A time for healing?

goat

Haiti is Haiti! What do I mean by that statement? Well you can be on the mainland associated with the Dominican Republic or on an island the locals have aptly named “forgotten Island”. Haiti is still Haiti. This place is incredibly beautiful, amazingly loved by its people, adorned with symbols of God, faith and trust. It is also extremely loud! New York may be named the city that never sleeps but Haiti is the country that never sleeps. On the mainland everything is connected by streets, side streets, corner alleys and of the course the main highway. So no matter where you are day or night a reverberating ring of car horns, and loud vehicles never goes away. On Source a Philipe the small fishing village on the island of La Gonave there is only one vehicle so traffic noise is not an issue. But there is instead 100 or more goats, gridlocked by a packs of dogs, while burro’s and chickens wander aimlessly through traffic unaware of whether its day or night. Animal noise (especially for this country boy) really shouldn’t be an issue but at midnight a couple of goats baying outside your window for hours on end, can have a tendency to make someone a little cranky.
Oh by the way have I mentioned the weather yet? It’s the only place I know that heats up after the sun goes down! It doesn’t really, but it sure feels that way with the cinder block rooms of our guest house radiating the day’s heat while no breeze is moving through our building at all. I liken it to living inside a pizza oven. What the Hell!
Ok enough bitching…
Bleary eyed and tired I wander aimlessly around my room feeling as though I am ready to go home. This of course was a purely selfish thought and not surprisingly the exact same thought I held last year after the first night on the job site! Shuffling slowly up to breakfast feeling neither hungry nor willing to try and eat. My only goal was to put on a smile for everyone else, giving them some comfort in case they too had a bad night. My wife was awake, bright and smiling, a breath of fresh air to my dreary morning. We chatted about her IMG_2111presentation, cracked jokes with Alisa, Heather and Melissa about what may or may not have landed on someone’s face last night! A nice morning prayer some breakfast and idle conversation brought us all right up to dressing for church. Meeting back at the guest house we all did our very best to look appropriate for a Sunday tradition.
As doc, Gail and I talked about the clinic, Jacy was just inside the guest house reading her notes. Brent was keeping everyone else in stitches when we suddenly realized it was after nine and we were late for church! The strangest thing OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAoccurred to me while walking towards this little church on a hill. I don’t see anyone walking this way, not one soul looking to head towards church! We were late and we all should have seen someone, anyone walking into church! There had to be at least a couple hundred in this village and last year in Leveque the town’s people came from everywhere ten minutes early for church! So where was everyone?
Making my way up the steep staircase with our group, I am thinking; well, maybe I just didn’t see anyone because I was busy talking. Slipping through the white and blue doors there appeared to be hardly a soul inside. A very small handful of handsomely dressed children, a half a dozen adults and a group of students from next door. Where is the town? Where are her people? Why does this feel so strange? When Doc asked where everyone was she was quietly told they were all coming! She was told they would be here because they were coming to see us! Almost as if they had been ordered too? More, strange, curious feelings arise.
Around 9:30, ten or so more adults arrive but this church should have been teaming with parishioners. The pastor allows many of his flock to speak, and read scripture from the bible. These people are humble, honest and a blessing. The pastor spends time placing children up front calling them the future of the church and having them proclaim their importance to the community. This also was cute but seemed odd or staged. The children are embarrassed the way any child would be when placed in front of a crowd. But they do a nice job and are cute. The pastor takes a moment to thank us for coming to his small community and lets us know the word of our arrival has been spread throughout all congregations on the island. This was very good news as we hoped to see as many patients as possible during our week long stay. He then calls upon my wife to come up and speak, Caz joins her IMG_2104for translation as they teak their positions in front of the congregation. Caz smiled as he rose and a quick glimpse was had between myself, Caz and Jacy as he recalled the promise made in regards to translating exactly word for word how Jacy delivers this sermon. You see earlier during a bought of storytelling Caz was reminded about a scripture reading that took place the last time they were together two years ago. Their second translator trapped between a rock and a hard place started making stuff up because the speaker from Jacys team was insensitive with comments during his reading. Caz thought no one knew about the altered translation but him, what he didn’t know at the time was Jacy spoke French and understood some of what the translator was saying. This brought a hearty round of chuckles as they imitated the reworked translations with statements like: Oh lord in heaven, this group of missionaries have humbly come before you, bringing Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches for everyone on the island! PRAISE JESUS AMEN!!!!
Caz promised no matter what, he wouldn’t change the words, but OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwhen Jacy started speaking he broke stride for just a moment and smiled. I knew why he smiled and I quietly chuckled.
Jacy’s sermon was brilliant! It was moving, meaningful and came from the heart. I was so very proud of her and a tear formed while watching this woman I care so deeply for shine in front of this group of fellow Methodists. She stepped down from the pulpit with a smile like no other, sat next to me and held my hand. (She is my everything, and we always feel closer to one another in church. Even if that church happens to be thousands of miles from home). The pastor spoke a few more times and an offering plate was brought forward. This offering plate slowly made its way around and as a bead of sweat rolled down my back I turned towards the associate pastor (Francois) and began apologizing as I (the treasurer for the trip) had been so focused on not being late the offering had been in fact forgotten. Francois smiled, then quickly ducked out the side door and made his way onto the pulpit through an additional side door. Leaning into the pastor’s ear to whisper, I quickly note the pastor staring at me intently while they speak. I didn’t make much of this uncomfortable moment at the time, but it was uncomfortable none the less and later on in the week it would make perfect sense as we (Jacy and I) began to learn the inner workings of Source a Philipe.
Church lets out and we are warmly met by a handful of members from within the community. As with last year after church it is so amazing how easily love for one another is shared without being able to speak a word of the same language. The Haitian people are absolutely wonderful. Their sense of community is like that of the early 1900’s and is a pure joy to be around. I love them all.
Heading off to change from our church clothing and grab some lunch, we are close to opening the clinic. Jacy and I had spoken to several key members of the community and although Sunday is strongly OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAconsidered a day of rest for all Haitians, they readily agreed that opening up the clinic even for the afternoon was a good idea. We throw on our scrubs, unlock the doors and set into our prescribed positions, hoping this half day will help work out any kinks so our team may become more efficient as the week goes on. With people traveling from afar to visit us over the week, the quicker we can get them through the better. Kristina is excited to get started and her excitement translates to us all! The pastor during this morning’s sermon equated our being here to Jesus having been born in Bethlehem, ( a stretch but hey, when in Haiti) people would come from far and wide just to lay eyes upon the doctor and her staff. It was humbling to say the least. We start the ball rolling by cleaning our interpreters teeth just to get a rhythm going and before long we have a line developing around the building! Everyone wants to see us and we quickly learn that “Cleaning” in a Haitians mind meant “filling”. We are here to pull teeth, as our situation is so primitive no other options are plausible. Kristinas son Preston is to handle all children comingOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA through the clinic, check their teeth, show them how to brush and floss then send the ones with dental needs our direction. Heather was alongside him and they were housed in a room alongside the pharmacy. As the line grew I took a moment to get a feel for these people outside, since we arrived there really hasnt been a chance to do so and I thought it would be nice to share a Bonswa and a smile. Wandering around the outside of the building I take notice of the children playing on a patch of dirt adjacent to the clinic. These were some of the very same children that met us as we stepped from the boat, their friends, brothers, sisters, they were all there, happy and playing and very, very, thin. I mean sickly thin, some look gaunt. My heart is breaking at the sight of these little people so thin and frail looking. Is it a lack of food? A lack of water? Or all of the above? Questions start forming as my mind begins pondering their situation. Patting many on the head and trying my best to speak with a few who ask my name, I slowly break away and head inside. It’s time to start, time to get this show on the road.
Finding the whole dental process quite interesting Kristina (doc) places me with Gail assisting! I realize I am really enjoying all aspects of her work! Gail and Kristina start showing me the instruments and I quickly start teaching myself other tools and products needed so I can be of more help. Patient after patient, extraction after extraction, one OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAtooth here, six teeth there, and every one of these people are fairly thankful when its over to have rotten, broken and in some cases fully abscessed teeth removed. I also learn their teeth have longer roots than most and a jawline which is incredibly strong. During the afternoon I also partake in some basic BLS care of sick and injured patients. It was nice treating people who truly needed the assistance and were very thankful for the care when you were done. Jacy bounced from place to place, helping Orson with post-op, cleaning trays, ensuring the line was being taken care of, and always bringing a smile to the Haitian people.
After a little while the flow was moving fairly well when while taking a break, Jacy walks up and whispers Francois has an envelope and is charging people for our care! This of course could not be happening as we raised all the money to be here providing FREE dental care to this villages inhabitants! But it was happening! We can’t let Kristina know as it could ruin her ability to keep going so Jacy took to dealing with OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthe issue and I resumed keeping Kristina in the dark. My wife and I work well as a team and she was doing an awesome job as the team’s leader. Jacy gathers a phone and contacts Pastor Jackie directly who informs her that no clinic is free! The goal for Source a Philipe is to have a permanent clinic fully staffed for the people. If they receive free health care and don’t become accustomed to paying for it, then they will never come in when the clinic is opened. To some extent this makes perfect sense as the charge is nominal. But WE still brought all the supplies, we are providing the care and someone is profiting off this little dichotomy. Through conversation Jacy brings to pastor Jackie’s attention this fee is different depending on who you are. Does this mean social status health care? In a little fishing village out in the middle of nowhere! Social status health care! Really! Pastor Jackie is miffed and short with Jacy for questioning this way of doing business, so she takes it a step farther by asking the children not be charged. He doesn’t seem to like this proposal either but agrees if they have no money to pay they will still be seen by the doctor. Jacy comes back and tells me about the phone call, I am furious, and really have no words for the information I am now privy too. No one can know for now, we agree to keep it quiet and she works hard on creating an amiable solution to this strange turn of events.
All of us are back at our stations working when Jacy comes to get myself and Kristina to look at a young woman whose tooth we pulled earlier in the day. She is pregnant and made very clear to us her worry for the baby during the tooth extraction. Her blood pressure was good and she fell within acceptable parameters for oral care. Her tooth OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAcame out and she went on her way. Now back she is seeking help in regards to her baby. It seems earlier she was afraid to talk with us but now after the extraction she trusts Jacy enough to ask her some questions in regards to her baby. She is having pain, lower left quadrant, she hasn’t felt the baby move for roughly 15 days and she states her belly is shrinking. I grab a stethoscope, palpate her belly and listen to all four quadrants. I start with listening to where I know the baby should be, hoping for a heartbeat, some movement, something, anything. I hear nothing. After covering all four quadrants the only applicable noise I hear is some grumblings coming from this woman’s stomach. No gas sounds, no bowel sounds at all, no baby. Doc comes in and examines her as well, many theories are tossed around, but in the end she needs to go to a hospital. Not an easy task. I walk by Jacy heading back into the dental room, lean in and tell her I hear nothing, there is nothing there, and the baby is most likely dead. Jacy responds by reminding me with lower left quadrant pain and belly shrinkage she believes the baby is dead as well and she probably has an infection. 15 days is a long time, this is not good. We can’t send her home, we can’t just take her to the hospital as in this impoverished area everyone will hear of the “free ride” and flock to our door, possibly causing a riot. We talk about waiting until Thursday and smuggling her out with us, but that’s just too long, she could die.
During devotionals the Wesley Foundation team headed up by their leader Katie, make the call. This woman is going to the hospital and imagesCAJGGNREshe is going tomorrow morning! I assume these kids are least likely to be noticed as after almost thirty days of building and fixing everything they can lay their hands upon they come and go as they please throughout the area. Katie, Jacy and Graham quietly devise a plan. In the morning Katie and Graham smuggle this young woman out first thing without any problems, taking her by truck to a hospital over two hours away. God bless them and the courage they show by doing the right thing.
Back in the clinic poor Brent is having a hard time keeping the charcoal fire lit for sterilization. Oh did I forget to mention we are sterilizing tools over a fire in a pot filled with filtered water? Yep old school all the way! This man Brent is absolutely amazing with his cheery attitude and can do spirit! We are blessed to have him as part of our team. The locals all want their pictures taken with him as we have notified them he is famous. Our group is just having too much fun carrying on the folly that is the man of mystery! So we told the locals he was indeed the famous actor Daniel Craig! That’s right citizens of Source a Philipe those clean tools in your mouth were sterilized by none other than 007 himself! They bought into the hype and we had fun at Brent’s expense. But secretly I think Brent was having more fun at our expense!
At the end of the day we saw a little over 30 patients in 5 hours’ time. It was exhausting and incredibly fulfilling at the same time. I personally witnessed our team come together and form a bond. We have four more days of treating folks from far and wide, but I definitely feel as though it will be a time for healing like no other in this little corner of the world.
On a side note, as I type this I am sitting on a concrete ledge, under a banana tree, in a place with no electricity. Close your eyes and wonder for just a moment how big and beautiful the sky above me must be. You got that picture in your head? Now magnify it by 10.

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