Monday, December 31, 2012

Spoiled rotten

One year ago, I contemplated the permanent move from Port-au-Prince to Gonaives with the knowledge that I would be working with fellow nurse, Grace Deal. My expectation was working together; my hope was for much more.
Hope: met.
Grace is a lover of small children, a warrior for the oppressed, a determined health care provider, an amazing chef, an uninhibited dancer, my co-worker, my roommate, my best friend and all that title encompasses...

Let's face it, folks. I am spoiled rotten.

Sunday, December 30, 2012


Clinic is closed for two weeks so our staff can have some time off. Grace and I are supposed to have time off too, but there always seems to be some emergency that needs attention or someone who needs daily care. This little boy, for instance, whose ankle needs dressings changes each day.  
When we first met him two weeks ago, it looked like his leg was broken, but then he showed up on December 26th with the ugly open wound that had burst spontaneously and has been oozing bloody water drainage continuously. I started him on antibiotic shots and daily dressing changes and sent photos to our referral docs in the US. They agreed that our regimen was probably correct and so we continue, interrupting our vacation every day to take care of our patient. That's Haiti and I don't mind. If we don't work on this boy's leg, he won't get decent care or any care, for all I know. So our vacation includes a little boy whose name I don't even know.
Happy Holidays, everybody!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

All I want for Christmas is ...

We haven't had power at the Safe House since the first week of November. Yes, that's almost 2 full months without electricity. A transformer blew on the street and our whole block has been waiting for the national power company to come and fix it. Waiting and waiting and waiting. My life has looked like this:
Not really. We don't sit in the least not all the time. We burn candles, dozens and dozens of candles.
It's hard to want to decorate for Christmas when you don't have power because let's be honest, the lights are totally the best part. But we finally bit the bullet 5 days ago and decorated for light-less Christmas.

I've asked God for power more than a few times. To no avail. So on Christmas eve, I appealed to another power: Santa Claus. "Dear Father Christmas," I sang over breakfast, "All I want for Christmas is power."

I've never believed in Santa, not even as a little kid. Well, I do now! Within four hours of my request, our Safe House had power for the first time in 2 months.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

If my life was a movie...

We got word that the mother of 2 boys in our school was gravely ill. Katie and Lala took the boys, Manius (center) and Manikson, to visit her broken down hovel on the mountain. It was the first time in 6 months that those little boys had seen their mama. She tried to hide her disease from us, but eventually, she handed over the piece of paper with the words, "HIV/AIDS: Positive".
I offered to go with Juliette to the hospital for her appointment. Lala and I met her and she was so weak that we literally carried her on our backs down the steep rocky path. I sat with her as the doctor prescribed the ARVs that would prolong her life and I actually teared up when I saw him smile for the first time during our interview and say, "After 2 weeks on these meds, you're going to get your appetite back and you're going to start feeling good."
When it was over, Rusty helped me carry Juliette, weak emaciated Juliette, back up the mountain. One week later, he carried her to her next appointment as well.
If my life was a movie, the next 4 minutes would be a moving montage of Juliette taking her medications, slowly gaining weight and strength, first being carried up the mountain, then leaning on Rusty, and finally, walking steadily by herself. It would show her scooping her precious little boys up in an embrace with the sun setting over a panaroma of the city below them.  

But my life is not a movie. It's real. And the reality is that despite the meds and despite our efforts, Juliette died last weekend.

I had my journal with me on the day I spent at the hospital with her and I recall writing, "Where is the justice, God? Why am I standing here, strong and healthy and whole, while she sits there, weak and sickly and frail? Why am I American? Why is she Haitian? Where is the justice?"

He didn't answer me. I'm used to that. I think He wants us to be broken about injustice sometimes and wrecked by seemingly meaningless loss. I think He needs us to feel a part of what His heart feels when one of His beloveds suffers.

I understand that. But sometimes I still wish my life was a movie...

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Little Rudenchly continues to heal from his surgical burn repair in early November. (Click here and here for refreshers on his story). The skin is almost all healed and though the foot has not yet released as far as we want, it has improved dramatically from how it was when the burn adhesion was still intact. A second operation will probably be necessary but I am satisfied.
Not only am I satisfied, I'm smitten. Again.
Rudenchly has me wrapped around his little finger. It's not my fault. Imagine this - every time I walk in the room the little boy's face just bursts into smiles. And every time I kiss him, he laughs out loud. How could I not fall in love with that?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The day we went to the forest

This is where we live. Desolate, desert-like, dry and dusty dump. Oh, yeah.
April teaches Pre-K. In her class, they have been doing a forest theme for the past month and it culminated in a field trip to the forest! OK, it's not anything close to a real forest, but it's a section of the river with a mango grove and other trees on the banks. About as close to a forest as you're going to get in Gonaives, Haiti.
Somehow, I managed to get myself invited along with Josh, Isaac, April, and Clairvins, her class translator/assistant. Imagine children who have never been farther than a mile from Jubilee, have never been to a clean body of water, and have never played in trees, ever. Their excitement was uncontrollable.
And of course, after all our fun, every single one of the kids fell asleep on the way home. How adorable!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

House painting - Haiti style

A launcher and plastic baggies full of different colors of paint, a multitude of small children and friendly neighbors, plenty of laughter and encouragement...and one mud house: 

So much fun!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The heart of a thug

A week or two ago, I posted about Renald, our friendly neighborhood gangster, who's been coming to clinic for daily dressing changes on his gunshot wound. Someone had given him a crutch and he was using it to get around Jubilee until last Friday when he arrived for his appointment walking without assistance.

One day earlier, Isaac, one of my American co-workers, had sprained his ankle playing football, so when Renald showed up without his crutch, Grace jokingly told him about Isaac's injury, more for the sake of conversation than anything else.
The next morning, Renald walked into clinic carrying his crutch. "I brought this for your friend," our thug announced. "I thought he might need it."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

MC on wheels!

MC is a seizure patient of ours who cannot walk. When I first met his mom a few months ago, she asked for a wheelchair because he was getting too heavy for her to carry.
Thanks to good friends at a church in the States, MC is now on seizure meds and has been seizure-free for several months. He also now has a beautiful wheelchair.
The day we gave MC the wheelchair was bittersweet. We settled him in, made sure that his mom knew how to adjust the seatbelt and lock the wheels. Then we took it outside for a trial run. After a moment, his mother looked up at me and said, "You're giving me a wheelchair for my son. Does this mean he will never be able to walk?" And then she burst into tears.
A parent crying over a handicapped child seems normal, but for Haiti, it isn't. I see children with serious illnesses and handicaps every day here and I almost never see parents cry. I'm not implying that children are not loved in Haiti; I'm simply saying that in the ghetto, things like sickness and physical handicaps are much more accepted and crying is not often the cultural response. So to see this beautiful young woman crying about her son was a rare and painful occurence.
We hugged his mother, encouraged her and then we prayed for MC, for his legs specifically. I believe that he has enough muscle and neurological capacity that he could walk someday, with the right help. Or that God could heal him. Isn't that what the Bible says?
I carried the bittersweet taste of a mother's tears in my heart every time I thought of MC's wheelchair. Until Thanksgiving Day when we were all on the salt flats, playing American football. Behind the crowd of children that had gathered to watch, I saw an older boy pushing a yellow wheelchair at breakneck speed across the sandy plain with MC strapped into the seat! Back and forth they raced, up and down the salt flats, wild and free.

We continue to pray for MC's healing. We continue to do therapy on his legs. But the bittersweet taste is gone. He will walk someday, and until that day comes, I'm happy to watch him and his wheelchair fly.