Saturday, January 28, 2012

I love my life

Me and Grace, my fellow nurse, hanging out in Jubilee with her best bud, Ifocoeur.

Clinic nurse, ravine nurse, orphanage nurse

Another medical project under my supervision here in Gonaives is an orphanage of 26 children run by missionary friends from the Philippines. The Genada's have lived in Gonaives for 18 years and have recently started their second orphanage. The first was washed out in the 2008 flood and those children were moved permanently to Sherrie's, in Port-au-Prince.

We got physicals on all the children, along with social histories, to create files on each one. Most of them are moderately underweight and we found a couple minor cases of pneumonia, a 10 year old with seizure disorder and developmental delay, and one child with asthma. One of the older boys has a perforated ear drum and chronic ear infections - we're treating him and looking for an ENT surgeon to come repair his ear. We have no ENTs in Haiti.

There was only one child whose nutritional status worried me: JohnLove. He's 6 years old and only weighs 29 pounds. For a little perspective, my friend's 3 1/2 year old son weighs 35 pounds. I've started him on peanut butter supplements and like all the other children, he has received deworming pills and daily vitamins. We aren't supposed to have favorites, but JohnLove and his little brother, Evensky, are mine.

Accepting responsability for a score of children means frequent visits. I've been walking or biking to the orphanage at least 2 or 3 times a week to deliver meds, bandage a dog bite, deal with some break-through seizures, and to just check on kids. I don't mind - it gives me more opportunities to get to know the children and for them to become at ease with me. Which is important because soon we will have to take them all out for HIV tests...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How to help Providence Hospital

If you would like to partner with us to get Providence Hospital the supplies and medications that they need (see my most recent post), you can donate at via PayPal. Just include a note in the Comments box indicating that you would like your gift to go towards medical supplies for the hospital.

Thank you so much!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Providence Hospital

One of my roles in Gonaives is to help Much Ministries build working relationships with the existing medical community. We want to be able to improve the quality of care all over the city, not just in Jubilee at our own clinic, and that involves getting to know the strengths, weaknesses and needs of the city's hospitals and clinics.

I spent most of last week doing recon in the ER of Providence Hospital. After my first day winning the staff's favor, I was joined by an ER doctor from Georgia. Our final diagnosis was that although the hospital would benefit from continuing education, the pressing need is for simple supplies. For example, the 2 room, 12 bed ER has only one trash can. They were allotted one box of gloves for an entire day - I mean one box for a staff of 3 nurses, 4 doctors, and 6 nursing students. The ER has no fans and in the whole department, there is only one chair for the average 20 family members who are visiting patients.

The hospital pharmacy was hard for me to stomach. Compare these bare shelves... our fully stocked shelves at the Jubilee clinic!

For the sake of privacy, I only took photos wherever there were no patients, but you can imagine the rest. This is a bed in the post-op ward. The hospital cannot provide sheets or towels, so each patient's family is responsible to bring them. The family also feeds the patient, bathes him, and handles the bedpan or the long walk to the bathroom.

This is the only sink in the ER. I never saw it used for actual handwashing.

In the men's internal medicine ward, this is the sink.

The pediatric ward.

And the hospital's resident goat.

The situation at Providence is a direct result of the floods that devastated Gonaives in 2004 and 2008, washing away or destroying much of their equipment such as oxygen tanks, wheelchairs, IV poles and most of their pharmacy stock. It also forced them to move from the hospital to their current home: a large warehouse. Furthermore, Providence is the government hospital for the whole region and it is sorely underfunded. Dr Honore, the director, is truly doing the best possible with such limited resources. I am also very impressed by the nurses I've befriended in the ER; some of them haven't received a salary in months, but they keep working. They also share their food and drink with patients who don't have family to care for them.

We are doing what little we can to help. Extra supplies from our clinic such as gloves and IV bags were delivered the hospital 2 weeks ago. We gave them a nebulizer and we are currently gathering funds to buy trash cans, fans, chairs, oxygen tanks, and basic medications. It's always fun to have true needs met in a visible manner but even better is sitting with a couple nurses and just hearing them out. Even if we are only able to provide a tenth of what they need, they have been given a voice and that matters.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Gonaives' first stop light!

I know that might be hard to imagine, but we just got our first stop lights a few weeks ago in anticipation for President Martelly's visit on January 1st. People are fascinated by them. I mean, truly fascinated. There were crowds watching them being set into place and crowds watching them change color on the first few days. Everyone stops - cars, trucks, taptaps, motorcycles, bicycles, even some pedestrians - and they stop about 100 feet back from the red light, as if they're afraid it will smite them for getting too close.

The Jubilee teenagers were particularly funny: "Let me explain this to you, Keziah. When it's red, you have to stop. But when it turns green, you can go." I'm glad they enlightened me; now someone should enlighten them that you can only go when YOUR light becomes green. Even though the angle of the street lets you see when the opposing traffic has a green light, that doesn't mean that the light applies to you too!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Haitian chicken meet Dominican chicken

Apparently, it isn't just our children who are undersized...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Earthquake - second anniversary

The best and worst part of the anniversary of the earthquake was my visit to the mass grave. Tens of thousands of victims were taken by dump truck to this barren hillside thirty minutes outside the city. Among them were 3 of my neighbors, 5 of my child patients, a colleague, and at least 4 strangers who died under my care during that first awful night.

In Creole, the word "sonje" means 'to remember', but it also means 'to miss'. As if it is impossible to remember people we love without also missing them.

Ben, Lovenide, Peterson, Memene, Nicky, Chantal, TiPikan, Milo, Dieulifete - we remember you. We miss you.

The desert

Years of deforestation led to years of erosion, leaving Gonaives like a desert. The ground is a dusty sterile excuse for dirt with high salt and sand levels that make it difficult for anything to grow. One look at the my yard and the mountain overlooking Gonaives is enough to make me want to cry.

I brought from Port-au-Prince the potted plants that lived through an earthquake with me. I call them "My Babies" and I have cared tenderly for them over the past 3 years. Now, with great trepidation, I have planted 4 of them in the best dirt I could find with some horse manure for extra help. I hope, I pray that they survive! May the greening of the desert begin!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Thou shalt not steal

My camera was stolen on one of the last days of house mudding in Jubilee. I was rather peeved. I lived in Haiti for over 3 years before I had something of relative value stolen from me for the first time (a head lamp and $13). But after less than 2 weeks in Jubilee, I had already been robbed. I was relatively confident that it wasn't one of the teenage boys who works with us daily because they had had plenty of opportunities on other days. But there are always people visiting the work site, so it really could have been anyone.

That afternoon, the boys showed up at my house with the missing camera! This is the story they told me:

"Keziah, we went home and we were very upset. We didn't want you to be sad, and we were scared that you would write to Josh and Ben and tell them that we'd stolen your camera! So we wanted to get it back for you. Djeff's mom offered to help, so she went around to all the neighbors, telling the story and collecting whatever money they could spare. Then we sent Wiesguer's uncle to the voodoo priest's house. We didn't go because we're Christian and we know you wouldn't have wanted us to.

"The voodoo priest told them that 'a guy with a very dark face took the camera' and that he hid it under his shirt when he snuck away. We knew who that was - Dessalines - so we went to his house, all 7 of us, and we told him we'd beat him up if he didn't give it back! [Dessalines is several years older and a lot bigger than all our boys.] He started trembling with fear and he surrendered it. Then he tried to convince us to lie to you and say that we found it somewhere and we don't know who took it. But we knew that if we said that, you'd think we took it, so we're telling you the truth."

I'm glad they told the truth, but even if they'd tried to cover Dessalines' rear, the last photo I found on the camera would have pointed the finger instead:

Note to any future camera thieves: when you get caught, erase your self-portraits before you try to lie about your innocence!

The confusing part to me is how the boys knew that 'the guy with a very dark face' was Dessalines. I have talked with the boys about using voodoo power, even for something good. It's a tough topic and will be an ongoing discussion. And I'm still deciding what to do about Dessalines himself. We don't have much of a relationship with him, so I can't necessarily punish him like I would one of our boys, but I feel that there needs to be consequences so that he will learn and change. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year's festivities

On December 30th, the teenage boys and I started a sand layer on the adobe house. The teens practically begged me for permission to do it, their main reason that they wanted to house to look "pretty" before the American guys got back. Personally, I think a greater motivation is that they were bored.

In one day, we did all the sanding that we could do using just ladders, the loft crossbeams, and, of course, standing on the ground. So on New Year's Eve, we enlisted the help of LauraLynn, aka Lala, and the tractor. Not only did we use the tractor as a giant mixing trough for the sand and water, we also used it as a crane to transport ourselves to greater heights.

Lala's Christmas present to herself was a 3-wheeler, a hybrid between a motorcycle and a truck. In Creole, motorcycle is just moto and car is machine so we christened her new toy The Motine. We spent New Year's Eve driving around town in the Motine, enjoying the music, the dancing and the street food. We were joined by about 15 of the Jubilee teenagers, which was a real blessing. The Motine wouldn't start with the ignition or the kick starter, so every time we started up, the teenage boys had to push start us! They would run us down the road til the engine jerked into action and then, with all variety of whooping, hollering, and squealing, leap into the moving vehicle. It was a great night!