Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday the 22nd

On to day 17: We ate the continental breakfast and decided to go rent a car. Today we had a really good day, visiting the everglades and going on a boat ride to see alligators. We saw 3 out in the wild and I even held a baby one in a little museum of sorts. It had it's mouth taped shut, so was completely safe. For lunch we ate a costco dog and shared an ice cream bar. We headed back to the same hotel (tried to look in another, but ended up back at square one). Now we are reading our books and watching the olympics once again. It feels good to relax. We both can't wait to finally make it home. Hopefully tomorrow will be uneventful.

Sunday the 21st

This morning we woke bright and early a little before 5 to a commotion going on. I could hear a bunch of people yelling a ways off and couldn't figure out what was going on. Then I heard a knock on our gate and then people talking right outside our window (at least it sounded that way). I was starting to get pretty nervous, so I got up to get Emily. They knocked on our door and Emily went to answer it. I could hear her speak a little bit and knew something was wrong. When she came back in, she said the nanny who had cancer, Mare, had just passed away. Her daughter was working at COTP that night and they were asking if she could leave to be with the family. You could hear the people wailing and crying all over the place. It was so heartbreaking, yet in a way, good I think that people could express their grief. There is a witch doctor not too far from COTP and also close to where Mare lived and I wonder if he was involved at all. I hope not. Every night, throughout the night you could hear him working, drumming his drum, chanting at times. Apparently Haiti is 98% Christian and 100% Voodoo. I'm not exactly sure how it works, except there is a lot of superstition and belief in curses and such. It can be very debilitating to the people because of their fear of curses. And to some extent I wonder if they are self-fulfilling prophesies, since if someone puts a curse on someone, they won't act against it, they just sort of succumb to it. Well, Mare will certainly be missed. Becca was telling me the other day how much she was loved and respected in the community. She made a big impact. As we made our way to the airport, we passed the witch doctor's house. There is an altar outside the house and there was a live lamb sitting up on it. Debbie said that everytime she's gone past the house, the lamb has been there. He's not tied up, so it's a wonder that he stays there. It makes me sad seeing that altar there, cause we know that the lamb was already slain. It's finished. Blood no longer needs to be spilled, thank you Lord. I'm praying for freedom for the people of Haiti from any bondage that Satan has them in. I will continue to pray that God would use this devastating earthquake to awaken the church there, that they would know that he is the only God and that Christ has set us free. My heart breaks for them as they've suffered such loss. My heart breaks for the parents who have lost children, and for the children who have no home and no one to care for them. Yet they are such a beautiful people and have suffered so much, even prior to this earthquake. You can see their strength and ability to persevere through anything. There is depth to their eyes. I wish there was something we could do for the poverty in Haiti. They have a beautiful culture and I've loved to see their daily lives. It's felt a bit like stepping back in time, to see cows being milked, produce being transported via horses and donkeys, meals being cooked over a fire. Still, there isn't anything wonderful in seeing people going without food simply because they can't afford it. Or children going around half, if not fully naked. Or knowing that the raw sewage isn't going down into pipes, but most likely ending up in the creeks, which they bathe in, sometimes maybe even drink. To see the babies come in to the orphanage well over a year old, yet still the size of some newborns. Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, yet I also heard a statistic that they have the most help, as well. The number of non-profit organizations that are in Haiti is staggering, all attempting to help out the situation. And this isn't a new thing, they have been there for many, many years, yet it doesn't seem to make a difference. They need a God-sized miracle. I pray that his grace would fall on this people. They need his grace, just as I do. On to the flight-we made it without mishap to the airport and got all checked in. It was a bit chaotic. We got our passports stamped for exiting hte country and then got into a line to head outside. After filing outside in line to get on the plane the pilot came running out saying is Sarah Vander Sto...out here? And Celeste? (Strange that he said my first name and her last night, since they only had my married name, not my maiden name). He came up and said we hadn't actually been completely checked in-someone misled us and that they have trouble with "imposters". I was a little worried they wouldn't let us on the flight-he actually said that we almost didn't get to fly, but it was okay, that we were good to go. So, we got on the plane, headed down the runway and then started to speed up to take off only to slow down again and drive on back to the airport. Everyone was wondering what was going on. The pilot came out of cockpit, asked the flight attendant to put down the stairs and proceeds to examine the wing of the plane. When he finally comes back up he states that one of the lights (I assume on his control panel) wasn't on and he needed to check it out. Boy did that instill a lot of confidence in us. So, take two-and we had success this time. However, it was quite a bumpy ride getting up to the correct altitude. I guess it was just turbulence, but I confess I was a little worried that there might be something going wrong. I prayed pretty hard. We made it to Florida in one piece. We decided to check on possibly flying standby that day, but after much frustration and a lot of time and waiting we found that we couldn't, unless we wanted to pay a rather large fee of $150 apiece. We decided against that and found a hotel. We had a pretty nice evening, taking a walk, reading our books and watching the olympics. We ordered in some Chinese food and went to bed. I slept great, but mom had a terrible night sleep. She said she just wasn't sleepy and it was pretty noisy, cause there is a train that comes by every couple of hours. At about 5 am there was a domestic violence case out in the parking lot and I could hear plain as day a lady saying "Just leave me alone. Why are you always beating on me!" It was pretty awful and seemed to go on forever, but I called the front desk and they contacted the police. Otherwise, the people here seem pretty normal

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturday the 20th

Day 15:
Well, the last full day started with the sun streaming through our windows. Mom and I talked a little bit about wanting to see the Citadel and since the sky was blue we decided to see what Jamie thought about us going for a bit. He said that would be fine, so at about 9:00 we headed out with Neil and Mary, with Rikkens as our driver. Jenna and Jackson stayed with Debbie, since she went to the citadel a couple of weeks ago. Since we would be going right through Milot, we arranged it to pick up Theo on our way back through. As you get closer to the citadel, you head up into the mountains and the drive is so nice. You really get into rural Haiti-very tropical and lush. It's fun to see the people going about their daily lives, hand washing their clothes and other such tasks. The road gets very steep, but finally you come to a parking lot and get mobbed by people wanting to sell you little trinkets. We avoided them and started the long walk up the mountain with a throng surrounding us. In Milot we stopped and purchased our tickets as well as picked up a guide, but the people just walked along with us telling us little bits of information in hopes for a tip. We tried to be friendly, but not encourage them. Several of them had horses, hoping we would pay for a ride up the hill, but Mary is allergic to horses, so having them follow us made the walking even more difficult for her. Eventually we made it up the hill and the view was so beautiful. The clouds had come in some and it got fairly hazy, but we could still see out to the ocean as well as the mountains and valley. Our tour guide gave us a very in-depth tour of the citadel. It was very large and had withstood an earthquake, with some damage. It was an amazing fortress speaking of much better times in Haiti. It had a bunch of cannons and balls throughout the building, but it never had to be used. We were starting to feel pressed for time since there was another part of the tour down in the palace area by Milot and we also needed to pick up Theo. We made fairly quick time walking down the hill. There was a group of men and children playing these bamboo pipe things as well as drumming and it was really beautiful. There was also a man playing a bamboo flute. He was pretty good at it. and made a very quick run through the palace, which is more ruins than the citadel-more just a skeleton with a building, some stables and one bust of the queen. We were a bit rushed, which was a bummer, but I think the four of us was all toured out anyway. We went to the hospital and just as before it took some time to actually leave with Theo. There was a huge switch over of doctors and nurses yesterday, so the people caring for Theo were new and didn't know the system at all. I think they felt a little nervous about us just walking out with him. They called a charge nurse, who also came that day or the day before. She wanted me to come with her to the area where the medical workers were staying and to make sure Dr. Suresh hadnt left any other instructions. Finally we had the go-ahead and we left. We had a good laugh later when we realized we forgot to pay for Theo's hospital stay. Later that night mom pulls a wad of Haitian Gouds out of her pocket and gets this horrified look on her face. It was great! They'll just have to pay when they pick up Nick. Theo had a terrible ride from the hospital. Rikkens drove so slowly, but those darn pot holes. It seemed to take forever and all our nerves were fried by the time we got home. He settled down pretty quickly, though. Right after getting home I went over to spend some time with Calile and Mac, the two older boys. We had a good time and Debbie and I ended up taking them on a walk with Jenna. We saw a huge tarantula crossing the road and Debbie said "Oh, thank you, Lord!" Apparently it was on her life list to see a tarantula out in the wild. Well, she squats down right next to it and lets it walk across her hand. I was impressed! We had the kids out there in a wagon and everyone that walked passed us was pretty excited to see us. I'm not exactly sure what was so funny, but they all had a good chuckle. We took some pictures of some kids, since they practically begged us. They loved getting to look at themselves on the camera. After we got back we went back into the baby house, Debbie asked if the nannies would sing a particular song. One led to another and they sang for us for quite some time-I'm sure over an hour. We pulled out one of their hymn books and took some requests. They sang Amazing Grace, What a Friend we have in Jesus and several others. It was beautiful. What a send off! I spent my last evening listening to hymns in Creole while making Rivaldo laugh until he eventually just sacked out, fast asleep. Finally when it was over, the nannies asked if they could keep the hymnal because one of the ladies who has worked there for years has very advanced cancer. It started out as breast cancer, but according to the doctors has metastasized almost everywhere. Emily and Neil went to pick her up that evening from the hospital to bring her home, since there was nothing more the doctors could do for her. The nannies wanted to go and sing for her in her home. After the group broke up, we quick did meds and then mom set up the meds for the next couple of days so Jenny wouldn't have to worry about it. Then we got all packed up. What a day and tomorrow we get back into the states and hopefully home!

Friday the 19th

Today has been another fairly busy day. As I've become fairly familiar with the hospital over in Milot I've become the errand girl-especially since Becca has gone. I really miss having her around. She's become a great friend. I headed out there again with Rikkens today. We have nannies staying with the boys in the hospital. One stays for 3 days solid and then she is replaced by another one. It sounds pretty crazy to me, since any sleep she gets is in an uncomfortable chair or maybe on a hard bench, but I guess they must not mind. Anyway, we brought a new nanny in to replace the old one. We also were hoping to bring Theo home with us. Apparently we are on Haitian time, cause when we got there (about 11:45) the nurse who has cared for the boys the past several days told me the nuerosurgeon really wanted to speak with someone from COTP, so when I finally tracked him down (about 12:20), he said he couldn't meet until 1:00. Well, by I think 1:30 I caught up with him and then he had to run to get his lunch. He asked me to come along with him and since he was going to be leaving the next day for the states I decided I had better. He gave me discharge instructions while he ate and then when I told him I needed to head (I was really feeling bad for my driver by this point, having to wait well over 2 hours) he said he wanted to give me some paperwork. I don't know why being late stresses me out, especially when it affects others. Oh well. It was an interesting conversation regarding healthcare in Haiti, especially since the earthquake. He's an Indian man and he talked a lot about cultural sensitivity (specifically in regards to the missionaries that took those kids out of the country). Finally after getting the paperwork electronically, I ran out to the car where Rikkens and the nanny had been waiting. After getting back I ate a late lunch and watched Gina while mom took care of some more people from the community with health problems. Before the sun went down, 5 of us ladies also went on a nice walk down the road. What a nice evening it was! I was able to get some great pictures. Tonight I went out and hung out with a couple of the older kids while they watched Shrek. It's starting to hit home that we only have 1 full day left here. Leaving the kids is going to be difficult even though I am ready to go home and see my husband and family. Tomorrow I'm going to spend as much time as I can with the children. Hopefully if they do ask me to go to the hospital again to pick up Theo, it won't be a 4+ hour deal!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Thursday the 18th

It was another very rainy day today. We got up and helped with the kids, then after our own breakfast, Jamie asked me if I would head in to Miloh again to check on Nick and Theo and also to pick up some supplies that Dr. Brian wanted to give us. One of the Haitians that works for COTP took me in to the hospital. I wish I knew the mileage in to Milot-it is maybe 5 to 10 miles, possibly even less and it took us 1 hour to go one way. The pot holes are just killer and I'm not sure the vehicle we took had any shocks. Still as we were driving I was thinking of how amazing and strange it was that I am in Haiti. When we got to the hospital I check in on the boys. They look to be doing pretty well. It sounds like Theo might be able to come home tomorrow and Nick the next day. The nurse there pointed out another hydrocephalus boy that just got there from Port who puts Theo to shame. 81 cm head circumference. I honestly couldn't believe it. The poor little baby. I sure do hope that the quality of his life improves after his shunt is placed. I also got to see the girl with the eye infection again. She looks so much better. The swelling was almost completely gone, but all around her eye it looks like there is necrosis or something. It's completely black and hard to the point that they can't even look at her eye yet to see if they will be able to save the eye. From the outside it's not looking good. It almost looked as though there was a plastic patch covering her eye. After getting back I spent more time in the depot sorting some of the new things that had come in that day. It's very quiet around here as 4 more of the short-term volunteers left today. Tomorrow will be even quieter because 5 of the kids will be leaving in the morning with yet another volunteer. Geff finally gets to go home to his family. Debi, who is a missionary from the Bahamas here to help out for awhile, taught Jeff the song "Tomorrow" last week. It was so sweet to hear him sing "Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow, your only a day away!" in his Haitian accent. I got a nice little video of it. I'm going to miss him a lot. He's boosted all of our self esteems by always telling each of us "You're so cute" and "You're so smart!" His new family is going to love him-I just hope they have the energy to keep up with him. It's funny the bitter-sweetness of it all. I've only known Geff for less than 2 weeks and I feel so sad that I'll never see him again. Yet, it's such a happy thing. He cannot wait to meet his family. When you ask him where he's going tomorrow, he says "Home." It brings tears to my eyes to think a little 5 year old has never had a place that he can call home. All for now. I'm beat and going to bed.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wednesday the 17th

Today has been a low energy day. The stomach hasn't been feeling incredibly hot and I think it's making me dehydrated. Still it's been a good day. I haven't spent much time with the kids, but I was able to take a little nap and also got to do some organizing in the depot. The depot is where they store all their supplies like formula, bottles, clothing, and other such items. I love making something that looks like a disaster look presentable. Mom had a great moment today-she got her first giggle out of Jenna. It's sounds so simple, but it's sort of a big milestone. We've had some smiles, which have been nice, but today she put her in a swing and she just started giggling. At first she thought it might be a cry, but there was no mistaking the smile on her face. One thing I forgot to mention yesterday was that Jenna's father came by to see her. We were so glad to see that and it's a good indication that she probably won't be abandoned at the orphanage-that at some point he'll probably take her back. She watched mom while she walked away, but didn't cry. And then Jenna's dad left at the same time that mom went to the hospital and while they were both leaving, Jenna was waving like crazy at them. It was pretty sweet. Then in the evening we had our Bible study. What a difference a week makes. Last week we had 6 new people, who had arrived just like an hour or two before the study started. This week they feel a little like family. God has been so good to me. In every area of my life. I feel so blessed to be here and I know the blessing is more on me than what I've left for them. It's been a very humbling experience. I've got a lot of processing to do as I head home. I feel I've learned so much and just yet I can't really put it down into words

Tuesday the 16th

I woke up this morning to the sound of hard rain. It sounded so good and made me miss home. We've actually had quite a bit of rain while we've been here, but for some reason this morning I was reminded of my old room up at my mom and dad's. It was upstairs and the head of my bed was just a couple of feet away from from the roof. I used to love to listen to the rain up there. Such a peaceful sound. Yesterday the day went by about as usual, so I won't go into all the details. The only difference was that mom and a couple of other people went into Milot to check on Nick and Theo. They said they were doing really, really well-looking like they were feeling a lot better. We just ran out of several medications here at COTP, so I asked them to pick a few up from the hospital pharmacy. I gave a list, but they only came home with the worm medication. The other ones the hospital only had in tablet form so they didn't get it thinking that the kids wouldn't be able to take that. It was a bummer because we actually do use the tablet form and dissolve it in some apple juice, which they love. One of the meds is Phenobarbitol, an anti-seizure medication. I didn't feel comfortable to cut the kids off from that med cold-turkey, so we decided to head into town once again. One of the other short-term volunteers did a lot of motorcycle racing in his younger years, so he'd said he take me on the orphanage's motorcycle. Sounded like a good idea to me! I love that kind of stuff. The ride to the hospital was wonderful. I loved every moment of it. It made me feel so much closer to the culture of the Haitians not having a window between myself and them. Most of the Haitians walk to get places, some of them have bicycles and other have motorcycles-more like dirt bikes, almost. A lot of people were laughing at us, I guess because they don't usually see two white people on motorcycles. Becca said they sometimes will see a white person with a Haitian driver, but not a white driver. We made it to the hospital safely, but had to go on a wild goose chase to get the meds because the main pharmacy was closed. After trying I think 5 different places, we finally got to a functioning pharmacy. They got us what we needed, but when we went to pay she told us $445. We assumed Haitian Gourds, which we had, but she told us no. Then we thought maybe she meant Haitian dollars, but the weird thing about Haitian dollars is that they don't exist. A Haitian Gourd is worth about 40 US dollars and a Haitian Gourd is also worth about 4-5 Haitian dollars. We weren't getting anywhere figuring it out, so finally she just said "This never happened," handed us our meds and off we went. But one of the main doctors there, who has been coming to Haiti regularly for years, told us that it was okay that we didn't pay. It's such a strange system. Apparently you don't really even need a prescription (though sometimes they are used) to get a medication, as long as you are able to pay for it, you can get it. I asked about narcotics and Becca told me that narcotics are the exception-that they are very seldom used-even for palliative care. While we were at the hospital we saw the neurosurgeon. He stopped to talk with us and update us on the boys. He said he could be in town for a few days, depending on if he has work to do, so he was asking us if we knew of anymore kids with hydrocephalus. I thought there might be another one, so Becca is working on contacting the family about going to the hospital to be seen. After that we headed back to the orphanage. Today we also saw the lady with the ear ache again. It wasn't getting any better. I decided to give another ear antibiotic a try and if it didn't work by the next day to come in to be seen. I'm really worried about her, because she also has a rather large wound on her calf that hasn't healed in 3 years. WIth that kind of history, I really don't want hear ear infection to get out of control. I hope to see her again soon. There is a girl in the hospital-maybe 10 or 11 years old, who had an eye infection that she let go for 3 days. Her entire face swelled up and she finally went into the hospital. Dr. Jolie was telling me that her airway started to close because the swelling extended down her neck. She felt like she was in such a predicament, cause normally in Haiti, they would just let her die if her airway completely closed off. This could be prevented simply by intubating her, so she didn't really know what to do, since they don't have a ventilator in the hospital. She said she didn't think she would be able to watch the little girl die over an airway. As of yesterday, I don't think they ended up having to intubate her. They still were wondering if she might lose her eye, but at least the eye infection didn't cost her her life. It's just unreal. I think that's about all for yesterday. Mom had a great day with Jenna. She sure is coming out of her shell. She doesn't much like it when mom's not in the same room as her. I can't wait to show everyone the pictures of these kids. They've captured my heart, that's for sure and it'll be hard to leave them behind.