Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Ten Years and Three Minutes

Someone needs to write a book about Nadene Brunk and the story of Midwives for Haiti; maybe someone is me.  Ever since I saw the first email she sent out in 2006, inviting American midwives to come to Haiti to teach skills to Haitians, this effort has had a gripping hold on my heart.  TEN years

have gone by since the first group of 8 students in Hinche (now formally named "Class One") gathered in a courtyard under a mango tree to study maternity care with American volunteers and a couple ragged posters.  Now on Sunday, I serve as the marren, or "godmother" of Class Ten, 30 students.  The role is an interesting Haitian tradition, and seems to be kind of a cross between Maid of Honor at a wedding and an AA sponsor.  I give a little talk and give presents.  So. I will try to celebrate and commemorate 10 years in about 3 minutes, at the graduation ceremony.

 The talk, which I will give in Creole and English, is mostly just a laundry list of whom should be thanked and honored, kind of like an Oscars acceptance speech, and about as fascinating. It is, however, my job and the proper thing to do, according to Gladias, my closest Haitian friend and translator of all things Haitian.  I wrote it in English; he translated it in Creole, and I understand most of the words.  The things that really thrill me are not in the speech, due to the 3-minute goal. Plus, Historian is not my job for now.  If I write the book, it will be!

I am happiest that I truly believe women in Haiti are being helped, and lives saved, by the ever-growing group of Midwives for Haiti graduates, a number now well over 100,  and 94% of them employed.  I'm also thrilled that we no longer work out of 2 closets, one hospital classroom, and a church rectory, as we did when Nadene and Steve and I attended the start of Class Two.  Even better, our Jeep drives on a highway all the way to Hinche, instead of flying in a tiny plane and landing on the dirt airstrip after the goats were chased off.  And oh, the LandCruiser! MFH has 2 motor vehicles now, a Jeep and a LandCruiser, and sometimes, both of them are running ! Once, we got around in Ronel's 1984 Hilux truck with wooden benches in the bed for seats.  These are only a few of the near-miraculous accomplishments and blessings of Midwives for Haiti over 10 years that we are all celebrating. This ramble down memory lane is a bit over simplified, and reminds me of a dad that once told me " when they're little, they have little problems; When they get bigger, they have bigger problems."... It's true for non-profits, too, and makes me reflect on on how to help MFH. Find funds for solar power panels to energize the compound where the classroom, offices, volunteer housing, and supply depots now reside.
Nonetheless, something now exists, something that I think is good, and it has grown by close collaboration with Americans, Haitians, and the hard work of people with huge hearts, to the benefit of mothers and babies in Haiti. The conclusion of my 3 minutes is "With God's help, we have done this, together."  

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

This is Beautiful

This will be a Blog of Duality.
I will tell the story of today in a non-medical way, and then, since I happen to have a lot of OB/ Nurse/Midwife friends, a more technical way..  Please read whichever version suits you, neither, or both.  IT WAS A VERY FULL DAY.

Non-Medical Version:
Today was a terible and wonderful morning at St Therese Hospital.  Despite the tough conditions, I keep seeing progress.  I took a photo of the medication/midwife office and sleeproom, intending to label it "This is Beautiful".  Some would see banged-up antique cabinets and a rusty bed.  BUT It is clean, organized, (more all the time!) and has the medicines available to save lives, and even small lockers for all the midwives' purses.  6 Years ago I would have fainted in delight to have this tidiness and functionality.  Today I didn't faint, I just felt happy, and went into L&D.  A quiet morning turned into a busy one.  I worked with 2 new student-midwives.  We admitted and delivered a lady in premature labor.  Mama was in labor with  a 7 month pregnancy that turned out to be  (surprise!) twins, a girl,who survived, now in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit,  and a boy who never took a breath on his own.  This was a huge morning of learning for my students.  While part of it feels so sad, I am proud and grateful that really good care and kindness was given in a bad situation.

Medical Version, copied from an email to an OB GYN friend of mine:
   This am, I spent 2 hrs at St Therese.  With 2 students, I delivered unexpected 28-30 wk twins.  A, girl, cephalic, followed by surprise baby B, boy, breech.  She was resuscitated ok and is in NICU, he never breathed on his own and mom never held him.  But Alice, this sounds horrendous, yet I can tell you so many good things.

The students were great.  They took vital signs and started the IV properly.
In spite of unskilled brand-new hands (each had 1 prior delivery), they knew what they were doing.  They got terrific learning through this case.  ( And I did a good job teaching them !! )
The med room was clean and full of meds and supplies.  The birth kits are all together and available.
We had all the clean things we needed for the birth and resuscitation-- including a NICU doc!
The boy who died was dressed and treated respectfully.  As is typical, Mom would not hold him nor name him, but she did see him.
The place still looks yucky; the water still barely runs in the sink, and blood and fluids do pool on the floor during the deliveries, and those tables are horrific.  BUT.  So much progress since my first crazy delivery there in 2009.  Things are much better.  We need to keep going, and keep circling in prayer the desires and dreams that God put on our hearts.

Bon Nuit from Haiti!


Friday, February 19, 2016

Why Ask Why? It's About the Heart.

Port au Prince is NOT a lovely city.  Even with notable improvements in areas like the airport, goats climbing thru trash heaps, snail-paced traffic spewing carbon monoxide betwixt water-filled potholes, and a strong smell of human body odor and urine, don't add up to a tourist spot.

Even staying at the lovely home of my midwife friend Beth McHoul is a lesson in Haitian security.  A thief was robbing ladies coming to & from the maternity center of their cell phones and cash.  The Heartline Ministries guards seem to have fixed that for now:  A guard watches the street from a little tower, and as always, 2 mastiffs are on duty.

Here we are in Haiti again, You, Greg and I, as well as lots of Haitian people and  some American missionaries, and others.  Even though (or maybe, because?)  I've done this trip enough times to stop counting, I am asking myself, and You, exactly why I keep doing it.  I know the first trip was kind of a humanitarian adventure/educational experiment in embracing the "third" =developing world.  It deepened my heart and broke it, too.  The first evening that I saw the small bags of bread, charcoal and bottles of drinking water carried into the Ravine in Petionville, and heard the church choir start up, my perspective of the world shifted forever.  Sometimes, after that, I woke up weeping.  Later, after the Port au Prince earthquake, I could not weep for months.   But Haiti has become an important part of my life.

   Haitian material poverty, maternal mortality, along with myriad other issues, are so huge and complex that it's absurd to think I am "fixing anything" by coming here a time or two per year and helping teach or support some midwives.  But I love to come back and visit, and do a little bit of work, in Haiti.  I know now that I'm coming here to reach deeper into my own heart.  I also know it's part of what You want for me, and a way to teach me and reach me.  Thanks for that. Lord, from my deepest center.

I love to hang with the Heartline Midwives, share our life stories, birth stories, and a few of their tasks.  I only visit, bring a few bottles or boxes of  medicine,  check a few mamas.  Still, the impact that prenatal care, family planning, or safe midwifery and birth makes in one life, or a family's life, and ripple effect in many hundreds of lives, gives me hope, in spite of it all.  It's evident that we humans can't "Fix" this.  But we also know that You ask us to do what we can, and You honor it when we do.  It means something anyway, to me, to You, and even to some Haitian people.  Do the numbers really matter?  Maybe not at all.

It will make my heart glad to see my Haitian friends and god-child, and see their lives unfolding, and to deliver the silly, small gifts that fit in our luggage.  This time, new t-shirts, a set of plastic dishes, medicine for the hospital.  Greg will build cabinets in the Flower of Hope School, and meet with the staff, as a new Board member.  I'll help teach some classes on managing blood pressure and pre-eclampsia in pregnancy.  I'll give blood at the Red Cross; after being in Haiti, I can't donate in the US.  We will do each task in full realization that these tasks are drops in the ocean.  But we will do it from the heart, and in doing so, You nourish us.  We can only do one thing at a time.  Why not make it something fundamentally helpful to just one human?

These trips have a humbling, infinitesimal but real, rational basis and a very large spiritual one; I just accept that.  Thank you again, Lord, for the clarity to keep it simple, and the gift of coming to Haiti.