Saturday, November 7, 2009

Angel Missions Haiti

I have hardly mentioned my new home and my new job, so here goes. This year, in addition to my work in the ravine, at Sherrie's school, with visiting medical teams, and at youth group, I am working with Angel Missions Haiti, an organization whose primary task is obtaining medical visas for children who need to leave the country for more complex care. Angel Missions has a small office on Delmas 91, about 2 miles from where I lived at Dorothy's last year. It is on a small, dead end street, surrounded by larger homes. I call it The Shoebox.

Inside The Shoebox, I have a little bedroom that also functions as my pharmacy. We have a dining room, but at least since I have been living here, it has served more as a storage room than anything else. Angel Missions is planning to open a surgery center on Delmas 24 sometime in 2010, so we have suitcases and boxes of supplies just waiting. In the front, we have a room that triples as an office, an exam room, and Vanessa's bedroom. Vanessa is the director of Angel Missions and my boss. She normally travels to Haiti every month or so and stays for about a week, but since I have been here and she has been occupied caring for the triplets, she has not been here since early September and I don't think she is coming anytime soon. There is a little porch area and a foyer that also has a small waiting area and another exam table where I can see patients. In the back, we find a dingy little kitchen that I never use, a bathroom without running water, and a bedroom for Bernard, my co-worker, his wife and 4 year old son Bernie.

Bernard takes care of the official paperwork (the passports, visas, power of attorney, birth certificates etc) and I do the medical side of things, the correspondance with our US case managers, and the finances. People in the area know that Bernard has a nurse living at his house, so they stop in with needs. Likewise, my neighbors who run a boys' home and guest house, also send the boys over for medical care and refer people to me. And sometimes, patients just walk in, like this young lady whose knees pop out of joint. She had fallen on the hill and cut her knee open. I bandaged her up, got her follow-up care, knee braces, and I am looking into the possibility of surgical correction.

My work in Jacmel with the US Army was through Angel Missions. We partner with the Embassy MLO to make those missions a success and in exchange, they dump all the surgical referrals and follow-up care on us. Thanks to the Jacmel MEDRETE, I have about 12 urgent pediatric surgical cases including one baby with spina bifida, approximately 50 non-urgent adult and pediatric cases (mostly hernias) and over 100 cataract patients. Hopefully, when the surgery center opens, we will be able to bring medical teams to Haiti to operate on some of those patients. The military has asked for my participation in a mission to St Marc in January, and I am meeting with the MLO and a few commanders this evening to discuss additional missions in the spring. Honestly, as much work as these missions do create for me, I enjoy them hugely and I make fantastic connections that are very helpful for my job.

Many of the patients that I see have conditions that need to be treated but do not qualify for a medical visa. All sorts of lumps and bumps, lipomas and cysts, cleft lips and hernias, even hydrocephalus need to be treated in Haiti. I have all these patients on file and I wait hopefully for opportunities to get them treated. Smile Train and Healing Hands for Haiti help with the clefts and the hydrocephalics, and just this week, a surgical team did 5 hernia operations for me at only $15 per surgery.

How do we go about getting medical visas? After a child is diagnosed, I contact a case worker in the States with the child's medical information and photos. The case worker, Vanessa, and I all tap into our pool of doctor friends and try to find a surgeon and a hospital that are willing to take the child's case pro bono. With the current economic situation, our hold up is frequently the hospitals. Many surgeons are willing to waive their surgical fees, but the hospitals cannot afford to ignore the costs of pre and post-op care. Meanwhile, here in Haiti, Bernard and I work on getting the child's birth certificate, passport, power of attorney letters, and once we have a doctor, hospital and host family chosen, an official letter of diagnosis with the stamp of a Haitian doctor, and the medical visa itself. It can be a very long and tedious process. Some of the patients that we are working on right now include a little girl with sickle cell anemia and failure to thrive, a boy with an obstructed urethra, and 3 boys with clubbed feet. We have an entire file cabinet full of patients who are waiting for a doctor in the US to accept the case.

Can you help with my work at Angel Missions? If you know doctors who would be willing to do free surgery on a Haitian child or who might be interested in traveling to Haiti and operating in Haiti, please let me know! If you are willing to be a host family in the case that a child may be receiving care near your hometown, let me know. And most importantly, please keep us in prayer. We have more patients than we can realistically handle and the numbers just keep climbing. Pray for success for the surgery center, for favor at the US Consulate, and for generous US hospitals. Pray for the health of these kids as they await their time to travel.

Thank you so much!


The Haiti Lady said...

Not sure if you are interested, but I have spoken to my old OB/GYN...he has done work in Mexico and may be interested in Haiti...I will contact him and get an idea of what he would be willing to do etc. I am also willing to come and help out when needed-years as EMT and Instructor, Not a Nurse, but awesome Cage Medic (MMA Fighting) if ya need me...hehe
Love ya,

Kylara said...

If you ever need to find a host in Baltimore, feel free to contact me.