Lots of love and care

We are staying at a birth center/hospital in Port Au Prince tonight.

It is run by a small nonprofit, Heartline Ministries (run by Beth and John Mchoul).  They are doing a fantastic job and it was amazing to see the care and love these patients are receiving.  All are victims of the quake, all are sleeping outside on cots as they refuse to go indoors.  Plenty of supplies and pain medications.  A stark contrast to the lack of care people were receiving in Hinche hospital (I say that without judgement, as the Hinche hospital is trying: they have too many people with too little staff).

Antonette nursing her baby in the afternoon

There are many amputees laying on the cots. A vivacious boy who followed me around and kept grabbing my hand was missing chunks from his face. I have a picture of him. He was smashed in the rubble. Another boy who’s eyes were swollen shut due to his earthquake injuries being infected by maggots.

Vivacious little boy with crushed face

I nursed 3 babies.  I started with one premie that the mom, Colette was refusing to nurse.  After watching me nurse and laughing at all the commotion it caused (everyone gawking and giggling) she agreed to nurse her baby herself!  Colette was found days after the earthquake, her pelvis split open at the symphis pubis from an earthquake injury. Her uterus still intact with a live baby inside. Heartline Ministries took her to the Comfort Ship where they performed a cesarean. She uses a walker and is in a lot of pain.

Nursing Collette's baby

A momma with a big, fat little girl insisted I nurse her baby and then asked me if I would take her home with her and adopt her.  It’s her 7th.

Later that evening a third mom, Antonette, who has an amputated leg, said she couldn’t nurse due to being in so much pain.  Her left leg is intact but in a brace that is screwed into her bones from her hip to her ankle. She patted her bed for me to sit on and I nursed her baby until her pain meds took effect. A neighbor on the cot to her right asked her, “You feel bad?” The neighbor on the cot to her left started laughing so hard that her body shook. We all asked her why she was laughing, she answered, “Antonette is laying there with one leg that doesn’t even work and someone asks her if she feels bad!” The absurdness hit us all, but especially Antonette. She began to laugh and laugh. She threw her head back in laughter and yowled, “I’m laughing so hard it is making my leg hurt more!”

I have so many stories to add to my blog once I am home and on a computer. Typing on the iphone is a bit slow.

Had dinner and church at a home here in Port Au Prince..  It was wonderful (both dinner and church).  I’m falling asleep as I text, so “bonwit”.

Nursing Antonettes baby at night


We left the orphanage today to the sound of the children singing praise to the lord during Sunday service.  The drums beat quietly in the background.  I feel sentimental as we were greeted the same way our first morning there.

At the orphanage

The first thing I did at the hospital in Hinche was catch a dead baby.  The last thing I did at the hospital this morning was pick up a dead 17 month old off the floor where he had been asleep by his mother and to place him in the crib and tell his wailing mother I was sorry.  Sorry that they had been there for 4 days and no one had given him the medication he had needed.  Sorry his limbs were cold with death and his body and head were still burning with meningitis fever.  Sorry I hadn’t been able to save him when I heard her scream in Creole, “Where are the doctors and nurses at this hospital?  Everyone sleeps while my baby dies!”  Sorry that when I put my stethoscope to his chest I heard nothing.  Sorry that when I looked at his chart that it said “fever and diarrhea” and her baby was not given IV antibiotic.

He was a beautiful child.  I think she had nursed him as he was fat with chubby, cute cheeks and curly hair.

Is there nothing we can do to help these dying children?

“Mwe regret sa yon timoun ki mouri.”  I’ve learned to say, “I am sorry your baby has died” in Creole.

I am laying in bed across the street from the hospital listening to the rain.

My time in Hinche has come to an end and tomorrow we take the bus to Port Au Prince.  I am excited to see the city again, and I hope that this week has brought thousands of tents for the homeless.  I heard there were many hung up in customs.  Surely they will release them with the rains here?

The "road"

Our day began with driving to Pan de Azul to do a health clinic at Theard’s School.  Theard is one of our translators, a teacher and leader of a community up in the mountains.

The truck arrived and we piled in the back (I really enjoy riding in the back of the truck on bumpy roads: it reminds me of my childhood in Honduras).  We drove much farther than I expected, and the truck made it through mountain paths that you could not call a road.  One time we had to get out so the truck could make it up a very steep hill.

Up the freshly cut road

Theard pointed out the freshly dug soil and told us that the men from the village had worked for hours to make the road passable.  He was very excited to show us his school.  the truck finally stopped and we walked down and up a hill, 7 people single file, carrying buckets with medication and vitamins (midwives, translators, drivers).

Walking to the school

As we walked into a clearing, Theard pointed to a large mango tree and said, “This is our third/fourth grade class room.”

Then we came to  a half made building with walls made of coconut tree and the roof made of palm fronds.  This was the main school house.

Theard's School (getting ready for patients)

Theard told us they do not have the money yet to finish it and people from the community keep “borrowing” the chalk boards since there are no walls to keep them out.

I was surprised at it all.  When Theard  told me of his school, I envisioned a building that was larger with concrete walls.  This was humble and sweet on  a beautiful piece of land.  I could imagine my boys attending school outdoors and loving it.  Right next to the school was a soccer field for the children to play.

Mango tree in background with waiting patients, school to the right

Waiting under the mango tree were about one hundred people.  Not too bad,  I thought.  We should be done in a couple of hours.  Ha ha 🙂

They kept coming in droves.  We saw men, women, children, pregnant mammas.  We treated parasites, scabbies, high bp, staph infections, malnutrition, etc.

Waiting to be seen

Some of our pregnant clients

The line

Towards the end, people worried they would not be seen and they started pushing and shoving a yelling.  Theard started writing their names down so they could go in turn, and he kept the peace.

We finished and packed our almost empty bins and walked back to the truck.

A sweet 106 year old woman climbed into the back with us for the ride to town (check out her picture).

106 year old lady

Once home, I went to a notary to sign the rental papers for our new birth center in Hinche.  We have grand plans, and I’m sure we will have many volunteers.  The goal is to move into the main floor by May and have the upper floor done by July.

That done, I had dinner and met lovely new midwives who just arrived.

I showered and started walking to the hospital but was caught in a monsoon so took  motorcycle taxi to the hospital.  It was lovely to feel the rain and warm wind on my face as we sped through the streets.  My last night in  Hinche.

Some of our patients waiting

I am walking to the truck after we gave healthcare to over 400 people.

Feel like I am in the middle of the back country.  Amazing that I have phone connection when it feels so remote.  Yay for AT&T!

Our walk today to get to do our mobile clinic

We are all exhausted.  The line of people seemed as if it would never end.  There were 13 of us and 10 translators.

Will write more later.

Phone battery is almost dead as electricity is scarce to recharge (no electric unless generator is on).

Family at Joseph's village: in front of their home

Feb 26 8:30pm

Today was an amazing day, we are all on a high.

Started at 6am in the hospital.  Got 4 hours of sleep but we aren’t tired.  Helped many people during rounds (people in pain are so, so grateful for a couple Tylenol).  Fed bread, pb, raisins and gave water to two rooms at the hospital.  ( I have given up on feeding the whole hospital, so we do a couple of rooms each day.)

assisted at a cesarean at 10am (mom was syphilis positive).  was needed by mom AND doctor.  Held moms hand and calmed her until I had to sterile up and help with the suctioning during the section.  I was very immpressed with the doctors skills.  He was fast and good.

Stopped by to nurse my Haitian baby on my walk home.

Showered and ate a great lunch of salad, rice, beans and goat meat.

Driver came to get us to go to Joseph’s Village.  We rode in the back of the truck on bumpy dirt roads (no need for amusement park rides in Haiti).

Jennifer in back of truck

We stopped at the gas station to pump gas.  You will have to check out the pictures when I get home and post them!  The gas is hand pumped from a barrel then hand poured into the tank.

Gas station in Hinche

Pumping gas

Getting gas into the truck

We arrived in Joseph’s Village and were warmly welcomed.  Saw about 8 sick people and then got down to the business we were there for.  We met with the 9 members on the village council.

Tools for the village

They took us to their homes and they showed us what they bought with the $500 Desiree and Donna gave them two weeks ago.  We took a picture (wheelbarrow, garden tools, PVC piping to get water to their garden plots).

I will write more in a different post about Joseph’s Village, but for now I’d like to say that they are a community of hundreds of families who have banded together and created a council to run their village.  They live on 52 acres they have homesteaded for many years, and the government gave it to them a year ago.  They have a school (palm fronds), a church (cinder blocks with metal roof) and very small, one room homes that are pretty much shack status (I’ll post pictures when I get back).

15 people live in this home

They have lovingly accepted hundreds of Port Au Prince earthquake victims into their homes, so they are very crowded.  Joseph (their leader) lives in a two bedroom 500 square foot home with 14 other people (his aunt and uncle and their 8 children and 4 refugees).

We were happy to give them $4000 dollars (money we and other people donated) to work towards their goals of having a goat herd, chickens and water to irrigate large gardens.  They promised to show us in 3 months what they have accomplished with this help.

All the council was present when we gave the money.  We said our goodbyes and drove off into the country to find the water falls.

The ride to the falls was rugged and longer than I expected (an hour?).  We bounced around in the back of the truck, soaking in the sights of Haiti: the two children on a donkey, the mom on a horse with a 6 month old in front and a 3 year old in back, families bathing in the rivers while wash is being done at the shore, motorcycle taxis honking past us with 3 or 4 people on them.

Children joined us for the walk to the falls

We crossed a river and went up a steep incline that I was surprised we made to the top.  Finally stopped to walk the rest of the way.  Men and children joined us until there was a crowd walking with us.

Bummer I left all the new underwear in my suitcase today!

We walked forever and then came upon a beautiful site.  Water cascading down the rocks.  A pool of turquoise water below.  The walk was so long that by the time we got there it was too late to swim.  Also, there was a lot of fear from all the local people that we would drown if we swam. They said there was a curse put on that pool of water. I thought I was going to swim anyway, but when I waded in they all started yelling and screaming at us to come back. Maybe next time… We snapped pictures.

The falls

Santos, Jennifer, Carrie, Patricia

We then headed to the top of the falls and realized why the crowd had followed us.  We were taken by each had by a man and child and helped up the steep, long hill.  Some of the boys had no pants, some had no shorts, none had shoes.  One had a pair  of boxer short underwear with so many holes in the butt that he was quite exposed.

Almost to the top of the hill

We made it to the top thanks to our friendly helpers.  We paid them all, and by their excitement, I am sure it was more money than they had seen in a long time (even the adult men were barefoot and in tattered clothes).

We rode back to town in the moonlight singing a Haitian song.

When we got to town we were dropped off at the central plaza where hundreds of people were praying and singing.  Children on the swing set.  A group playing soccer.  There is no electricity, but at night, all gather to the central plaza where a generator lights the square.  The excitement is infectious.

We asked Santos if there are any restaurants in Hinche so we could treat him to a meal (he had joked that other employers fed him, but we are always at the hospital where there is no food and everyone is so hungry and poor). A couple blocks away was a “night club and restaurant”.  We were the only ones there.  We sat outside around a rickety table on plastic chairs by a cement dance platform with a roof.  Hanging from the ceiling as decorations were plastic bottles that ha been cut open into spinning flower designs.

We were asked how many plates and answered four (Kalia and Rayna are at the hospital tonight).

There is only one dish on the menu, so no decision making necessary.  We were brought grilled chicken, fried green plantains and cabbage slaw with lime and hot peppers in it. The chicken was the longest, skinniest leg you have seen with very little meat.  I took the tiniest nibble and then gave it to Santos.  Carrie gave hers to him as well.  Patricia ate hers (I hope she doesn’t get sick).  The four pieces of fried plantains and cabbage slaw were delicious.  I also had a soda (my first since arriving in Haiti).  It was even cold!

Jennifer dancing the cha cha

At 8pm the music started and about 8 people showed up to dance.  Wonderful Carribean music and some amazing dancing going on.  Talented dancers Cha Cha’ed and twirled.  I tried to get Carrie, Patricia or Santos to dance with me, but they were too shy.  I couldn’t stand missing this opportunity to dance to my favorite kind of music, so I got up and asked one of the best dancers if he would dance with me.  Everyone was very surprised and there was much laughing at the white lady dancing cha cha with the Haitian.   As soon as the song ended, I thanked him and sat down, when another Haitian asked me to dance.  By the time the song was over there were many dancers on the floor and large crowd of about 30 people had gathered to watch, as many people from the street had been pulled in to see the show.

We grabbed our things and left laughing (I didn’t want to get asked to dance again as my feet were so tired after our five mile hike plus all the other walking we had done just to get from place to place).

We stopped by at 9:00pm to nurse my Haitian baby, then arrived home to the orphanage to find brother Mike had been fretting over our absence.

Brother Mike

We apologized for worrying him.  He said we are the first group to come that goes out at night to work the hospitals  and that gets around so much.  He said, “You are the most active group I have had.”  We took that as a compliment.  We love being out with the people and working at night.  However, tonight we sleep for tomorrow we have to visit the village, Pan de Azul to do medical care on many people.  I am told hundreds will show.  Today was a very full and beautiful day.  Our “vacation day” in Haiti.

Today we went to a village to care for 200 people.  Just four midwives (Patricia, Carrie, Kalia and me.)  Three translators.  There were 200 patients lines up for hours.

Our first group of patients waiting to be seen

Se set up three stations and consulted with families one by one.  We handed out herbs, vitamins, antibiotics and more for many things such as scabbies, fungal infections, parasites, anemia, ulcers, skin staph infections and malnuturtion.

We did prenatals on about 40 women and gave them prenatal vitamins.  One mother we diagnosed with twins, her 6th and 7th babies.  Many people with high bp (220/120 seems so common, and the highest I took was 300/150).

We patched up burns and cuts.  We saw a sweet man who was having s&s of a heart attack (also high bp) and told him he needed to go to the hospital (I wonder if they can help?).

Station One for treatment

We referred several people out for more care at the hosptial (a 13 year old with seizures once a week and no glucose in the urine we dipsticked, a baby who was 3 months old, 5 pounds and covered in little spots… I will post a picture when I get home.  I could not stop the tears from streaming down my face as I weighed him and we gave the parents money and a medical order to go to the hosptial.)

Sick 3 month old baby

We are all very tired but feel very satisfied with how much we have done today.  Saturday, we go to another village to do this again.  Everyday I am welling up with tears at the suffering and the gratitude for my help, and the spirit I feel while serving.

Healthy breastfed 3 month old

Me & Mom w/3 month old

Stations 2 & 3 for treatment

Mom expecting twins

Carrie doing a prenatal consult

Beautiful family!

I slept last night on a bed! Yay for beds!  The hospital guard got a key for use to a guest house across the street from the hospital.  We have a small room with three beds that we can use while here.

I have slept five hours: the most I have slept since arriving in Haiti.  I feel like a new woman!  I slept so deeply that I have made a few mosquitos very happy. 🙂