Monday, May 3, 2010

Clean Up....Where to Begin

Port-au-Prince has no sanitation department as far as I could tell.  Words cannot describe the amount of trash that has filled that city.  These pictures are an accurate description, however....
There is a system of canals that traverse the city.  These canals are filled with trash... styrofoam food containers, soda bottles...more trash than I have ever seen.  Just having to look at so much trash was depressing.  I can hardly imagine what it must be like to live amongst the rubbish.
Invariably, in these canals, you would also see sights like this....

Thursday, April 29, 2010


One thing that our driver pointed out to us
was how many of the schools in Haiti
were destroyed in the earthquake.

They were built of cinderblock.
This particular school was 5 stories high,
until January 12, 2010

Construction of new schools has begun.
This time they are being built out of wood.
I was told that the schools were built by private
contractors.  It makes me wonder what
shortcuts were taken with construction...
making them all collapse.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Hospital

I thought I would share my pictures of the hospital with you.  We were stationed at the Adventist Hospital in Carrefour, which is a part of Port-au-Prince and one of the hardest hit areas by the earthquake.  The hospital suffered no damage.

Ordinarily this is a hospital for paying patients.  Most of the people of Port-au-Prince cannot afford to pay for healthcare and there is no government subsidized healthcare in Haiti.  So, until the earthquake, the common person had no access to care.  After the quake, the government mandated that care be free for 6 months.  That meant that none of the medical staff would be paid.  Most of the Haitian doctors left the country and went to the Dominican Republic.  Some of the nurses stayed and volunteer their time.  The hospital relies upon volunteer staff to care for the huge numbers of patients that have flocked there since the earthquake.

Here is a little tour of the facility....

The pre-op ward:

The post-op ward:

Overflow into the halls:

The medical/surgical floor:
(also overflows into the hall)

Hospital more patients on the grounds:

The hospital laundry facility:

Insect control in the OR:
(bug zapper)

The pediatric ward:

This facility is as nice as it gets in Haiti.  What you don't see in these pictures are the leaks in the roof when it rains, the many brown-outs during the day when electricity fails, and the obvious lack of equipment, like wheelchairs, transport litters, IV poles etc.

Thanks to generous donations of medical supplies from all around the world, however, we did have the supplies we needed to get the job done....a little ingenuity and imagination helped when we didn't have exactly what we needed.

What I find saddest, though, is that this free healthcare will eventually end.  The hospital will have to go back to its "fee for services" status.  I cannot help but wonder what will happen to these poor people at that point.  

Daily Routines

Each morning we rose early and started our day with granola bars, peanut butter, and bottled water that we had brought from home.  A couple more granola bars were packed in a bag to get us through the day.  We boarded the "tap-tap"

 which took us a mile or so to the Adventist Hospital.

My mornings were spent running the Orthopedic Clinic.  Patients would line up at 8 o'clock, take a number, and wait to be seen.

  Here we would follow up with previous surgeries, take off casts and external fixation devices, change dressings and evaluate symptoms for people that had never had access to health care before.  Several people we saw ended up having surgery the next day....infections were a big problem.

While I was in the clinic, Jack would be in the Operating Room.

Between cases, he would come to clinic and see patients there.

By two o'clock each day, the clinic line would be gone and I would head to the O.R. to help out in whatever capacity I could.

Assisting with surgery was a treat for me.  When asked how he liked scrubbing with his wife, Jack replied, "It's great!  It's the only time I get to be completely in charge."

Then when surgeries were complete, we did some organizational tasks in the operating room...dealing with the large volume of medical supplies that have come in from all over the world.

Then, back on the "tap-tap",

and we headed back to our hotel accommodations...complete with running water (albeit mostly cold water)   (We brought a mosquito net along with us.)  This hotel was the only one I saw in all of the city.  It had suffered no damage in the earthquake. And although the rooms were relatively stark, it was quite luxurious compared to what was just over the wall from us.  This whole hotel was full of relief workers.

Security around the hotel was tight...

Dinner (a very limited menu of Haitian pizza, spaghetti, or chicken) never tasted so good to us.  By 8PM we were famished and exhausted.  Notice most of us holding ourselves up with our elbows on the table!
Then off to bed for a good night's sleep....another busy day ahead of us.

PS:  We had the option of staying at the hospital or the hotel.  If we had chosen the hospital these would have been our quarters.....

We were quite many ways.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Making a Living....Any Way They Can

With an unemployment rate of 80%,
it's not hard to understand why 
someone might turn to begging.

As we made our way through the city streets of Port-au-Prince,
each time we stopped, children would come to our
vehicle begging for food or money.

This gentleman was particularly original, as he sat by the road singing....
"I am blind, I am ugly, give me money"

Personally, I didn't think he was either.

At least since the earthquake and humanitarian aid has
come pouring into Haiti, the Haitians are no longer hungry.
In fact, conditions are better than they have been in a long time...
save for the condition of the buildings...which are beyond help.

I can' help but wonder what will happen, though,
when the world forgets.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Hidden Angels

I am convinced that there are angels who walk amongst us.
I saw many in Haiti.

Pictured below is a young man named Jean 
(seated with his arm around a boy).
Jean is a 26 year old man who lives in Haiti.
Jean was born in Haiti and lived with his family 
until he was 7.
His family moved to Boston....leaving Jean behind.
(I don't know the story behind that decision)
Jean was raised by an "old lady"... a friend of the family.
He attended school, he studied hard, he stayed off the streets.
He was a good boy.

January, 2010... the earthquake hit Haiti and life changed for Jean.
He was one of the lucky ones...his home was not destroyed.
He was deeply touched by the suffering around him and decided
 to head to the Adventist Hospital to volunteer his time.

Monday thru Friday, every week since the earthquake,
Jean has stayed at the hospital.
During the daytime he works 
(without pay..only tips from the volunteering medical workers.)
for the operating room as both transport and translator.
His English is impeccable.

When things slow down in the OR, 
he heads to the children's ward to sit
with the children.
This is where he spends his evenings.

He dishes out huge helpings of love and care
to those children...just because.

You will notice that in this picture there is also a 
boy sitting with Jean.
Look a little closer and you will see
 that this boy has only one leg.
This is Mavins.
Mavins has a brother....and that is all.
His parents were both killed in the earthquake.
His home was destroyed.
His leg was amputated.
Mavins and his brother have no where to go.
They have been living in a tent outside the hospital.

Until now.
Jean has decided to take the boys in and
finish raising them and schooling them....
He saves the money his family sends him
from Boston, for his schooling
(he wants to go to nursing school some day).
After the quake, he took that money ($585) and 
paid a year's rent on a bigger apartment
for the boys and himself.

I spent quite a bit of time talking to Jean.
He told me his story,
but not of how he was going to take in the boys.
That I found out through the grapevine.

So I asked Jean...
"Why didn't you tell me that you were
"adopting" Mavins and his brother?"

Jean simply said
"I keep it secret...
Because Jesus would want it that way."
Jean wanted no praise.  He was doing this
simply because it was the good and right thing to do.

Jean is an angel.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

New Life

Each morning the medical teams at the Adventist Hospital
meet for a brief meeting.... an inspirational message for the day.
These meetings are held on the front steps of the hospital.
Tuesday's morning meeting was quite eventful for Jack.
Instead of attending the meeting,
he delivered a baby...
his first ever.

He tells the story that during his med school and residency,
he traded his delivery room time for another option...
any option.
Delivering babies was not his thing...and never would be
if life went according to plan.

Obviously, Haiti, thought otherwise.

As luck would have it, a young man grabbed Jack 
that morning saying in his very broken English
"Woman - discharge" over and over.

Somehow Jack figured out that the discharge
that he was talking about was probably a baby.

Off he ran to the OB clinic....just in time to catch
a beautiful baby girl.

Nice catch, Jack!!

From what I could gather, there is no
prenatal care in Haiti.

There is a fairly high infant mortality rate compared to the US.

And with no childhood immunizations,
many children get polio and other
childhood diseases that are no longer a threat
in our country...not to mention typhus and malaria.

In this world of ours, with medical technology,
there seems no excuse for children succumbing to
preventable disease.  Somehow, we have to extend
this treatment to all the children of the world.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


The previous slide show contained some pictures that need a bit of explanation.  Before the earthquake Port-au-Prince was home to three million Haitians.  300,000 were killed in the quake.  800,000 relocated outside of the city.  Two million people are left....most of them living on the streets, or in tents, or in huts that they've constructed from whatever they can find.

Tent cities have been erected in all open areas.... 

The main thoroughfare through Port-au-Prince is a divided road with a four foot median strip down the middle.  Constructed on that median strip are corrugated tin, cardboard, wood and tarp huts.
These huts are homes....
4 square feet in size....
dirt floor....
just a small space...
a shelter....
where many families sleep each night.
Families who are not lucky enough to have a tent.

Activities of daily living are done in the streets.
all outside.

I was told that even those who are fortunate enough 
to still have houses
 are afraid to stay inside their houses.  
Afraid of another earthquake.

Two million people...
living in fear...
living in filth...
by our standards, barely living at all.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Faces

I have always been well aware that there are many persons in this world who live unfortunate lives...lives much different than mine.  These images were held in an area of my subconscious....abstract, remote, uncomfortable.

Now the images have faces.  Faces that haunt my thoughts, my dreams.  Images from a world so totally opposite from the one in which I live have taken hold of my psyche.  They are with me to stay.  I will never take a single moment of my life for granted.  It can all change in a matter of seconds.  I know this to be true.  It's in the faces, the faces of Haiti......