Tuesday, February 2, 2010

On my way back home

We are on our second day of travel now, flying from Santiago, Dominican Republic to Miami. It takes two days because you can't get through the border and into Santiago in time for a flight out. It's not that far but things take much longer to do in Haiti.

Yesterday morning we had breakfast at then began the good-byes. We had some time to dance and play with the new arrivals and the resident children used their morning recess to give us all hugs and kisses, asking when we will be coming back.

All week long getting all of us together has been like herding cats and that morning was certainly no exception. Our luggage was picked up from our houses and carried on the carts as before. This time though it was market day and traveling across the border was much more difficult because the crowded streets but fortunately we had Linzi and Jude assisting us. At one point, a cart in front of us carrying salt and grains turned over, blocking the path and then on the next street we ran into a traffic jam with a ambulance. Finally we made it to Hotel Masacre and loaded up into the van. Then we began our 3 hour drive with multiple check points along where Dominican guards had to check to make sure we were transporting any Haitians.

We made it back to our hotel which was such a great welcoming. Ahh, to have a hot shower and snuggle into a soft bed for a little nap. The adventurous group (Matt, Ashley, Toby, Lacrecia and Cliff) went to the large wal-mart type store to get some supplies to send back to the orphanage.

Cookie (the Dominican that assisted us across the border on arrival) was back in Santiago and she took us to a local restaurant for dinner. It was a nice restaurant but I think most of us would preferred the chicken pot pie that had eaten the night before. At the end of a trip like this, there's nothing better than comfort food.

Amanda stayed up to meet the incoming team. I think she got to bed around 1am. Cliff and I stayed up till 1:30 chatting. You'd think after rooming together all week we'd have covered everything already but actually we were so worn out each night we hadn't spent that much time talking. He's certainly the one to go for information and we had a great time exchanging stories.

Breakfast, check out and transfer to airport uneventful. Several stop points at the airport for security check but we actually moved through quickly despite even having pat-downs just prior to boarding.

We met a group from Birmingham who in the process of setting up an orphanage in DR. They know Micah and his group, the ones came to the orphanage with Johnny.

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Monday, February 1, 2010


This morning I was relieved to find out that an American orthopedic surgeon had been contacted and recommended not taking Lonic for surgery due to the risk. I had been worried about the conditions of the facility and the experience of the surgeon. And I was glad to be able to attend worship service.

After breakfast well over 500 people including all of the kids we gathered in the shaded chairs area in front of the church building as we could not meet inside with all of the beds that were there now. Some sat in the white plastic chairs that had been taken out of the church building when the new kids arrived. Others sat on the motorcycles that they had driven. Some were even sitting on the ground The staff pulled the podium out and hooked up a PA system. They even set up a keyboard and drums.

Pastor Sam opened the service with prayer in Creole and then read Psalm 4. One of Danita's girls, Jeanette, reached back and opened my Bible to it to show me what He was reading, as he was only speaking Creole. After that we sang in Creole and Pastor Scott (South Carolina team) preached while Pastor Sam translated. Then "Mami Karris" welcomed all the new people, first the Americans and then those from Port-au-Prince area.

We all got up and were asked to tell our names and share a little bit. I said told them this was my first time to visit but, the Lord willing, it will not be the last.

After that the girls from the Port-au-Prince orphanage got up and sang for us. It was beautiful. I have a clip of it that I will post when I get home.

Then a little girl no older than 7, dressed in a pink dress with pink little shoes and pink lace socks got up. Pastor Sam explained that she was from PaP area and was staying with family in the town here and that wanted to sing to us because God loved here and protected her. Then she sang so beautiful with such a beautiful smile, you'd think she was angel. Don't worry, I've got a video of that, too.

Another pastor preached in Creole and Pastor Sam translated then we sang a bit more and the service was concluded with prayer.

Witson, one of Danita's boys that I've gotten to know well over the past few days, had sat next to me during the service and we had a good time not paying attention during some of it, like my brother and I would do when we were kids.

Immediately after the service, Rosalyn came up to me and gave me a big hug along with her beautiful big smile. She's a seven year old earthquake victim who had been brought to me on my first day of clinic because someone saw that she looked weak and her heart was racing. I checked her out and her heart was normal. She said nothing hurt and then I asked if she was scared and she said yes.
I hugged her and brought her back to sit with her a bit while we chewed gum and I showed her how to blow bubbles.

Later in the week I learned that during the earthquake she escaped from her house and then ran to another house to rescue her friends. She was was able to save of them and they are on the way here to stay in a house that Brenda was able to get rented yesterday. I'm not sure what day they will arrive. All week long Rosalyn also comes to find me and give me hugs and smiles. She has a scar on her left cheek and eyebrow that I assume is from an injury during her brave rescue mission. I can't begin to imagine what she has gone through. And I know what I will miss most when I leave will be that smile and those hugs.

For lunch we had fried chicken that was really good. Afterwards, Matt and Ashley (South Carolina team), Robin, Marcia (Karris' mom), some of the boys and I moved all the medical supplies to a new room above the school bathrooms, a separate building with much easier access. The new clinic now has a bathroom and a shower and lots of counter space. I got the whole place organized with the help of Amanda and Ashley. Jude (grounds staff member who lives at my house) kept charge of the door, keeping the boys from coming in and checking everything out. I even got to use the label maker to set up a few of the areas and the fix the medicine drawers. I think the new place will work out well. Pictures to come later.

Dinner was chicken pot pie made by Robin, arguably the best meal yet. Nice cheese biscuits on top. There was none left!

We finished up the day with a prayer meeting with Karris and the volunteers. Powerful time in the presence of our great Father.

Now it's he last night in Haiti. We head across the border tomorrow after breakfast. We hope to get some medical supplies in Santiago and then meet up with the incoming team at the hotel that night.

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

New Arrivals

Today was tough. While I was working on the medical charts for the new kids, we found out that we would be leaving soon to get the three that would be arriving by air today. We headed out to the airfield on the big safari truck, driving through part of the town, past the cemetery (above ground like New Orleans) and through a garbage dumping ground. We passed lots of little children getting their Saturday chores done: bathing, washing, chasing goats. They would stop and wave with big smiles in their faces, some would even run after us. One little boy ran several paces naked and then stopped and laughed. I guess he was supposed to be washing.

We got to the landing strip which wad a narrow plot of barren land with houses lined up and down. We stopped the truck and got to play with the kids while he waited. After what seemed like an hour in the heat, we finally began to hear the plane. It made a sweep across the runway to scare the goats out and then came back to land. You know in the movies when the music gets really full and emotional, that's the music that would have been playing if this was a movie. I could barely keep myself together.

After the engine shut and down and the pilots got out, Karris and Brenda approached with me following along. The pilots instructed us to come up to the side hatch where 2 children wee lying on a mattress on the floor. I picked up the first child, a 4 year in a body cast. He also had lost his left arm. I carried him back to the truck and placed him in the arms of Lacrecia and Robin. Next we brought Amani, a 12 year old who was also in a body cast. We had to place her on the floor of the truck, on the mattress that she came with. Nurse Hannah (a different Hannah than the one that came with my group) sat behind her to prop her up while Nate sat with his back to Hannah to keep her propped up. Then Lonic's mom, who was also in the plane, carried the third child, an abandoned toddler with developmental delay and cerebral palsy. She sat with him in her lap.

Once we were loaded up, I began to assess everyone. I lifted up the blanket to look at Amani's cast and saw around the waist: "Remove on March 7, 2010. Clinical Diagnosis Femur Fracture. Never Been Xrayed." That was entire medical record and I was grateful for that, it was more than what I had already been told. But the next part is what made weep. On the fiberglass down her left leg was: "I love you Amani Dr Jo - Get well soon! RN Kat - God bless you! Michelle FNP - God bless you Dr Rob - We love you. Natalie RN - Get well Dr Jeff" All I could say was, "Take a picture." After a minute I was able to take some but not with my phone.

We got back to the property and Brenda and Kharris arranged for us to go across the border to a clinic to get xrays. Hannah, Ben, Linzi and I went with the 2 who had casts. We were able to cross the border fairly quickly and made it to the clinic. A few minutes later the technician showed up and we carried the children in. Fortunately Amani's cast was fiberglass and she was light to carry, only difficult because of her position. Lonic, though a little 4 year old, was quite heavy because his cast was made of plaster.

After we both were xrayed, I reviewed the films with the tech. Lonic's did not look too good but I wasn't really shocked. He had a completely displaced fracture of his femur, which means it was broken in the middle and the two peices were beside each other overlapping. Amani's film, on the other hand, looked good, with the bone lined up correctly and healing.

When we got back to the property, Kharris emailed photos of Lonic's xrays to a Dominican orthopedic surgeon who said he could put a pin in his femur tomorrow morning. So we'veade arrangements to take him over in the morning for surgery.

After dinnner tonight, all of volunteers with medical training met with Karris to discuss plan plan of care of all the injured and make plans for transition to new volunteers. We will moving the temporary clinic to a new area that will be more accessible and accommodating, and we'll be doing that tomorrow afternoon. As I really like to organize and set up stuff like that, I'm particulary bummed that I might miss some of that because I will be going with Lonic to see the surgeon.

Well now I need to get some sleep. We have to be ready to cross the border when it opens but if it's like most things here, it will be a lot of sitting and waiting.

Update ate 7am. It turns out that we will not be going to take Lonic for surgery. Danita has reviewed the films with an American orthopedic surgeon and they hve decided that surgery at this time would be too risky. We'll get to stay for church instead which should be neat experience.

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Market Day

I didn't get to write anything yesterday as I was way too tired last night after getting just a little sleep and then being in clinic most of the day. We got a few of Danita's children checked out during the clinic then had to give one of the new kids IV fluids and a dose of IV antibiotics (Rocephine) for a presumed urinary tract infection. We had become quite worried about him. The first day he was diagnosed with scabies then that night he got up to pee twice and during the day we didn't drink much and laid around. But 4 hours after getting the IV treatment he was feeling much better. Today he playing and smiling though it was hard to get him to come back in the clinic. Tonight though I took him his medicine and he swallowed the capsule like a champ.

We also had to change the dressing and give antibiotics to the little guy with the femur fracture. He had spiked a fever and we worried about infection. The wound didn't look too bad though and today we gave him one more injection. He was feeling much better and has been transitioned to the Church with all the new kids.

Today was market day in Dajabon, the neighboring Dominican Republic city and Amanda, Robin and I went over with a few from the South Carolina team who have been coming here for several years. On market days (Mondays and Fridays) you can cross the border without passports so the Haitians go across to get supplies. Big trucks line the roads in town the night before, ready to head over in the morning. And crowds of people set up tents and lean-to's in the lot at the edge of the border. The streets were packed with people selling wares. There isn't much of a sidewalk so you are walking in the middle of the road along with carts, motorcycles and trucks. We bought a few things then headed on back.

This afternoon I started working on getting medical charts for the new kids in between giving a few breathing treatments.

This evening one of the volunteers shared his testimony, quite amazing to set what God has done for him. Then we all headed back from the property to the 3 houses we are staying in. Just a few yards outside the gate, a guy on a motorcycle whips around the corner and we see it a person fall to the ground as well as the motorcycle. I realize it is Robin who was up in the front of the group with a couple of others. I run up to her to find her lying on the ground, eyes closed. But then she opens her eyes. She states that she isn't hurting, praise God. She's able to stand up and walk over to the side. Meanwhile the guy on the motorcycle has run off. We pray over and take into the nearby girls house. The police come, with their sawed off shotguns and bullet proof vests. After making a report, they carry off the motorcycle. We then cautiously move on to our houses, relieved that there were no serious injuries.

Tomorrow is Saturday and is market day in our town so we plan to go there to check it out. In the afternoon we expect to receive 3 more children by air, 2 in a full body cast as a result of their injuries.

Well time to get some sleep as it already 11:15 (but I won't get to post this until the morning.).

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

First Day

I don't know where to begin. Right now I am lying on mattress in the middle of the church here at the orphanage with 31 orphans from the Port-au-Prince area. They arrived here about 12 hrs before I did, at 2am today. The volunteers that came a few days ago include a pediatrician and 2 nurses who examined them all today and got as much medical history as possible, which means age and name only. The youngest is around 2 years old and the others range from 4 to 14. Three arrived here 2 days ago by plane; one has amputated leg, second, amputated arm, third, broken femur status post pin placement. The others have only minor external wounds but it is the emotional wounds we are most concerned about for they all have lost their parents.

Going back a few hours: after our 3 hour bus ride we were dropped us off at Hotel Masacre in Dajabon and after a bit of confusion - as we knew we were not staying at a hotel here, we found someone that spoke English. She explained that we needed to walk to the border crossing. She instructed us to put he required money in a passports - $25 for DR and $1 for Haiti and then have one person carry them. Then some Haitian men loaded our luggage into makeshift 2 carts and pushed them down the pushed the road. We walked about 5 or 6 blocks and came upon the border crossing. There we waited for about an hour to get everyone processed and then we continued our trek over the River Masacre - named for the bloody battle between the French and Spanish during the colonial years. As we travelled you could see the stark contrast between the countries. From painted plaster and bricks to desolate wasteland. People bathing in the river. You'd think we were in Africa. We continued on, brief stop at the police station/border house and then on into the village, probably a 15 min walk total.

The orphanage compound was just inside the village, at the top of the hill, behind a metal gate, the sliding wall type. As soon as it opened we were greeted by the excited children, 78 of whom were the "old" ones, the ones who have been there since age 4, the ones that Danita and her staff have taught English, the ones who are used to receiving all the attention.

The new ones only speak Creole however were getting the attention now. Though they had late night, most were excited and playful, though some were still napping. It was lunch time and after a few introductions were settled down for lunch.

Lunch was salad (lettuce that had been washed in clean water as you can't drink the tap water) and chicken in tomato and curry sauce with rice. Quite a good meal as they have an excellent cooking staff, for not only is this an orphanage it is a school for all the children in the village and they serve lunch to all the children that attend. For many children outside the orphanage, this is the only meal may get.

After lunch, Robin and I went to the make-shift clinic -- the library/computer room that as been re-arranged. We worked on getting the supplies organized as the supplies our crew brought more than doubled what was already there: wound care, iv catheters and fluids, syringes, needles, medicines.

After getting most of that done, Danita came out from her meeting with Aussie and Texas team and we got to chat with her a bit. Then one of the other staff members, Brenda, took us on a tour of the village. We first stopped at the Girls' Dormitory, a 2 story building that was surprisingly furnished with a tv and sofas and wifi. Then we went the "Little Boys" house, where the ones under 12 stay. The older boys live on campus. We made quick stop at the hospital, which was not much more than a what we would consider a shed. One elderly woman from the church was being treated for a "sick heart." Since the earthquake she has been unable to stand and now has a pressure wound. It seems she must have heart failure. We prayed for here and they asked if we could get her transferred to the Dominican Republic. Brenda said she would discuss it with the pastor.

We headed to the missionary house, just down the street from the Little Boys house, where our luggage was and then settled into our rooms. Cliff and I got a room back at the little boys house. It was nearly 6 pm by then and time to head back to the orphanage for dinner and them a meeting for all of the volunteers with Danita and her 2 assistants, Brenda and Karris.

Dinner was also excellent, baked ziti with beef and fresh pineapple and papaya. During the meeting afterwards we all got to introduce ourselves and explain briefly how we ended up here. It was amazing to hear how we all decided to come here over the course of just 2 days.

Also during the meeting Dr Robbie explained how the children being rescued are going to need to form attachments with the new environment and staff and how the recovery process will need to be approached. You can read more about him at thefrontline.org.au (He's an Aussie)

After that 4 of us were asked to spend the night in the church to watch over the new children as they may wake up crying or need to go to the bathroom. So Amanda, Lecrecia, Nathan and I volunteered. So now I'm on my mat and will get a little sleep. When we got here I had to put one child in a bed as he was laying on floor under the bed of another. We figure they must have been sharing a bed and he got kicked out. Hopefully I get a little sleep now.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bus Ride Over

We had a good night at the hotel in Santiago. Nate and I shared a room - we each had a full size bed. Buffet breakfast this morning - our last good meal probably.

We met up with the 3 person team from Texas at breakfast who do mission work, one is a family practice doctor. Then we met up with a pediatric clinical psychologist (Robbie) from Australia and his videographer. He specializes with trauma and disasters. From what I understand, he is well known and speaks at Hillsong events.

The bus holds about 15 people and, though it does seem to be advertised as a mass transit vehicle we have picked up a guy along the way. Or rather it seems he just jumped in while we traveling through a town.

Right now most of us are jumping talking with the Aussie camera guy. He seems to be quite a fun guy but not sure how much we believe what he says, especially when he breaks into his American accent.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

On flight to Santiago

I met up with some of the team in Miami and now we are on the way to Santiago, Dominican Republic for the night. We'll be arriving around 9:30 pm so we'll go straight to the hotel and then head to Haiti in the morning.

Aside from the medical/mission part of this trip, it's going to be interesting how I handle the change in tech use. Because of safety and access issues I did not bring my laptop. I did pick up international data plan so I can use my iPhone for email, twitter, and blogging. Sending SMS text is $.50 and MMS is $1.50, so I won't be doom those. The voice calls are $1.69/min but all of that will depend on access even. I'll just have go see what it's like.

As far as what to expect when I get to the orphanage, I still really have no idea. The children that Danita is bringing are to be arriving Thursday. I don't know what injuries we will be dealing with. Our team does have lots of bandages and dressings and antibiotics.

I spoke to a news anchorwoman in Fort Myers yesterday who had just returned from a 3 day trip to Haiti. She saw many people being treated for injuries for the first time 1-2 weeks after the event because they were not as severe. But due to the delay infection has become a major battle. I suspect that's going to be our battle, too. She said it was hot so be prepared for that. I brought gum and bubbles based on her recommendation to distract the kids during treatments. Hopefully they survived the transport (along with all my other stuff).

Thank you everyone for your donations and support and your prayers and encouragement. I am excited to be going out and know that God will amaze us.


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