets and salvageable remnants of the rubble. At about 3-feet wide, these parts of the slum only accomodate two-way foot traffic. In the broader areas, children can be seen bathing in the streets; goats, pigs and dogs eat left over garbage that litters the road or smolders in big piles creating a cloud of smoke. People piss and defecate in the middle of the streets and pathways, on buildings, and anywhere they can find becasue toilets are few and far between. The sanitation issues are paramount. With people living no more than an inch from one another in the middle of a sea of tents, the posibility for disease spread is inevitable. Here, some of the animals limp down the road as many of them too have lost limbs and mobility and now have ribs showing and are suffering from mange... many from rabies as well. Battered and worn, it just breaks your heart. I think about my little puppy back home and imagine him with no one to take care of him in such a mess and it makes me sad. Side note, it's only the dogs you really see here. I've only seen one cat and it was on a leash because cats are a delicacy here on the Haitian menu.

There is really nothing left in some of these slums. When one house would fall, it would take out 3 or 4 others. Those houses build on slopes and mountain would tumble down like dominos. Many of the bodies are still in the homes among the rubble, we saw various appendages and heard the stories of many of those affected by tragedy... entire families dead, 20 dead from a church collapse, 200 nursed killed in a nursing university, 50 kids dead in an elementary school, another dozen or so killed in the nursery. We walk among this rubble everywhere we go, knowing full well we are surrounded by death... the smell often permeates through the dust laden air.

We met this guy Ali Deschamps who is the sort of chief of this particular slum. He was very kind and his English was good. He took us around with our interpreter and introduced us to many of the locals. He showed us his house collapsed where 2 of his children were killed. Later he introduced us to a man who's family started to run out of the house to escape the shaking, but as soon as the shaking began the entire family couldn't get out of the house fast enough before it collapsed killing them all. Ali then took us to another home where we had to actually crawl into the pit of rubble beneath a collapsed house (I know, I know, very stupid decision and one I won't make again... heaven forbid we would have another aftershock, ya know). Inside, we found the body of another crushed child. You could still see the hair on its little head. It was very disturbing because it was very close and Ali even cleared some 200 pound pieces of cement to get to it. It was one of a whole family that had died in the now pulverized rubble and foundation surrounding us. Right then, I asked Josh and the other 3 or 4 Haitians with us if they would like to say a prayer for the family lost in tragedy. We all held hands and prayed to give their spirits peace and blessings into the afterlife. We prayed to just bless this particular slum and for God to heal the hearts of the people who survived. Strange, holding hands praying to Jesus beneath the earthquake rubble surrounded by the mangled dead. After our little prayer, we quickly hopped out of the rubble and moved on. Only a few hundred yards away, we found a group of men digging a hole. They were digging a grave for the body of a women who was killed in the quake. We didn't see her until we noticed the sheet tied like a bag... she was inside.

What amazes me is the magnitude of how these people have been stripped of everything they've worked so hard to acquire. If you lose everything in the U.S., there are systems, programs, insurance, and organizations available to help you rebuild. Your house burns down, Red Cross gets there while the house is still smoldering with food, water, shelter, and assistance. Insurance companies write checks to replace loss, should anyone be injured medical care is easily accesible, and should someone die... they receive a proper funeral. The more you talk to these people, the more you realize how bare they really are. Everywhere you go, children lift out their hands for money, point to their stomach and beg for food, and in order to not create a mob scene and protect yourself you have to just shake your head and keep walking. It breaks your heart. The sad part too is that Ali explained that there has been no aid in these slum areas becasue many are too afraid to go in. In asking Ali what his people really are in need of, he explalined to me the importance of tarps, or as he referred to them as umbrellas. Everyone knows the rain is slowly coming in and they are terrified.

The last thing I'll leave you with on this impressive day were some of Ali's final words. He said that before the earthquake, not too many Haitians believed in God. After the disaster, people are now walking around and can't talk enough about Jesus because they know he is real. Instead of dwelling on disaster, those who survived the quake are now being floated by faith.


At February 20, 2010 at 5:12 PM , Blogger jeanne said...

God Bless you and your coworkers. Stay safe and keep on doing God's work. Wish I could join you. jdl

At February 20, 2010 at 5:27 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your work there, and thank you for your reports. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Vonda


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