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.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Note from Dan - Sarah on Jacksonville Newspaper website

Dan jumping into the blog: "Sarah mentioned that she had her picture taken by a Jacksonville reporter that was there - while she was helping in the hospital. So tonight I went searching for a Jasksonville newspaper. After a bit of looking, I found the picture: playing checkers with a young boy. Course it didn't help the fact that I really miss her. "

2/16 - updated link:

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday the 15th

Woke up this morning at the usual time and got ready to head over and see the kids. Gave them their meds and helped feed them breakfast, as usual. Then we had breakfast and headed into Milot again, this time with little Anel. First thing we did was check on Nick and Theo. Theo had his surgery last night as and seemed to be doing alright, though pretty drowsy. He's been eating and they said the surgery went well. I'm a bit sad that chances are he won't come back home by the time we head for home. Maybe I'll get to see him in the hospital later on in the week, though. We then got to see Dr. Brian, who took a good look at Anel. I think I've mentioned it before, but he's 18 months old and can't even sit by himself. He eats fairly well, but is only 10 and a half pounds and his head circumference is about the size of some baby's at birth. He's been at COTP for about 7 months and has only gained 3 pounds (he was 7 pounds at 1 year old!). He's gotten a bit stronger and is rolling over, but not doing much more. The pediatrician who has experience working in other developing countries said he would guess that he had some major oxygen deprivation during labor and delivery and has profound neurological delay across the board. His muscle tone is super weak as well. He's not real sure why he wouldn't be growing because of that, but suggested we check his thyroid levels and some other labs. The best part is he is going to write an official letter saying he feels that he should get a medical visa to the US. This is great news, since he could get regular physical therapy appointments and better nutrition in general in the united states. Oh, I remembered a story that a doctor told me about a father who carried his son (who I believe was either pre-teen or young teenager) all the way from Port Au Prince in his arms. His son has a broken pelvis and it took him 3 weeks to make it. Can you believe that? Well, after getting back to COTP I spent some time kicking the soccer ball with some of the older kids. I helped them out with dinner, then getting ready for bed. They all get several baths a day-one being just before they put on the PJ's. We had a bit of a wrestling match after they got in their PJ's and that was fun. Lots of giggling and tickling. We just had a dinner of mac and cheese and I think we'll head to bed soon. It's super early, but oh well.
Over half way over.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday the 14th

Today is a day off of sorts at COTP. We woke up and got the kids their meds and then decided to go to church. It's a 3 hour ordeal, but since we didn't understand a bit of it, we stayed on 1 1/2 hours. It was pretty small compared to previous weeks, I guess. They sang a bit, had some preaching an offering, pretty much like usual except all intermixed. They sing a song and then preach for a bit, then sing another song, then more preaching and on and on. After getting back, we hung out for a bit reading, etc. for an hour or so then made some lunch. At about 2 we headed to the hospital to check on our boys. Theo hadn't gone back to surgery because another boy in the community with hydrocephalus had the surgery done first and then they were bumped several times for cesarean sections (I know that feeling!). I've been so impressed by the people working at the hospital. Everyone I have met has been so friendly. They love to take time to talk to you about different patients and what the plan is for them. So many doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners have spent time with me, making me feel so welcome. They have really gotten the cream of the crop for workers here. The party for the kids was cancelled because it's been raining cats and dogs all day and it was going to take place outside, but we ended up spending quite a bit of time there anyway (me, Marv, Mary, Kristina and Neil-all short term volunteers who have come to love our little hydro boys as they've been termed at the hospital). Since we were coming to the hospital anyway, we brought along some pediatric walkers, crutches and some boxes of honey nut cheerios, which had been donated to COTP, but had an overabundance of. They were pretty excited to have them. I then went over to talk to Dr. Jolie-an ER pediatrician about possibly seeing another one of our little guys who has been here since July and is 18 months and 10 pounds. He hasn't gained really any weight or grown at all since coming here, despite being fed 3 meals a day. I wonder if their is a thyroid problem or growth hormone deficiency. She said she would love to see the little guy, but would also like another Dr named Brian to take a look at him because he has practiced quite a bit in developing countries. I got to meet Brian later and just like the other people, he was so friendly and helpful. The plan is to bring him in either tomorrow or Tuesday as both Brian and Dr. Jolie will be leaving on Wednesday. I'm hoping they can run some tests to see what's going on with him. I don't think it's just failure to thrive. It's got to be something more. So, another bumpy ride with a baby is in store for us. Speaking of bumpy rides-I don't think I've ever seen so many pot holes in my life! I thought the road I grew up on was bad. Well, there is nothing like this. I kept thinking I need my husband and our old pathfinder and we'd be in for a good time. I also got to spend some time talking with the neurologist who will do Theo and Nick's surgery. He will be leaving in a week, so he is teaching one of the doctors in the hospital how to do the surgery, since at some point they may fail, come apart, or just need to be replaced because of growth. Once again, I was impressed by the spirit of comraderie and teaching. After speaking with the neurologist we took off back home. During the time I was gone, mom helped with snack, made dinner for all the volunteers and took care of Jenna. After I got back, mom and I worked on medications, we ate some spagghetti for dinner and hung out a bit with the other volunteers. Jenna has made some serious leaps this evening. She is waving and even clapping. I've watch Heidi sing "Clap Your Hands" with Ben and Sam and they have loved it, so I gave it a try with Jenna. After going through the song a few times, she has started clapping! You can tell she's pretty pleased and loves an audience. We even got a bit of a smile from her-well a half smile. She will wave at just about anyone and has started playing a bit with some toys today. Mom has done a great job taking care of her. I can't wait until she comes completely out of her shell. She is such a beautiful little baby. I wish I could post some pictures of her. We got her on some worm medication this morning and are wondering if maybe that is why she is already starting to feel a bit better. That about sums up our day here. I'm laying in bed listening to the rain and am reminded of home. This has been such a wonderful experience, but we both look forward to coming home to our loved ones. In one week we will be catching a ride to the states. I can't believe it's half over.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Saturday the 13th

Today has started out really well. We both got a good nights sleep with Jenna sleeping until about 4 am and going back to sleep after that. She had thrown up quite a bit, so mom got her cleaned up and back to bed. We woke up to some really good news, though. Theo and Nick (the other boy with hydrocephalus) will be seen by a neurologist today, so we have to get them all packed up to go. Nick has had a shunt placed before, but it has failed. I'm not sure if the plan for him is to place another shunt, or just try to get the old one working. With Theo they will see if anything can be done for him. The sad news from yesterday is that the 8 kids that we sent off to Port to be adopted have not left yet. Haiti has declared a national day of mourning (actually, I think 3 days week days total) so everything has been shut down and will not reopen until Wednesday or Thursday. The kids got on a plane last night to return to COTP, but flying over the air strip the pilot decided that it was too dark to land, so they headed back to Port au Prince. Bummer. I feel so bad for Geff especially since he is older and has so anticipated going to his family. Right away after getting up I made my way over to the baby house to give them their meds. I took a couple of them over to a play area where we got out some crayons and a coloring book and spent some time coloring. We headed back to the baby house in time for singing and prayer time. In the early afternoon mom took care of a kid who came with some sort of skin problem on his head-possibly ring worm or some other problem. She also took care of a gal with a bad ear infection. In the meantime we got Nick and Theo all ready to head to the hospital, and since Becca said they would be there for several hours, I borrowed a pair of her scrubs and decided to see if I could make myself of use in the peds earthquake area. On top of all this, the 8 kids from Port showed up. They caught a plane to come back for a few days. One of the little guys is seriously ill with vomiting and diarrhea. The little guys were pretty excited to get out of the car and see all the familiar faces of the nanny's and long term volunteers. It was pretty special, even though it's not the outcome we would have wished for. By about 2:30, after we had eaten lunch, we headed out for the hospital. It's quite the drive as I said with huge potholes and very bumpy the whole way. We were pretty nervous for our little Theo and Nick, but they didn't let out a peep. They actually seemed pretty happy like they enjoyed the ride. As soon as we stepped out of the car, all kinds of medical personnel were taking a look at them and saying "Oh good, they made it!" Everyone was expecting them. They ushered us right to where we needed to go and all the top dogs were there to talk with us about what would happen with them. What an answer to prayer this is. Here with all the earthquake victims I would have thought that they wouldn't have time to see a couple of kids from the community, but the only thing I can figure is that the hospital is so overwhelmed with doctors (I heard 30 more arrived just today) that they are twiddling their thumbs for something to do. Well, maybe it's not that bad. As I think I said on a previous post, it's actually nurses that they've been needing mostly. Anyway, back to the kids, the plan is to place a shunt in Theo tomorrow morning and probably next Tuesday for Nick. We were told that Nick had a shunt previously, but the docs said they found no sign whatsoever of a shunt, so either it had just been a temporary drain, or it failed right away and they pulled it and sent him home. We aren't real sure. He doesn't get to go to surgery for a few days because he was so dehydrated and definitely looks malnourished. Theo, on the other hand, has such a healthy little body, other than the hydrocephalus. I left almost immediately to head to the peds area and got to talk extensively to a nurse practitioner. She gave me the story on several of the kids there. One had something fall on his head, so he had surgery. Still, he isn't able to move the left side of his body and he had a seizure that morning. The mom wasn't even looking at her baby, let alone holding him, so I picked him up and showed her it was okay to hold him. The NP was concerned about her detachment to the whole thing. I was able to help out with a couple of dressing changes and we took care of some items that were donated. I also helped feed a baby for a bit and then I took some time playing connect 4 and checkers with a boy. The kids are just so bored. They really need some entertainment. Many of the kids are healthy enough to leave, but they have casts on and they don't trust them to return to get it removed. That and they worry about infection. So there are many kids who are pretty darn healthy and they have families to take them away, yet they aren't leaving because of discharge problems. A guy from jacksonville newspaper came in and took a picture of me and the kid, named Paul, playing checkers. He took down my info. so maybe I"ll show up in a newspaper in Florida. By about 7, Becca and the gang showed up with all their good news and we headed back to COTP. Apparently Brian and Larry (engineers who deal a lot with systems) were able to talk with the top dog doctor for quite awhile. He sat them down and told them about the situation down there. It is just surprising to me how we've become connected with so many important people. God has provided greatly. It's just an awful situation down here, but I know that he is sovereign and can bring about good through it all. Now I think I'll head to bed, my heart smiling. It looks like I'll be going back to the hospital tomorrow bringing Nick and Theo's medical file to the doctors and checking up on them for Becca because she won't be around tomorrow. While I'm there, I'll probably spend some more time working with the kids in the hospital and also attending a party that I was invited to. Apparently they've thrown a couple of parties for the hospital kids, which I guess are really fun, with the kids trying to dance, etc. I'm going to have to get some video of that! It's nice that they are providing some times of joy amidst all the sadness. Oh, and during this time, mom stayed back at COTP taking care of the kids here, giving them meds, etc. She even took a walk with a few people outside of the compound. She had a great evening, too.
All for now.

Friday the 12th

Today is Friday and I can't believe that time has gone by so fast. been gone for almost a week already. I woke up this morning feeling very rested and ready to go in and see the kids. Unfortunately I definitely have a favorite. His name is Rivaldo and he has just learned to walk. When I walk in he stands up and with his balance definitely not great, he makes his way to me with a huge grin on his face. The best part about Rivaldo is his laugh. He has a low pitched little giggle and if you really get him going by tickeling him or throwing him around a bit he just screams with excitement. It'll be really hard to say bye to him. I started the morning with a shower and then got the meds ready to give the kids. The biggest challenge is giving the meds to our two kids with CP. Sometimes it seems that half of it goes dribbling down their face, and some of them are pretty important, like anti-seizure meds. Oh well. Lord, protect them. I'm so happy for them because they both have families working to adopt them. The neat thing about COTP is that all the children will leave by at least 5 years old. They are either adopted, or reunited with their families after getting more healthy and fattened up. Rebecca, a nurse who lives at COTP, had an errand that she needed to run at the hospital in Milan, so she took my mom and I along for the ride. Because we've lost so many kids we've considered seeing if we can work in that hospital, which is overrun with earth quake victims. To give you an idea of how busy they are, they are a hospital with 40 beds. They currently have around 400 patients that they are taking care of. What an experience it was to go there. We mostly just saw the peds ward, but just walking around, we saw numerous people being moved via stretcher with pins in their legs and other such things. We saw a couple of gals that we flew into cap with. They are working at the hospital. We were told that they could use us, so if things get really slow here at COTP, we may work their for a day or two. The main part of the hospital is seeing the very sick "non-earthquake" patients and then there is another area for solely earthquake victims. Walking into the peds area was heartbreaking. So many children have amputations. I think of how their life will be just living with an amputation and then to compound that, many of them are orphans or have lost many family members. And they are definitely short on workers. One little boy who is probably around 2 has no family. The brother of another patient has been caring for him. He looks to be a young teenager, but he has been holding him, loving on him, tucking him in a night and he's never even met this boy before. Everyone is just having to pitch in and help where it is needed. Another boy with pretty significant injuries was found alive under 4 dead bodies. It's just packed to the brim with patients lining the hall ways. The earthquake peds area is just a big room with matresses all over and little walkways so people can get around. I can't imagine it getting any busier, but the helicopters just keep arriving. In many ways I'd love to be of assistance there, but we've actually stayed very busy at the orphanage. WIth the hospital being so busy, they aren't seeing anybody else unless it is an emergency, so people are showing up at COTP for assistance. For example, today we helped bandage up a couple of kids that got in a dirt bike accident. One kid lost a pretty good chunk of meat off his leg, so we cleaned it up and bandaged it up real good. I'm hoping it doesn't get infected. We told him to come back so we could look at it again and change the dressing. Back to Milo-while we were there Rebecca, or Becca as most people call her, took us up to see old ruins of a castle. It was just so beautiful. It must have been glorious back when it was in use. The view is unreal and the architecture is pretty stunning-being there you forget you are in Haiti. As Becca said, if this was in Europe, people would pay big money to come and see it. After that, we headed down the hill to pick up the gal who needed the prescription and took off back to COTP. After getting back I was able to spend some time with the kids and also tried to get their prescriptions ready for tonight. Unfortunately there is no machine to dispense the medications. After getting them all ready, I ran over to the baby house to give them to the kids. Now mom and I are winding down and getting ready for bed. Jenna is sound asleep and has had an okay day. She's been eating fairly well and I almost got a smile out of her-not quite though. Mostly she's just a little blob. That sounds really bad, but she just has no expressions. She puts two of her fingers in her mouth and cries only occassionally when my mom sets her down. We'll crack her though, I'm sure. That pretty much sums up our day. It was an eye-opening experience. One that I will never forget.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Thursday the 11th

Woke up this morning a bit tired after such a long and crazy night. I got some dish soap and did my laundry in the sink. It's now hanging up drying-I hope it dries quickly! After that, I checked my e-mail and figured out what I would be doing for the morning. Jamie set my mom and I to work cleaning ears. Most of the kids don't particularly like it, some absolutely hate it, and some seem to like it. The ones who really didn't like it seemed to need it the worst, probably because they also don't like their regular daily baths and so, don't get as clean. We got through quite a few of them, but not all of them before they headed down for their naps. I spent a lot of time with a new gal named Mary, who is going to be keeping Theo tonight. She is doing such a great job with him-reading to him and really not leaving his side. We spent quite a bit of time with him and I have loved every minute of it, but we've also been doing a lot of other things throughout the day, so he gets left alone quite a bit. She said he hasn't slept much (maybe because she's been interacting with him so much) so hopefully that will mean a good night sleep tonight for them. Next came lunch, which was so good again. It's been a bit hard for them making enough, since they have no idea how many people will be eating, so there hasn't been much quantity, but that's okay. We haven't needed to supplement too much with our snack foods. After lunch we had a new admission named Jenna. I helped do the initial assessment and gave her a bath. She was very sad to leave her father, but as her mother has passed away (not sure how long ago), he needs help getting her healthy. She is 14 months and only 10 pounds. I keep thinking how many babies I've seen born her size and larger. She doesn't smile and mostly just sits there, although this evening she started picking up cereal. The nice thing is she has been eating pretty well since we got her. She will be staying with us tonight and Theo will be with another gal. She's been taking such great care of him. I just love that little guy. He breaks my heart because he is just so sweet and chances are very good that he won't be on this earth much longer. The only comfort is that he'll be with Jesus soon and you can't get any better than that. I just hate to see him hurting at times. We finished up cleaning ears in the afternoon and our cerebral palsy kids seemed to just love it. I thought we were gonna have quite the time, but they were so relaxed. In the evening we ate dinner and I handed out the meds that some of the kids are on-a task I've recently acquired.It can be quite a trick getting them to take them. I guess that's about all for today. I'm hoping for a bit more rest tonight. Hopefully Jenna will accomodate that :o). I think right now I might get ready for bed and read a little. Actually, a couple of the girls said they were going to watch some Friends episodes, so I think I'll join them. Sounds very relaxing.

Wednesday the 10th

On to Wednesday. I woke up and headed over to feed the kiddos breakfast. I spent a little time holding and loving on them. For breakfast with had waffles. Some of the crew started cleaning out the depot, but mom and I spent one on one time with the kids. We put them in the swings, in the wagon and just walked and played with them. It was fun to work on getting them smile. With some of them it's easy, with some of them its near impossible. After spending quite a bit of time we started to cleaning. This place is getting a serious work over, which is great, since there aren't a whole lot of kids. Mom cleaned some of the dining room chairs and I cleaned the fridge out. Not exactly my favorite job, but it's so rewarding because it looks so dogon good when it's done. Lunch was so good-Haitian style Mexican with homemade tortillas. I finished the fridge project and then we gave snacks to the kids and played with them a bit more. We've spent a lot of time talking with Rebecca about certain kids and their diagnosis and what might be the problem with them. It's difficult to figure out without the tools needed (blood work, etc.). There is a lot of guess work involved. We of course spent time with little Theo (our roomie) and hung out with some of the other volunteers. Six more came tonight. Let's hope some kids show up. So far it's been fine, but I can't imagine 6 more hands. Jamie has some plans for painting, which will keep us busy for a bit and we may look into volunteering at a local hospital, which is extremely short-handed on nurses. One of the volunteers who left yesterday got supplies for quiche, so we started making dinner for everyone. It was a big project, which kept getting interuppted over little things. Eventually we got it done, though. We had staff/volunteer BIble study (every wednesday) which was really good. SInce there are so many short-term volunteers it was interesting to hear what brought everyone here. We listened to a video I think called Nooma, by Rob Bell. It was really good and something we should totally look into for our small group. The video is pretty short (like 15 minutes or something) and then they provide discussion questions. It was great! I took a shower and got our beds ready. We moved rooms b/c of the new volunteers. We had such a crazy night. 3 of us had just one kid named Jerry. He slept good for 2 hours, but then woke up and did not want to go back to sleep. I finally got him to fall asleep laying on me, and after a while I got him to go back to his bed. However, after heading back to sleep it was so noisy outside. I could hear the rats outside (also in the kitchen) and the dogs were barking like crazy. I had noticed that there was a hole in my window, so I was really nervous about a rat running across me at night. Finally it sounded like there was some noise pretty close so I turned on my head lamp and sure enough, while I was looking at the window I saw a rat run into our room. I sat up and told one of the other gals here, Gina, that a rat just came in the room and went under my mom's bed (who was still sleeping). I didn't want to wake her up and freak her out, but finally I just had to. I heard one of the long term volunteers walk into the kitchen, so I ran out and told her what was going on. We poked around to find the rat and he jumped up on my bed, onto the window sill and out the hole in the window by where my head is at when I sleep. We tried to block the screens as much as possible. It took me awhile to go back to sleep because I wasn't sure if there were actually two rats and not just one. I had seen a rat twice in pretty close succession in two different places, so I couldn't be for sure. By this time it was about 4 in the morning. I did end up getting a little more sleep, so that was good. It's a night I won't soon forget. Tonight, Jamie and Jenny's dog is going to be in the house with us on rat patrol and hopefully some of the men will fix our screens so the rats can come in our room.

Tuesday the 10th

So yesterday (Tuesday) we accidentally slept in (like 8:20 or so). I felt so good and rested. We woke up to a nice, sunny day (as opposed to yesterday, which was cloudy and rainy a good portion of the day). I guess that Jamie and Jenny's dog caught a rat in the house last night. Nice! Mom and another gal actually saw a rat, so they had the dog in the house over night. Worked like a charm. Right away we went over and helped the kids eat their breakfast. We helped them brush their teeth and spent a little bit of time with them. 8 of the children were scheduled to go to their adoptive families, so it was a bit of a crazy morning trying to get them ready. It was a very emotional day for the long-term staff. The kids were so excited, especially Geff, who is 5, and understands that he is going to his family. He is the only kid his age currently, as all of his friends have already gone to their families. Because of this, he has stayed in volunteer housing, because he gets the fact that he is the only one left. We of course took care of Theo and also had a sick girl come in from the community. The RN, Rebecca, wasn't around, nor was Jamie, because he left with the first group of kids, so Jenny asked ifmom and I would take a look at this malnourished girl. At first they told us she was 2, but her fontanels still hadn't closed (which occur at about 1 year), and later the dad told us that she actually was a little under one. She weight I think 4.75 kilo's (around 10 pounds, I think). She was so skinny, with jaundiced eyes. We told Jenny we thought she could really benefit having extra care. WHen Jamie came, though, he told the dad (the mom recently passed away) that they needed paperwork and to bring her back tomorrow. We also saw a man with a wound on his foot and took care of that and did weights on some of the kids. It's fun getting to know them better. I'm trying to learn their names and spend a little time with each of them. There were a couple of other kids from the community with fevers and one of the little guys was twitching pretty badly and still couldn't sit and walk and was 2 years old. We told her she should take him to the hospital. Obviously something is wrong that is more serious than we can diagnose. It was a great day of getting to know Rebecca better. Jamie and Jenny's little boy has been getting sick a lot, so I figured out an antibiotic to get him started on, since he continues to have very high fevers daily. Other than that, we just helped the kids with their meals, did dishes here in the volunteer housing, helped brush their teeth again at night and made sure Theo was comfortable. For dinner we had an egg sandwich and some chips and salsa (I guess a real treat around here). Theo wasn't as happy last night. He cried quite a bit from 9-12 or so. Finally he fell asleep until about 4. At that time I thought I should check on him and it really didn't look like he was breathing, which of course freaked me out. I ran to get mom, but when she got back he was moving a bit and of course, breathing. He had a bit of a hard time going back to sleep then, but we got a little bit of sleep until 7. That gets us to today, I think Wednesday. I really should have brought my calendar along. I'm already getting lost on what day it is.

Days 1,2,3 summary

So...let me start at the beginning. The flights were really nice. On Saturday, while we were waiting for our flight to arrive, mom asked if we could sit next to one another and they were able to do that. We were in the very last seats with the seat in the middle free. That was super nice. We had lunch on the plane (home made) and read our books and took short naps. We had a very short layover in Atlanta and pretty much went from one plane and boarded the next-really didn't even sit down. While flying into Fort Lauderdale, there was a fireworks display that was neat to watch. I believe it was for the superbowl the next day. After landing we collected our luggage and called 4 or 5 hotels to see what their rates were. Only one had rooms available and that was for 200 dollars a night. Yikes! No thanks! So, we bedded down in our sheets and tried to sleep. It was a bit difficult, but oh well. The next day we we had breakfast at dunkin donuts-a coffee cake muffin and hot chocolate/coffee. Being super tired, I laid down again and slept another couple of hours while mom read her book. We were close to where our Lynx flight was going to take off, and eventually checked in. It was very funny because you just give them your passport, don't get any ticket, and they just tell you to show up 15 minutes before the flight. I was a little nervous, since NIck was in the airport 4 days waiting for their flight to show up, which never did. Our lunch consisted of sbarro's pizza compliments of an airport employee named Pat. Mom was talking to her and telling her what we were doing and she offered to get us lunch! It was great. Our flight out to Haiti was a little late, but eventually someone (not over a speaker phone and not even really very loud) said to get in a line for the flight to Cap. I quickly sent a mail to Jamie saying we were on our way and and we filed out. They didn't recheck our passports and of course we had no tickets, we just filed onto a smaller plane. One side had double seats, one side single. Mom and I sat one in front of the other and were able to look out the window and enjoy the scenery. It was pretty cloudy, but we could see I think a bit of Cuba and flying into Haiti we had a great view. We landed and got off the plane and were filed into a small building with pretty much nothing in it. It sort of reminded me of some of the buildings in Dacau, dirty and simple. The guy who stamped our passport didn't know a lick of English, so he couldn't answer us when we asked for Immigration forms (which our COTP packet said we would get). Oh to another room to get our luggage. They took a quick look in our bags and out the door we went. We did not see any white people outside of the airport and quickly became surrounded by a bunch of Haitian men wanting to give us rides. One of them spoke Creole and offered to give us a ride to COTP, but we were not too fond of that idea, being two women, never having been to Haiti. I was getting very nervous because I had NO contact information for COTP. I tried my cell phone but couldn't get through (I know, I'm sorry...I suck, but was feeling very scared and thought it would be better to spend a bit of money on a phone call than be killed). After awhile our ride finally showed up. I jumped into the back of the truck with a missionary from the Bahamas named Debi and another volunteer named Marvin.The ride to COTP was amazing. I loved every minute of it. It is very flat without hills and then all of a sudden there is a huge hill. It was gorgeous-so green and tropical. I loved to see the life of the people of Haiti. The kids would run out to the road, jumping up and down saying "Bonswan" which means hello. There are huge potholes (almost lakes!) that you drive through (which is the reason that our ride was late-they got stuck in a pothole). Finally we made it to COTP and got a quick tour of the place and got settled in. Debi made us egg sandwiches and we were introduced to our roommate nicknamed Theo. He has major hydrocephalus and was left by his mom several days ago. She came in asking for help and when they told her they wouldn't be able to help him, that she should take him home and he would eventually die, she shoved him into somebodys arms and took off running. THey tried to chase her down, but couldn't find her. So, they don't know his real name, how hold he is, ANYTHING. He is super sweet little boy. We helped with teethbrushing and met a few of the kids and then I came back to take a shower (got very dusty on the ride in the back of the truck). Let see...what else am I forgetting. I guess we just got ready for bed and hit the sack. Theo gave us a rough night. We didn't get much sleep, so we woke up very tired. I already can't really remember what we did yesterday. Several of the volunteers were gone in the morning, so we pretty much took care of the sick kids who sleep with the volunteers. We fed them, bathed one little guy, and tried to calm the extra-irritable kids with hydrocephalus. Just a little background-when kids first come to COTP the ones who are sick sleep in the volunteer house usually with short-term volunteers-and the rest of the kids who are more healthy sleep in the baby house and are watched by nannies who work 24 hour shifts. Breakfast is at about 9:30am and we had crepes. It was so good. When the other volunteers got back we were able to go over to the baby house and help serve them lunch. The babies are so sweet and hungry for attention. They come up and pull on you cause they want to be held. They go down for naps at 12:30, so during that time we helped out a bit with clean up and took a real short nap. We had lunch at 2:00 and then spent a little time with the two boys with cerebral palsy and also with the other kiddos. Let see...we also helped with teethbrushing, had a dinner of rice and beans, did our Bible study and I don't know what else. We went to bed eventually with Theo in our room again and broke our night into shifts. I took the first 5 hour shift to care for him and mom took the 2nd 5 hour shift. He didn't wake up once during my shift and we both slept good. The 2nd shift he was up a ton. Poor mom! She must be exhausted by now. I helped her out at the end, so she could sleep. He just wasn't sleepy towards morning. I woke up feeling so rested, since I slept for about 11 hours. It was a good night of catch-up for me. I think that's good enough for now. We continue to feel more settled, so that makes things easier.

Mon, Feb 8th

Today 8 more kiddos are going home, so they are getting a bit down in numbers, but should get a pile more at some point (course, they've been saying that a long time). It's hard because they are trying to make sure that kids are orphans before sending them to an orphanage, and in the time being are keeping them in little tent shanty's where they are not getting taken care of at all. So, a lot of the orphanages have room because so many babies are being adopted, but they aren't allowed to take in the children yet because of this new process. HOpefully it'll get figured out before the kids get really sick and malnourished. Weve' helped with some sick kids from teh community today. Boy, some of them are just so skinny and malnourished.