Monday, September 29, 2008

News from HFC and NLL

I spoke with Stephanie on the phone yesterday and Emmanuel and Duck on Thursday. Here’s the latest news from HFC:

The internet is working! Repairmen came on Saturday and things are up and running again. Please do not overwhelm Bryn with emails and please keep emails short when you do write. Bear in mind that she has to translate them all for 60 children and then translate the children’s responses. We love that you can communicate more easily with the children now, but have mercy on Bryn!

President Preval has ordered that schools not open in early September as they usually do so that the country could focus on flood relief and so that schools that were damaged from the storms would not fall behind schools that were not damaged. So our kids had an extra month of vacation and they just started school again this Monday, the 29th. While most of them were pleased to have additional vacation, they were bummed to discover that they will have to go to school on Saturdays now to make up for the missed days. Our oldest kids, Evens, Kattia, Argentine, Stephanie, and Alex would have had school on Saturdays anyways because they are in reto (the second to last year of high school) so they have more specialized courses to take.

Because of school on Saturday, the kids are not attending Bataillon anymore, but they still go the youth group on Sundays. They are not required to go, but nearly all of them chose to go. This week, they played a game where one person went up front and then called other up to perform a song or tell a joke. Job called a bunch of people up, including Merline Jean and Jessica, but they were both so embarrassed that all they did was laugh. Jacques Obain got chosen by someone else to sing a song from the hymnal but he was so quiet that they had to call another kid up to sing with him. I do not understand why every party I’ve ever been to in Haiti involves forcing people up front to perform, but everyone seems to love it – at least, those who don’t have to perform love it!

Monsanto has headed to the US with his adoptive mom. It will be very odd to not see him when I visit. Sandy, Alex and Adler’s little sister, has been brought back from NLL to stay at HFC where she can go to school with kids her age. She and Wislandy play together and get along well. I think it’s wonderful for Wislandy to have another girl her age at the house because since NLL moved out, she’d become the baby again.

Some of the older girls visited NLL on Wednesday. Stephanie said that she was really impressed by how the kids looked. In their new home, they have more bedrooms and each room has a nanny assigned to it. Apparently, the nannies have a competition going on to see who can keep their kids the cleanest and best dressed. So the children look beautiful and spotless! Ismaelite, Chantal, and other nanny/teachers are doing school for the older NLL kids, as they did when they were living at HFC.

Photos of my new home

My room: I share it with Tasha and Dannae. I have the top bunk which gets really hot at night but at least the dogs and kids never go on it.
Pierreline is our littlest baby. She’s 4 months old and generally quite healthy. She’s here because her mother died in childbirth and her father couldn’t afford formula. Her dad has stayed in touch and appears to be very affectionate and caring towards her so she will most likely go back to him once she is eating solid foods. She’s been sick with diarrhea and some vomiting this week, but she seems to be slowly coming out of it.
Patrick is the child from Gonaives who was given to us right after the floods. He is doing fantastic, totally healthy and loves playing with the other kids. He is living with us because all the other Gonaives kids are old enough to be in school so he would have been alone in their house on Delmas 31 all day. When Gonaives is safe enough for the children to go back (probably next summer), we’ll see how he is doing and we may send him back with them.
This is Johnny Joseph, the little boy that I examined in May who was malnourished and turned out to have HIV. He lives at Dorothy’s now and he’s doing all right. He spent a month at Grace Children’s Hospital in May and June and since then he’s stabilized and even gained some weight. However, he’s been having frequent ear infections, which is a common sign of AIDS so we are sending him back to Grace this week for tests. He’s such a sad little boy. I have been told that he will smile for one of the nannies, but I have yet to see it.
Mackenson should not be alive. He is 2 years old and this is what he looks like! He has chronic breathing problems (is it COPD or a bad case of asthma?) so he struggles to gain weight because he uses so much energy to breathe and because eating tires him out so much. Dorothy never expected him to make it, but he has come this far and is hanging in there.

Poutchino: Poutchie is hydrocephalic, has just been learning how to walk with help, to sit by himself, and to crawl. He can’t talk and doesn’t understand when you talk to him, though I think he understands tone of voice. He has been running low grade fevers and having seizures for about a month so Tasha and I took him to the hospital for a series of tests this week. They checked him for TB, for shunt blockage and for shunt infection. We’ll have the results sometime next week. Please be praying for him.
Stripey: I know. He doesn’t have any stripes, so why in the world is he named Stripey? It’s because on the one white patch that he has on his stomach. Stripey is a lovable doggie, always want to be sitting in your lap and gets wildly jealous when you pet one of the other animals.
Nala: Nala’s our guard dog, though she’s really a sweetheart. She adores Dorothy and Tasha and is scared to death of Haitians. It makes her a good guard dog because she barks like a wild beast and shows off her fangs whenever a Haitian walks near our gate.
The kittens: Our cat Georgie had 5 kittens shortly before I arrived. They just started coming out of their closet and exploring. They also have just started chewing our computer cables, so back in the closet they go. My two favorites are Lewis and Clark – they were the first to come out, the first to let us hold them, the first to wander without their mama.
Kervens: Kevs is 10 years old and he was taken in by Sherrie 5 years ago and then Dorothy took him to raise him. He has an adoptive family in the States, but the process has only just started, so it will be a while before he leaves. He goes to a home school program 4 mornings a week at a nearby home for boys and the rest of the day, he runs around the house and makes trouble. OK, not really. He has chores that he does, he sometimes helps us with the kids, and he loves to play battleship and soccer with me. He needs a firm hand, but we love him!


Of the 27 Gonaives kids, only one of them, Titrajean (who we have nicknamed Ted) was seriously ill. I sent him out for labs on Wednesday last week and they came back horrible. The poor boy had a hematocrit of 22 and a hemoglobin of 5! I asked Sherrie to get him into the hospital, but when I visited CLM on Monday, he was still at the house. Apparently the doctor had put him on erythromycin and sent him home with a referral for an eye doctor. Great – his eyes are indeed irritated, but they are obviously not causing his anemia!

The assistant director and I took Ted to Grace Children’s Hospital to see the same doctor who had examined him on Friday. The head nurse walked us right past the scores of other people waiting to see the pediatrician and straight into his office. I dropped a copy of the lab work down on his desk and insisted that he re-examine Ted. The man looked over the labs, glanced up in surprise and said, “This boy is severely anemic. He needs a blood transfusion!” As thrilled as I was that he was taking the situation seriously, I was really tempted to ask him why today Ted was severely anemic but 3 days ago, when the doc had the exact same lab results in front of him, all the boy needed was an eye appointment. I wonder if it had something to do with the white person standing in the room?

Grace didn’t have any beds left, but the doctor wrote us a referral so that we could get him into one of the other hospitals in the area. I spent the rest of the day going from hospital to hospital trying to get Ted admitted. One hospital did not have a pediatrician on staff and did not want to take the risk of accepting such an ill patient. Another hospital made us wait for 45 minutes before telling us that they had no beds available either. A third hospital would not answer its phones, so we didn’t even go there. We finally had to give up because it was starting to get dark.

On Tuesday, Lisette tried again to get Ted admitted and to get him a transfusion, but we could not find a hospital that would take him or a doctor that would transfuse him. Of course, there is the possibility that even if a doctor had prescribed a transfusion, that the Red Cross would not have had Ted’s blood type and we would have been forced to wait several days for it to arrive. They finally got seen by a doctor who asked for stool samples (to check for internal bleeding and GI infection). Ted has been at home all week, sleeping all day, taking mega doses of vitamins, and waiting for a bowel movement. My last update (on Sunday) was that they got a sample from him, but it got lost before they took it to the lab. Ah, Haiti. So now it’s the waiting game again. The vitamins must be helping some because he has been out of bed a few times playing card games and matchbox cars with his friends.

Please keep Ted in your prayers. He’s a precious little boy and I really want him to get better.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Pampered little princes!

I know that they are orphans and abandoned children, but honest to goodness, this reverses all of that. I walked into the boys' house one Saturday morning and found the nannies busy giving the boys manicures and pedicures! I hope they don't expect this treatment from the wives when they grow up.


Last year when I visited Kim at Quisqueya school, I met Cheri Kay, a physical therapist who moved to Haiti to complete the adoption of her two kids, Jaryse and Ekrissa. Cheri also works with Dr Ed at his clinic, so we re-met each other last week. Cheri immediately invited me to travel to Jacmel with her over the weekend. She goes there once a month to do therapy with several disabled children and she likes to take someone along to help watch her kids and just to have another adult in case something happens on the road.

We stayed in a gorgeous hotel right off the water. Any time that we weren’t doing therapy, we were in the pool. Ekrissa is deaf, and although I learned some sign language over the course of the weekend, it was much easier to play with Jaryse. We had a blast together and when I saw him again a few days later, he came running to give me a big hug.

Jacmel is beautiful, but it has been damaged by the hurricanes. There was mud all along the main roads and we saw lots of trucks full of mud on their way to be emptied into the river bed. One orphanage that we visited had 2 buildings ruined when the entire side of the mountain got washed onto their property. We have been so lucky in Port-au-Prince to miss all the flooding and damage that the provincial towns have gotten.

One of the orphanges we visited was an HIV orphanage. It was the cleanest, most organized orphanage I've ever seen in Haiti. I suppose that's a good thing considering these kids are high risk for infection. There were 13 children and 5 nannies (I love that ratio!). All the boys were wearing baby blue and the girls were wearing pink. Even the nannies had identical pink uniform dresses. Plus, the entire place was decorated with pink hearts on the walls. It was cute and very un-Haiti-like.

By the way, did I mention that I got to ride a four-wheeler for the first time ever? I think I'm addicted now...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Settling into a routine

I had planned on spending 10 days or so at HFC but after only 3 days, I got a call from Sherrie at Christian Light Ministries on Delmas 31. The orphanage in Gonaives that CLM sponsors was destroyed in all the hurricane flooding. The 27 orphans lived on the roof for 2 days without food or water, and then in a hotel room for another 3 days, eating only flour water. Once the roads were clear, Sherrie sent a truck to get the children and she put them in a building next to her school on Delmas 31. The kids needed medical exams, so I said a quick good-bye to the HFC kids and headed to the house.

For having spent 5 days in flood conditions, the Gonaives crew looked really good. Many of them had fungal infections on their feet and they all needed to be dewormed, but overall, I was pleased. It took all day to give the kids full physicals, but by the end, I cleared them all for school. Only one boy, Patrick, was too young for school so he came with me back to Dorothy’s house to live with the other infants and toddlers there.

Me and Kevin from Gonaives - he is the "director" of those kids, the one who assisted me with all my physicals and who organized the kids for photos and games.James
Evensky - my favorite (besides Kevin)
Emmanuella - the queen bee of the girls

Dorothy’s house is called Faith Hope Love Infant Rescue. Downstairs, there are 19 infants, toddlers and preschoolers with 4 or 5 nannies who work 8 hour shifts to care for them. Some of the children are recovering from malnutrition; others are fully healthy, but cannot be returned to their families due to unsafe situations or abuse or lack of resources. I’ll introduce you to some of the kids later. I share a room upstairs with Tasha and Dannae, both of whom are a few years older than me. Tasha works with the infant rescue and Dannae teaches at a nearby school. Dorothy is actually not in Haiti right now – she is recovering from knee surgery in the States but she is due back in October. The other person who lives upstairs is a 10 year old boy named Kevens. Kevs was taken in by Dorothy when he was 6 and he goes to a home school program run by a lady named Didi. He is a typical 10 year old: very loud and hyperactive and occasionally out of control. I’ve been strict with him, but he seems to really enjoy me anyways.

I’ve been walking the Ravine near CLM each Wednesday morning. We see loads of diarrhea, scabies, respiratory infections, and malnutrition. There seems to be more scabies than usual since there hasn’t been a medical person to walk the Ravine since July.

Me and a little girl with an absecc on the arm.
A feverish baby with diarrhea - she loved me and didn't want me to put her down. So I didn't.
A entire family with scabies. There were two more kids who didn't get into the photo.

Dr Ed, an American physician’s assistant, holds medical clinics every Tuesday and Thursday. He lives 2 blocks from our house, so he picks me up in the morning and we work together until early afternoon. The day starts with a few minor surgeries (circumcisions, lipoma removals, abcess draining etc) and the rest of the day in general consult. This Tuesday, Ed started a lipoma removal and then handed it off to me to finish and suture shut. I also did an abcess drainage by myself and crushed 2 ganglion masses. I love bloody work and I get a kick out of doing things that I would never be allowed to do as a nurse in the States. Dr Ed enjoys teaching, so it’s great working beside him, learning from his years of experience here in Haiti. I have noticed that people assume that since I speak Creole fluently I must also be very experienced in Haitian medicine. News flash: I AM NOT! What a relief to have someone who I can ask about dosages and diagnoses. It’s incredible how much I have learned in the 2 days that I’ve worked with him so far.

I’m not at Dorothy’s very much, but when I am, I spend my time playing with Kevens, talking with Dannae and Tasha, taking care of the medical needs of the kids, and getting a little bit of precious alone time. Its gets dark here by 6pm and we only have electricity here from about 9pm until 6am, so I tend to go to bed early and wake up early. We have three dogs, a cat and 5 kittens who keep me company and a very reliable and friendly staff. It’s a nice place to be living – I like my roommates, I like the proximity to other Americans, I like the availability of a kitchen, and I LOVE the tile floors. After months of HFC concrete floors, the tile here is heavenly.


I arrived at HFC while all the kids were in choir practice. It was their first choir session in several years and they honestly sounded pretty good. They were singing a worship song in two parts with the boys echoing the girls. Despite the fact that over half the boys were not singing (how many teenage boys do you know that want to be in choir?), the two parts were quite harmonious together.

We spent a quiet weekend together, playing lots of Uno, Skip-Bo, Casino, and rocks. There was no major drama, no one was giving me the cold shoulder (though Kattia was pretending to be upset because I’m not staying at HFC long term), and it was almost relaxing. Nounoun graced me with her sweet attitude for the first time in almost a year – we played with dolls together several times, making clothes and jewelry for them. Duck and I also had a very nice time, just talking and hanging out and occasionally chasing each other around the roof. When I can pull him away from the Playstation, he really is a character. Emmanuel seems to be doing great. He is drawing, reading his Bible and working on the purity study that 2 visitors presented to the boys in August, and was thrilled with the Jackie Chan movies that I brought for him.

Renick organized the younger boys into the cast for a movie about a boy who gets kidnapped by voodoo doctors and then saved by his best friends. They practiced all afternoon and then had me film the whole thing. As if that wasn’t enough, they also posed for promotional photos that will (theoretically) go on posters and in newspapers. At the girls’ house, NLL’s absence has allowed the girls to spread out into 3 additional bedrooms and to have a small room that serves as a walk-in “closet” for their clothes. The remaining baby rooms have been converted into classrooms for the upper grades. The girls miss the babies and it is very odd to walk upstairs without being attacked by 30 toddlers. We were planning on taking a bunch of girls out to Carrefour to visit NLL but Lamarre had to pick up the month’s meat supply so we couldn’t go.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Talk to you sometime

I'm flying out tomorrow morning at 9:30. If all goes well, I'll be at HFC by the early evening. I won't have internet for the first 2 or 3 weeks of my stay, but I'll get news and photos up when I can. In the meantime, be praying for safe travels and good interactions with the kids as well as God's provision as I care for victims of the hurricanes.

Talk to you sometime soon!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


News reports from Haiti tell a sad story for the Southern part of the island and particularly, the city of Gonaives. First Fay, then Gustav, and now Hanna have pounded the country with rains and high winds, and Ike and Josephine are already on their way to doing it again. The rivers are overflowing their banks, and entire sections of hills are being washed away in mudslides that can obliterate houses. The death toll is now at 100 people, but that is sure to be a lower estimate because of the difficulty of accessing the flooded areas. Furthermore, that figure only accounts for deaths directly caused by flooding; the starvation due to lost crops and the illness due to dirty water and overcrowding in what little shelter remains will claim many more lives. The first time I worked at the clinic in Cazale, I saw the results of flooding that had occurred 4 months earlier. The road had been fully repaired, but most of the houses still showed extensive damage. The victims got special treatment at the clinic - food and clothes in addition to the usual free medication - and I was told it would be easy to recognize them because the inhabitants of the village that had suffered the most had a red hue to their skin. This was true, but I picked them out more by their depressed affect and their emaciated faces. All the focus seems to be put on the storms' immediate effects, but the long term ramifications can be even worse.

I lived through 2 hurricanes at HFC in August 2007 and August 2006. During the first one, I was convinced that our building was going to get blown over, or at the very least, that we would lose the tin roof that covers our courtyard. Neither happened. We have a very sturdy building and our position halfway up the hill protects us from flooding. Our biggest concern is keeping the windows shuttered because the rain gets blown sideways into the building and can soak a bed in less than 3 minutes. (I speak from experience!) I spoke with Miltha a few days ago and everything was fine at the orphanage. I worry more about the Ravine where I will be working with Christian Light Ministries in a few weeks - their homes are only a foot or two from the banks of a river - but Sherrie has told me that things are OK in that area as well.

Please be praying for the parts of Haiti that have been hard hit. Pray for roads to open up quickly so that aid can be delivered to the victims. Thanks!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Good-bye New Life Link

I just received an email from Ismaelite, one of the nannies, and I immediately called Miltha for confirmation. It's finally happened. New Life Link has moved out of Foyer d'Espoir.This transition has been in the works for years, for at least as long as I've been involved with HFC. But since everything in Haiti advances on Haiti-time, it kept being postponed and the plans kept changing.
Originally, the nursery was going to be moved to Dr Bernard's house, but most of the nannies cannot commute that far, so instead, Dr Bernard bought a house in Carrefour. The move was scheduled for the end of this summer, but I never dreamed that it would actually happen on schedule.
On a light note, let's imagine the moving process for a moment. How exactly do you transport 60 infants, toddlers, and preschoolers along with their nannies, their cribs, their tables, their chairs, their plates and spoons, their pots and pans, their laundry bins and bath basins? I'm pretty sure I never saw moving trucks in Haiti. I wish I'd been there to see the utter chaos.
On a sad note, I cannot imagine HFC without those 60 infants, toddlers and preschoolers underfoot. They brought so much life and joy to the orphanage, both for me and for the HFC kids. The girls in particular must be devastated. Rumor has it that Dr Bernard will send a few kids to NLL each Saturday to help the nannies there, but one day a week is a far shot from 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The one saving grace is the oldest NLL kids, those who have been living with the HFC children, have not moved. For the sake of going to the same school, the powers that be have opted to let them stay with their HFC family. So to Beana, James, Adler, Ernso, and Monsanto - I will see you in 10 days. To the rest of the NLL children - I will miss you deeply.