I have become an electronic zombie

It breaks my heart when I see people wasting or frittering away their lives. 

So wrapped up in our own self importance, worried about what we believe others will think about how we look, act or react to life around us that we fail to just recognize and appreciate our own self worth.

The internet and social media warping words, bending the truth and consistently bombarding us with so many personal, social and irrelevant issues we can no longer begin to comprehend, let alone handle our own problems without creating a public spectacle. 

Anger, hate and disgust for all creeps like an elephant, thundering, shaking as it pours from our fingers tips for all to see. 

Our lives driven constantly by an emotion not of our doing, but created for our undying attention or entertainment as we stare into the handheld zombie sucking dry what remains of an ability to think for ourselves. 

Our lives, locked in a box that lets us go nowhere, do nothing without a thread, status update, like or post. A neural overload of useless information with no basis in reality, only assumption and lust. 

When you die, and you will, does it really matter how many “likes” you obtained? Will you have lived life for you, or for what you believe others want to see? Can you lay your head down for the last time knowing you made a positive difference in the world? Were you a catalyst for change or as stated above did you fritter it all away, for nothing? 

Stop living your lives through the falsehoods of others, attached to half truths and lies perpetrated upon your unwavering electronic devotion. 

Go out and live! Experience, create a personal, exceptional, positive narrative that bathes your inner soul. For to feast solely on what you are being fed by others can only lead to starvation, to a lack of fulfillment. 

We as a society seem to have forgotten what a gift this thing called life really is and trust me when I say; it’s to late once it’s gone. 

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I have become an electronic zombie

It breaks my heart when I see people wasting or frittering away their lives. 

So wrapped up in our own self importance, worried about what we believe others will think about how we look, act or react to life around us that we fail to just recognize and appreciate our own self worth.

The internet and social media warping words, bending the truth and consistently bombarding us with so many personal, social and irrelevant issues we can no longer begin to comprehend, let alone handle our own problems without creating a public spectacle. 

Anger, hate and disgust for all creeps like an elephant, thundering, shaking as it pours from our fingers tips for all to see. 

Our lives driven constantly by an emotion not of our doing, but created for our undying attention or entertainment as we stare into the handheld zombie sucking dry what remains of an ability to think for ourselves. 

Our lives, locked in a box that lets us go nowhere, do nothing without a thread, status update, like or post. A neural overload of useless information with no basis in reality, only assumption and lust. 

When you die, and you will, does it really matter how many “likes” you obtained? Will you have lived life for you, or for what you believe others want to see? Can you lay your head down for the last time knowing you made a positive difference in the world? Were you a catalyst for change or as stated above did you fritter it all away, for nothing? 

Stop living your lives through the falsehoods of others, attached to half truths and lies perpetrated upon your unwavering electronic devotion. 

Go out and live! Experience, create a personal, exceptional, positive narrative that bathes your inner soul. For to feast solely on what you are being fed by others can only lead to starvation, to a lack of fulfillment. 

We as a society seem to have forgotten what a gift this thing called life really is and trust me when I say; it’s to late once it’s gone. 

Leukemia’s house of horrors!

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Phase two of AML treatment. The beginning of ongoing chemotherapy or Consolidation Therapy (CT) as it is known.

So what does that mean? Quite simply it means that Jacy’s immune system has bounced back to epic proportions. But because the original treatment was a bombardment of all aspects of AML she was exposed to many different drugs that all had different jobs.  Thier goal was to kill everything, both good and bad! The nuclear bomb of cancer treatment! The primary drugs classes for this procedure fell upon Alkylating Agents and Antimetabolites.

Alkylating Agents: 

Alkylating agents directly damage DNA to prevent the cancer cell from reproducing. As a class of drugs, these agents are not phase-specific; in other words, they work in all phases of the cell cycle. Alkylating agents are used to treat many different cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin disease, multiple myeloma, and sarcoma, as well as cancers of the lung, breast, and ovary.

Because these drugs damage DNA, they can cause long-term damage to the bone marrow. In rare cases, this can eventually lead to acute leukemia. The risk of leukemia from alkylating agents is “dose-dependent,” meaning that the risk is small with lower doses, but goes up as the total amount of the drug used gets higher. The risk of leukemia after getting alkylating agents is highest about 5 to 10 years after treatment.

Antimetabolites:

Antimetabolites are a class of drugs that interfere with DNA and RNA growth by substituting for the normal building blocks of RNA and DNA. These agents damage cells during the S phase. They are commonly used to treat leukemias, cancers of the breast, ovary, and the intestinal tract, as well as other types of cancer.

So as you can see these are some pretty harsh buggers and can make a person very sick while performing their duties. The problem is even though they kill everything and Jacy’s counts have rebounded with astounding veracity there still could be stragglers. Evil doers hiding, lining her sacred DNA, waiting to join up forming an alliance, then pouncing on her fresh new unsuspecting immune system!.

Because of these sneaky little bastards we are in Consolidation Therapy. So what is Consolidation therapy(CT) ? Well I am glad you asked, Consolidation therapy is:

Treatment that is given after cancer has disappeared following the initial therapy. Consolidation therapy (CT) is used to kill any cancer cells that may be left in the body. It may include radiation therapy, a stem cell transplant, or treatment with drugs that kill cancer cells. Also called intensification therapy and postremission therapy.

So as you can see Consolidation therapy (CT) is very important. It is the clean up crew of cancer treatment. The crew that cleans up the stadium after a ball game. The squad that ensures a scene is all clear after a major crime. The Firemen that perform salvage and overhaul after a fire. The-oh well you get the point.

Jacy’s CT consists of Cytarabine. Now one may think WHOOO HOOO, only one drug instead of 4 or 5! But let me tell you this one is just as evil as the rest. You see when taking Cytarabine you must first be medicated with pain and anti-nausea medications! Because if you aren’t, hello toilet! Watch me steer the porcelain bus! Pray to the Sloan valve gods! Kiss the tile floor!  To make matters even worse some patients will develop a fever, body rashes, red eyes, and of course exhaustion.

During treatment your doctor will test your blood on a regular basis. Not just to see if Cytarabine is wiping out any stragglers but checking your kidney and liver functions ensuring it’s not killing more than it should.

But hey whats a little vomit, itchy skin, red eyes, exhaustion  and possible kidney damage when it means you will live! Right! Am I right?images-19

Luckily enough Jacy only had a few of the symptoms and is doing remarkably well! She is going to beat cancer, we are witnessing it first hand. She is going to become stronger and live a long and happy life.

So how do they administer the CT treatment? I am so glad you have inquired!

It is done through a port placed just under your skin. Since she has to under go three-week long treatments over the next three months in the hospital, instead of placing a Picc-line (acronym for Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter) into her arm every time she comes into the hospital an out-patient surgical procedure is performed to place a small port (PowerPort) just under the skin for easy access to a vein for administering drugs. (see picture)port.illustration220px-Portkatheter_Röntgen

On Monday we arrived at the hospital at 7am for admission. Jacy’s surgery was scheduled for 11:30 and by 1:00 she was wandering back out into the lobby. Procedure finished, right side of her chest numb, black and blue and swollen. She was supposed to start chemotherapy at 3pm but by 5pm we still had no room available as the hospital was full.

Around 7:30pm a room finally opened up, we got settled and lucky for us two of Jacy’s favorite nurses where on and had been assigned to her for the evening. Watching her start the pain medications and anti-nausea drugs, we knew it was going to be a long night.  Jacy felt I should go home to be with our children, and like a good husband I did as I was told; but only because I knew she was in great hands. Kissing her good night, looking into her gleaming eyes, little did I know the hell she would go through not more than three hours later.

0800- Jacy calls me gravely voiced and sounding weak; asking if she was ok; she says no. You see the PowerPort site was so swollen and inflamed no one could make contact with the palpation points to locate the insertion site. They grabbed it manipulated it, poked at it trying to insert the PowerLoc infusion device and nothing. Now imagine 12 hours earlier someone cut open your chest in two different places, inserted a device through one opening just under the skin then fed a line down into a vein at the other insertion point, then sewed it all up and sent you on your way. Now pain meds have now worn off, it hurts like hell and people are grabbing it, pulling on it, doing everything they can to stick a needle inside of this bruised swollen section of skin! Not maliciously mind you but trying their very hardest to perform this manuever quickly because underneath this swollen, inflamed area and little plastic device lays a 146 pound woman screaming and crying in pain! Proclaiming to all that will listen this pain is worse than childbirth! (that is saying something)

Both of Jacy’s nurses were crying too as they both love my wife and the thought of her hurting was crushing them inside. One nurse refused a doctors suggestion of going straight into another vein to start the procedure because she knew Cytarabine had a high probability of collapsing the vein at insertion point. They were wonderful advocates for my wife. After four failed attempts over a few hour period, additional pain medications and a lot of prayers, one of the nurses asked Jacy if she thought she could bear one more attempt. Through gritted teeth, screams of pain and sobbing tears from all involved they got it first stick. Chemotherapy started.

The nurses all met with management to implement some changes in regards to the insertion of the PowerPort device. The Powerport device is usually inserted a few days prior to the patient receiving treatment. This allows the insertion site to recover, swelling to diminish and a healing process to develop a good strong foothold before someone pokes it with a needle. Through the dissipation of swelling the palpation points are also easier to locate. It came about that all patients with same day insertion will have the adjoining PowerLoc insertion device put into place. No more torture sessions for patients to start Chemotherapy.

Today Jacy is doing much better. First round is going very well and she feels like a prisoner trapped in a room. At least this time she wont be trapped there for 21 days.  She comes home on Saturday night or Sunday morning. She will be confined to her room until her white cell counts rise to normal levels. She will be extremely immunocompromised. She will be extremely nauseous, she will inevitably become a tad bit cranky, but she will also be one step closer to beating this disease. One step closer to returning to a normal life, one step closer to seeing her students and one step closer to placing this chapter of her life in the books.

She will have kicked cancers ass.

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Random thoughts on life and Leukemia

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Last night while gazing upon the stars at 1 am after our 5th medical response in a row my brain began reflecting upon life, its crazy highs and sock you in the gut lows. In a matter of 40 minutes myself and our crew had lent assistance to a wide generational swath of our local society.

From devastating self-destruction both mentally and through chemical intervention to an actual emergency need in conjunction with a health care system abused by those neither willing nor able to understand its legal ramifications, the resources lost, nor the world that actually doesn’t revolve around them personally. A true sampling of consensus within a short period of time.

Becoming judgmental is an easy undertaking, fighting the urge to prejudge individuals upon first encounter is hard. Being a fireman the communities trust is put in our hands to always do the right thing. See people for who they are not what they have become. We are allowed glimpses of people’s lives that would otherwise go unnoticed. That is a large responsibility. Some days it weighs heavier than others on my heart, as my eyes witness these revolving cross sections of our society I go home upset or unhappy with what I have seen. Thus the judgmental aspect forms and memories that cannot be erased etch themselves into my psyche permanently  like a scar for all to see, left for me to pick at from time to time for no other reason than because it exists.

Staring into the nights sky, pondering what it all means, fogging up my brain. Reliving experiences from my life, candid moments, snap shots and like a Grisham novel this story is all sewn together with a fabric of revelation. Every moment finding a place as to why. Why it happened, when it happened and that it happened to me. There is a meaning and the meaning determines not just who I am but WHAT I am or have become. The people in my life I hurt, loved, helped, shared experiences with and what I learned from each and every individual who has crossed my path, set eyes upon my craggy face.

Shaking my head as if my brain was an etch a sketch hoping to erase an unfinished drawing, I can’t lose this feeling that all is not enough.  There is more life to be lived,  we are trapped in a stereotype of how life should be lived and for the most part succeed out of learned habit. But what if there was more? We have one life to live, we are not guaranteed any days here on this earth, trust me I have held the hands of many who were cheated, watching those last moments fade away in their eyes, lives unfulfilled, potential disappeared, erased forever.

Yet the world still turns, it feels no repercussion from human losses. Sun rise, sun set, society still moves, people still awaken, babies are born, buildings erected, mountains moved and society trudges on. Eventually who you are or were, is destined to become a faint memory or forgotten. It is life and life goes on.

I live a life of fear. Fear that I will never be good enough, fear that my children may perish before me, to be forgotten before they had a chance to become something, anything that leaves a mark no matter how small upon this world.  Fear that my wife may lose this battle with Leukemia at some point, leaving sadness and despair to rage within our family. Fear that I will perish before I find what this longing is deep within my heart that whispers; no screams at me there is something more. A mark, a substantial mark that I am supposed to leave upon this earth. Complete narcissistic view I know, yet it lingers deep within my soul. Maybe I am already leaving that mark and just don’t see my hand to spite my face? Fear that she (my wife) will know the pain of losing me, carrying an ache, sorrow and agony with her for the rest of her days.  Fear.

So I stare up at the stars and I wonder why? Why do I feel this way? Why cant I be happy with the here and now. Why I worry about how much time I have left or lack there of? I wonder how I can be better, a better father, husband and friend, a better co-worker, I wonder why?

Remember those days when you felt as though you had the world by the balls? There was nothing to stand in your way, no mountain you couldn’t climb, no one was going to say no to you! Do you remember? I do.

If you don’t understand the feeling I am referring too, just look at your child. Not your self-absorbed teen ager; your child. 1-9 years of age. Before society, television and friends ruin their ability to think on their own, be creative beyond our walled off perceptions. Give a child an adult sized problem, one requiring and answer and you will see imagination, inspiration, out of the box thinking and a confidence just waiting to be tapped. But as they grow older that ability goes away through structure, through habits neither right or wrong learned from observing ones elders. That feeling you had as a kid of being able to daydream all your problems away. To look deep into a problem and come up with the craziest most unorthodox suggestion known to man. To be confident.

That is the way I feel about Leukemia in my life. I don’t have Leukemia, but when my wife suffers, I suffer, when she hears news both good or bad, my emotions grow raw with glee or anger. I refuse to hear the word no. There has to be a yes to this struggle. I refuse to believe that my wife wont beat this disease. I refuse to listen to statistics and the medical dribble that often accompanies those numbers. And to date she is winning, we can see the finish line and victory looks great!

I feel as though my wife has the world by the balls! That she has another opportunity, showing the world she is unbreakable. That feeling has inspired me, left me in awe of her positive attitude, her out of the box thinking. She unknowingly has allowed me to reconnect with my inner child. There are no problems that cannot be tackled without imagination. She has left me finding the positive, loving all who surround me, laughing just a little bit harder, saying thank you a whole lot more and remembering that life is a gift to be cherished. I kiss her on the head every night while she sleeps, the smell of her skin soothing my soul. She has and is all I will ever need.

And so I am left staring at the stars, at one in the morning, wondering if there is or could there ever be, more………

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The Face of Leukemia (December 7, 2013)

 

IMG_2037Hair:

We trim it, grow it, wax it, shave it, style it, comb it, do crazy things with these human DNA carrying follicles for attention. Hair, its funny we don’t really think all too much about hair as it’s an assumed portion of our anatomy. From the day we are born all of us walk through life with hair of some kind layering our bodies; some more than others and some less than others by choice, but hair none the less. imagesCAQUXXXU

But there is an elite crowd of human beings walking this earth. They belong to a very special club. A club that no one wants to join, no one person is standing at the clubhouse door banging fervently to get inside. No one..  Yet rumor has it close to one million people are card-carrying members of this fraternity.  One million people have come as close to death as you can get then climbed their way back inheriting a lifetime membership along the way. One million people. Think about that for a second….

So what do these one million plus club members have to do with hair?

They don’t have any! That is right, not one single follicle, not a stray, a sprig, a whisker or unkept eyebrow. It hasn’t been shaven down to the epidermis or plucked by a crazy tweezers wielding lunatic. Every single hair, all 140,000 strands of color enhanced, vanity driven strands are gone.

This of course is the norm when you are enrolled in the chemotherapy club, everyone’s worst nightmare right?  Its funny really when you think about it, we as a society put so much emphasis on our hair.

Turning grey or tired of your look- Color it, trim it, shape it.

Falling out- Rogaine

Thinning- Hairclub for men/transplants/comb over

Trends- Shave it, mohawk it, pixie cut, curls, bun, dreadlocks, cornrows, bob, etc..

And yet when it has all fallen out, what emphasis is there? To wear a hat or a scarf? As a chemotherapy club member you never have to worry about haircuts, dyes, styles etc.. All you need to worry about is whether or not your noggin stays warm.  There are thousands of hats, scarfs, and bandanas to choose from, or hey just step out like Mr. Clean and rock that shit!

Imagine waking up one morning and finding all of your hair-and I mean ALL OF YOUR HAIR gone. You are lying in a bed of your own hair. Pubic hair, pit hair, leg hair and arm hair and of course the hair from your head. What would you do? How would you feel? Would you smile taking the high road and consider it just another chapter in your already interesting life? Or would you curl up into a ball, terrified to walk amongst the hair gifted for fear of being spotted, ridiculed by the insensitive or pitied by the ill-informed. I am not making a judgement for one way or the other, but if I had my choice I am pretty sure a bitchen tattoo would make its way onto my dome, helping me to celebrate the obvious. I am still alive and kicking cancers ass! Now in no way am I advocating for my wife to get a tattoo on her head. It was purely a rhetorical question.

Why am I traveling down this little pathway? Because that is exactly what happened today. Jacy started officially losing her hair. Its coming out a thin handful at a time, and when she sits up in bed her hair looks like a dog when it sheds. Strands poking out of everywhere with strands littering her pillow. Staring at this and fighting an overwhelming urge to pull them out myself (it’s the ape in me) I found myself pondering those very questions. Thinking about all the times I cracked ignorant jokes about looking as a chemo patient to friends. How would I feel? How would you feel if this was happening to you?

Now luckily enough a sense of humor is what all of our friends and family have and my wife is no different. We have joked heartily about her losing hair and tomorrow I am going to shave it all off to save her from choking to death in the middle of the night on an unruly chia pet looking clump! But just the same it has changed my sensitivity level or judging from that last crack maybe it hasn’t? I digress…

Do you really want to know how much you love someone? Do you really want to understand if you or your partner are shallow and vain? Shave each others heads and see if one of three things happen.

  1. You both laugh until snot blows from your nostrils then fall into each others arms with smiles upon your faces.
  2. You realize in that moment you partner is hands down the most beautiful person you have ever known.
  3. You stare at each other uncomfortably acknowledging you are so shallow that you cannot see the beauty within. Only the trappings of what is on the outside.

Lucky for me as I stated previously this has changed my sensitivity towards others, and as far as my wife is concerned, well I have always seen the inner beauty of this woman. When I look into her eyes and kiss her lips there is nothing else. Bald or full of hair, when she smiles at me the world is a better place.  I don’t think she really knows the power her smile and personality carry in this world but I am pretty sure she is about to find out.

Anyways, Jacy already knows how to rock the bandana! That my friends is just freaking awesome!

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Kicking Cancers Ass once cell at a time!

 

 

Eye of the storm

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Wednesday June 12th.

Entering the guest house this morning I am groggy, tired and my back hurts. Making my way through the entry it becomes apparent I am not the only one who is tired. Alisa hasn’t slept well, Heather is looking a tad worn-out, and everyone else is holding a thousand yard stare. Striking up conversations hoping to bring a smile into the house it dawns on me, where is my wife? Is she up? I didn’t pass her by the clinic? Looking around there is IMG_2121no sign of her! Making my way down the hall Alisa makes eye contact with me as I turn the corner to Jacy’s room. The look is that of empathy, and I quickly see why, Jacy is still asleep on her bed, and she is covered in sweat. Feeling her forehead, I find she is burning hot and wet. My wife slowly opens her eyes just long enough to explain how severely bad she is feeling. After a small breather she tells of the night’s escapades it doesn’t sound like much fun at all. Around three am Jacy awoke feeling strange with a tummy rumble that wouldn’t subside; trying her best to be quiet and not wake anyone she struggled but couldn’t find a flashlight (as there is no power from the generator after 11pm), this translated into her fumbling around the guest house attempting to make it into the bathroom. Alisa who wasn’t sleeping and really hasn’t slept since we arrived, found her first. Soon Jacy was also accompanied by Heather, then Doc and Gail, it eventually turned into the entire house helping her as she spent the next 2-3 hours vomiting. Before long whatever had a hold of her was working its magic all the way around and she couldn’t leave the bathroom for fear of bodily fluids expelling at any moment. This explains the exhausted look upon everyone’s face. After the full briefing, Jacy tells me she wants to get up, to which I say; No. She explains the need to get up, as team leader she doesn’t want to let anyone down. I understand this feeling fully and after explaining the ramifications of her not resting, the importance of taking her medication and the reality that letting us handle things for the day will be ok, she reluctantly concedes. I kiss her on the forehead and after tucking her into bed we all head out to open the clinic. Jacy (thankfully) was asleep before leaving the building and Alisa, Heather and I spend the better part of the morning checking in on our fearless leader.

After starting this morning while aimlessly staring at a wall it dawns on me that I’m feeling a bit woozy. My tummy is rumbling, my legs are quivering and my back is really hurting, but not in that “oh my back hurts, whiney kind of way” but more along the lines of someone really mad beat the crap out of my kidneys! Doing a rapid self-assessment I determine dehydration has taken over my body. Wanting so badly to learn as much about dentistry as I can, even with “water bomb” being yelled constantly I have OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAneglected my own water needs. Knowing this is very important I do my best to catch up without letting anyone know, push the pain deep down and proceed to ignore how I feel. There are three other people in worse shape than me and one Doctor with her fingers wrapped in bandages, shoved in two medical gloves, hoping this will cushion the raw flesh long enough to pull just one more tooth.

A while later I am looking around the room (spacing out really) and it occurs what a true blessing these college kids have become! These are full-fledged voting adults, but at my age any one of them could be one of my own children so calling them “kids” is really no sign of disrespect. These wonderful “kids” have saved this Haitian dental team of 10! Every OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAday since Monday at least one and as many as four of them have assisted us in the clinic at all times. Kaiti, whose fiancé is studying to become a dentist has gone from participating in behind the scenes work to standing at the head of our patients. Amanda stepped right in on the very first day, she did so with the caveat; she couldn’t take the sight of blood and (with a smile on her face) she may pass out! But this didn’t stop her, oh no! This young lady held trays at patients heads and whenever teeth were pulled she stared off at the ceiling, or over towards the wall, or down at the floor and she may have even fidgeted a little! But gosh darn it she was awesome! By Wednesday she would actually stand in front of a patient without looking up anymore! Ok more like off to theOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA side, but not nearly as far to the side as earlier in the week! She was very brave and a complete sweetheart! Graham became Kristina’s favorite light holder! Tall and steady the light was always where it needed to be when it needed to there, regardless of how long the procedure took! Many held the light and only a few knew or understood how important this tedious job was! Kristina announced Graham and her would be Facebook friends! Of course this offer could be rescinded depending on the time of day and the level of performance from its recipient.

Ally was priceless with the children, just as we knew she would be! She is loved by all the kids in this village and an enormous comfort when it came time for pulling teeth! As fear of perceived pain loomed overhead one look at Ally and Ti-moun knew everything was going to be alright! Children and their parents trusted her implicitly and so did we! Andrew, Matt and John were assisting us in many facets throughout the week. But what our team was most thankful for was the countless time these young men spent filtering water! Without clean, filtered water there OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwould be operation, no clean instruments and no life for our exhausted dehydrated bodies! Reflecting back now I also believe these were the same lads helping Preston with many of the children when Heather needed to switch over to the medical side of our operation. None of them ever complained (at least not in front of me) and all of them were always willing and able to jump right in! I regret not remembering everyone’s name for they all deserve to be recognized. But if for some reason any of them read this posting I hope they all know how thankful we were for each and every one of these young selfless souls. God Bless you all…

Alisa and Heather have taken over the medical clinic with a vengeance, ensuring treatment of all who come is performed. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHaving only made it over to that side during extreme cases, I am not fully aware of the mental anguish placed upon these women. I have an inkling, after all part of what I have learned over the years is the ability to listen and observe, but not until tomorrow afternoon will I know the full extent of sorrow and pain left in the wake of their hard work.

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Lunch time comes and Jacy has made her way back onto the floor. We are all worried about her stubbornness creating a situation where ultimately she will become run down allowing whatever made her sick during the night to rear its ugly head once again. Checking her status it’s nice to see the fever which had her burning up four hours ago has decreased and the medications ingested are doing their best to keep whatever she contracted at bay. Some of the team is talking and believe it to be food poisoning, but my argument remains the same; if one had food poisoning, odds are all would have food poisoning! This little observation continues to go unheeded and the argument rages on. My theory is she picked up a virus from one of the many OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAchildren seen over the last few days. We are all wearing masks but at some point or another a patient or two has been seen sans mask. It’s wrong, but unfortunately it is the way things are when push comes to shove in a stressful patient after patient atmosphere.

As we prepare to head back into the clinic after lunch (or lack thereof), Jacy pulls me aside and wishes to discuss our financial situation in regards to services rendered in Source a Philipe. We duck out unnoticed and head back into her room where the topic of Francois comes up again. All payments are supposed to be made through François, but as we have learned over the week, Francois in most cases keeps the money for himself. Or so the assumption goes. We can’t prove this, and I am trying to believe in innocent until proven guilty, but the desperate look behind the eyes of those who have come forward tells a different story. Jacy and I discuss compensation for interpreters, nurses, cooks, the lady who tended our fire all week and of course the laundry crew who is currently washing our clothing. We also need to come up with a fair price for Ronald which would include a nominal tip. We hadn’t planned on Ronald, but he ended up being a big help and even though we determined through his actions and accounts of others in the community that he may have been spying for his father, he still deserves monetary compensation for his hard work during the week. Once the finances are solidified we return to another topic of great concern. Jacy reminds me of our obligation to visit “the twins” before we leave Source a Philipe. The twins are two OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAinfant children whose mother passed away not long after their birth. These two children were left in the care of their grandmother with no breast milk, powder supplements or baby food to sustain their little bodies. The guest house asked our team to look in on them, with malnutrition being of great concern, the fear is they won’t make it through the year. Jacy’s plan is to take Alisa, Heather and Caz later today to check on their wellbeing so she may treat them if need be and report on conditions back to the guest house.

With our game plan in place I inquire as to how my wife is feeling, she lies (I can always tell) and lets me know she is good to go! I OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAstill think she should rest but as per usual when it comes to my wife, she ignores my advice and heads back through the clinic doors.

Captain Jackson has returned to the clinic entrusting us to pull his teeth. So thankful is he in regards to our treatment of his wife that he now braves sitting in our dental chair for some treatment of his own. Captain Jackson has three obvious teeth in need of pulling but for some reason is only allowing us to pull one. We plead with him to allow us the opportunity to pull the other two but he refuses. He begins acting strange and we can’t figure out why, its odd really, the man who is all smiles currently sits, gripping the arms of a chair while the process goes off without a hitch. Then as quickly as this stoic statue of a man sat down, he is back out the door.

Our day is filled with more than a few patients returning, claiming we left portions of tooth still inside the gum line. What they are experiencing, feeling with their tongues is actually their jawbone. Some teeth have become so rotten (the associated gum disease is atrocious) the resulting effect being a gum line broken down exposing root and jaw, so when the tooth is pulled away this further exposes the inner jawline where the human tongue can feel it giving a false sense of a ‘broken tooth”. I feel sympathetic for these people as they wallow their tongues around inside their mouths trying to determine if what they are feeling is a good or bad thing. But the answer after inspection is always the same; take your medications, don’t swirl, swish or spit for the next 24 hours and good luck.

Being on a mission team is a little like joining the cast of survivor; Alliances are formed, friendships forged and somewhere along the way someone needs to be voted off the island! I am happy to report there have been no major blow ups between anyone leading to the inevitable knife in the back during tribal council. One instance led to a team member yelling at another during a tribaltrying moment late in the day and another incident was cured with nothing more than a walk, a breath of fresh air and some contemplation of events. This left our group pleased as any trouble ended right then with no outward hard feelings rearing an ugly head. Our group appears strong as I personally have witnessed amazing performances from all ten of these very unique individuals! By 4 o’clock, ten patients remain, our interpreters are exhausted, the team is drenched in sweat and I haven’t seen Jacy all afternoon; with her not feeling well I have become concerned. Nearing 5pm it appears as though no one will be turned away from the clinic tonight and that is a very good thing. Our people are milling about still cleaning up equipment, dinner is almost on the table and I am feeling extremely mentally exhausted. The sight of Francois lurking around every corner, watching, almost chronicling every one of our movements has me on edge! Feeling the need for a walk, I slip out the side door andOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA disappear into the island air! We have been advised to never walk alone and always take an interpreter whenever we go away from camp. But I have no use for these rules and even if I did no desire to follow them right now. Wondering along street after street with nothing more than my thoughts, I am surround by some of the poorest living conditions I have ever witnessed! Shacks (and I mean shacks) lined up with holes in the ceilings, holes in the walls and in some cases front doors made of sticks or old damaged wood! In fact the word shack really sounds nice compared to the visual reality that currently surrounds me.

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Psalm 127:3 KJV

Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

Up one street then down another, Haitian villagers are so friendly, greeting me with a hearty BONSWA, shaking my hand, smiling and waving! Why aren’t people this friendly at home? There are goats everywhere, dogs running freely and mules, plenty of weight carrying, people transporting, tired, withered old mules! ChildrenOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA are also everywhere I go, some clothed, some naked, and for the first time I have a moment to stop, recognize their existence and actually look into their big beautiful eyes! Staring back at me with smiles on their faces, I don’t like what I see. These children are hungry, thirsty and looking for any tidbit of food or water you can spare! That “tidbit” is not reserved for just food, but love, affection and OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthe ability to play with the Blanc (us white people)! It is the definition of poverty, poverty at its worst, in my opinion a homeless person in the United States is wealthier than a citizen of Source a Philipe! Deeply saddened by what I am witnessing, it’s affecting me greatly and while pondering why things are this way; a light bulb shines bright overhead! Wrapped up in this new world of dentistry I have only focused on one thing, not allowing myself to remove the blinders and see what’s happening around me. In a village where Methodists have built the cisterns, providing free water for all why are these children thirsty? In a village where every team leaves behinds scores of clothing for all its needy citizens to distribute amongst themselves, why are these people naked? In a town where matching funding is provided by each team that travels here, where are the results of those monies? Becoming angrier at my lack in ability to answer my own questions I turn up the next street to see 3 well-built newer concrete homes with nice porches and scores of young Haitian men donning newer OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAclothing, laying about and trying their hardest at a tough guy vibe. These young men look like rappers with aviator sunglasses, bright clothing and converse shoes. I exert a hearty Bonswa in passing and in return get the thirty mile stare from them all. One youngster even goes as far as glaring over the top of his sunglasses, staring, watching every step I take. The whole village is struggling to survive, yet here sits these well dressed, well fed, fit young men, obviously better off than most, carrying a very machismo chip on their shoulders. I begin to wonder if I am looking at our matching funds in action.

Back at the guest house some inquire as to where I have been, not wanting to show my obvious distaste for what I’ve seen I simply tell the tale of a nice walk among the community. Inside, my minds reeling and temper seething, but I need to remember what OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI saw was merely an appearance as I have no concrete proof as to my perceptions. Thank goodness Brent is out front, deep in conversation, a little distraction is exactly what I need. After speaking with Brent for a bit I once again acknowledge my wife is nowhere to be seen. Wandering about I find her sitting on the steps of the school chatting with Kaiti. During their conversation it’s quickly apparent this discussion is focused on some shady practices put forth by none other than François and his band of followers. Having been here almost thirty days Kaiti has a real insight to some of the more serious problems in this village. We listen with open ears and before long everything I witnessed during my little walk about makes perfect sense.

During the week while walking around shirtless under the Haitian sun it came to my knowledge that many of the smaller children were following me around saying “tattoo” “tattoo”. Seeing an OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAopportunity to make new friends one day I stop, kneel down and allow them to touch my tattoo. One child in particular, a small boy who happens to be deaf from years of ear infections has taken a real liking to the large bird and cross on my back. Every day he stops me and points at my back, I kneel down and allow him to trace it with his finger. He smiles brightly and follows every line slowly and carefully until he returns to the starting position. After finishing his trace, he smiles again, taps me on the shoulder and walks away. He is adorable.

While talking with Brent and few others on the front steps of the guest house a loud commotion erupts from alongside the clinic. In a cloud of dust, filled with laughter, several young boys appear running our direction holding a giant bird! (Pelican) Others watch in confusion over the commotion as Jacy and I both start IMG_2248 IMG_2247laughing! These boys are bringing me a present! The present of a real bird they feel resembles the bird tattooed across my back. It’s flattering, it’s funny, and it’s freaking cool! We all laugh, the boys hang the bird up alongside my back for pictures and as quickly as they arrived the youngsters are gone, giggling, pushing, and I only assume by their body language praising themselves for a job well done. Funny how simple moments, arrive just when you need them most to change the course of a day.

After dinner a party has commenced in front of the school. Music, dancing, laughter and good times as many villagers are participating. Some of the College kids are present, Alisa and Heather are also in attendance. Alisa’s camera is working overtime while children jump up and down waiting for a chance to see a picture of themselves. Jacy and I stroll down to OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAexperience the scene. Caz is in the middle of what some back home would call a mosh pit! The only difference being there is no “moshing” going on, but instead people are dancing up and down and everyone really seems to be enjoying themselves. These people are so pure, so honest and their love for one another is very apparent. All ages are present at this little soiree, and many of the women arrive donning their very best clothing. Caz cannot break from the group as he is loved by all. I envy his enthusiasm, his ability to show happiness and love for his fellow man at any moment. Rain starts to fall, it’s our cue to leave so we call it a night.

Arriving back at the guest house a young woman has made her way up the steps and lingers nearby, waiting, and staring, as if she has something to say. We instantly recognize her as one of three women who washed our laundry yesterday. Calling for Caz, he asks her if she is ok. She states no, she hadn’t been paid for doing our laundry! Richard asks her a few more questions and the picture becomes a little clearer. Now washing laundry is quite a simple business proposition in Haiti. You have dirty clothes, they charge a dollar an article, you have them wash your clothes and in return you pay a dollar an article to the Madame in charge. Simple process, simple math! Jacy explains payment was made this afternoon to the large woman (widow of the former associate pastor) who was in charge. She said yes she knew but this woman was refusing to pay her and the other woman for their work. She is distraught, hungry and very upset. Stuck between a rock and a hard place if we provide her with additional funding it will start a riot amongst our help. If we pay her nothing extra odds are she won’t receive a dime of the money owed her and continue to struggle without. In the end, we are told by our trusted interpreters NOT to interfere! We follow this advice tonight, but after this episode, our discussion with Kaiti and my walk around the village, it will be the last time we do so in Source a Philipe.

A long day has come to an end, wandering off towards my room, my head is spinning with uncertainty. Who is benefiting here in Source a Philipe? What will happen to these people when we are gone? Have we made the right choices? Jacy has done her absolute best! She is a solid leader, her people know this and trust her, and little does she know as she lays her head down to rest this evening, tomorrow will test her leadership ability even more.

On an up note? Kristina, with some prodding and the help of our leader, finally stepped ever so cautiously into the shower of doom! Praise be to God!

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Faith

(Another small break from our mission trip story. A new installment will be online by tomorrow. Thank you all for your patience and understanding.  The grammar in this little story isn’t perfect, but I was thinking about this topic in church today and felt I needed to share.)

belief

What is Faith?

As human beings we walk through life filled with pessimism, optimism, and hope.  Sure our lives are also filled with despair, anger, sadness and regret, but without pessimism to keep us wary, optimism to give us guidance and hope which stems from the human race always trying to see the good in everything; in my opinion, we would never have faith.

So where does “faith” come into play?

Faith to me is a feeling, an inner knowledge, a mental security that no matter what happens during this moment in time you are a participant in its outcome. Good bad or otherwise.

When I was younger I had faith. As a church going lad, who worked his way through the ranks from 6 to 16 as an acolyte in the Episcopal Church, I questioned many beliefs, including my belief in God. But the one thing I never questioned was my ability to always have faith.  Faith in myself as a human being, faith that no matter how bad things could seem they could always be worse (and sometimes were) and faith in life’s way to throw curve balls around every corner! Yep I had faith alright!

What I didn’t have was an awe inspiring faith in God.  As I previously stated I constantly questioned my belief in an almighty supreme being that all should worship blindly.  It just didn’t make sense to me. The bible reads as a really good story, one that Hollywood should make into a block buster movie or television mini-series. (Oh yeah that’s already been done) But really, come on, a heavenly power that listens to our prayers and guides its people through the word of the lord? (layman synopsis) I wasn’t buying it!

Here’s the funny thing about faith, until you come to terms with yourself emotionally (i.e. who you are, what you are, how you wish to be perceived, what moral code you follow.) You never really have faith, you are not ready to open yourself up to the teachings of others.  A person who walks through life putting up walls can never hear the whisperings from the next room. The more walls a person places in their wake, the harder it is to be reached and at some point that person can never be found.

Faith for me changed the day I met my wife. (I know sappy huh? but true) Many walls I had selfishly placed in my wake, life was turbulent to say the least and the only “faith” I held was that tomorrow sucked, the next day sucked even more and the only future for me was one filled with despair, anger, resentment and hate. Several incidents occurred during this period, challenging my belief system and leaving me with unanswered questions. My wife listened, believed me, then set to changing every negative in my life, helping me answer those questions (not overnight mind you) with persistence, love, an occasional angry moment with the former me (I know hard to believe huh?) and a never wavering faith in my ability to become a better person.

I have rewarded her by trying my best every day.

Today, my mission is simple. Have faith.  I use this term quite frequently and those who know me have heard it recited on more than one occasion.  Have faith! It really is that simple and I am not saying it to be pompous! HAVE FAITH!  If you believe in God then you know the answers are out there for YOU to discover and a general calmness will come over you.  Have Faith! Just because an answer isn’t immediately apparent doesn’t mean its not lurking close by waiting for you to accept faith, thusly removing your blinders to witness the options.

Every moment we live, leads to an alternate moment, which may affect someone else’s moment and like a pebble tossed in the water our ripples reach far and wide (stolen from my wife), Have faith those ripples are leading to bigger broader shores!

Our faith is based upon what we believe, who we are and how we live our lives.  I choose to believe in a better picture for all of mankind, brought forth with faith, love and prayer.

Having faith has allowed me to remain calm when things turn bad, believe and encourage when discouragement should rule the moment, and have love, true heartfelt love for my fellow man. This doesn’t mean I don’t have my days filled with negativity, anger and discouragement but in the end I always have faith at some point it will all turn around.

Jacy re-awakened my faith in God, her living example guided my stubborn narrow minded beliefs into enlightenment and openness for all. Today she stood in front of our congregation and spoke about our recent trip to Haiti! Watching her speak left me in awe of this amazing woman who I am lucky enough to be married too.

Participating on these last two mission trips are a direct result of my wife, her persistence and love for all mankind. These trips have changed my life forever, filled a void left in my soul and allowed me to see the world in a different light.

Mission work is not for everyone and at one point I too believed it was not for me. But because I answered the call in faith, I feel the need to tell all who will listen of its benefits both emotionally and spiritually.

So ask me a question about our trip, I will do my best to answer. If you see me strolling down the street stop me, lets talk.  Most of all remember I had faith God had my back while we did his work. I had faith our church was behind us all the way. I had faith my children would be safe back here at home and I had faith this story I am writing about our journey will reach someone, and change the way the feel about mission work, allowing them to have faith enough to go.

I will go on additional missions, for that I have faith we will succeed.

I have faith in God.

I have faith one day together we all will do great things.

I have faith my love for this woman, my wife is eternal.

I have faith……..Do you?

I love you Jacy… Thanks for being my best friend, partner, wife, mother to our crazy children and all around coolest human being I know….

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Merriam-Webster defines Faith as;

Definition of FAITH

1 a : allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty

   b (1) : fidelity to one’s promises (2) : sincerity of intentions

2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion

   b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust

3: something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially: a system of religious       beliefs <the Protestant faith>

On faith

: Without question <took everything he said on faith>

 

Do YOU know Brent Watney

Betty feels as though she can’t continue writing without having a little fun.

So I ask?

Do you know Brent Watney?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This little question became a running joke on day one of our journey to Haiti.  Starting in the airport where oddly enough it appeared as though random people recognized Mr. Brent Watney, the elder statesman of our group.  Walking through various terminal areas you could always find Brent talking with someone, waving at a stranger or just stopping for a second to say hello.  He is a very personable man who makes it apparent right from the beginning that life should not just be experienced but actually “lived”.

austinSo with a lead in like that I ask once again; do you know Brent Watney?

Here is what I learned along the way about this man we fondly referred to as our “International man of mystery”!

He has a wonderful way of placing an anecdote guaranteed to make you smile into any situation.

He loves sports and can discuss any sport in detail at any time with passion.

His brother is in the college coaching hall of fame!  (I know cool huh?)coach

While in college he realized that hitting thousands of golf balls to participate on a team was just not as much fun as playing on the weekend, drinking a few beers with your buddies. (I totally agree)

US Open Championship GolfBrent’s son is PGA pro golfer Nick Watney, whom he is incredibly proud of and loves very much!

Sterilizing medical equipment is dangerous business and should only be done by trained professionals wearing dishwashing gloves in 96 degree heat while standing on the landing of a staircase! Seriously it goes without saying!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Swimming over a green seaweed like material is not nearly as bad as walking through garbage left on a beach of pristine white sand.

When asked where he was swimming too after jumping from our dingy one afternoon he simply looked towards the open ocean and replied: the mainland’s that way yes? And continued to swim….

imagesCAVEUJCXWhen someone with broken English and a thick Creole accent points at you and says: James Bond? You simply smile and in your best Sean Connery respond: why yes? Then smile back sheepishly.

Or

When someone with broken English and a thick Creole accent points at you and says: James Bond? You don your best Daniel Craig imagesCA0CPEPCimitation; smile and rise slowly out of the ocean for all to cherish.

Knows how to pratfall for nothing more than the joyous giggles of Haitian children.

Enjoys a good book and an even better flashlight that will last through the tremors being attacked by thousands of bugs can bring!

Is the only man I have ever met who can walk away mid-sentence and IMG_2238leave you laughing because you have no idea what just transpired?

After rooming and working alongside this man for ten days, I found myself in awe of his personality, attitude and feelings towards life.

He is truly one of a kind and I thank him for allowing me the opportunity to make his acquaintance.

So I ask you, do you know Brent Watney?

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Proud to say that I do!

Children, can you hear me?

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Your thunder roared like chariot wheels. The world was made bright by lightning, and all the earth trembled. — Psalm 77:18

Laying upon my bunk last night, our world trembled, electricity flowed through the air with the power and majesty only lightning strikes can bring. Winds howled and water poured through every crack, separation and orifice surrounding us.  Feeling very small, humble and almost insignificant I am left pondering the meaning of this very moment.  We are entombed in a culture that knows very little in regards to social change.  We bring medicine and helping hands with a genuine hope of lifting spirits, providing assistance, and shining a light for a better future. But do these people really need our light to shine so brightly or is that just imposing a change they are neither willing to adopt nor ready to comprehend? As this storm looms overhead, cracking loudly and forcing my attention am I really listening to what it’s telling me or am I reduced to ignorance forced upon me from sheer exhaustion?

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled.

Exodus 19:16 NIV

Is this our message? Are we like Moses translating a message from God? Is our purpose to spread Gods love through charity, education or both? No we do not stand atop Mount Sinai but we sit atop one of the highest points of this village. Does that mean something or am I delirious?  Just for the record I am in no way actually comparing us to Moses or God but are we not a voice in his absence? We are his children carrying forward, and spreading his word? Aren’t we?  If so why are there forces working against us? Why are we met with buffers at every turn and why would God allow what his happening to his people here on this small dot of landscape? I am challenged as I listen to the roll of thunder and crack of lightning. After a bit, quietly and slowly I tell God I am sorry, for peace needs to overtake my brain and in doing so I slowly place my ear buds in one side at a time, left ear, then right ear, asking forgiveness for not wanting to listen anymore then tapping the “Zen” music trapped inside my personal radio station.  Sleep comes quickly.

Once again our morning starts out fairly well. Gathering inside our little breakfast nook for prayer and a quick bite to eat, we pray for all inhabitants on this island, and the food we are about to consume. We also take a moment to pray for Madame Jackson as we know her recovery both mentally and physically will be a long road. I say a little prayer for Kristina, she isn’t eating any of the food out of fear, choosing instead to live on granola bars and water. She is also terrified of the shower, to which many jokes roll handily around the table at herOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA expense! She has a fantastic sense of humor. We begin reminiscing about the night’s torrential downpour and ensuing flooding.  The women apparently had rats running across the rafters of their bedrooms, and water pouring in through holes in the walls and ceiling. Rats are the sign of a sinking ship!  There is some humor in the thought of rats dropping poo bombs on people during the night, of course poo bombs are definitely better than waking up to a giant tarantula walking across your leg! Now before you start thinking this living arrangement is complete crap, and the least UMVIM could do is provide decentOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA housing for the mission teams, let me get a few things out in the open.

  1. It hardly rains here and they have cisterns placed all over the island to catch any rain water that falls from the sky.  The torrential downpour we witnessed only lasted a few hours and was an amazing event that we were privileged to witness!
  2. The buildings we are staying in where built by missionaries in the 1940-50’s.  They are seriously the “luxury” resort buildings of the island, so when a little water comes through you make due and know that 80,000 other island inhabitants are nowhere near as dry and comfortable as you are!

In the end, we are all lucky enough to have a roof over our head, a bed IMG_2145to rest upon and a floor to place our feet.  It’s more than some, less than others and if we need to move a few beds to keep a drip of water or two from falling on our faces well that’s just fine.

We open the clinic a little after eight as many are mopey and dragging from the aforementioned leaking roof and rats!  We are all surprised after yesterday’s rush there doesn’t appear to be as many patients waiting outside the clinic. Oh but wrong that assumption would prove to be! By nine we are in full swing and at ten the line is around the building with children playing in the courtyard.  On Monday afternoon we finished late, not by choice as is the case when treating patients, but because as with every day the sun through rotation of the earth is setting low over the horizon! Light was growing scarce. It was an awful feeling having to explain to those left in the waiting room they could not be seen until the following day.  As we started this morning I worried many of them may have suffered through the long stormy night with no cover or dry place to rest.  I worried they may have given up and gone home, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAdeciding that a little pain for another six months was better than laying in wet sand under a tree.  I worry too much..

When the doors open every one of those tagged from the night before is there ready to go! A little rough around the edges were a few, but they survived and were thankful for the care.

Our day continues and I have to say the flow between us all is incredible. I feel as though we are just getting better and better as a functioning team.  I continue trying my hardest to look, listen, and learn anything and everything I can from Kristina and Gail.  I love learning new things! The opportunity to not only learn something new but to actually put it in practice is one I cannot pass up! There is no OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAother time I will ever get the chance to do otherwise and my personal goal quickly becomes progressing to where no one will need to ask me for anything, rather whatever is needed will instinctively already be in my hand.  I don’t quite get there, but I do give it the old college try!  Orson remains on his game with post operation, information and medication dispensing. One by one he OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAworks with the patients and an interpreter ensuring everyone knows how important taking the antibiotics are to their recovery.  Orson also has a vast knowledge of all the dental equipment which comes in handy on many occasions.  François is still lurking around every turn and whenever he is in the clinic, Ronald is his person of interest. They talk, point fingers and talk some more.  I wish I knew Creole so I could eavesdrop on their conversation.  I know that not right, but neither is the hinky feeling I get whenever François is around! Pastor Jackie has arrived on the island and everywhere he goes, children are bound to follow.  You can tell he is very much respected inside this community and pulls a lot of weight where ever he goes.  Heather and Preston are awesome with the children but soon enough the little ones or “ti moun” have run dry. Before long Preston is working by his mother’s side and Heather is working with Jacy.  Watching Preston, with Heather I am missing my oldest son Cody something awful and Preston unknowingly is filling a void with in my heart. Heather and I were on the same team last year and she worked alongside Cody quite a bit so the correlation is a little overpoweringOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA. Taking a break, my dear friend Caz see’s my obvious mental duress and mentions if I go down to the dock and walk to the very end, possibly there might be a signal.  Rushing down towards the beach I am feeling an overwhelming need to reconnect with Cody and can’t wait to hear his voice.  I reach the end of the dock, hold out my phone and stare as if doing so will make it work that much faster! 2 minutes, 3 minutes, no bars! 4 minutes, 5 minutes no gosh darn bars! I am frustrated and missing my son, and now that I have sat here for a while the emotional door has opened and I am missing ALL my children.  Just one bar that’s all I need, just one! But no bars show on my phone and after 15 minutes of standing at the end of the dock like a lovelorn fool, I wander back to the clinic, shoulders slumped feeling low.  It’s hard making eye contact with anyone as I work my way back to the clinic, but upon arrival I pull myself together and walk back through the door with a smile on my face.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jacy, has been busy dealing with village leaders, Pastor Jackie and the “oddities” surrounding anything financial in regards to this mission! She has also gowned up and is working the medical side of the clinic with tIMG_2246he ferocity of a lion.  She has done more care and treatment of medical issues than any of us thought we would ever see.  These people have ear, nose and throat infections, untreated wounds and a variety of insect bites, infestations and burns. There is even a gunshot wound! It is fantastic to see my wife flourish in this role.  At one point a team member leans over to compliment the fact as both co-leader and husband to this extraordinary woman I never once intervened or pushed her aside to handle any EMS problems. This person is also impressed I have not intervened during some of theIMG_2244 more serious political issues in this mostly male dominated society.  Replying with a thank you, I remind them my wife is more than capable of taking care of herself, I consider her my best friend, and an equal walking alongside me in life.  If she needs me, she will come get me, and come get me she has when the time has arisen.  (Plus once you get to know my wife you realize their really is nothing she can’t handle.) At the end of the day Jacy, Heather and Alisa have treated malnourished, infected, emaciated and just down right sick, infants, toddlers and small children.  They sing to the little ones hoping to calm their fears, the little ones cry, some scream and all the while these three women keep singing, choking back tears, and their hearts breaking over the little lives before them.  The sound of “Summer Breeze” can be heard floating through the walls.  That song OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwill forever be etched in my mind with images of small hungry Haitian children.  Hungry because no one can feed them, thirsty because their parents are not associated with the “right” group or cannot pay the fee for a bucket of water.  Sick and covered with infections, screaming because cleaning out deep infested or infected, lacerations, burns, and scrapes hurts, it hurts real bad!

At the end of the day I have lost track on the number of patients seen, but we extracted 145 teeth! As I have mentioned on numerous occasions the medical side was inundated once again and one point Jacy came and got me because it looked as though a pregnant lady was in labor! With no O.B. supplies I grabbed a couple gowns, a water bottle for flushing teeth with a small end on it to use as suction,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA surgical stitches, forceps and a scalpel. It was the best I could do and I am positive it would have worked, but when I walked into the room I had some doubt this woman was in labor. There were no real contractions, and after a thorough patient assessment it was obvious this delivery was not going to happen!  No baby Haitian for me!  But in the end it was truly a fruitful day! After closing up shop (and yes numbers were handed out once again for returning patients) our group looked like the walking dead! It was a rough day on us all both mentally and physically, we were bloody hot and we begged our new friend Captain Jackson to take us out to the sand bar some 300 yards of the coast where the water looked like a swimming pool! He said yes he would and we all smiled.  Walking towards the dock, I inquired as to Madame Jackson’s progress.  He stated she was doing well, taking her medication and that she had slept most of the day.  He promised us to keep her on the medications then shook our hands thanking us for taking care of her! I felt the real thanks belonged to Kaiti and her team for making the journey to the hospital, but I guess looking at the whole picture it really was a group IMG_2226effort. Once on the dock, Jackson called for one of his crew who brought us a dingy, we all climbed aboard and slowly rolled out into the most beautiful ocean God has ever created.  The Haitians all looked at us as if we were crazy, not because we were swimming with our clothes still on, or that we had placed more people than humanly possible into a 14 foot dingy but because we climbed aboard still dressed in our scrubs! That’s right we went straight from pulling teeth and treating people to an ocean swim in our scrubs! It was fantastic and the perfect way to end a very hot and taxing day.

Arriving back to camp all of us went our separate ways eventually meeting back at the guest house for dinner. The cooks are becoming increasingly irritated with us because our group is never ready to eat right at 5! I feel bad for them because their night isn’t over until we finish and cleanup is complete.  Tomorrow being a new day and we have all agreed to close shop at 5, not just for the cooks but because Docs hand is already giving her some trouble. She has formed some very serious blisters across her fingers from holding tools while pulling teeth.  If we can’t find a way to support her digits they will only get worse! I know it would take cutting her fingers off for her to stop, but there is no reason she should suffer. On an additional note- Kristina is still not showering! She is terrified of the shower in theOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA women’s guest house! Just because it’s made of concrete with decorative cinder block windows and it strangely resembles something from cell block C or the gas chamber at your local prison is no reason to be scared? Once you are inside its easy getting used to the dark corners filled with living creatures of various shapes and sizes! But putting all that aside this woman really does need to take a shower! Of course Kristina claims swimming in the ocean has cleansed her body and there is no need entering this Haitian Dachau, but we all know that’s not the case! Jacy offers up showering with Kristina for a sense of security and hopes she will take the bait but this does not materialize. On the upside the offer does bring a slew of jokes which leaves us all laughing for a while.

After dinner all of us are lounging on the steps of the guest house reminiscing about the day? Talking about our experiences is helping keep spirits high as many lows have developed thus far.  Alisa smells smoke coming through the window of her room and before long we are all aware of its presence. It’s coming from a charcoal kiln just to the northeast of the guest house.  Kristina becomes agitated as smoke starts bothering her lungs and before we can react to this predicament she begins having an asthma attack!  Gail jumps into high gear, retrieving medications Kristina may need while the group moves her down towards the beach in hopes that clear ocean air will open up her lungs. Pastor Jackie who is still on the island is reacting to thisIMG_2237 situation very quickly with a handful of young men who are moving all of Kristina’s belongings into the men’s guest house! The men’s guesthouse is far away from where smoke is blowing so this move becomes very important in the grand scheme of things.  Down at the beach Kristina remains surrounded by our team along with many Haitian children. They’re all worried about the doctor who is here to help them. Kristina’s breathing has slowly gotten better after a few breathing treatments, she is still a little scared and so are we! Surrounded by villagers all worried about her fate, she smiles and eases everyone’s mind.  Thankfully after a half an hour she feels well enough to return up the hill to her new housing arrangement. Thank the lord!

During the commotion, Caz, Richard and Ronald head over and speak with the owner of the charcoal pit, hoping they can convince this man to smother or extinguish his fire for the evening thus allowing Kristina charcoala night of breathing easier. Many Haitians earn money by making charcoal and this fire was no different than any other on the island, it just happens to be right outside Doc’s window. The owner proceeds to argue with all three men for a while eventually appearing to give in, allowing us to cover the vent holes subsequently “smothering” the fire.  But when Caz, Richard, Ronald, Orson and I show up an hour later to cover these vent holes, the owner becomes enraged arguing with all three interpreters! While disagreements rage on a light rain falls on and off complete with thunder and lightning!  I have to tell you there is something very exciting about shoveling Haitian soil in the middle of a lightning storm at 10 o’clock at night!

Ronald disappears then heads up the hill with an extra shovel for digging. With two shovels and a hoe in our possession we proceed tearing into the earth, scooping its fine black soil and throwing it onto the kilns holes.  After placing my last shovel of dirt into the kiln/charcoal stove, I walk over and ask Caz to introduce me to the owner. The arguing hasn’t ceased and I feel it’s time for me to step in.  After introductions are finished I explain to the owner that as co-leader of our team, I appreciate the generosity shown by allowing us to cover his stove.  He rolls his eyes, begins making hand gestures while rapidly speaking and relays to me (through the interpreter) his concerns over losing this batch of charcoal due to our covering it up.  Now being one that fully understands the burning process in conjunction with Richard explaining to me (as a former charcoal maker) the entire charcoal making process! I know he is not out any money as our procedure merely slows the process down. I also know in this man’s defense his finish date will be delayed a day or two, which is worth something for the inconvenience.  I allow him the opportunity to vent all his frustrations towards me through Caz and when he finishes, I have Caz explain to him that as a business man myself I fully understand the importance of finishing a product on time for shipment and payment. I also explain that although our mission team did not come with a lot of extra money if he was so compelled to arrive at a specific number that might offset his losses I would return to our mission team and ask for help in a form of reimbursement.  But before I would do any of that I needed for him to ask himself one question: what would God want him to do? Would God want him to allow us to slow this process down, saving our doctor from further asthma attacks and possibly saving the doctors life? The only doctor this island has seen in six months! Or would God want him taking money for a product not yet finished, nor really lost for that matter as what we’d done merely slowed the process and wasn’t ruining his product. As I looked dead into the man’s eyes while still holding his hand I asked once again; what would God want you to do?  He threw his head back, stared up at the night sky and quieted down. After thinking about it for a moment or two he leaned over to Caz and said he needed to speak with his partner and his partner wouldn’t be here until the next day. I shook his hand, said bless you and as he walked away I crossed my Fingers hoping tomorrow a little good old fashioned American guilt would rue the day.

Heading in for the night, I looked at my watch to see it was almost midnight! UHG! Damp from a combination of sweat and rain, feet black from soot, and a smile on my face I lay down and stare at the ceiling. For some reason I don’t feel like a 46 year old man, for some reason I lay here with the smile of a kid etched upon my face! I am mystified by the power of God! I have faith in all things happening for a reason, always have. Maybe the grumpy old charcoal tender was supposed to meet us tonight.  Maybe he has lost his way and needed a reminder of what God needs from him.  Compassion? Maybe I am really exhausted and reading way too much into this whole episode.  Or maybe just maybe I need to sit up, quit thinking so much and stare out the window and continue watching the most beautiful fireworks show known to man!

As I stare off into the distance watching the lightning I pray for the people we’ve treated, I pray for no more tragedies to surface, no more suffering and I pray for a peaceful reserve to fall amongst both teams.

In the morning I find my prayers have gone unanswered……

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A journey begins

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Thursday June 6th 4pm- Jacy and I arrive at church where Pastor Kathy hands us our traveling funds, afterwards we move very quickly to the dentist office where everyone is anxiously waiting to go! Excitement is high, some have nerves jittering away but all are ready to get this mission trip underway.

Our group developed laminated cards for placement on our luggage to more easily count and identify these 22 bags throughout the trip. These laminated cards are bright yellow and create a bit of visibility in a sea of American Touristers, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAmaking ours easily recoverable while rotating around the turnstile at baggage claims. Tags and zippers zip tied in place, money obtained, smiling faces and photographs taken in front of Kristina’s Tea Room/Dentist office, and it’s time to load up and depart. More hugs, a hands shake here and there, along with one heavenly prayer delivered from our pastor. Everyone chips in as bags are tossed into our vans and just like that hallelujah we were off!!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Heading out of town Kristina was rolling through her mental list of supplies, it was then she quickly realized some very important instruments had been forgotten. We quickly grabbed the first exit, turned back towards town and notified the lead van of our intentions. With the lead van continuing on, one of Kristina’s employees met us at the first off-ramp into town for a hand off of Olympic proportion! We now had tools in hand, anxiety squashed and were headed in the right direction!

The ride into the city was relatively uneventful until we approached the bay bridge, then all of that changed! Kristina received a phone call that Ruben (Alisa’s husband) was broken down on the side of the OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAfreeway in the lead van. We were given the exit name and luckily we were within a mile of their location. The van was located on the shoulder of an off ramp and pulling in behind them a tow truck was already present. It appeared as though the vans radiator had split, leaving no water for cooling. Alisa arranged a tow back to Dixon as the state funded tow company would only accept AAA. As I surveyed the damage many alternatives were being thrown about and you could sense frustration building as the thought of possibly missing our flight was more than anyone wanted to deal with. While examining our surroundings it dawned on me that I knew exactly where we were, and without hesitation my phone was abuzz as I reached out to someone who may have been able to help!

My sister lives only an exit away!

The phone rang only twice and with a hearty hello, my sister was on the other end of the line. I asked where she was and amazingly she was only ten minutes from our location! When I explained our need for assistance she quickly hung up the phone, gathered up her husband and his vehicle then headed our direction! Two vehicles to the rescue! While waiting, staring into the back of both vans, I started doing the math and quickly realized that even with both of her vehicles coming we wouldn’t have enough room or at the very least it would be very, very close! Before panic could set in a taxi pulled up offering assistance! We loaded it with three people and their luggage, sending Brent with some traveling cash for payment. (Brent is our international man of mystery) Perfect! After a quick recount of all baggage remaining the numbers work, the luggage will fit and we will all hopefully make it on time! Thank you God for showing us the way!

My sister and her husband arrived, hugs of thanksgiving were had, we loaded up and in a jiffy our caravan was together again at San Francisco International Airport with just enough time to spare as we would later find out while checking our baggage! Hallelujah! My sister and her husband wished us well, we all thanked them and our gratitude hopefully showed! Once they were gone we headed inside and just OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAlike that we were a mission group ready for departure! American Airlines as in years past was fantastic! I cannot say enough wonderful things about this Airline! They waived our extra baggage fees, they waived our overweight luggage and they treated us with respect. In today’s fast paced world that kind service filled with understanding and a good listening ear is hard to find. Once Jacy had finished taking care of baggage check in the American Airlines personnel wished a safe and fruitful journey.

After a quick bite to eat we gathered at the terminal gate, many were texting, Facebooking, or reading, but all were excited and ready to go.

Our flight was uneventful (thank goodness) and landing in Miami left us a little disoriented as the world there was abuzz with 5am travelers. Unfortunately we moped around still stuck in a 2am thought process. Coffee for some, a nap for others and then a few of us walked the concourse repeatedly, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAknowing another two hour flight was in store. Yeah the thought of sitting any longer was not a pleasant one for many of us. As we wander about the airport killing time, a strange thing begins to occur where ever we go. People seem to know Brent? Not by name mind you, but for some reason people wave at him or acknowledge his presence! It’s kind of odd (in a good way) and we all notice this little social experiment in the making. Now Bent is the father to one Nick Watney, a golfer on the PGA pro circuit. This of course is wonderful in itself but we have decided it is because he looks a little like an older more stoic James Bond! From this point forward it becomes a running gag! Do you know Brent Watney? Do you?

The flight into Port au Prince was uneventful as well (double thank goodness), touching down it felt good to be back. My heart filled with joy as we dipped over the coastline coming in for a landing. I felt as though I could pick out the small town of Leveque as we flew along. I know that’s not true but it sure felt nice thinking I could. Unloading off the plane the first thing I noticed was just how much the airport had changed. It looked new and clean, organized and almost regal, compared to last year. Inside it only got better, painted walls, light air conditioning and clean floors. Customs was a breeze and getting to our luggage was much easier!

Yes we were back! It felt right! Now if only we (Jacy, Heather and I) can help others to experience why we feel this way before the week is done.

Once at the baggage turnstile it became quickly apparent some things hadn’t changed. The usual players were present, red shirts, blue shirts all of them, leaning in trying to earn your business by grabbing your bags and “handling” them for you. After further inspection we realized there to be one more bag than claim tickets which meant we were going nowhere! That was until a fin, a fiver the old Abraham Lincoln made its presence, and then through a terse quip and a short wave of the hand from our newest “best” friend Cliff, the airport inspectors were gone. Cliff, hustled us quickly over to a final check out point where another airport employee asked me if we had “medical” OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsupplies, to which I stated yes! Thinking this might lead us to a free pass, my hopes were squashed when she waved us into another room where all 22 of our bags were to be flopped onto a table, opened and inspected! (Sarcastic “YAY” entered here)Thankfully after staring blankly at about the sixth bag our inspector become frustrated and waved us through!

Cliff moved us like a pod of fish, yelling at any other red shirts vying for a piece of the action to stay away! About this time we found our old friend Jackson (the one arm man) just inside the exit door. Jackson is hired by the United Methodist Church to ensure the mission teams make it to their pick up point and driver with little hassle from the “red shirts”. Jackson swiftly moved our group outside where more red shirts clamored upon our belongings until JacksonOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA yelled at them, at one point a man not happy with Jackson walked up and hit him! A little shocking, but the way of the world in a place where every dollar earned puts food upon your table. Cliff mentioned he could not leave the building and even though I wasn’t supposed to tip anyone but Jackson this man did helped us to no end. Yes I realized he was doing his job, but he blessed us for the work our group UMVIM had done in his country and went above and beyond getting us through the chaos that can become Haiti International Airport. I broke the rules and as I would find out soon enough, we would break that rule many times.

Once loaded into our vehicles (Haitian version of the Toyota mini Van) we headed out into the wild, scary, old west style, garbage filled, smelly, latrine water covered streets of Haiti! Ahhh to be back, filled with hope and optimism for the poor downtrodden people of Ha——– WHAT???????

Hold the boat! Stop the car! Slap your grandma! The, the, streets are CLEAN! (Well ok CLEANER!)Nary a piece of trash, nor mobs of people, not one child is rushing the van screaming “CHICKLET, CHICKLET MISTER” or “WATER PLEASE” or my personal favorite “MISTER YOU GOT A DOLLAR”? What the holy heck! The wrecked cars are no longer lining the streets! Instead they are gathered in a local junk yard we just passed, no one is stripping them down where they lay! Oh my goodness it looks, dare I say it? So much better! In fact we have now crossed two estuaries and I haven’t seen one man living in a van down by the river!!!!down by the river

We come to our first of many traffic lights (yes operational traffic lights) and I also notice for the most part people are obeying the traffic laws! Its pure insanity I tell you! People also seem to be traveling from one place to another with purpose! Not like a cast member from The Living Dead! Its, its,-well it’s just plain beautiful. My heart swells with OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAjoy as our group travels through province after province with nothing but wonderful signs of recovery! No country should have to endure what these people have endured and no people should have to decide on a daily basis whether to feed the dog, beat the dog or eat the dog because the dog needs food just as much as they do. (That was just a reference, they are not eating dogs here)!

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The guest house looms on the horizon and pulling inside the gates (no guard present anymore) felt like being home! The group formed up, we unloaded our gear and set to introductions with the staff! Sarah met us first, she was warm and welcoming. Some met Tom for theOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA first time while three of us just took a moment to reminisce with the leader of the guest house. A meeting was called out by the pool which was perfect for our hot and tired bodies. We swam while Sarah gave us the low down on our trip, progress made in Haiti and some of the more serious issues we may face. The island of La Gonave was our final destination! A four hour boat trip lay ahead and we would be departing at 6am with breakfast at 5am. We were to drink plenty of water and layer ourselves in sunscreen.

We settled in, chatted amongst ourselves and mentally prepared for the last leg of our journey.

Dinner time was upon us quickly and it was AMAZING!! I had waited patiently all year for this style of cooking! Oh you can recreate it in the states but it isn’t the same! The fried chicken was awesome, the black beans and rice was awesome, and the plantains were OFF THEOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA HOOK!!!! Oh yeah some very happy bellies wandered off to bed after an extremely long day of travel. (16 hours in all)

I personally was out cold by 8pm after struggling to stay awake through a meeting with the onsite doctor. I retained most of the information but my brain could handle no more!

Oh well a new day and a new adventure was waiting for us all! As one by one we all laid our heads to rest, little did we know just what an adventure it would become!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA