Saturday, January 29, 2011
Friday, January 28, 2011
School nurse Angel Bunce spent her holiday break treating cholera patients in Haiti. I included parts of her story in my article about Boone-based Samaritan’s Purse, the Christian relief agency run by Franklin Graham. The 48-year-0ld nurse from Monroe High School's account is very touching. I was really bummed that I couldn't include more in the original story.
The beauty of the web is I can share more of it here. Here are more excerpts from what she told me.
To read more of the published accounts from local relief workers visit home page for This Land. And also take a look at the Observer Special Reports page on Haiti.
Why did you got Haiti in the first place?
When the earthquake hit, I watched the news coverage with horror. The images were like nothing I had ever seen before. As a nurse, I wanted to go to help. The next morning, I was asked to go to Haiti. I didn't realize it but a teacher that I work with is from Haiti and still has family there. I had to apply for my passport, get the needed immunizations etc before I could go. We went to Haiti in June just as the schools there were starting to reopen.
When I say schools, you probably imagine something similar to what we have here. But, what I found was tarp draped over a wooden frame with desks sitting on a wooden ground. Goats ran freely through the "school." There was no running water, electricity, or air conditioning. The smell of sewage was overwhelming. The technology was an old, black chalkboard. But the kids were smiling and playing games. They were happy to be back in school. They started their day in prayer reciting the Lord's Prayer in their Creole language.
I was touched by how thankful the people were. Instead of being bitter for what they had lost or they were praising God for all that they still had. They were quick to smile and quick to hug. They didn't complain but when asked directly, they all voiced dissatisfaction with the lack of response from their government. This was when I saw their lack of hope, the sadness. Many of the people were still living in tents six months later (if they were lucky). Many others lived on the streets, or under makeshift tents. How do you raise a family in an area 8-by-10 feet? How do you wash your hands or use the bathroom. These people didn't even have the most basic necessities. When I left Haiti that time, I prayed to be able to return.
When the Cholera outbreak occurred in October, I couldn't help but wonder if the children that I saw had been sick or even if they were still alive. I knew in my heart I had to go back to Haiti. It was then that I got an email from Samaritan's Purse to go with them to work in the Cholera clinics.
As a school nurse, I am off work during the Christmas season. So, I gladly agreed to go back. When I mentioned it to my coworkers , three other school nursess agreed to go with me. I went December 27th through January 4th. While there, I worked in the cholera clinic in Cite Soleil.
How are you reflecting on the anniversary of the Jan. 12 earthquake?
I worked in the triage tent while in the cholera Clinic. It was where the sickest of the sick were brought for immediate IV fluids. I saw mothers walking for hours, carrying their babies and children, to get help at the clinic. Having a mother hand over her near lifeless baby to me, a school nurse from North Carolina in hopes, that I could get an IV started that would allow her baby to receive the life saving fluids was.....is very humbling. Finding an IV on such sick, malnourished, dehydrated babies and children is not an easy task. What a feeling to be able to get an IV started and watch a baby "come back alive."
More amazing was to be able to place that baby back into their mama's arms. Since I returned home, my mind has played a near constant recording of the many miracles I witnessed. To fully appreciate the "miracles", you would have to see it for yourself.
The clinic is nothing more than large tents and barn like shelters. There are flies everywhere. The smell of bleach used to decontaminate is so strong that sometimes it takes your breath away. It is hot and the hours are long. The patients are lined up on wooden cots with holes in them that allow them to go to the bathroom when they are too weak to get up.
There is no privacy for them, no call bell, no meals served. Family members help by emptying the bedpans and they bring in food. These conditions would be considered inhumane, unlawful, and disrespectful in this country. In Haiti, it's the best there is.
I never heard any complaints; instead songs of praise filled the air as familiar hymns are sung loudly in the Creole language. Doctors and nurses from the U.S., Canada, and U.K join in, singing in English. It's a happy time in a harsh environment and lives are being saved both physically and spiritually.
Another experience I had came from working closely with the "Porters". S.P. has employed Haitians to carry the sick from the street to the tents or from tents to tents. Frequently, I would have to call out to the "porter" to come pick up my patient from triage and carry them to the admission tent. I'm from the south and I do have that southern drawl. It became a joke to them (friendly kidding) to see if they could imitate me calling out for the "porter". They taught me some simple Creole phrases (stand, sit, and Can you walk). They loved hearing my southern drawl in their language. I didn't mind their kidding. In fact, I taught them to say, "Haaaay Ya'll".
What do you see as the successes and challenges in Haiti?
When you look around Haiti with the devastation still there from the earthquake, it's hard to find anything to say that is "successful." But, when you travel through the city of Port-au-Prince, you can't miss the blue S.P. tarps that are everywhere. One thing that I personally see as a challenge is people no longer want to give money to help the people in Haiti. I hear over and over that the money "isn't getting to the people". My response to that is I too feel it is true that Haiti's government is not doing all that they can for their people. That being said, I didn't go to Haiti to help their government. I went for the people. I just can't ignore what is happening there. I just can't.
Monday, January 24, 2011
The Observer asked relief workers who traveled to Haiti in the aftermath of last year’s earthquake to share their reflections about the experience. To read more of the published accounts from local relief workers visit home page of This Land. And also take a look at the Observer Special Reports page on Haiti.
Debbie Jonas (photo: blue shirt holding green bag) is a 41-year-old physician assistant with the Conner Family Health Clinic in Matthews. She traveled Dr. Will Conner and a team of Charlotte doctors and nurses in February Cap-Haitien working at a 65-bed hospital that was converted into a 250-bed MASH unit to help treat earthquake victims. She treated 16 patients -- almost each one with amputations -- in a concrete classroom that had been converted into a medical ward.
"One year ago the earthquake that decimated the country of Haiti provided a rare and precious opportunity for me to see first-hand the strength and optimism of the Haitian people. Below is an account of my experience in Haiti:
In times of global crisis, people are able to truly witness the very best people have to offer. February 18th was the beginning of a journey in which I was able to witness the very best people had to offer. Through the gracious generosity of Hendrick Motorsports – our medical team was flown directly into Cap Haitian for a week-long, medical relief effort for the refugees of the Haiti Earthquake.
Our team was fortunate to serve at the Sacre Coeur medical compound in the small town of Milot, Haiti. Outside the gates of a make-shift medical compound, Milot appeared to be a simple rural Caribbean town: Dense green foliage, banana trees, dirt roads, street vendors trying to sell their wares to passer-bys. But within the walls of this make-shift medical compound existed an entirely different world.
I had 16 patients in my unit – a concrete classroom building that had been converted into a medical ward, and the adjoining side had an additional 28 patients – practically each one with amputations. Each morning I entered Salle A and greeted my women, 'Bonjour mes amies' – and without fail they would each greet me back. These women were lovely, graceful, appreciative, dedicated to getting better, and strong. I mentioned on more than one occasion to my teammates that we could learn many lessons from these women: How to face adversity with faith and strength; Living in the moment; Focusing on all of the blessing they had versus all of the losses they had sustained.
Our morning began with an hour commute to Milot and we began seeing our patients by 7:30-8:00 and would work straight through until 5:00 each afternoon – the commute back was considered dangerous after dark so our days were limited to daylight. The time flew by – rounding on patients, assuring their pain was being controlled, dispensing medications, reading notes from the specialists the day before, consulting with the physical therapy team, administering mid-day meds, dressing changes. The days flew by….then night would come and worry would set in…..would they receive their pain meds through the night? Would they receive their injections of Lovenox to prevent blood clots, would the women get any rest, or would they continue to have horrible nightmares about the earthquake that rocked Haiti?
Solange, a 23 year-old female, sustained a fracture in her lumbar spine, resulting in paraplegia. During the aftermath of the quake she was stuck in the rubble with so much pressure on her pelvis that when she was pulled from the rubble, her entire backside was torn off as she was pulled to safety. This woman was in excruciating pain when we arrived – a challenge in any setting but worrisome in a setting of primitive medicine.
Jean-Pierre Azir, a 30 year-old female sustained a fracture to her left femur and arrived in Milot, with the hardware of an external fixator attached to her thigh. This woman and her four children survived the quake, only to be separated so that she could receive the medical treatment to repair her leg correctly. Her youngest child is 4 months old.
Anne-Marie Milieu, was a 41 year old female who had suffered a right femur fracture, damage to the nerves in her left forearm, a scalp laceration, and an injury to the popliteal artery that required surgery. This woman who had serious wounds worked through her physical therapy exercises every single day without fail, and only admitted to discomfort from the exercises, with persistent prodding.
These are just three snapshots of hundreds upon hundreds of patients from the Haiti earthquake. Each of these people had their own story of loss and survival. And while all of their injuries were different, and their prognoses varied from case to case, one thing was certain – there was hope in their eyes. Hope that their bodies would heal. Hope that they were receiving the very best medical care Haiti had to offer. Hope that Haiti will change for the better. Hope that people will never forget Haiti.
I left Haiti leaving small pieces of my heart behind with each of my patients, but these gracious souls gave small pieces of their hearts to me to take home. So while my heart is whole again – it is forever changed."
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Charlotte doctor Marc Lewin, 45, spent a week in Haiti last February working at a 65-bed hospital that was converted into a 250-bed MASH unit to help treat earthquake victims. At the time, Lewin (photo, center) wrote this touching letter to his kids to help explain why he felt moved to use his skills in country they knew little about.
On the eve of the one year anniversary, he's written them another letter -- this time from Charlotte. He said he wants his kids Max, 9, Kate, 8, and Charlie, 6, to know that there are people around the world who are in need of help and, that in Haiti, people are still suffering. He also wants to reinforce that they should be grateful for all that they have.
Here is what he wrote:
Dear Max, Kate and Charlie, my wonderful children:
It’s been about one year since I wrote to you from Haiti. I hope you remember that I went there after a terrible earthquake that killed and injured a lot of people. I went with a team of other doctors and we worked hard to help as many people as we could in the time that we were there. All of the people I took care of had suffered terrible injuries like losing arms and legs. I wrote to you about how much the unfortunate people there appreciated our coming to help and what a wonderful experience it was to be able to go there and help them.
I am writing to you now to tell you about what has been happening since then in Haiti. Life is still very difficult for most people there. Most of them are poor and many of them are sick. So many people who lost their homes in the earthquake one year ago are still living outside in tents where it is not safe and very hard to keep clean. In such conditions, diseases tend to spread. One of these diseases is called cholera and in the last few months, thousands of people have died from it including many children. This is especially terrible because simple things like clean homes, good food and vaccines could have prevented so many of these people from dying.
So you see that things that we don’t even think about much like our wonderful, safe home and fresh water and food are things that many people in the world need and don’t have. I know you realize that my team and I went to Haiti and helped a lot of people and came home but I want you to be aware that the people in Haiti and many other poor countries all over the world still need our help. The team that I went to Haiti with is still trying to help. We are currently planning to build a medical clinic so that we can keep going back to help the wonderful Haitian people.
Although it was very difficult for me seeing the terrible tragedies that happened to people in Haiti, it was really a wonderful feeling helping them. In fact, there is no greater thing you can do in your lives than help others. When bad things happen to me here in Charlotte, I always think back to the unfortunate people I worked with in Haiti (and India and Africa on other trips) and I realize that my problems are really very small in comparison.
I hope that all three of you realize how lucky you are to live in a place where you are free and safe and also to have food and water whenever you want. I also hope that you will take the opportunity whenever possible to help people less fortunate than you throughout your lives.
DaddyThe Observer asked relief workers who traveled to Haiti in the aftermath of last year’s earthquake to share their reflections about the experience. To read more of the published accounts from local relief workers visit home page of This Land. And also take a look at the Observer special reports page Haiti.
Monday, January 17, 2011
I asked Byrnes to reflect on her trip. This is what she wrote.
“My first trip to Haiti was just a few months after the earthquake. I anticipated seeing people that were distraught and hopeless and it would be my job to lift their spirits. Boy was I wrong. In spite of unbelievable devastation and human suffering, I was introduced to a country of people that were strong, persevering, full of hope and even joy. How could this be? Instead of me lifting their spirits, they lifted mine.”
This week I had the good fortune to return to Port-Au-Prince and Cap Haitian, Haiti on the one-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake. Now the people of Haiti are dealing with a second disaster, the Cholera epidemic.
We are distributing 4,000 dropper bottles containing two ounces of bleach. Eight drops of the bleach will treat one gallon of water and make it suitable for drinking. Each two-ounce dropper bottle will treat and provide approximately 250 gallons of drinking water to Haitian families. We have already distributed enough to treat 1,000,000 gallons of water. The trip has been such a success; we have pledged 16,000 more dropper bottles, which will treat 4,000,000 gallons of water.
Our church has been doing work in Haiti for over 10 years. Our team leader, Tim Mastenbrook, has made 48 trips in just 25 years. Our church works with about 150 churches in north Haiti and even more in south Haiti. This network of churches guarantees that the efforts actually reach the people.
The ultimate solution to the Cholera epidemic is wells and latrines in these communities to provide clean drinking water and safe disposal of sewage. We are trying to raise the $6,000 needed for a well and the $2,000 needed for a latrine to place in 10 Haitian communities with the greatest need. Each location would provide clean drinking water and safe disposal of sewage for 1,000-2,000 people, half of those being children.
I know there are many people in the U.S. that do not sympathize with Haiti, but there is no way you can understand the situation without seeing it first hand. They do not have the resources that we have in the U.S. There are no landfills and no trash service, so there is trash everywhere. There are no water treatment plants or sewage systems, so they suffer from Cholera. There are no public schools so many children grow up illiterate. The Haitian people are very hard working, but there is no commerce, so there are no jobs. We live in a country where there are programs, resources and elements to ensure success. None of that exists in Haiti.
I hope I have the good fortune to visit Haiti every year. Seeing the country reminds me of all my blessings. Being with the people reminds me that happiness is a state of mind, not a set of circumstances. Anyone who visits Haiti to help the people will discover that they help themselves and are forever changed."
Photo: Goins-Byrnes spending time with children at a Port-Au-Prince orphanage.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
“After the earthquake that devastated Haiti, I believed that my life was not worth living. I had truly lost my mind because I had lost my family, my house, my friends. I could not fee my children. And we did not have a place to live."
"… Thanks to people like you Madam Laurence and Donald, you have put me back on my way. You have given me another chance and hope for a better life…"
"…Thanks to your help. You have taught me that despite the difficult times of life that God will always put a person of good heart and good will to help you."
"You are now my only family.”
Natalie Conner and Desvignes, who also met at Sacre Coeur, worked together to help find the two displaced families housing in Cap-Haitien. And with the help of Donald Chaudry, the Conners’ guide and closest friend in Haiti, the Conners have continued to support Pierre and Michel’s families.
Friday, January 14, 2011
"I had visited Haiti in 2006 and 2007 and the friends I made had been directly impacted by the earthquake and even though I wasn’t able to help or see them while I was there in 2010 I felt like I was reaching out to them. I also thought that as a surgeon my skills would be helpful caring for earthquake victims."
"Being involved with HHFoH has ensured that I have continued to think of Haiti regularly throughout the last year. I am glad that the anniversary has come so that Haiti’s problems will be on the minds of most Americans again. People continue to ask me about my trip and my experiences and sharing the same stories and pictures helps reassure me that people in the US still care about Haiti. Due to my work schedule and other commitments I haven’t been able to go back to Haiti but there are many people who express an interest in going and I hope to encourage others to go and see what Haiti is like while I stay home and work to help rebuild Haiti from here (for now)."
"I think about the patient at Milot who was a young girl, paralyzed from a spinal injury who was taken by the British neurosurgeon to join the long term care facility they have a few miles from Milot. I hope and am fairly certain that she is doing well. However, I keep remembering that he said he had 40 people to consider for the one spot in their facility.
There are hundreds of paralyzed patients in Haiti and who is taking care of them? Where are they? Have they died from lack of care? I just can’t imagine the average Haitian being able to handle the problems that come with a paralyzed family member. In the US, we have institutions and home nurses and physical therapists that help and it is still remarkably difficult. How are people with no shelter and minimal funds able to do it? I’m afraid that some of these patients have been left to die."
"The success is that Haiti is still on the minds of the international community. The challenges are huge – the lack of organization and success of the Haitian government and people themselves makes me wonder if they will ever have a better life despite our help.It’s a lot easier for me to pay my taxes in the US when I see how our governments provides for us. I wish the Haitian government could do more for the Haitian people but I don’t have much optimism that will happen."
"I remember being in my dorm room and hearing a knock at my door. That knock would change my life forever. My suitemate came in to tell me that there had been an earthquake in Haiti and I needed to call home. After hearing about the disaster in 2010, I teamed up with HHFoH to provide any medical and emotional support needed. When I got there, I was placed in the pediatric ward and intensive care unit where I translated, changed wound dressings, administered some medicine, told stories, danced, cried, and realized who I really was. I think about how no matter how much we try, we are still a long way from rebuilding the Haiti I knew a long time ago.
The people of Haiti have been suffering for a long time, and now we are rebuilding- literally-brick by brick. Since my trip to Haiti, My friends and I have been collecting and sending clothes for those still being hospitalized and those just in need.
Some may ask me with the earthquake anniversary coming up, how do I feel and what do I think about? Thing is, I think about it every day. I think about Dove, Sandia, Yvelene, and how it’s because of them I am pursuing a career in pediatric dentistry. I think about reuniting babies with their parents and protecting those who were possible orphans. I think about how my grandfather’s house was literally 57 steps away from the hospital where we were trying to save lives. Like I said before, I don’t wait until January to think about what happen. I’m reminded of it every day when I look at myself in the mirror. The earthquake impacted my life majorly. It made me stronger."
"I can't believe it has been a year already. January 12, 2010 was one of the worst days of my life, but it made such a strong impact on my life at the same time. I initially thought losing my Godmother in the quake would have been enough to shake my foundation, but actually being able to go there and helped teach me more then all my medical training could.
I am Sherma Morton, an obgyn in Charlotte who was blessed with the opportunity to go with the group HHFOH to Haiti last year. I remember when we just got there, my heart bled for the victims. I didn't think I could have done anything to impact the people of Haiti. Little did I know when I landed back in Charlotte I would be the one that would be forever changed.The people that endured but still persevered gave me hope and drive to do more with my life. I was humbled by my grief and enlightened by their strength. I am forever grateful for the time, but I felt horribly guilty for leaving. For having water, food, a place to lay my head, my limbs and for my life. For something that made no sense to have happened it made my life's purpose very clear. That was my year in a nutshell and I wouldn't change a moment of my growth. I just pray my country will have the same monumental growth as I did.Keep praying for Haiti and don't forget them."
"Back in January after the earthquake I felt the need to help. I have responded to natural disasters on several occasions as a paramedic and thought my experience could be helpful. I learned about the trip being sponsored by Haitian Heritage and Friends of Haiti and was able to go with HHFoH to Haiti in February.During my time there I did med-surg nursing and helped coordinate patients being transported in and out by helicopter. Our time and work there was exhausting, but very rewarding. Once back from Haiti I became involved with HHFoH and started to understand the long term needs in Haiti. One need I noticed was the lack of emergency services. The ambulances we saw were not equipped and the drivers had no first aid training, they were only the driver.With HHFoH we were able to purchase a used ambulance and equip it with donated emergency medical equipment. I was able to return to Haiti in September to provide first aid training to the drivers and provided training to doctors and nurses that will respond with the ambulance on calls for help. We have purchased another ambulance that we are preparing to be used as a mobile clinic in some of the communities out in the country that does not have access to medical care. I plan to return to Haiti in March to help with the initial set-up of the mobile clinic.The greatest successes would be the overall response to Haiti from the medical community as a whole; from the initial response to the continued support given for the cholera epidemic. (Personally it's the ambulance and the training we provided and knowing it will be used to make a difference). The greatest challenges are going to be the lack of healthcare infrastructure that's needed to meet the needs of their citizens. This causes them to rely on international response. From the stand point of HHFoH, it's finding the funding and resource to continue the work that we have started. So we can assist in building the healthcare infrastructure that's needed."
"One year ago, I watched with my family the news of the earthquake in Haiti. I've known Dr. Will Conner most of my life, and it didn't surprise me at all that he felt called to go help.I was pleased when Will called me a couple weeks later to see if I would be able to join him and a group to go to Hospital Sacre Coeur in Milot, Haiti. I remember telling a few friends in Charlotte that I was going ... and within a few days, checks began pouring in from all over to help with medical supplies. Charlotte has a big heart.When we arrived at the hospital in Milot, I was the doctor assigned to tent #4. My first patient was Joseph Edelyn, (a young man) who all the staff called "Light" because of his infectious smile. Joseph was a double amputee, whose family had been killed in the earthquake when his home was destroyed. He had nowhere to go, no family to reach out to, and yet his gentle optimism seemed to light up the entire tent. I just remember how gracious he was. He thanked everyone around him and thanked God for being alive.Later, when our team returned to Charlotte and my children ran up to me at the airport, I remember getting very emotional as I told them about Joseph and our trip to Haiti. We have so much to be thankful for, and I am grateful for meeting my friend Joseph and giving me a new perspective.I also remember Laurant, our 85-year-old patient who developed pneumonia and went into respiratory failure on our second day at the hospital. He was intubated and my friend, Mac, sat with him throughout the night in the ICU, monitoring his vitals...The next day, we prepared his family for the worst, and yet Laurant showed his own strength and determination by pulling through. It's unusual to live past age 60 in Haiti. To meet someone as strong and wise as Laurant was a gift.My favorite follow-up e-mail was from my nurse in Haiti: "Tell Dr. Hayes Joseph was walking on a temp prosthesis and crutches and that Laurant is like a new man, totally with it and sitting up and feeding himself...."The experience in Haiti changed me. It gave me new perspective on my life... We have so much to be thankful for. I look forward to my next trip back to Haiti so that I can take a long walk with my friend Joseph."