Thursday, April 18, 2013

True Craziness

Hi There,

Sorry to leave anyone hanging---we came back from Haiti on Saturday. I woke at dawn, in a mosquito net and humid, sweaty bunk in Hinche, Haiti. Packed bags went into a van, and 3 airplane flights, 3 airports, later, at 1 am Sunday, we went to sleep in a lovely, carpeted room in Ashburn, Virginia, after a hot shower. This is the true craziness: just how close these 2 worlds can exist, and how far apart they can be. When I first started traveling to Haiti, the contrast was so extreme as to cause real emotional distress for me--probably similar to someone who has been in outer space! Now, it's ok. I have wrapped my head around it, at least as much as one can.
The message is only, that our neighbors-- our really close neighbors-- have a very different life. Thank you for knowing and caring about them with me. I have grown to love those neighbors, and try to help them when it's right. I feell so grateful that readers travel this journey with me. Without your support, without people who care, it would be a darker path. But truly; slowly, it's getting better in Haiti. God Bless us, every one.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Gynecology with the Chickens and the Jeep

I think I am the only midwife I know who did gyn exams today on a massage table while chickens wandered through the exam room. At least, I hope I am, as it’s a great claim to fame (if "fame" is the right word for any of this..?!). Today I took another trip out with the pink Jeep to a mobile prenatal clinic in Rhode. This is an especially nice location, as one of our midwives hosts the clinic in the front room of her house, out in the rural village of Rhode II. Magdala is one of our most experienced midwives, and lives there with her husband, Pastor Jude, 4 biological children, and 10 orphans that they have adopted. While we rode out, Philomene told us that the lady we brought to the hospital in yesterday with severe pre-eclampsia had delivered safely, and she and her baby were both doing ok. 2 Lives saved in One Day!

I am so happy with our Mobile Clinic staff during this trip. Sometimes I get frustrated, wanting things to be tidy, better organized, and essentially, “more American”, but I’m getting to where I can see past the dust to the heart of the matter. Yes, we do this clinic out of 4 beat-up, dusty, suitcases, portable massage table, a tank of drinking water for ourselves and for the women to take their worm medicine with. Sometimes I find some expired meds in the bottom of the suitcases, and a couple chickens did walk through the room where we were working today…. BUT, oh, we got some things done that matter:
We noted a kind of gonorrhea outbreak in that village—I don’t know how many tests were positive today, but a lot. We treated the infected women with injections and oral antibiotics, and sent home medicine to treat the partners. I diagnosed and treated a kid with ringworm, and sent home medicine for him. I had a really bright midwifery student working with me, and we practiced how to determine baby position, finding fetal heartbeat with a Doppler, and measuring fetal growth in centimeters. Soon she was working successfully on her own, and speaking to the women with kindness and respect. I’ve seen such growth in the academic ability and natural skill of the students over the years Midwives for Haiti has been developing this program. (And how is it she could do this entire morning looking fresh and with all her hair in place, while I was the frizzy lady in the sweaty scrubs? I don’t get it!)
While volunteer Nurse Tina took blood pressures, weights, and taught a bit about breastfeeding, the Haitian midwives collected and performed lab tests, took histories and charted, and organized the suitcases, tossing old tests or medicines, sorting the zillion supplies and medicines in different bags. They know what medicines to give for what illnesses, and best of all, they care for these women with kindness and good humor. When all the ladies were seen and no one else was waiting on the benches on the porch, we packed it all back in the Jeep and headed “home” to Lakay Nou, our lovely compound.
Sometimes Haiti can discourage us. It is a complex culture with oh, so many problems. Progress is hard, malnutrition, material poverty (and apparently STI’s) are rampant, and the heat, dust, and roads can eat our equipment alive. But I see progress! I see bright and motivated students, competent and kind midwives, and even the suitcases are a little better organized. Midwives for Haiti has grabbed my heart, and I keep coming back to work with them, because it really, really, does help the moms and babies of Haiti live, and have a chance at a better life.

The Story of Felos

When we were here last November, we sponsored a street kid named Felos. He's an orphan who showed up at a rural field clinic with a badly infected burn. Twelve yeas old, with no parents or school, he lived literally hand to mouth . Our group of volunteers managed to enroll him at Maison Fortune, a local school/orphanage, where he now lives. We visited Maison and saw Felos on Tuesday.

He has grown and matured so much! And it makes me realize that his body was just waiting ( screaming?) for nutrition so he could grow. Now that he's fed 3 times a day, his adult teeth are coming in, he grew a couple inches, and he just looks different. Maybe it's the big smile, too! He is learning his alphabet and how to spell his name. He proudly showed us his bunk, and beside it hangs the canvas "Midwives for Haiti" bag I packed for him to take with him to Maison Fortune, when we left. It's a little dusty-- like all things here. In the states, our kids backpacks often contain electronics and packaged foods...maybe a cell phone! Felos' pack had t-shirts, underwear, toothbrush, notebook, pencils, and a set of sheets. But he sure looks happy now. It's going to be a challenge to help this kid succeed in life, but we have at least increased his survival and his happiness factors. He has school shoes, but wishes for a pair of sandals, and his feet are getting almost as big as mine. So when we leave,I think my Tevas, with the adjustable Velcro straps, will work great. Then, he can think of us when he wears them. We think of him a lot, too.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Berry is Out, and the Moms and Babies are Fine.

Monday of a week in Haiti is generally a Threat of Overwhelm, but I think Greg and I both did ok in spite of it all.

I rode the Pink Jeep out on a Mobile Clinic with 4 of our trained Haitian midwives, 1 Haitian midwifery student, and an American RN. We saw 30+ women in Dos Palais, and had some typical Mobile clinic adventures. A woman with a Blood pressure of 170/110 came in, swollen, not feeling well at all.... I was impressed at the clear decision-making and independent function of the midwives. With very little drama, they laid her on a sheet, started an IV line, ( IV fluid bag was hung on a spare piece of lumber with nails in it), and they got the Jeep ready to transport her...all while business as usual kept going: pregnant ladies waddling in for their weight, blood pressure, HIV tests, etc.

Several new mamas came in with their new babies, all doing well. They had their prenatal care with the Jeep, but delivered at home, like most Haitian folks. So these 1-4 week-old babies were having their first check with a health care provider. I examined and taught the student simultaneously. The biggest thing I think we do is the little lecture about "nothing but the breast-- you have what this baby needs! " And the mamas love to hear how perfect he is, how everything looks normal, and that they are ok. In a place where women and babies die in this birthing time, these people are happy to be well on the other side of it. Tonight, I truly dare to believe that these little mobile clinics, with vitamins, iron, worm medicine, and some basic health screening and education, are part of the reason. Really..thank you, donors.

Other than the lady we sent to the hospital, the moms and babies looked great. No other high blood pressure, babies growing well, although I think saw a girl with twins in her belly. I did end up back in the "gynecology corner"...,( if we haven't learned the full lessons we're meant to have, yet, I guess God has a way of sending us back someplace.) Somehow I am meant to serve Haiti with a speculum, collecting chlamydia tests in a a dusty corner of a cement building with a headlamp on my head, sitting on a bucket. OK, God, Here I am. Not my favorite, but STI testing is important, and I'm doing it.

Greg hung household items on the walls, and some shelves and hooks to keep the Midwives House organized...apparently his mission, for now, is so serve Haiti with a concrete drill, getting things off the floor. Late in the day, we went to Maison Fortune Orphanage, where our friend/sponsored child Felos is now housed-- and that's a great story for another day. It's humid and I need some breeze on the porch before I get in my mosquito net!
Love & Bon Nuit from Haiti.
PS: The doctors got Mica's berry out of her ear today. It did take some drugs! Who can blame her?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Whoopee cushion and Silly String, Left Behind

No surprise! ~the bags packed for Haiti in my dining room before leaving for the airport reached the max 49.5 lbs of stuff- and some nonessential items were left behind. No whoopee cushions or silly string got packed, this time, and a few random scrubs that don't match. But: Lots of meds, thanks to awesome donors, including Loudoun Hospital! Tools and building supplies for Greg to use. Gloves. 500 Condoms. Presents for friends in Haiti, both Haitian and American. For Americans: Chocolate, or scotch, depending on religion. Clothing and toys for Haitian friends. Mostly, supplies that help moms and babies survive a very tough life.

How many times does one travel to Haiti and not react with shock, despair, or anxiety? The answer is apparently "8", if you're me, at least. I see things getting better, see past the brokenness-- the crazy potholes and trash have always been here, and don't rattle me. But at the airport: a real, working, clean and shiny baggage claim area, complete with colorful mural artwork on the walls. Gleaming, glass-walled, Duty free shops! The parking lot clear of trash, and baggage handlers are less aggressive!, We were greeted by lovely Haitian 80-degree sunshine and breeze, and the nice aroma of garlicky beans and rice. The fact that city power is ON and AVAILABLE in both Post au Prince and Hinche-- now, that is amazing. The tent city by the river in Port au Prince is nearly gone. New houses are being built all over the place. Fresh, bright paint in many places. Some ditches are deeper, so flooding is not bad on the streets. (And it's dry season...)

I went straight to Family planning day at Heartline Ministries About 40 women got birth control, Depo shots and condoms. There was great hangout time with Beth and Tara Livesay, and the Heartline folks. After a sweet and restful evening, we rendezvoused with our gang of the Midwives for Haiti volunteers at the airport, and caught our ride to Hinche, up in the mountains.

There are definitely what Greg calls "Pictures that can’t be taken": split-second moments that pass by too quickly, or can’t be captured on film without offending or upsetting someone. Leaving Port au Prince: A family of five on a motorcycle. The crowd of street kids and adults begging at the window vehicles stopped in Port au Prince traffic, hands slowly drifting through the window and toward the backpack on the seat. The discomfort of ignoring them, and the riot of folks that will crowd around if you don’t. A group of bathers and motorcycle-washers in the river on Saturday evening—so they can be clean for church in the morning. Laundry spread all over the thorny cactus to dry. Little boys flying a kite made of plastic and twigs. At sunset, a tethered goat stretching her neck sooo far, to reach the utmost edge of green grass in her circle.

We've made it here safely, yet again; thank God!!. I don't even know what the week will hold, for me. Greg has a Honey-do-list of home improvements needed here to help the Midwives for Haiti house and compound stay organized, as it grows and grows the program. Neonatal resuscitation will be taught with the students, we have gifts to deliver, blood to donate, and friends to visit. My 3-year old god-daughter Woodmica has stuck a berry deep in her ear and doctors have been trying to get it out for a few days. We suspect anesthesia may be required, since as her daddy Theard says "she does not collaborate very well". We'll keep you updated.