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.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Nursing assistant classes

Nursing assistant much fun.
A couple weeks ago, I arranged 6 of our teenage friends from Jubilee as disaster victims with a variety of injuries and sent my students out to find them and provide first aid. I'm not sure who enjoyed it more, the future NAs or the kids who got to pretend to be bleeding and unconscious and even dying.
I couldn't stop laughing when I saw what my students had done for Jeff. His mock injury had him pinned underneath a vehicle and they were caring for him at the site. They decided that he needed an IV, so they grabbed a cup of water, an old PVC pipe and a roll of gauze and made an IV!
This week and last week we've been alternating between lessons about diabetes and practice taking blood pressures. Taking a blood pressure is not easy, particularly in a school with as much background noise as ours: 100+ children running around, construction in the classrooms beside and above mine, men ripping pieces off a dilapidated dump truck right outside, our 3 school dogs barking and playing on the porch...
On Thursday, we had a proper BP party. There are 18 visitors working with us this week, so I borrowed a few to be victims. My students went nuts competing to get the correct read on each of the Americans. When the elementary teachers heard our ruckus, they joined in too. I think we had 30 people in my tiny classroom at one point, Americans laughing and rubbing sore arms, students yelling to me to come see if the BP they'd just gotten was correct, victorious dancing when I gave a big thumbs up. 

When we walked out of class that day, Renelson, one of my youngest students, yelled back at me with a huge grin on his face, "Class was tasty today, Miss Keziah!!"

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving, world!

Twenty-six people. Hours of prep. Full tummies. Lots of laughter.
The turkey and mashed potatoes were excellent. The sweet potato casserole was to die for. But what I will remember most from this year's Thanksgiving in Haiti was the photo booth and the singing. When you have friends who will do these kinds of shenanigans with you, how could you not be thankful?



If you want to watch our spectacularly ridiculous singing performance, you can check it out by clicking here!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Our little man

Rudenchly comes to clinic every day for dressing changes on his adhesion repair. Unfortunately, the skin grafts did not take, but the tissue looks very healthy and I think it's going to heal pretty well. Slowly, but well.
We've started Rudenchly on a modified MedikaMamba program to boost his protein intake so his wounds can heal better. He looks great - chubby-cheeked, giggly and practically glowing.
His mom, Leila, like many of the women in Jubilee, doesn't have a man helping with her children and she has been homeless since the house fire that scarred Rudenchly. They have been living at a neighbor's house but he has been "giving Leila pressure". I don't know for sure, but I have a hunch that he is trying to make her sell herself for sex. Leila has cried openly in clinic with us and it makes my heart ache. 
We are working on renting her a room in Jubilee for 6 months while we talk about options with Brian, Josh, and Beaver. Perhaps we can build her an adobe house...perhaps we'll keep renting for her...Pray for wisdom for us and for job possibilities for Leila. And pray for Rudenchly's foot to keep healing!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The cemetery

We live in a small 3 room apartment with no courtyard and we have a beautiful, 9 month old, 63 pound rottweiler. As you can imagine, the Safe House can feel really small when Tug is full of energy and bouncing, literally, off the walls.
We walk him all over Jubilee and its bordering neighborhoods, but we can't let him off leash because people are terrified of him. Luckily, the cemetery is less than a block away and it's almost always open.
It doesn't look much like an American cemetery...

...for example, I bet you've never seen smashed caskets and coffins lying around behind gravestones...

The cemetery is generally empty except for a few men building tombs. Voodoo makes Haitians very skittish about graveyards. Things like zombies, ghosts, and evil spirits are just too real to them. Understandably.
In a far corner of the cemetery is a wide open space with low brush. We can take Tug off leash there and let him run wild. He loves it!
The best part is that we make friends in the cemetery. This is Fred. We have to step over him every time we walk into Tug's playground.
I love Haiti.

Monday, November 12, 2012


Lala's out of town for a few days, so we have an addition to the Safe House: Youvendji! Youv is Lala's adoptive son. He has sickle cell anemia and was severely malnourished until Lala found him and sent him to Dorothy's at age 2. Now he is a chubby 4 year old who speaks a ridiculous mix of Creole and English and jibberish, and who is thoroughly entertaining!
Swimming at the river with Kez
Making a "machin" (car) on Kez's floor
Chillin' with Chris - boy bonding time!
Harassing sleepy Tug

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Our friendly neighborhood gangster

Oscar, our amazing nursing assistant, isn't afraid of anything. But when a man showed up with a gunshot wound straight through his thigh, Oscar was scared. "Do you know who he is?" he asked Grace. "He's one of the guys that people in the government pay to do protests and cause trouble! He's a thug."
So since Oscar is nervous around him, Grace and I have been packing Renald's gunshot wound every morning. He's been perfect - polite and respectful, punctual, obedient to our medical instructions, and friendly. He even holds the flashlight for us while we cause him lots of pain. We were initially worried about staying on his good side; now, I'm wondering what we're going to do with our new best friend, the gangster?

Skin grafts and cystoscopies

Rudenchly was an infant when a house fire nearly killed him. His mother wasn't home and when he was pulled out of the smoky hovel, his feet were a burned mess. That was in November 2011. We didn't meet him until this summer by which time most of his toes had fallen off from infection, and he had adhesions where the skin had pulled tight during the healing process, keeping his right foot in a position that would make it impossible to walk.


Getting his feet fixed at a Haitian hospital would be very expensive, far beyond the capacity of a single mom in Jubilee. Not to mention, it would require skin grafts, a skill that you won't find in most operating rooms in Haiti.
Luckily, a visiting surgical team called LEAP came to Port-au-Prince last weekend to do free surgeries. I took Rudenchly and his mom, Leila, for a check-up and they approved him for a plastic surgery repair where they released the scar tissue on his ankle, pulled the foot into a more natural position, and took skin grafts from both sides of his groin to cover where they'd cut the adhesion.
The docs were very pleased with the results and so were we! He will go back to Port-au-Prince for a second surgery with LEAP in April, but his chances of walking have already been hugely increased.
Rudenchly isn't the only kid I had operated on that weekend. Two children I've been following for several years in Port-au-Prince got cystoscopies to see what is going on internally. It turned out that Casimyr had scar tissue in his urinary tract causing him chronic urinary problems, so the surgeon performed the first of two operations to remove the obstruction. Dayana has ambiguous genitalia, but the docs examined her and found that she has a perfectly beautiful-looking uterus, so they wanted to perform extensive plastic surgery to let her be a girl externally as well as internally. Unfortunately, we couldn't find blood in any of the blood banks in Port-au-Prince, so her surgery had to be postponed til April.

One other burn victim, Samantha, did not get operated because her burns are too recent. But frankly, 2 out of 4 is more than enough for me. Maybe in April, I'll be able to go 3 for 3!
Thanks LEAP!