2013 Haiti Medical Team
The UB Church in Canada sent two teams, back to back, to Haiti in early 2013. The first team worked mostly on construction issues (read their story here). The second team held medical clinics, and you can read their story here. Joan Sider (right), from New Hope Community Church in Toronto, led both teams and filed daily reports. Some of the daily reports were written by other team members.
Tuesday, February 4, 2013
Merrilee Trussler was the first writer for Haiti Team #11. This is her first visit to Jamaica.
The travel from Toronto to Montreal to Port au Prince went smoothly. We all got called into customs at Haiti and most of the bins were opened and inspected. Several bins were set aside, and there was concern that they would be kept. But God works in mysterious was! A customs official let us and all of our bins with supplies go for a soccer ball, a pump, and a stuffed animal for his son. A very small price to pay.
We arrived at the guest house and quickly settled in. We unloaded all 14 bins and started sorting. It was great to be joined by Dr. Germain, his friend, and his son. Halfway through we got a welcome relief of dinner. It included a very nice green salad, rice, bean sauce and roasted turkey. Joan shared that she missed the main event but was able to see the turkey alive and well in the morning and on the plate at night.
After dinner the team finished the bin sorting. It is amazing how quickly everyone is working together. We then had a brief devotional time outside (there was a nice breeze).
Today has been a great start and I pray that we will be able to bless the Haitian people through our stay.
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Joan Sider wrote this day’s report.
Leaving the guest house at 7:40, we arrived at our hotel in Cayes about 5 hours later. The drive getting out of Port au Prince itself takes about one hour. I rode for the very first time in the front elevated seat of the bus. It gives quite a different perspective in that seat to the traffic in front, perhaps seeing some things one is better not seeing—like three or four even lanes of traffic going down a two-lane road. Or how about passing in between two vehicles—one of which is on the wrong side of the road already. Passing on curves appears to be okay if you keep blowing your horn.
It is hard to describe the sites one sees while travelling along. I did notice several places where the tent dwelling is still happening—very sad to think it has been three years for some of those people now.
Guy Hotel is where we are staying. We are inside a large compound with the hotel and patio at the back of the property. The patio area is large and an enjoyable place to have our meals and debriefings.
I’m in my room now as I write. Two share a room with a double bed. There is quite a large bathroom in each, but no curtain/door separating the bathroom from the bed area. In Audrey’s and my room, the view from the hall when our door is open looks directly into our bathroom. I think that is the case for all the rooms along our side of the hallway.
Following lunch we went to the Deviriel Church for our first ministry. We saw 38 patients, including several serious cases. One young man, 21, needed circumcision. He was sent off to the hospital to find out the cost of having this done. He was so embarrassed to tell Kara-Lynn and Allison the purpose of his visit—they, along with Paul, are our triage workers.
A not so old baby, 20 days maybe, caught a serious infection from the mom and is blind and very near to death. We gave her money and sent her off to the hospital. We fear that the child may not live.
A 19-year-old man has type 1 diabetes and his blood sugar couldn’t be measured—it went right off the charts! He is in diabetic crisis. Dr. Germain wrote a detailed message to the hospital where he was sent as to what needed to be done for this chap. When the boy’s mother/grandmother—not sure which—phoned Dr. Germain, he was told that the hospital would not do anything. Dr. Germain asked to speak with the doctor and as a result the doctor at the hospital said he would try to do what he could. We had sent some money along with this young man.
A point of discussion for us in THE future is going to have to be what to do with such patients as I’ve described above. We can’t write prescriptions for drugs we don’t have or send them off to the hospital knowing that they have no means to pay. On the other hand, we can’t help everyone in this situation. Pray with us as we determine what is right and best.
Instead of coming directly home from the clinic, we stopped for a short service at Pastor Federme’s church. Sister Eunice, the lady we discovered with mouth cancer in one of our medical clinics with in 2004, is doing reasonably well. It was so good to see her again. She had artificial flowers for each of the team members. Sister led the worship and she was pumped! We love this place. Tomorrow, we will hold a clinic there.
The parking area where the bus went to drop us off and park was all stones. I wondered at the time about parking in such loose stone—and sure enough, when it took several tries to back out. From all the stone flying underneath the bus, likely a stone hit a critical area because the driver discovered that the air conditioner was not working. We may have the full experience of travelling in a bus with windows all open from this point on if it can’t be repaired.
We arrived back at the hotel. Our supper was the porridge we’ve had a number of times along with cheese on a bun. Both were very fine. The porridge, in fact, is the best I’ve ever tasted—and I’ve had it a lot.
In our debriefing time, we shared how we saw God at work throughout our day, and then David ended with a devotional thought. We are interacting with one another at his direction and are being given some thought-provoking questions.
It is now 10:31—I’ve had a shower—good one! There is just a single pipe with no showerhead, but it works fine with plenty of water. One does get used to the cold showers.
Sorry this report is so late in coming to you. I don’t know why these places say they have internet available when they don’t.
Thursday, February 07, 2013
Greetings from Cayes! This is Nicole Somers from Port of Grace Community Church. I have the pleasure of working with Audrey for a few days making quilts. It has been a great two days learning the process of quilt making.
Today we were at the Croix des Martyrs church—Pastor Federme’s. We were there for over 6 hours and were able to make 7 quilts. I watched with amazement how the people who came for a medical clinic participated in our quilt making while waiting for their turn with one of our doctors. We had men, women and children right in there with needle and yarn tying off quilts.
After each quilt is made, we draw for a winner. All the others participating received a beautiful sewing kit…until we ran out. But they stuck around helping with two more quilts even though there were no more sewing kits.
Our translator helping with quilting, Blanc, was wonderful. He was so animated, and was wonderful with both adults and children. He is a blessing to get to know and have to help…well he more than helps. I feel that we are helping him, as he is able to control crowds, make sure everyone gets a chance, and keeps them laughing as we work at the quilts. I look forward to working with him for 2 more days.
My God-moment for today was super special to me. As I was working outside the church, I saw a young girl (4-5 years old) playing outside in her “backyard” on a 2×2 foot piece of plywood. I noticed very quickly that her legs were deformed. It seemed that she had no muscles in her legs and possibly clubbed feet. She had the sweetest smile, and actually would interact with me from a distance.
Her dad kept coming, and would sit down and play with her. Another time, I saw that the dad brought out a chalkboard and was writing out the vowels and numbers from 0-9. He had his daughter copy what he had written. It just touched my heart to see this. Knowing that many special needs children are hidden or shamed, or even abandoned, it was encouraging to see this father even proud of his beautiful daughter.
Hello. It’s Allison Poyntz, now, from Roseville UB Church. After breakfast, we loaded the bus and headed out for our clinic. I was working with Kara-Lynn, one of the ladies from Mission of Hope, on intake, where we recorded names, ages, and symptoms of everyone. After us, the patients saw one of the nurses, Margie or Dianne, who measured blood pressures and blood sugar levels. Then they went on to either Dr. Germaine or Ruth (Nurse Practitioner).
After seeing the doctor, David and Merrilee would give them the medications they’d been prescribed. Over the 6.5 hours we were there, we saw 184 people– they just kept coming! We even needed Pastor Federme’s wife to help us triage those that were coming.
We saw, and gave medications to, a large number of people with worms, high blood pressure, and stomach issues. Despite thinking on multiple occasions that they were running out of medications, Merrilee and David always managed to find more of what they needed.
One lady we saw today was 100 year old! She actually looked quite well, considering her age. Additionally, when asked if she knew Jesus, she became quite animated, and proclaimed “Oh, yes! Jesus gives me my life, my food, everything!” It was really inspiring to see how much enthusiasm she had for Jesus!
Four of the patients were of a more serious nature.
- One little baby had hydrocephalus and a large umbilical hernia.
- One young girl, the one Nicole mentioned earlier, had a birth defect. Her legs were deformed – they stuck out to the sides, and her knees were bent and did not straighten. She could not walk. Dr. Germaine was going to try to see if he could get her a wheelchair.
- One lady had a heart murmur, and possible congestive heart failure. She was sent to the hospital for a chest x-ray, so she’d be prescribed the medication needed.
- A young boy had sickle cell anemia.
Tonight at our de-briefing, we discussed how we can’t always do much to help the more serious cases, but we need to just do what we can and trust God with the rest. The people definitely expressed their gratitude for us coming and helping them, which is encouraging to hear, especially when we’re tempted to be discouraged with those we can’t help.
Very unexpectedly, just now as I write this (at 8:48 pm), we’ve been served homemade pizza and juice!
Friday, February 08, 2013
Joan Sider wrote this day’s report.
Our day began with a breakfast that wasn’t too satisfying and a little surprising, considering how good this hotel has been. There were only buns, bananas, coffee, and water. I learned later that Pastor Richard was very upset about the quality of the breakfast and spoke with the hotel owner about the matter.
We spent over an hour driving to Archambeau, a place we have not visited for some time. We were very curious about what the condition of the road would be, and were pleasantly surprised to find a lot of construction being done to improve the road that goes off the main highway. It is being widened, and new bridges are being built. This was great to see.
However, once we turned off that road to actually go into the church, there was no construction happening and the road was pretty treacherous in places—much like our experiences of the past.
We learned later that the bus driver was not happy about having to drive on such roads. A couple times we offered to get out and walk, but he forged ahead and soon we reached the church.
A school is being held once again here, and upon our arrival we saw/heard the in session. It has fewer children presently. The teacher, I think, was the same from our previous visits, but the pastor’s wife was no longer teaching.
Pastor and Mrs. Tallamon have 4 children—all but two in the family went through either yesterday’s or today’s clinic. We were saddened to learn that Pastor T’s mother had passed away just a week ago.
The area around the church has changed significantly—more homes and a lottery bank. There is a community bake oven, and I saw the dough being formed into various shapes of buns. A young man was heating up the oven in prep for baking.
At the end of our stay, we bought some of the fresh bread, still warm. We had to imagine the butter and/or peanut butter and jam which would have added a lot. However, it was good. Since the pastor and his wife travelled back to Cayes with us, they were the recipients of the rest of the bag—after each of us had one bun.
The spaciousness of the church allowed us to spread out our two ministries—the clinic at one end and the quilting at the other. We saw 132 patients and the complaints were mostly worms, hypertension, urinary tract infections, and other stomach upsets. One hundred numbers had been given out by the pastor—a very unrealistic number to be seen in one clinic. The problem was compounded by a mother having a number, coming not only for herself, but her children she brought along with her.
The doctors were kept on their toes as well as Paul, Kara-Lynn, and Allison doing the triage. Thank the Lord for Kara-Lynn’s ability to speak Creole. A few times, the numbering system was interrupted to allow mothers with babies to be seen first. This didn’t sit well with those with higher numbers.
We have come to learn that the pastor is the one who has to calm the irate persons and make the decision as to who is to be seen and not seen—despite the numbers. At the conclusion of the clinic, Paul was grateful that he didn’t have to deal with these people.
David and Merrilee have been doing a fantastic job caring for the pharmacy. Lots of worm medicine has to be prepared and many pills, including vitamins, are distributed. We are fortunate to have had generous supplies of the necessary meds supplied by Health Partners in Canada.
Ruth was ably assisted by Rachel acting as her interpreter, while Dr. Germain needed no one obviously. It was amazing to watch the numbers of people go through. Michel was acting as interpreter for the pharmacy—giving the instructions for how to use the meds given. The Hope Mission gals were very busy using their Creole language skills. Dianne and Margie were taking the blood pressures and blood sugar levels of the patients, writing the information down so that the doctors could immediately see this info. Dianne was also the distributor of the dolls we had with us for the children. We are so thankful for the people back home who have knitted these for us. The children and particularly the mothers’ faces light up when they receive one.
I was fortunate to pray with most of the patients—Paul and Margie stepping in when I was elsewhere taking pictures. Of course I was speaking in English—grateful to be able to commit these dear folk to God. At one point I became quite emotional as I thought of how much God cares for them and how happy/joyful they are with what we think is so little.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the sanctuary, was the comforter tying. Blanc interpreted for Audrey and Nicole and 6 quilts were completed. Blanc is a great guy and made the contest of seeing who would get the finished comforter a time of great suspense and laughter. The joy shown by the winner each time was great to see and fun to watch. The last winner was dancing around and jumping up and down to the clapping and support of the others. It was refreshing to see the happiness of the others when someone won. There was no discontent or rancor shown—they seemed genuinely sincere in their expressions of pleasure for the winner.
We ended our clinic around 2:00—not staying longer, for it appeared that rain might be coming and there was no way the driver wanted to be on those roads if they were to become wet.
Arriving back at the hotel, dinner was waiting for us. Most of my fish went to the cat that is on site here. I noted that the bus driver and Pastor Richard shared some of their fish with the cat, too. All the cats here seem to be called Mimi and are called using a high pitched voice. I haven’t gotten the pitch quite high enough. Of course, I have pictures to show of this little one.
Following dinner, vitamins were packaged into a month’s supply for adults and children. Doing this beforehand saves time as other meds are distributed. Everyone who comes through the clinic receives these packs.
At 5:30 p.m. we went to see the beach. In all the times we’ve been in Cayes, we’ve never done this. The beach was stony, not covered in conch shells as last week’s seashore had been. The waves rolling in were bigger as well. I was surprised to see so many fishing boats still out.
We came back in quite heavy rain. Several rooms were wet since the windows were open during the downpour. The inner part of the patio was dry, so four of us played speedo scrabble, others rested or read for awhile.
We had our debriefing time–sharing how we saw God in various ways throughout our day–and ended with David’s devotional thoughts. He continues to give us good things to think about and discuss. Michel told us afterwards that he thinks David should preach at Delmas 33 on Sunday.
Michel received word today that he has been accepted by a company looking for people to install sun panels throughout the country. It is a two-month contract, and we’re hopeful that it will lead into something beyond that time. It would be such an answer to prayer if he could get steady employment. He is leaving early tomorrow morning to head back to Port au Prince to register and get the instructions for the job.
Saturday, February 09, 2013
I, Audrey, am writing today’s report.
We left almost immediately after breakfast to head for our fourth clinic, which took place at Laurent, about a half hour’s journey from Cayes. Arriving there at about 9 a.m., we noticed some patients were awaiting our arrival. After unloading our supplies, my team quickly set up the first quilt – a corduroy one this time. It didn’t take long for our quilt to be surrounded by enthusiastic workers, both male and female.
Blanc was doing double duty today as a translator both for me and for the clinic. So he did a quick explanation of the way to quilt, then disappeared to translate in the clinic pharmacy. Both ministries happened in the hot, hot church.
It didn’t take very long for the speedy workers to complete tying the first quilt. Then Blanc helped with the draw for the winner. This is always an exciting time with each quilter hoping to receive the prize. Blanc chooses a young child to draw the number out of the hat, then he holds the suspense a little bit longer as he looks at the number, then looks around at the quilters, making them wonder who is the winner.
Finally, a winner is declared. There is a lot of excitement as the winner jumps up and down and enthusiastically receives the prize. Her friends are all happy for her, which is really nice to see.
By the time the draw is completed, the next comforter is ready for tying and the rush is on to get it finished. Today we had a shortened clinic, so only 3 comforters were completed.
The clinic went well. The medical team saw 57 patients. Pray for the pastor of Laurent, Pastor Senel, who was found to have kidney stones. The team paid for an ultra sound for him, but the surgery will be free.
It was time to pack up for the long journey back to Port au Prince. We were on the road by 11:30, stopping for 10 minutes at a beach, and then again at a place where we got some freshly baked bread rolls. We arrived at our destination by 5:30. We were held up by heavy traffic as we entered the Port au Prince area, delaying our arrival by at least an hour. Large bulldozers were working on the highway digging a ditch, so at least one lane of traffic was closed in that area, a partial cause for the slow traffic.
We quickly unloaded the bus, because our meal was waiting for us. After eating, we said good-bye to the ladies, Kara-Lynn, Nicole and Rachel, who had joined us for the 4 clinics in the south. They are currently working at Mission of Hope. Rachel’s husband came to transport the ladies back north to their worksite.
A debriefing time followed–“Where did you see God today?”–and then David Jennison led a time of devotions.
Evening ends early, as the morning call for breakfast will be 6 am since church begins at 7:00 a.m.
Sunday, February 10, 2013
This is Dianne reporting. Today is a day for worship and refreshing, so we have not planned any clinics or quilting.
But church service at Pastor Richard’s church starts at 7 am. So we had to get up really early to be ready for breakfast by 6 am. This is our earliest start yet! Hard to believe but Sunday school starts at 6am—and we didn’t make it on time for that! (nor did we plan to!)
A small van picked us up. I think the name of it was Trust in God (written in French on the front). The driver was taking us down the wrong road at one point, so Joan started giving the directions. We had to turn around a couple of times but made it to the church on time.
It is a beautiful church in Port au Prince. The service was very inspiring, with the words to the music up on the screen–mostly in Creole, but some English as well.
As they welcomed visitors, some of the visitors took the microphone and told about themselves–something we don’t have the visitors do in Canada! There were also a couple of testimonies where 2 ladies gave their lives to Christ and were brought up to the front for prayer by the leaders. One of the ladies was returning to the Lord after straying for awhile. Someone had been trying to kill her, but the Lord saved her.
Everyone went up to the front to put their offering in, and even some of the little toddlers put money into the box. They are being trained well and early.
We also noticed fellows with prodding sticks to poke the people who look like they are falling asleep during the service. That would be embarrassing!
They brought our team up to the front, welcoming us and expressing their appreciation. Joan brought greetings from Canada and spoke for a few minutes expressing our appreciation for their faith and the way they encourage and bless us.
A brother gave the sermon, and we were all surprised when they gave the benediction and the service ended after only two-and-a-half hours. We were expecting another hour.
We looked at some school classrooms that are part of the church property. Not all Haitian children get to go to school. I imagine there are many who never have a chance to get an education.
After a rest in the afternoon, some of the group organized meds for tomorrow’s clinic and T-shirts and toys for the children at Grande Saline.
Monday, February 11, 2013
This report is written by Ruth Guy (nurse practitioner), although most of the others managed to call me Dr. Ruth (no I did not do any counseling on the radio).
We, the people of team 11, wish to tell you that we have very much appreciated your prayers this week. In some ways, the week flew by, as we saw over 500 patients in total, and managed to do 23 quilts! In other ways (mainly the heat), it really seemed long!
We awoke at some time before the sun came up, and managed to cram ALL the stuff for Grande Saline onto and into the bus by 0830. We took over 1000 T-shirts with us, as well as a mountain of medical supplies, that we have left there for Dr. Germaine to continue to go up and minister to these people. It is about a 3 hour drive, but with our stops, we managed to stretch it out to 4!
Let me tell you, the abject poverty is stunning if not heart-wrenching. These people are subsisting on rice fields interspersed with a few vegetables here and there. The one river with a few tributaries would make most of our septic tanks look clean. This is the water that they bathe in, wash clothes in, and drink (after boiling, I’m told).
We were able to get some water filtration kits, which we left with them as well. There is such great need in this place.
Their animals are skinny and some even mangy looking. Some of the horses were standing in the rice fields (and looked as though they’d been there for hours), the cows here and there, goats, chickens, and pigs. We would definitely be calling the children’s aide in Canada to come and pick up the children for being left to play in the dirt and the dirty river while parents are out working in the fields.
The Baptist church that we were set up in today was – did I mention hot, crowded and VERY noisy. Especially when we tried to hand out the T-shirts. The expecting moms received the care parcels so lovingly packed by Joan’s cousin. They were all very appreciative.
The ride there and back was interesting. We had people to pick up on the way there – Kara-Lynn from Mission of Hope, and Elsa from Christian Horizons. Carolyn helped out with the translation at the intake station, and we had a couple of other translators help at the pharmacy, the quilt, and at my station. The good doctor speaks Haitian, so he needed no help. Elsa is a Haitian lady who was able to pray with each person after they saw us in the clinic. God, I know, can speak all languages, but it was good for the people to understand what was being said by the pray-ers.
You could sure tell the people there hold Dr. Germaine in high regard. He has such a kind heart for these people, especially the children. He is being used mightily in this country. His own vehicle would be very helpful. He has no means of transportation, so when he goes to all these communities, he has to ride in a tap-tap (which is a small truck with benches in the back, and a modified truck cap that is elevated by steel bars, so it can handle people sitting on the benches. It’s called a tap-tap because all you have to do is tap the side of the truck, the driver stops, and you haul yourself and paraphernalia into the back. I digress.
Once he gets to a certain place on the highway in the tap-tap, Dr. Germaine has to hire a motorbike to take him the rest of the way into the village – on a dusty, dirty path/road.
Today, the prominent issue was malaria. Although the people are very grateful for the help we give them, I am very aware that what we do/did is only a drop in the proverbial bucket. We all pray that the Lord will multiply our efforts and the medicines and prayers to bring glory to His kingdom.
We also saw several newborn babies. One mom was 19, and had a 13-month-old and an 11-day-old. While the people here take this all in stride, it was a real shock to my health-care sensibilities. No healthy babies/healthy children departments here to make sure everything goes smoothly once the baby is born, etc.
I will NEVER complain about, nor tolerate anyone else complaining about, our healthcare system in Canada.
I personally was ever so grateful today for the provision of an air-conditioned bus that took us there and back without incident. Earlier in the week we had managed to take a rock or something in the air conditioning, which rendered it unusable. On Saturday night and Sunday, the driver was able to get to a mechanic to get it repaired!
Well, congrats for those of you who managed to trudge through this missive. I eagerly look forward to landing in Toronto, seeing my husband, and maybe even getting a hamburger! Oh, and to the cold, frigid air of home.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Joan Sider wrote the report for February 12.
This is our last morning here in Port au Prince. We’re doing a variety of things to amuse ourselves. We asked if we could sleep in and have breakfast later–8:30. Funny thing, we were all up early. I guess we were used to being up and of course, thinking about going home likely entered into it as well.
The team arrived back in Ontario late that night.