Saturday, February 27, 2010

Patient interviews...

This is our 'family' photo. Lots of children. Each with their own story. Today I took the time to get some patient stories. Basically we want to document the stories of the children that come through the post-op ward so that we know how they have been affected by the earth quake, what their needs are, how we can pray for them and to let our donors know who we are reaching out to. I must say, it is not an easy task.

It started with a 6 year old boy, Anderson, who has a left femur fracture and is in a long leg cast. He is here with his mother and family and is an only child. Praise God the family survived. During the earth quake he was outside and thought that people were throwing stones at him; he was scared. He stayed outside and before he knew it bricks from the appartment fell on top of his leg. He could not walk. The earth quake woke his mother up from her nap and she quickly went looking for her son. Finding him outside, she proceeded to free his leg from the bricks. The next day they went to the hospital, but they could not help him. He went to other doctors that same day who gave him pain medication. He was the sent to three other hospitals before arriving at Miami hospital at the airport where he got an x-ray and leg cast. During his stay at New Life post-op ward he received crutches. And I can tell you he is happy to be mobile again! He says he wants to keep his crutches. He also says he prefers to sleep in tents and is afraid to go into buildings. The family's house collapsed so when they leave here they will go to the country side to live with relatives there. He is hoping he can return to school because he loves to write. Unfortunately he still thinks about the earth quake often, and it scares him. When he grows up he wants to be a pastor.

The next is a girl, Shakira, who is 3 years old. She lived with her mother, 2 siblings and a few other relatives. During the earth quake she was in the house with her mother and was buried under bricks. Her mother easily found her siblings, but she was nowhere to be found. She looked frantically for her and was relieved to find her after about an hour. She saw that her foot was damaged and went to her church. The pastor graciously gave her 500 Gouds so that she could go to the hospital. However, they could not help her, so she had to go to another hospital. After a day her left foot was amputated due to a crushing injury. Her mother says the experience has made her crazy. She remembers the earth quake well and it makes her cry. However she also knows that God is in control and He will protect her. She feels bad that her daughter lost her foot and cries about it. She is sad to talk about what they went through. Her daughter is afraid of her stump; seeing it makes her cry and scream. At the hospital they even had to sedate her to do the wound care. Mother is unsure as to how she will take care of her 1 year old and her 3 year old who can no longer walk on her own. The future is uncertain. They no longer have a house and she feels like she now has two babies to care for. When they leave they will go to Jeromie to stay with the grandmother.

The last child was a 3 year old boy, Steevenson, with a left femur fracture. He was living with his mother, father and twin brother in Port-au-Prince. During the earth quake he was at his grandmother's house and a wall fell on him. Friends managed to rescure him but could not take him to a hospital. The next day his father took him to a hospital but they could not help him. He took his son back to the tented camp. For the next 12 days the little boy laid in the tent with a very painful and swollen leg. A nurse came to the tented camp and gave pain medication. And the marines were coming in with food supplies. Still the child was in pain. It was not until January 25 that the marines took father and child to Miami hospital and he had his first x-ray taken and his leg was put in a cast. His father was relieved to have found help. Tomorrow the child is going back to Miami hospital for evaluation. I am praying that his leg will have healed and the cast can be removed.

The stories are overwhelming. The emotions are high. These people have gone through so much. Both the parents and the children. I am praying that while the patients are in the post-op ward it will be like a SAFE HAVEN for them. A place to rest. A place of peace. A period of time in which they can recover and regain strength. A time to work through the fear, pain and grief. A time of encouragement. For many of these families the future is uncertain with no house to return to. Pray with me for each of these families- that God's provision for them will be amazing. That they will see that He is God and He is GOOD.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


It is Wednesday, right? The days kind of get mixed up here. It was another 12 hour day today. Woke up at 6:30. Got ready. Had breakfast. Was over in the post-op ward at 7:45. The difference today was that the ward was empty, since all the patients had been moved out into tents. I missed my early morning 'bonjours' to the children. Soon enough however, we were moving patients out of their tents under the mango tree. Some kids are mobile, some use crutches, some use walkers, and some need to be carried on cots. They are all pretty happy first thing in the morning. And their smiles make for a great start of the day. We were also handing out morning medications which was tricky with some children still being in their tents, but we managed without forgetting anyone! Then it was time for wound care which took us from about 8:15 till 1 pm today. Lots of pin care, cleaning wounds from open fractures, cleaning and wrapping stumps, etc. It was a hot day today so also quite tiring. After we were done the children all got their lunch under the tree.

I think around 1:30 pm is when Alyson and I breaked for lunch. We had a nice treat of doritos with spicy cheese sauce for lunch. :) Followed by bits and pieces from MRE packs- (the ready to eat meals): crackers, peanut butter, shortbread cookie... Then it was back to work. We organized the wound care room- there are so many donations that we had a lot of random things in the room- we decided to only keep what we use on a daily basis in there and then the rest went to the supply room. It makes it easier on ourselves. We then had to move patients from outside to inside.
I then had some time to spend with the children and am thankful that some cross stitch thread I had requested, arrived. I taught a few children how to make bracelets. Some caught on quickly, others did not. The quickest to catch on was my buddy Francellot. He is so smart! After that it was time to move the children back inside for dinner and a round of night medication. And then around 7 pm we were moving children back to their tents. Of course in between all of this there were other things that needed to be done: fill up huge water jugs and bring them to the ward, help children onto and off of bed pans, cleaning out bed pans (one child has worms, so really not pleasant), making up cots, feeding the babies, helping with physical therapy, etc. There is always enough to do. We also had a new patient arrive today- a 3 year old with an amputation just above the ankle. A sweetie! But very traumatized. More about her later. Alright, I better call it a night. It's almost 9 pm and I'm sure I'll be up by 6:30 am after having woken up many times in the night due to generators, children crying, people wandering around, roosters, dogs, or other things. Hopefully no earthquake. Thanks again for your prayers.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Another earthquake...

This morning at 1:27 am there was another earthquake. This time I woke up. Ten minutes later there was another shake. This made me sit up in bed, in my tent. I heard the cries of children from my tent and decided I needed to go over to the post-op ward, to make sure all the children were okay. I knew physically they were not injured, because all the buildings were still upright, but I knew emotionally this would be a difficult night.

As I approached the ward there were already some children sitting outside. Crying. Shaking. Some moms and dads were out there too. I went inside and there were more children crying and afraid. I tried to comfort them; holding them, cuddling them. I can't even imagine the thoughts that were going through their minds. The memories of the 7.0 quake 6 weeks ago. The vivid images of being trapped in buildings or having walls fall on them. How scary. And here they were in a building, with yet another earthquake occurring.

We had to decide what to do. Let them sleep outside, knowing that they would then not want to sleep inside again for the nights to come? Make them sleep inside, knowing they were terrified and also not knowing if another quake would take place and possibly bring the building down. We decided to give them the option and in the end only 1 patient and a few caretakers stayed inside. The rest moved out to under the mango tree. Of course, this was not the safest place, since mangoes were falling out of the tree hitting people through the night. But I think most of the children slept well out there. I went back to my tent at 3:00 am.

Today the children were outside most of the day. They did come inside for wound care, one by one, which seemed to be fine. At least during the day you can see everything and get out quickly if need be (hopefully at least). They had lunch inside. We spent the afternoon setting up tents for them and moving all of the beds and belongings outside into the tents. It's a bit of a strange set up now, with the patients in 5 different tents. But they all seem very happy and I think they will sleep better tonight. We put on a worship dvd for them in the building tonight- we figured it is good for them to be inside now and then to slowly get over their fears but there was one child who was still pretty scared so we took her back to the tent. How long will it take for the people to overcome their fears of being inside buildings?

Overall it was a busy but productive day. It is a privilege to work with these children. They are awesome. Thanks again to all of those who have made this possible. Please continue praying for the people in Haiti- for safety, protection, wisdom, health, shelter, and open hearts for God.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

So much pain...

A new patient arrived on Friday. She is 10 years old. And by looking at her you can tell she has been through a lot.

A tibia/fibula fracture with long leg cast on her right leg.
A femur fracture with an external fixator on her left leg.
A large ulcer like lesion on her lower back.
And many scrapes and scratches all over her body.
And this is 6 weeks post earth quake!
What a sweet girl.
I do her wound care every day and she hardly flinches.
I'm not sure where her parents are but her aunt is her caretaker.
Her aunt works though so this girl is often alone.
We try to give her extra attention.
Please pray for her!
It is hard to imagine what these children have been through.
Who did she lose?
Where was she when the earth quake struck?
What does she dream of at night?
What are her fears?
I'm praying God ministers to her as she receives her medical care.

Jean and Kevin...

Our two littlest and youngest patients are Jean and Kevin. Adorable.

Kevin is 8 weeks old, weighs 6 pounds and is at the post-op ward due to malnutrition and because his parents could not take care of him. He is finally feeding well and growing. Praise God. Pray for his future- possible adoption, or his parents taking him back.
Jean is 4 months old, weighs 6 1/2 pounds and is in the ward because his mother died in the earth quake and his grandmother cannot take care of him. The father has never been around apparently. He is a tiny one but also growing. Apparently he looks so much better than when he came. Even since I have been here he is more active and smiling more.
It took us a while to get them on a feeding schedule. They now feed every 2-3 hours and usually about 90-120 mls. At night they are only waking up once or twice which is great for the night nurses. However, it is hard to keep them on a great schedule with people walking in and out of the ward all day wanting to pick up and feed cute little babies! Sometimes we just have to tell people no. We need to protect these little guys. Pray that they will grow and stay healthy. And that God will provide them with loving homes.


I need to introduce you to 6 year old Francellot. A cute boy who broke both of his femurs during the earthquake. Praise God his parents are alive and taking good care of him here in the ward. But the poor little guy can't walk around. He is on his bed with external fixators in his upper legs.

Everyday we take him to the wound care room and clean his pins; a painful but very necessary process to make sure infection does not set in. In the first week he did some of the pin care himself, helping us out. But the last few days it has been more painful so he wants us to do it now. There are definitely times that he has brought tears to my eyes as I have been cleaning the pins. It is hard to see him suffer so much, crying out, asking us to wait a minute, etc. And then to think of all he has seen and experienced since the earth quake. I am praying for healing and that he does not get any infections. He is truly the bravest boy I have met. He tries his hardest not to cry and usually only does so towards the very end of the wound care process. We then bandage him up and write the date on his bandage and draw a few pictures- hearts, flowers, stars and smiley faces.
Today he wanted to write on the bandage himself, which he frequently does, and as he was writing, he started writing my name on his bandage- without me spelling it out! I have no clue how he knew except that yesterday I had a name tag on due to extra volunteers so I guess he saw that and remembered. He is so intelligent! Really, this child has taught me so much. Joy through suffering. He is such a positive child. And I absolutely love his name. Francellot... my little knight!

Post-op clinic at New Life...

For the past 5 days I have been working in the post-op ward that we have right here at the orphanage we are staying at. There are 20 children plus 2 babies right now. They are all awesome. The children are the bravest I have ever met. There are children with femur fractures and external fixators, tibia/fibula fractures with casts, humerus fractures with casts, spica casts, skin grafts, amputations, etc. We also have a child with sickle cell because he had a crisis and two babies who were undernourished.

I usually wake up at 6 am and get ready for the day. Then between 7 and 730 am I make my way to the post-op ward. Our consistent team is me, Alyson (pediatrician), Amanda (nurse) and Sarah (EMT- who runs the place). We greet the children, handout morning medications and then around 830 am we start wound care. Alyson and I do most of the wound care and it takes us until about noon, or shortly after. A lot of it is pin care- cleaning them out and bandaging the legs again. There are also some other wounds we need to clean and re-bandage and two children with stumps that need wound care. In the afternoon we try to get the children outside, under the mango tree, for a change of scenery and release of energy! And in the afternoon they are inside again, hanging out. We try to entertain them and also hand out pain medication as needed. We write in charts as we do the wound care. We also feed the babies every 2 or 3 hours- I love doing that! We usually break for lunch somewhere in between and around 530 go and eat a quick dinner during our team meeting. At 6pm we head back to the ward until about 730 or 8 pm for the evening medication round. And the children sometimes watch a worship dvd and so we worship with them which is a really special time. By 830 or 9 pm I am pretty tired and head to my tent.
I love working with the children. (Pictured above is myself and Lovensky during pin care) I am glad to have found this spot. A place where I can use medical skills but also invest in the children! I will never forget them.

Two days ago we said bye to a patient who was going home (to where?) and it was so sad. Not knowing where she would end up. Knowing that so much has changed for her. She asked me to lay hands on her head and pray for her. What a sweetie. I could not hold back the tears.
We are experiencing so much here. Times of struggle, moments of joy. I am definitely humbled by the people here. And am glad I can play my part.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Friday the 19th...

Another day in post-op. A place to help, do medical work and build relationship. I like being in one place for a longer time. The day started at 7am, giving Jean a bottle. I love that little guy. Later I did Christelle's stump care - I had seen her yesterday, and the wound did not look the greatest, with a few pus pockets (excuse the grossness) and a few sutures embedded in the wound. I decided the sutures needed to come out (not sure why they were still there anyway) and today it looked great. Some of the external fixator pin care was painful today. Sad to have to hurt the kids, but if not done well, the pins become infected or attached to the skin, making it even worse for the kids.

Two new patients came in today. 5 year old Michelanda with a fore foot fracture - a very wild girl. And sweet 13 year old Micheka witha tib/fin fracture with long leg cast. Unfortunately their caretakers were not too impressed with only a cot for the patient, and not for themselves. But there was little we could do. We are trying to do the best we can for the patients - food, water, shelter, good medical care, love. Is this not enough? Of course, it would be great if we can provide beds and amazing meals for the caretakers, but just not doable.
More stories were done today- one on Mistil - a 12 year old boy. He was stuck inside for 5 days, under a wall and then ended up going to 6 different hospitals before his leg was amputated. Sad. I do wonder if his leg would have still needed to be amputated if he would have received good medical care before day 12. But, who knows, maybe his leg was so crushed it needed to be amputated anyway. Poor guy. I later heard he loves to play soccer. So I showed him pictures of the amputee football (soccer) team in Sierra Leone. That cheered him up a bit, but he still wants a new leg. Guess what he wants to be when he grows up??? An orthopedic surgeon. Touching. Literally made me cry right then and there. He is a kid full of smiles and so intent on keeping the other children happy. Yesterday he was asking for a prosthetic limb and it is so hard not knowing if he will or won't get one. He also often asks if his leg will grow back. Bless him. All I can say is unless God does a miracle and grows his leg for him, he will have to wait until we get him a new one. For more about him also see this article.
In the evening we went out for dinner. Driving through lots of crazy traffic in the back of a flat bed. Rubble. Collapsed buildings. SOS 'we need help' signs. Tent cities. Lots of people. Remains impressive to see the state of the city.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Children & Mango Tree on the 18th...

I decided to spend the day in the post-op ward. And it was amazing. The children are awesome. They have been through so much. It is a joy to help them. There are Jean and Kevin, the babies. Then Founa, Francellot, Jenny and Lovensky with femur pins. Christelle and Mistil with lower limb amputations and others with either broken arms or legs in casts or burn wounds. There are a few others who have less earthquake related injuries, like Deve with a congenital heart defect. She was supposed to have surgery the day after the earthquake, but the hospital collapsed. A lot of the morning was spent doing wound care. And in the afternoon I did various other tasks. One of my team mates was doing patient interviews and I listened in on one of them. 14 year old Christelle was sharing. Her parents died in the earthquake at a different location to where she was. She was in her house with her sister, brother-in-law and her nephew. She actually rescued her nephew but had a wall collapse on her leg, which caused her to now have a lower leg amputation. What a sacrifice. It brought tears to my eyes.

Later that evening we had a time of worship under the mango tree. It was a teary time- thinking about the children - their joy and perseverance in the midst of suffering. Seeing one of the patients, Darlene, with her tibia fracture, singing with a smile on her face. It is hard to imagine what is going on in the minds of these children. Suffering, trauma and losses, yet able to smile in the midst of it all. God is so in this place. He is using us to minister to the children and the children to minister to us. Amazing. Actually the mango tree became a bit of a safe haven later on, after the after shock on the 22nd and the children and caretakers were too scared to stay inside the church building. They moved under the mango tree in the middle of the night and started singing songs of praise. On Sunday mornings the church gatherings were also held under the mango tree.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Clinic in Town...

Last week we tried to get to a clinic to work there and didn't make it. Got lost the first day. And the clinic was closed the second day due to prayer and fasting. Today it was open. My friend Luzanne and I and a couple of others went and joined another doctor and nurses there. I was fortunate to be able to see kids most of the day, and some of the parents. I saw a 10 year old who was pretty malnourished simply because of lack of food since the earth quake. There was a mother who came in with her 2 children. She had lost her sister and her aunt in the quake. She was now suffering from sleepless nights, headaches, and heart burn. I was happy to be able to take the time to talk with her and pray for her. So many people are suffering from post-traumatic symptoms. It is sad. Continue praying...

Monday evening Miami in Haiti...

I was just checking email Monday evening when our EMT here (who is in charge of the post-op ward) came in saying she needed a doctor. One of the caretakers on the ward was having chestpain. It ends up that she had a blood pressure of 240/130 and chest pain. Prior to the earth quake she was on anti-hypertensives, but because her house collapsed, she lost her medication and has not been taking any since. She has now had a headache for a few days and started having chest pain a few hours before I saw her. After assessing her, giving aspirin and sublingual nitro, I decided it would not be good to keep her here, and so we took her in to the Port-au-Prince Miami hospital. The same place I had been working at the previous few days. As we drove up I saw the ER doctor walking off so called after him. He was just on his way out, and the E.R. was closing for the night. Fortunately he was very kind to come back in to get my patient sorted and get another doctor to take over. She was stabilized further, given iv medication for her high blood pressure. And finally it started to come down. She started feeling a better but needed to stay overnight. So we left her there - on a ward with about 150 adults- with I think 3 or 4 nurses for all of those patients! Crazy. She stayed for 2 nights and they put her on oral medication. I just heard that she returned this afternoon so I will head over to post-op to see her there. It was an interesting but long night. I was glad to have been able to help. And glad it was an adult medicine situation that I could recognize and deal with...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Crazy day at Miami...

I went to Miami again today. Pretty crazy in the ER.
I saw lots of kids come through there- many as outpatients.
There were a number of trauma cases that came in. I assisted and bagged with one. But to be honest, trauma is not really my thing. Totally out of my comfort zone there for sure.

There was a 6 year old boy that came in with seizures. They started right after the earthquake and occur almost everyday. The poor little guy. And of course there is not much treatment available for him. We gave him some versed iv and the seizures stopped and a big smile appeared on his face. So sweet. I'm not sure what long term treatment will look like for him- sounds like he has partial complex seizures.

Later there was an 11 year old who has supposedly had a fever since the earthquake. Today his temperature was 102.2 (39). He had been seen in the E.R. last week- x-ray was abnormal and someone put him on antibiotics. I saw him today with a high fever, weight loss and 3 week cough. I pulled up last weeks x-ray and put the picture together and it looked like TB to me. So I was able to send him to a TB clinic. Crazy how so many symptoms are related to the day of the earthquake.

At 3pm we heard that a school collapsed and that the injured children were going to come our way. Apparently the earthquake caused quite some damaged and due to heavy rain fall yesterday and today, it caused part of the roof to collapse. We frantically started to get things set up and also sent away the other patients waiting in the emergency room. After 15 minutes we heard it would be 3 hours before they reached us. We got about 40 cots set up and waited. An hour later we heard that three children died and the rest would be able to be taken care of in clinics nearby. So, damage is still being done. Continue praying for the people in Haiti. (pictured below is the pediatric ward at the Medishare tent hospital)

Tomorrow I am planning on going with the mobile team- this time to an established clinic to see if I can help there. We'll see! For now, it's off to bed. Hopefully in a tent that does not leak tonight. Last night it started raining and within 5 minutes my tent was wet so I ended up sleeping indoors. I did think briefly about sleeping inside and possible aftershocks. But must say I slept very well! Hoping for some great sleep tonight.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Prayer & fasting...

On Friday the 12th, the President of Haiti announced a 3 day prayer and fasting period all over Haiti. This was a historical event. When we went out to do a mobile clinic on Friday, we saw large groups of people all over the city, wearing white, singing and praying to God. It was amazing to witness. It was especially significant since it was to replace the ungodly Carnival that usually took place at this time. On Sunday, one of the nationals working with us shared some of his thoughts on Haiti and the earth quake. He said that God wanted to show Haiti who He is. He wants all the nations to know that He is God. He was sharing that apparently in the past many human sacrifices took place in the palace and other places in town- I have not seen this confirmed anywhere, but it sounded believable - and so it seemed significant that many of these buildings had collapsed. He also believed that Port-au-Prince is changing. Since P-au-P is the heart of Haiti, he believes that if P-au-P changes, the whole nation can/will change. Let's keep praying for Haiti.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Thank you...

Thanks to everyone who is praying for me out here. It has not been easy. And I am sure tough situations will still continue to come up. Please keep praying. For wisdom medically, for health, for safety, for unity, for divine appointments. Thanks also to those who have donated so generously! It is greatly appreciated. I need to go back to post-op ward for now. But hope to write some more stories in a few days time.

Love and hugs to my family especially!

Miami Hospital...

Miami here I come.

That is, Miami field hospital at the Port-au-Prince hospital, not Miami, Florida.
Otherwise known as Project Medishare in Haiti, a tent hospital supported by U of Miami.
I was nervous. Knowing I would be stretched and feeling very insecure.
Fortunately the people over there are great. And willing to accomodate almost anyone and fit you into the place where your skills are best used.
I talked to the ER docs and to the pediatricians and it was decided that I would work in the Emergency Room seeing the children that come through there - many of which could be treated as outpatients and some which would need to be admitted.

Friday afternoon was pretty slow. We were only there from about 2-5 and I only saw about 5 children. However, there was a pregnant lady that came in and seeing as we have an ObGyn on our team we stayed for the delivery. We were in the room for a number of hours but then at 6:30pm the very tired mommy gave birth to a very healthy little girl. She was about 6 weeks premature according to the mom's history but was doing very well. It was amazing to experience new life entering the world with so much suffering going on in the rest of the tent.

Saturday was busier. We left the base at 6:30am and didn't leave again till 7pm. I saw about 12 children that came through and saw them on my own. For a couple of them I asked for advice from an ER doc or from a very nice pediatrician. They were very thankful for my service in seeing the kids which was great and very willing to give advice from anything to thinking up a plan for a malnourished child to figuring out which medication to give a child who was vomiting persistently (with the random assortment of medication available). Yay for back-up! Not only am I seeing children but I am also joining in on some of the other cases. One man came in with a severe head trauma and before I knew it there were about 10 doctors involved -ER, surgery, neurosurgery, traumasurgeon, family doctor, etc. Busy! I couldn't do a whole lot but just helped where I could, getting supplies, hanging an iv bag, and once the man was intubated I bagged him for awhile before he was transported to ICU. It was pretty impressive. However, this man will not survive here, and the plan was for him to be airlifted to either Miamia (the real Miami in Florida) or the Comfort ship.

The children I saw mainly had malnutrition or diarrhea and vomiting with dehydration or urinarty tract infectins or respiratory tract infections. There was a malnourished 1 year old that came in pretty lethargic. But fortunately after giving her oral rehydration she perked up and after an hour she was sitting up and smiling. It was great to see the change. I basically observe the children myself, get their medications, give their intramuscular injections if they need them, etc. It's sad to hear some of the stories. Everyone has lost someone. Mom's continuously ask me for formula and diapers and sometimes even a place to stay. So sad. They have lost so much.

Miami hospital is a bit chaotic and you sometimes have to go to 3 different places to get the correct medication but it's amazing how much work is being done there. Unfortunately oxygen is in short supply and we even ran out when we were bagging the man with head trauma. Welcome to thirld world medicine.

While working on the man with the head trauma another man came in with a stab wound! He was quickly transported to the operating room though.

Most impressive was a man who came in with an earthquake related injury. His house collapsed on him and he has had severe neck pain. He had been diagnosed elsewhere with a spinal injury. When he came to us he said he had actually been walking around for the last month. On seeing his x-rays, it was a miracle. The neurosurgeon confirmed that the fracture was very unstable and any movement could cause him to become paralyzed. He was a walking miracle who is now in a neck brace and confined to his bed. I am not sure what the options are for him here. Likely he will have to be transported to the USA for surgery.

Tomorrow (Monday) I am going to Miami Hospital again to help with the pediatrics in the E.R. It seems to be a good fit, although I am sure I will be doing other things as well this next week. I had been hoping to work in the Police clinic (near palace) but so far that has not worked out. I would love it if I could experience that too though. So pray that God opens that door if it is meant to be opened. It was a bit frustrating because the medical staff there seemed to really want my help but the coordinating staff said they had enough people. God knows.

Please continue to pray. Also for my day at Miami tomorrow- for wisdom and insight and skills. It at times is a little nerve wrecking not knowing what kinds of cases will walk in. God has been faithful.

For those wanting to volunteer in Haiti - Miami hospital is continuously looking for volunteers- especially nurses! It's just a hint....

No work...

Thursday and part of Friday were rather frustrating.

We can choose each day where we want to work. And seeing as I am a doctor, I want to do something medical. The post-op ward was an option but so many people are in and out of there all the time I thought I should do something else. So I decided to give the mobile clinics one more chance. Off we went. Unfortunately after 3 hours of driving around, along the same street over and over, taking multiple side streets to find our destination, we gave up. We could not find it. This mean that we would not be able to set up a clinic. Because by the time we got back to the police station where we pick up guards, we would not have been able to go out again. Ugh. Frustration. We did however go to the Police station clinic (across from the palace) and looked around. And then a missionary here treated us to lunch in probably one of the only fast food places left. And we then needed to pick up some supplies- in the only supermarket still standing in town. Strange thought. After that we headed back to our base.

I was frustrated but figured Friday would be better. A new chance. We went out again Friday morning and quickly realized that many people on the streets were wearing white. The government had called a 3 day prayer and fasting event in Haiti. Amazing in itself! Apparently this is usually the time of Carnival - drinking, sex, partying, etc. and now it was being used to call upon God. Very cool! Anyway, because of that the clinic was closed till 1pm. So we were heading back to our base. Again a disappointment. And due to security our leaders did not want to go to the clinic at 1. What to do.

I really felt like I was supposed to be in Haiti and just wasn't finding a spot to actually help the people. I felt like I had come all this way and wasn't getting anything done. Not a great feeling. Something had to be done. One of the other options was the Miami Hospital set up at the airport. That sounded very daunting to me from the beginning, because although it is not as well equipped as a US hospital, it's way better equipped than anything in Sierra Leone was. But I figured I have to bite the bullet. I had to seize the opportunity. So I decided to go with some others on Friday afternoon and register at Miami. The question was...what would I do? With medical training but no official pediatric residency. Time would tell. I must say I was nervous on the ride over there...

Wednesday Feb 10...

On Wednesday we went on a mobile clinic. This was an interesting experience. We went right in to a tent city with a couple of guys from the Haiti security (SWAT) team and before we knew it there was a long line of people waiting to be seen. Unfortunately we did not have much time for each person and were rushed along by some people. Me and the other doc were not to happy about that. It's hard to treat people well when rushing through things. We did see 264 patients (3 nurses and 2 doctors) but to be honest, we had little as far as medications were concerned and barely had time for proper histories and exams. So I felt that medically we did very little. But I am praying God used it to comfort the people and touch their lives.

Most of the adults came with the foll0wing symptoms: headache, insomnia, palpitations and heartburn. All symptoms related to post-traumatic stress. Poor people. And it was sad that all we could do was hand out some paracetamol or ibuprofen and some antacids. Even sadder was the fact that we didn't have time to pray with them. Hopefully the fact that someone listened to them and took a tiny bit of time for them said enough. Over the years I've always had a hard time with these very brief one-time mobile clinics. But maybe they have more impact than I think.

To Haiti...

On Monday February 8th I left Garden Valley Texas and headed to DFW airport with two others from Mercy Works. We had 11 suitcases to check between the 3 of us. Too many. They were not going to charge overweight but would charge for the extra 5 cases. So we frantically opened up suitcases/bags and tried to consolidate. We ended up only leaving 2 cases with not so much left in them, behind. I only had a backpack with me as carry on so ended up taking one of the smaller cases on the plane with me too. So much for traveling light. One for the team. :) I met the pediatrician on our team at DFW and it was great to meet a doctor on the team, and realize I was not the only one unsure of what would await us medically.

We flew to Puerto Rico where we met up with more people. And after a couple of hours there we flew on to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. We arrived there at 10:20pm but had to wait for others arriving. Unfortunately they were delayed so we ended up at the airport till just before 2am! We then drove to YWAM DR and hung out for 2 hours.

At 4 am we got on the bus and started our drive to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. We arrived at the border at 8:30am. We drove right through, with no passport check. It was surreal being in Haiti. Seeing the people, the flag waving in the wind, the tap tap buses, everything. We had another 2 hour drive to the orphanage we are staying at. Due to very heavy traffic we by-passed the center of town and drove around the outskirts. As we neared the city we saw more damage. It was hard to take in. Seeing the tent cities was moving. Here I was being worried about being out of my comfort zone (medically) yet all these people have had their lives turned upside down and are living way out of there comfort zone. It was humbling to think about.

At the place we are staying there is an orphanage and they also have a post-op ward for children recovering from earthquake wounds, sent here by the US Comfort ship. A number of children with femur fractures (some bilaterally!) and some with amputations. They are a joy to be around. Full of smiles and laughter. They are amazing! There is an older girl with an amputation who lost both of her parents in the earthquake. I think she literally saw the house collapse on them. So much hurt. There is another baby, who is very small, who lost his mother in the earthquake and his granny is unable to take care of him. So he is here for now. And finally starting to feed better and gain some weight...little Jean.

We are all sleeping in tents on the grounds here and that has worked out fine. We do have electricity a lot of the time and some running water. A toilet and bucket shower. Work wise things were still up in the air in the beginning...more on that...

Monday, February 08, 2010

Done packing...

Packing is finished.
I have a 14.5 kg bag with my personal items.
And a 22 kg suitcase with medical supplies.
Haiti here I come.
Unfortunately I was not able to buy huge amounts of medication/ORS.
Not yet.
Although I did buy some.
But as soon as I know what I need, I am contacting a pediatrician in Tyler.
And he is going to place an order for meds that will hopefully be sent out next week.
Please pray that this is possible!
I was hoping to bring more medication now but it is hard to procure when uncertain of the situation/needs.
Please pray for a safe journey for our team.
I think 5 of us fly out of Dallas and we will meet the rest of the team in the D.R.
Pray that all of our luggage arrives safely.
Pray for unity.
Pray for health.
Pray for guidance as we figure out who is doing what & working where.
Pray for wisdom as we work.
He is our strength.
It is His work and we are His people.
I'm ready to let Him use me.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Mercy Works...

On Monday I am flying via Puerto Rico to the Dominican Republic to then take a bus to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I am going with YWAM Tyler's team called 'Mercy Works'. Mercy Works has been sending medical teams into Haiti every Monday since the January 12th earthquake. It is a privilege to be able to join one of their teams. And I am praying I will find a good fit to use my skills at one of their locations in Port-au-Prince. To read more about Mercy Works please go to:

I would appreciate your prayers during the three weeks I will be in Haiti. Please pray for wisdom, strength, health, safety, provision, courage, confidence, patience, etc. Thank you in advance.

I am not sure if I will be able to communicate once in Haiti- but I will try. Keep an eye on this blog.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Happy 8th...

Today is Joshua David's 8th birthday.
The above photo was taken 2 years ago.
Happy Birthday Joshua!
I hope you have a wonderful day with your SOS family.
Wish I could celebrate with you!
You are in my thoughts and prayers on this special day.

Middelburg helps...

After arriving in the USA I was very excited to hear from my sister and a good friend that the fundraising events for Haiti that took place at two of the elementary schools in Middelburg are going to be directed towards my Haiti trip. Wow! I was very surprised to hear all that took place while I was in the air.

On Wednesday, my sister talked to the principal of one of the schools (where my niece Zoey attends) to see if the money raised on Thursday could be donated to my trip and the supplies I planned to buy for Haiti, rather than putting it in the general Dutch Giro555 account for Haiti. The principal agreed and apparently the teachers and students alike were very excited. It sounds like my sister and my friend were very busy on Wednesday printing off flyers, hanging up posters, and trying to get the town geared up for this fundraiser. "Help Sandra Help" was the slogan. I think I was happy to be gone with all the attention focussed on me going to Haiti but am so thankful for their involvement. I just don't like the spotlight.

On Thursday, the elementary school children brought toys, books etc. from home that they would then sell during the fundraiser in school. I suppose it was kind of like a garage sale. They also baked cookies and cakes and sold those. And some of the staff provided coffee, lemonade and cake. Parents, grandparents and children came to the event, buying treats and things, in order to raise money for Haiti. It sounds like it was a great success with lots of enthusiastic attendees. My niece Zoey baked cookies to sell for her aunt as well. How sweet! And many children also put money into a big donation box, also for Haiti.

I was very amazed to hear of all that took place. And I heard about it all through facebook initially, because by the time I was in the USA with internet access again, Holland was already fast asleep. I marveled at the event, loved seeing the pictures and felt so supported by family and friends back home. It is a privilege to accept the money raised and use it to help those in Haiti.

Once I get back to Holland it sounds like I will be busy with presentations in both of the schools as well as an interview with the provincial newspaper. I'm hoping to be able to bring back good reports of my time in Haiti and stories of lives changed.

Bedankt Mariska & Geralda voor jullie inzet, en iedereen die verder heeft geholpen. En natuurlijk ook Zoey, Max en Tim... voor het verkopen, kopen en doneren!

Friday, February 05, 2010

Earthquake affected areas...

This picture attempts to quantify the impact of the earthquake on Haiti.
I suppose it probably does a good job at it, but these remain numbers.
Can you imagine what it is really like on the ground?
What the actual impact of these numbers are?
I can't. Not yet.
Let's continue to remember Haiti.

Thursday, February 04, 2010


A post from the plane.

I suppose one of the main things one does while traveling is WAIT. Waiting to check-in, waiting to go through security, waiting in the departure hall, waiting in line to board the plane, waiting for the plane to take off. As you most likely know, there is a lot of waiting involved. Of course, while waiting, there are things to do: read, write, type, walk around, browse in shops, visits to the restroom, sit in a cafe; enough to keep one at least semi-occupied.

Well, during one of my restroom visits I saw a sign on the back of the bathroom door which when translated said: “A country that already had very little, has now lost everything. Help Haiti.” As I read that sign, I thought, “Great, they are raising awareness and money for Haiti. What a great idea to post these signs in the bathroom.” And then, suddenly my trip became a reality. Here I am, going to Haiti. I am going to that country, that country that had so little and now has next to nothing. I am traveling to that country. I am going there to help. Going to a country that I have been following on the news for 22 days now, a country with so much devastation, a country with so many aid workers. I felt a bit overwhelmed as I was trying to imagine driving into Haiti – seeing the devastation, mingling (or getting lost) in the world of aid workers and NGO’s, experiencing the great need for medical care. I still cannot imagine it. I try to prepare myself mentally, but feel that no matter how hard I try; I will still be shocked. Shocked at how a country lost so much. But thankfully, Haiti has not lost everything. God is there. And by His grace, I am going to do my part, play a teeny tiny role in the big picture, reaching out one person at a time.

Last minute packing...

Tuesday. The beginning of a journey. First stop USA, then in a few days, Haiti.

1 pm. Immunizations: check. Start Mefloquine: check. Travel documents: check. Bag packed: almost. I was scheduled to leave the house at 5:30 pm. I had plenty of time left, however, I was still waiting for some more supplies that a friend was going to send my way and so was not quite done packing. I had to wait for those supplies to arrive, so, in the meantime, I went to my sister’s house.

4 pm. My friend called again. He had collected a few boxes of supplies and was sending them my way. He was hoping to send them by ambulance, but the ambulances were too busy (of course!) and so the supplies came with a courier service instead. Since I was only taking 1 bag of my own, I was wondering how I would manage to take ‘boxes of supplies’.

4:45 pm. The supplies showed up. 3 boxes and 2 bags. Wow, and my bag was fairly full already. Weight wise I had room for 6 more kilos, but space wise knew I could not take it all. It was time to start sorting and prioritizing. One box was full of operating room gowns & masks so I decided to leave those. After all, I would be working in a clinic, in scrubs for the most part. Another box was full of non-sterile 4x4 gauze; these too would stay behind. Then came a bag with sutures, iv cannulas and iv giving sets. Assuming these would be very useful, I stuffed them into my bag. Next I spotted the flacons of lidocaine 1-2%, another item we were sure to need. Into a Ziploc bag they went, making their way into my full and now very unorganized hiking pack. I continued sorting: drains, catheters, dressings, gloves & other items followed.

5:20 pm. Ten minutes to go before being picked up by my brother-in-law. I called and asked if he could come 15 minutes later; I still had some packing to do! I continued looking through the supplies. I decided to take some instruments for suturing and filled up a Ziploc bag with them. I then took some random sizes of gloves and sterile gauze and fit them into the small spaces left in my bag. There were other odds and ends I took as well, but to be honest, I can’t even tell you what they are; things were a bit crazy as I was scrambling around trying to get packed and out the door.

5:45 pm. My brother-in-law arrived. I was almost done. I slipped a large blue cover over my hiking pack and realized that I could stuff things into that. I filled up a plastic bag of gloves and pushed the bag into the case and they came to rest alongside my hiking pack. I then did the same with a box of dressings. And that was it. Done. The rest would have to stay behind. I weighed in my bag at 21 kilograms. Perfect. I was good to go.

5:55 pm. With the luggage in the car, my brother-in-law and I drove away. And that is how the journey to Haiti began.

[a night in Brussels, a flight to Dallas via Chicago, a drive to Van, and then on the 8th the actual trip to Haiti]

Monday, February 01, 2010

7 days & blessings...

Wow. A week from now and I'll be on my way to Haiti. Actually I think that at this time exactly I will be flying to the Dominican Republic, meeting up with the rest of the team there, and then continuing on for another 6 hours by bus to Port au Prince. I actually don't have the travel details yet but think that this is the plan. I have been to the D.R. before but under very different circumstances; with the ship years ago for an outreach. I was a child in school at the time.

7 days to go. Lots to do. Right now my bed is covered with things to pack for the trip. Some clothes, stethoscope, gauze, bandages, analgesics, flashlight, camera, sleeping bag, etc. Yes, I need to pack.

God has been very good. I have been blessed by friends with contributions towards my trip. Also a lady in my church stopped by today with some excellent wound care supplies. I looked a few things I was unfamiliar with online and realized how valuable these supplies are. One of the types of dressings I received is probably worth about 120 Euros! Thank you. And I found out today that a friend of mine - a doctor from the UK - will be on my team on the 8th for 2 weeks. And my good friend Luzanne who worked with me in Sierra Leone for 6 months is hopefully coming out on the 15th for a few weeks. What a reunion that will be. It will be great to have some people I know on the team- if not for some emotional support!

Let the packing continue...

My charity: water campaign...

I received a statement today from my church here in Holland, which is where Dutch people could send money to for my water project. I have added the amounts received in January to my campaign and am excited to tell you that the goal has been reached and exceeded.

$5325 donated. 266 people served.
This means that 266 will have a better life because they will have access to water. Children will be able to go to school. Women will be able to spend more time tending to other important matters. 266 lives will be changed. And many of these lives will be saved. Water is life.

Thank you for giving! The campaign is still officially open for 22 days but I may be closing it earlier, seeing as we now have raised the money for our well!

Did you know that in the last 3 weeks (the time the earthquake hit Haiti) that world-wide 94,500 children have died due to water-borne diseases. Deaths that could have so easily been prevented. As you can see, the need for clean water all around the world is huge.

Many thanks to those who donated towards my campaign. I could not have done this without you! I will keep you informed once I know where the well will be built, etc.

Desperate Haiti, desperate world...

Many issues. Desperate needs. Food. Water. Shelter. Medical Care. Homes. There is no easy solution. The rains are coming in a few months. What will be done about the shortage of tents? The world turned to Haiti instantly and started providing care. How long will it last? Who will provide follow-up surgical care a few months from now? The government says they are doing all they can. How much is true and how much is talk?

One issue now is child trafficking. Not a surprise as this was already a problem in Haiti. And with so many people dead or displaced it is on the rise. Children left to fend for themselves on the streets. Of course they will be eager if someone, anyone, offers help. Unfortunately, they are an easy target. Opinions vary greatly regarding international adoption. Individuals, organizations and governments do not see eye to eye. There is no easy solution.

And all the while I also know that so much help is being poured into the country. People are doing what they can. And even though I too will go to help, I realize there is also need elsewhere. All over the world there are desperate situations. I have seen it in Sierra Leone where so many treatments/procedures are not available. I think of the toll that malaria takes every single year. 4,500 children dying everyday due to water-borne disease. Girls and women being trafficked in Asia. Wars leading to displacement for so many in Africa. Haiti needs us. The world needs us. Do your part. Support. Give. Go. Pray. Raise awareness. Be a voice. Try to make a difference, anyway you can.

Here is an excerpt from a CNN article on the child trafficking situation and need for shelter. Click here to read more. “Haiti is trying to locate displaced children and register them so they can either be reunited with other family members or put up for adoption, Bellerive said. But, he said, illegal child trafficking is "one of the biggest problems that we have." Many groups appear to be legitimate, "but a lot of organizations -- they come and they say there were children on the streets. They're going to bring them to the [United] States," he said. Bellerive said he's trying to work with embassies in Port-au-Prince to protect Haiti's children from traffickers.” [photo taken from this article, Jonathan Torgovnik, reportage for CNN]

~ Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. micah 6:8 ~