Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve

I just got off the phone with Bernadin. I had paused the movie I was watching because I wanted to be sure to call him before he fell asleep around 9:30pm, but when I called, he was waiting with the other boys for the New Year's party to get started! Apparently, every year the kids celebrate Dr Bernard's birthday and New Year's with a late night party at the girls' house. They will have soda and cake, some of the children will perform songs, dances or stories, and no one will sleep. (Actually, Job is asleep on the roof right now and Bernadin admits that he may not make it through the night, but he is going to try. I told him that I would call in the middle of the night to check on him if I wake up as I usually do.) At one point, he stopped me mid-sentence to ask if I could hear all the noise in the street below him. Sure enough, I could hear one of my favorite Creole rap songs being blared from the little restaurant behind the orphanage and the chaos of scores of people milling around in the square. "I can hear it, Bernadin," I said. "Yes, well, I think you're mean," he answered. "Mean? Why am I mean?" "Because you aren't here with us." Believe me, Bernadin, I wish I was there. I have had a very nice New Year's Eve, first downtown with two of my best friends, and then around my neighborhood with my roommate, Dan, but nothing would be better than standing on that roof with my boy and enjoying the holiday the Haitian way.

Saturday, Dec. 22nd - Nursing class

My team came to the orphanage on Saturday morning armed with stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, and first aid kits. The HFC board has been trying to come up with ideas to help the children transition into adulthood, and one idea is to introduce them to different careers. Since we are all nursing students, we decided to do a morning of nursing class with whatever kids wanted to participate, just to give them a taste of the medical world. I explained the concepts in Creole to the whole group, and then we split the kids into teams of 4 or 5 and assigned each to an American instructor. In their groups, they practiced taking vital signs, doing basic first aid, and performing CPR. I hardly had to translate anything because our kids suddenly started using the English skills that they normally keep well hidden. It was a wonderful morning, both for the kids and the team. Some of the kids learned things that they may actually use in the future; others just enjoyed the challenge and the contact with the Americans. And most of my team said that our nursing class was the thing that made them connect most deeply with the children.

Getting a heart rate
Getting a 'brain' rate?

Jefthe translating for Hermilus

Practicing CPR on a willing victim - thank you, Job!

Rescue breathing

Chest compressions

More heart rates

Elsa and her students

Jana and Erin teaching blood pressures - those boys caught on fast!

Feeling for a pulse

Lub-dub, lub-dub...
I knew our nursing class had succeeded when a few days later, one of the nannies asked me to check her blood pressure. I went to my room to get the BP cuff, but Martine intercepted me on the way back to the girls' room. "Let me do it, Keziah," she insisted. She did it and got a perfect reading. I was so proud!

Friday, Dec. 21st

My team drove 3 hours back to the orphanage today. The girls were exhausted and one of them was throwing up, so they only stayed for 2 hours while the kids played basketball and soccer at the seminary. Then I sent them back to the guesthouse to rest and I stayed the night in Bolosse. Nikki and I took the boys to play soccer on the Maranatha field - for once, it was mainly the little boys that played (Stev, Camille, Job, Jude, Ernso, TiJude, James, Mikenlove) with Mathurin and a handful of older ones playing a little more gently than usual and cheering the little guys on. They all have cleats, but apparently not enough sox. Most of them were playing with only one sock, which was puzzling, since Nikki had given each boy a pair of white sox on Thursday. Maybe it's some kind of new Haitian fashion? In the evening, I spent time with the girls, doing devotions with them and then just talking. They asked me a million questions about forgiveness, and what would I do if someone didn't love me anymore, and what would I do if someone got mad at me, and what would I do if I did something that hurt someone else's feelings? I strongly suspect that it had to do with darling Jessica, who was still refusing to talk to me or let me anywhere near her. Oh, how I love teenage girl drama.

Dream's over

Well, friends, I am writing from my cold room in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. It's been just over 10 hours since I flew out of Haiti and it already seems like a dream. I walked into my room with all the photos of my kids on my wall and it honestly feels like it's been months since I saw them. My life is split between two realities that never fully connect. How could I possibly be sitting here in luxury when just this morning I was squashed between 2 teenage boys on a thin mattress on the roof of a beat-up concrete block building? I don't know how they felt all day, but I have only felt one thing: agony. Yes, I am being melodramatic, but if you could see their faces when they are hugging me good-bye, if you could see the absolute joy when they see me for the first time, if you could sense how utterly at ease they are with me, then you would know what I mean. I am so glad that I had the chance to go, but a part of me keeps whispering, "Keziah, if you hadn't gone, you wouldn't be sitting here crying right now." To which I answer, "If I hadn't gone......" A million different answers could finish that thought. But the one that I hope is the most true goes like this: "If I hadn't gone, their Christmas would not have been quite so special."

Since I did not have internet access during the majority of my stay, I kept a draft form of a journal in my computer of everything that happened over the holidays. Tomorrow, I will start posting those memories and the photos that accompany them. For now, I am going to cry myself to sleep because I can't give those 60 adorable children the good night kisses that they are waiting for. Bon nwit, pitit mwen yo. Mwen renmen nou anpil.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Blood and guts, Part 3

Today was an exciting day. One of the general consult nurses is getting married this weekend and she unexpectedly told the head RN, Lori, that she couldn't come to work today. So at 8:30pm yesterday, Lori appeared at my room to inform me that I was going to be the second general consult nurse for the day. In other words, I would be diagnosing illnesses and prescribing medications for the first time in my life, after a meager 2 days experience at the clinic. I was stoked! And rather nervous.

It turned out be a fantastic experience. I sat at my own station with my own drugs and called patients in, one after another. They would explain their symptoms to me and I would diagnose them and grab the appropriate meds, while one of my teammates recorded it all in the chart. I also did teaching about hypertension, diabetes, anemia, insomnia, and chicken pox. It was a daunting task - exactly what do you give for bronchitis or vaginal infection or weird white patches on the head? We don't really get taught that sort of technical information in nursing school; we just get taught how to doublecheck the orders that physicians give us. Fortunately, helping the nurses on Tuesday and Wednesday gave me the answers to many of those questions and for others, I could always pop into the next room and ask one of the Haitian nurses. And honestly, there are certain drugs that you don't want to give someone by mistake because of their potency, but for others, such anti-fungal creams or reglan, you can give them patients and it will either do them good or do them nothing. So you might as well give them if you think it will help. And the Haitian philosophy on drugs is the more the merrier, so they will never be upset if you give them three different drugs to treat their kid's diarrhea and vomiting.

By mid-morning, my assistant and I were completely independent and we were flying. I have never seen more people with malaria, anemia and urinary tract infections in my life. I went through bucket after bucket of antacids, antibiotics and tylenols. It was a riot watching the patients' faces as they walked in, saw that a white girl was going to be treating them, and then realized that the white girl could actually talk to them in their language. I had 2 children dance for me and many adults laughing with delight when they heard me ask, "Sou gen?" (a very abbreviated, slang version of "What's wrong with you?"). It was so much fun! At the end of the day, we counted up the patients we had seen. The total on the day was 300+. And I personally saw 161 patients in 10 hours. WOW!

The rest of the girls also had a fun day. We started off with devotions led by me (hopefully I got my point across, but who knows) and then all the clinic staff took turns expressing their appreciation for our time with them, and we returned the thanks. They spent the rest of the day rotating through positions and helping Lori complete a 3 1/2 hour surgery on a woman to remove an enormous fatty growth on her arm. I swear, it looked just like Davy Jones' heart from Pirates of the Caribbean after it had been cut out and was sitting in a bucket. Lori has become our hero. A nurse who diagnoses, does surgery and runs a full clinic...doesn't get much better than that. We ate goat for lunch - it was delicious, but a few people declined since that goat arrived here alive on Tuesday and got slaughtered in front of us on Wednesday. Just a tad too personal to stomach, I guess.

Tomorrow morning we leave at 7:30 to drive back to PAP and the orphanage. The team will only spend a few hours there since they are all quite tired and are concerned about the fact that the kids don't speak English. The truth is that most of our kids can hold a conversation in English, but they are too timid and embarrassed to try. Ticks me off! I need to have a word with them. I may stay the night at the orphanage and send the team back to the guesthouse without me. If the internet is still not working, this will be my last post until I get back to Boston on Dec. 31st. I hope it is not, but if it is, hang in there and trust that I will have millions of stories when I get the chance. Bisous!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Blood and guts, Part 2

Our second day at the clinic went just as well as the first. In fact, it was better because it was cooler out. (For me, having lived here for several months, it feels ridiculously cool right now, but for the rest of the team, it's really hot.) We had girls working side-by-side with Haitian nurses, stitching head wounds, doing prenatal exams, giving shots, prescribing drugs, even getting pooped and pee-ed upon. One man had a leg wound with maggots in it; another came in with malaria, sick to the point of not being able to walk; a little boy arrived with a slice in the back of his head where his mother had "punished" him with a knife for not keeping the fire going; a woman had three holes in her foot where she had fallen on rocks; and one little girl was in the early stages of kwashikor, a form of starvation where the body swells and the skin starts to fall off due to lack of protein. My team continues to pick up essential Creole vocabulary - they used to only be able to say, "Bonjou" and "Kikote Keziah?" (Where's Keziah?) but now they can list off a wide variety of maladies from fyev (fever) to dyare (diarrhea) to doule senti (back pain) to my favorite: infeksyon pipi (urinary infection). They are all tired from the heat and the constant contact with people, but they are in good spirits.

Tomorrow I am leading devotions for the clinic staff and then we'll have our last day of work. Some of the jobs can get very monotonous (taking blood pressures, doing weights, or filling tiny plastic bags with pills), so I am trying to rotate them frequently into the more exciting places like general consult and the ER. On Friday morning, we will head back to Port-au-Prince and the orphanage. I can't wait. This has been a fantastic stay and I would seriously consider coming back here long term, but I miss my kids. It really is difficult to be in Haiti and to not be with them.

Thanks to everyone that has been praying for us! Our suitcases arrived yesterday evening, no one is seriously ill (we have one case of very itchy bug bites and a little diarrhea but otherwise nothing), and we are learning more than a nursing student usually learns in a whole semester. God is good!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Blood and guts

Our first clinic day has gone great so far. My 10 girls are each assigned to a different position (general consult, pharmacy, ER, well baby visit, weights, blood pressures, office work...) and they are doing marvelously despite the language barrier. We have seen about 200 patients and we expect another 100+ this afternoon. Our highlights: a 65 year old woman who was just diagnosed with HIV and refuses to take her meds; a man with a huge growth in his scrotum that hangs down to his knees; a baby whose whole lower body is swollen and stiff without any visible wound; a diabetic with an injured toe that has turned black and is starting to fall off; and one of my nursing classmates diagnosing a little girl with VUR when no one else could figure out what it was. The exciting thing about this clinic in particular is that it is entirely nurse-run. There is no doctor on the staff, so the nurses do everything themselves, unless a patient is extremely complex, in which case they will send the patient to a larger clinic in Port-au-Prince or in Cange. Coming from American hospitals where everything we do is ordered by a physician, the independence is fantastic!

Monday, December 17, 2007

More good news

Nikki arrived at the orphanage this afternoon and I spoke to her on the phone this evening. She said that the internet repairmen came to HFC this morning and took away the modem to repair it! Progress, finally!

Other good news: our missing suitcases have arrived in the PAP airport. The guesthouse manager has sent someone to pick them up, and then the director of the clinic will go pick them up from the guesthouse tomorrow. Or at least, that's how it should happen. Keep praying.

We had a great afternoon at the clinic, just being shown around by Lori, the American nurse. We also got to take a walk in Cazale, the town where the clinic is located, to see where the locals live and what life in the Haitian countryside is really like. It was amazing to be able to walk around in such obvious security, to see the people's homes up close, to play with random children among the banana trees, and to realize how incredibly respected the Americans are here for their dedication and their service to the town. My girls are having an amazing time and are not scared at all anymore. As I write, they are showering, playing with some kids that live at the clinic, and watching Monsters Inc. We have been given ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch, lasagna for dinner, and more cold water than we can drink. Luxury!

Tomorrow, we'll be seeing patients all day, but hopefully I'll have time to write before bed. If I can keep my eyes open...

Joy, Sheer Joy

I have hugged my children. What an amazing feeling! Yes, we made it safe and sound, about 3 hours late and missing 4 of our bags. But we are here, and my team has completely forgotten their fears of kidnapping and robbery and being shot. We spent the day at the orphanage yesterday, had a party at Sunday school with the oldest girls, played with NLL babies, had a fish lunch, met the boys, and headed back to our guesthouse for a racuous dancing and singing party. This morning, we loaded into two open top tap-taps and drove 2 hours of dusty roads to the clinic in Cazale. We will be here for another 3 days, caring for about 400 patients a day.

How can I sum up the feeling of hugging my kids for the first time in 3 months? Unbelievable, even when some of them are pretending to be shy or acting as if they don't care that I'm here. They do care, I know that. And some are so openly excited that they come running to hug me. 2 of them saw me, and immediately went down the hill behind one of the school buildings knowing that I would follow them and that way they could have a more private "Hello". And then to go back to the orphanage and just sit with the girls, hearing all that has been happening with them since I left and updating them about my American life. And to go the boys house and be able to wrestle with Monsanto and TiJude, to give Stev a zoklo, to see John Peter's huge smile, to watch Jefthe and Jacques wow my team with their English, to scold Job for not studying, to have Bernadin give me one of his huge hugs...Priceless. As if I never left. On a less cheerful note, Emmanuel and Jessica were little schmucks and wouldn't talk to me or let me hug them or anything. Nothing like a moody teenager. I love having my team here, but I hate not having time to sit down with my kids and figure out what is wrong with them. Oh well.

Well, we're off to have a tour of the clinic now. I will try to write a more detailed update later today or tomorrow. Please keep praying for us, that our suitcases will get here, that we won't get exhausted, and that hearts will be touched. I love you all and miss being able to talk to you. And yes, I am working on the email problem!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Here we go!

OK, this is it. I fly out of Boston tomorrow morning at 5:30. We arrive in Port-au-Prince at 4:00pm. I will update as often as I can. Please keep us in your prayers!!

Thursday, December 13, 2007


It's hard to believe that in 2 days I will be in Haiti. It's especially hard to believe when it looks like this outside:

We have somehow managed to pack everything into 22 suitcases. To give you an idea of how challenging that was, take a look at my friend, Julie, who arrived in style on our "packing day". We have more gifts, clothes, medical supplies, toiletries, and office supplies than I thought possible.
We have money for the guest house, money for transportation, and money for tips. We have a suitcase chock full of goodies for the kids and edible essentials for ourselves (PB, granola bars, gatorade mix etc). Everyone is vaccinated and faithfully following our "Malaria Mondays" routine. We have passports, we have rides to the airport, we have pillows for the longest lay-over ever, and we have our cameras ready to roll. What we don't have is confidence.

On Monday, the Dean of Nursing at our university called my father to warn him about the risks of traveling to Haiti. She mentioned that she intended on contacting everyone's parents so that they could be fully aware of the danger. Rather than let her scare all those parents to death by calling them out of the blue, I notified all my team members and they each alerted their parents to the upcoming call. Most of their parents are worried, but not to the extent that they would pull their daughters off the trip. Praise God. However, seeing that their parents are so concerned, getting a warning from the Dean, and reading the US travel advisory has made my girls rather skittish. One of them even said, "I just want to be sure that I'm going to get home alive from this trip." I have talked to almost all of them today and many of them express serious fears about our safety. We will be taking every precaution and I will be trusting God for our well-being, but it's hard to explain that in a satisfactory manner. So at this point, we still have all 11 girls going, but more than half of them are going in anxiety. I'm praying for miraculous changes of heart so that my teammates can get the most out of their time in Haiti. And, selfishly, so that I can spend less time reassuring people and more time loving my favorite kids in the whole world.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Happy Birthday, Nehemie!


The kids have exams starting tomorrow and lasting until next Tuesday. Pray for them!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Photo link

Here is the link for the rest of James' photos. Just copy and paste the URL.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Cute photos

James Moore, a friend of mine, just spent a week in Haiti with the kids. Here are some of my favorite photos from his trip.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Suitcases and duffels and backpacks, oh my!

My awesome team of 11 met at my house yesterday to pack our 22 suitcases. When we emptied out my basement storage and their cars, we all just stood and stared at the mountain of stuff. And I'm thinking, "There is no way we are getting all this stuff into 22 fifty pound suitcases. Not possible."

We went to town, organizing everything (toiletries in front of the dresser, office supplies under the desk, gifts on the table, clothes in front of the radiator, medical supplies in the kitchen...) and we packed. We made sure that each kid has a gift that is appropriate, we put together gift bags for the nannies, we took all the med supplies out of their bulky packages, we sorted clothes, we took a shopping trip for Christmas decorations and candy, and we ate a bunch of pizza. When it was all over, we had 20 suitcases stuffed to the brim (and about 52 pounds each). We couldn't believe it. I have room for gifts from adoptive parents that are still arriving and for a donation of journals for all the kids.

On the downside, the whole thing was exhausting for all of us, but especially for me. My co-leader, Emily, couldn't be there, so that has a lot to do with it, but it's also just the constant fear and pressure of "Am I going to be able to make everything work out?" There are just so many details of where we're going, what we're doing, how we're paying, not to mention the question of translation. My team's biggest concern is that they can't communicate, and there's just no way around it: there is only one me and there are 10 of them. I simply won't be able to translate for all of them. I am just so worried that they will have a horrible time. I have been trying to describe everything for them, painting it as bad as I can so that they can be pleasantly surprised when it isn't that bad, rather than horrified when it's way worse than they expected. (No, you adoptive parents, I did not do that to you. I told you about your kids exactly the way they are.)

It all comes back to Isaiah 41:9-10: "You are my servant. I have chosen you and not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." We are not walking into this alone.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Wislandy's graduation

I gave the girls a disposable camera when I left this summer. They used to take lots of photos of little Wislandy's graduation from kindergarten. Here are some of the best:

Sunday, December 2, 2007


Look at these adorable photos that I just came across, hidden in a random folder on my laptop! They are from hanging out in my room at Dr. Bernard's during the retreat I had with the boys just before I left Haiti in May.

The "Ti"s

I made lots of friends in the Fort Mercredi neighborhood because I spent every Saturday and Sunday playing volleyball, basketball, and soccer at the seminary. There is a handful of young men who spend all their free time at the seminary or in the street watching for us to go up to the seminary so they can come play with us. It was really thanks to them that I felt safe walking through the neighborhood by myself. Charlie, Enoch, Oudi, Samuel, Robert, Renault, Sony, Jean Robin, and my favorites, TiJude, TiKen, and TiBlan. This morning, the three "Ti"s called me to ask when I was coming and to ask for my help. They need funds so that they can go back to school in January. TiKen has already been kicked out of his school for not being able to pay and the others will not be able to continue unless the fees are paid. I mentioned their call to a family friend of ours who owns several pizza shops in the Boston area. He promptly walked into the back room and came back with a wad of bills, enough to cover the boys for the entire year and probably more. God is good!





This is the number one reason that I am excited about bringing my classmates to Haiti: introducing them to the beautiful ravets. Oh, how I have missed them!

My Christmas plans

I am leading a team of 10 nursing classmates to Haiti during our Christmas break. I would never have suggested it myself - too many people react to my internship last year by exclaiming, "Haiti? You're crazy!" But my friend, Emily, kept after me until I agreed to make a trip open to our classmates. I was shocked with the number of people who were interested. Apparently, my constant chatter about Haiti and my photos of adorable children had made an impression. So here we are, a team of 11 nursing students, most of whom have never been to a 3rd world country, but all of whom have more than a year's experience working in a variety of medical settings. They are some the best in our class and I am proud to be bringing them to my adoptive homeland.

We arrive in Haiti on the 15th of December, and we'll go straight to Walls International Guesthouse, in Delmas, where we are staying. The next day will be spent at HFC (oh, can that day come any faster!) just meeting the kids and playing around the seminary. On the 17th, we will drive to Grace Health Center in Cazale, about 2 1/2 hours outside Port-au-Prince. For the next 3 days, we will work with the Haitian and American staff there, doing well-baby check-ups, nutrition screening, blood pressure checks, emergency room visits, and pharmacy consults. Of course, doing all that with only me to translate for 10 of them will be very interesting, but we'll make it. We head back to the orphanage on the 22nd. The board has been looking for ways to help the older kids transition into adulthood and careers, so we will do some first aid, CPR, and basic nursing skills training with them. And in the afternoon, we are throwing a Christmas party with stockings, a pageant, decorations, music, dancing, and gifts. The other students in our nursing class at Northeastern University have signed up to sponsor the children for Christmas so that each of them receives a gift of their own this year.

My classmates fly back to America on the 23rd, but I will stay for another week so I can have some quality time with the kids. I have been told by every Haitian I have ever met that the best place in the world to spend Christmas is Haiti. I say, anywhere that those 60 kids are, I'll have a grand old holiday. Nikki will also be there, so the two of us will do all we can to get Bryn acclimated and to get the new English and computer courses under way. With any luck, we'll also have the internet up and running before I leave.

It has been incredible watching God provide for this trip. We have gotten supplies, clothing, and gifts donated in vast quantities from our friends, families, and co-workers. Several Northeastern alumnae, churches, corporations, and parents have donated money to cover our room, board, and transportation while on the island. We've been featured in the university newspaper, we've spoken at former high schools and at youth groups, and by now, everyone I meet seems to already know that I'm on my way to Haiti with 10 friends. I'm still worried about our trip - keeping everyone safe, hydrated, and enjoying themselves - but I keep reminding myself that God has been working miracles for us this far. Why would He stop now?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Bryn Boorman

We have a new intern at HFC. Her name is Bryn Boorman. She has committed to at least 6 months in Haiti, teaching, encouraging, and just loving our kids. I spoke with her this morning and things have been difficult thus far, but she is trusting God for whatever it takes to learn the language and get comfortable with the daily life at HFC. Please remember her in your prayers.

At this point, the internet is still not working, but once it is, Bryn will be facilitating email communication between us and the kids. She also will be updating her blog with stories and photos from the pension. You can check it out at