Sunday, February 21, 2010

Jon's story

Many of the Haitian translators working with our teams are people who were living in Port au Prince the day of the earthquake. Sometimes as we go through our work day it is easy to forget that the people we are working so closely with are themselves victims. Jon is a new Haitian friend who's story fascinates me because it highlights a particular problem that many people faced in the first minutes after the earthquake.

On the evening of the earthquake Jon was laying in bed at his house. He woke up a little before five and left to get some medicine from the pharmacy for his sick son. While he was walking through his neighbourhood the earthquake struck. He explains how difficult it was to walk because the earthquake was so strong. By the time that it was over there was so much dust in the air that he was unable to see. He was disoriented from being shaken about, blinded by all the dust, and unable to make progress walking because he kept stumbling over all the debris in the street. People were running into one another and asking for directions or asking about people that they had just been separated from. As he explains it no one could really give anyone directions because you could no longer tell where you were. When the dust started to settle Jon noticed that building were down all around him. It became even more difficult to find his way home as there were no longer landmarks to guide him. Rubble from fallen building lay in the streets and yards and pavement where indistinguishable from one another. Imagine how desperate it must feel to be unable to find your way home to check on your family in your own neighbourhood that should be so familiar to you but suddenly everything is foreign. Eventually Jon did make it home and was grateful to find that his family was safe even though there house had been destroyed.

From the news coverage most of us can easily imagine the the scene minutes after the earthquake with crushed buildings, dead bodies and wounded people bleeding as they wonder around for help. But I never thought about how frustrating it must have been for people like Jon. He knew he was only a few minutes away from his family but couldn't find them and being afraid that they may need your help or that they might be dead and feeling completely helpless to do anything about it.

Jon has been a real asset to the team and is a great translator. He, like very few people, really appreciate the gift of life and family. His life has been forever changed as a result of the earthquake and even though he has lost everything he would tell you that poverty and riches go far beyond the material world.


Port Au Prince General Hospital ER

I was working in the ER at the time this story was being filmed. Dr. Eva is from our group she is the one interviewed in the story.


in his own words

At our clinic Thursday of last week we had a 3 month old baby that needed to be admitted to the hospital. After we finished we took her to General Hospital in down town Port au Prince. While we were there it seemed pretty obvious that they could use some help. I gave a brief description of who I was and that we had three people staying behind on the weekends willing to work if they could use the help. They were grateful for the offer and invited us to work whenever we could.

This morning after breakfast a group of 7 of us (a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, an ER nurse, a Haitian nurse, a translator, three missionaries and Myself), hitched a ride to the hospital in the center of town. We arrived at nine and after a brief orientation were immediately put to work. I was a bit nervous as I have not worked in an ER since PA school. Fortunately they have set up a fast track which diverts most of the non emergency cases to primary care or general practice people such as myself. I felt right at home and felt very used. My first two cases where sprained ankles. I have not made splints since PA school so it was a treat to review how to do that again. A little later in the morning I had a young 22 year old women who had been hit by falling debris during the Jan 12th earthquake. She had not sought treatment as she had only recently began to suffer from shoulder pain. I was able to order an x-ray and had the films back within an hour or two. Her x-rays pretty clearly showed that she had a separated acromioclavicular joint. Essentially the shoulder end of her collar bone was no longer attached to her shoulder and now sits about ¾ of an inch higher than it should. The rest of the morning was pretty uneventful. We were able to see loads of patients and help reduce the burden a bit which again made me feel very useful.

The afternoon was surprisingly slow which had more to do with today being the second day of a three day country wide call to prayer. At 5:00 the Regular ER shift finished and the three of us were there to help keep the ER together until the night crew arrived at 7:00. 5:00 to 7:00 was a blur as Dr. Eva dealt with two cases of Malaria and a CNN news crew that sprung a visit. I had a young 26 year old man with a swollen belly, heart failure, and who's main problem I fear is HIV. I was able to put my phlebotomy skills back to work and drew some blood to send to the lab. A few patients later a young women came in who had been severely burned from the Jan 12th earthquake. She was just now coming in to seek treatment more than a month later for burns over 15% of her body all her right side limbs. Apparently she is a street vendor and was cooking when the earthquake hit. She feel into her cook stove and was likely burned by the grease and coals of her fire. She was a very sweet women and denied being in any pain. She kept repeatedly asking me if I was going to make her hurt, of which I kept replying no. Towards the end of the evening it became obvious that she was afraid that she was going to have her arm cut off. This may seem a bit irrational but many people who have been injured in the earthquake have had to have limbs amputated to save there lives. Having previously heard this that was her greatest concern. We were able to start an IV and get some antibiotics in her and hopefully she will be consulted by the plastics specialists in the morning to see what they can do for her burns. As the evening wound down we were asked to make sure that we had all of her patients discharged that were going home and the rest ready to present to the night crew coming on duty.

The ride home all though cramped was great as we got to ride in an air conditioned car. The closest I've gotten to that so far is a cold shower. It actually feels pretty amazing after a long day of work with a layer of sweat and dust so thick that you could scrap it off with a butter knife. We plan on working the same shift tomorrow and then will spend our last free day resting before the team returns on Tuesday.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Jeremy's photos

Jeremy's update from Haiti

Jeremy was able to get phone last week so we have been able to chat daily since then. I’ll do my best to share what he’s told me so far. He has lots of stories to tell and hopefully he be able to share those himself soon.

His first week was absolutely packed. Each day his team was traveling to a different area of Port au Prince and setting up a clinic. Many days they were seeing more than 500 people in need. He said there were a lot of people who had lost medicines they needed daily for chronic illnesses like hypertension and diabetes. They had an elderly lady who had come to the clinic because she had a stroke. She was dehydrated so they put her on an IV. He said it was hard to send her back home (probably a make-shift tent now) knowing that she really should be admitted to a hospital but under the circumstances her situation wasn’t life threatening so there wasn’t room for her in a hospital. He said they were also seeing a lot of people suffering form posttraumatic stress. They gave out lots of donated glasses to people who had lost theirs in the earthquake too. He had a follow-up visit with a child whose ear had been torn off a sewn back on. There were more follow-up visits like dressing changes from serious wounds.

Many of you have asked what his living conditions were like. He is staying in a compound that’s a school and church combined. They having a real toilet and running water to bathe in. And while the bath water is cold he is fine because it’s hot all the time. He has been sleeping under a mosquito that he is very grateful for (Thanks Karen!).

Jeremy said his Creole was a bit rusty but it’s come back to him pretty quickly. Knowing the language has been a huge asset because doesn’t need an interpreter most times.

The devastation is shocking. He said there no exposed bodies because they have all been buried—mostly in mass graves. It was hard to look around the city and see building completely collapsed knowing that they were still bodies inside. One school, full of children and teachers, completely collapsed. They lost everyone—about 1,000 people. Lots of people are living in the streets. Tent communities have sprung up everywhere. He said most were 1,000 to 5,000 tents but he’d heard there is one that is 20,000.

It’s clear that Haiti will need our support and prayers for years to come.

That’s it for now. I hope to have more information soon. Thanks for all your love and support!


Saturday, February 6, 2010

a quick call from Haiti

I just got a quick call from Jeremy. He called from a satellite phone and the reception was horrible but I wad thrilled to hear from him! He is safe and doing well except the stomach bug he caught last night. He said he was feeling better today and just hoped it was a 24 - 48 hour bug. We didn't have time to talk about more but he thinks Monday night we'll be able to catch up. I'll let you all know when I hear from him again. Thanks for your love, prayers and support!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Just getting started...

Hey all,
I Fought with the mosquito's off and on last night until I brought a fan into the room where I was sleeping. Still, I feel rested and am adjusting to the time change all right. The team is all here and we spent most of the day organizing and sorting the supplies that everyone brought with them. Some additional supplies were purchased through the local hospital to fill in gaps of what was needed. We leave La Romana, Dominican Republic tonight at 11:00 and make the 7 hour journey to the Border. The border is not closed as I had previously heard while in the UK. We arrive early Monday morning in time to cross with one of the two daily security escorts into Port au Prince (PAP). Although it is not necessary It is probably safer. We should arrive Monday morning and resume the clinics that these teams have been doing weekly since shortly after the earthquake. We will be working in the area of Delma, one of the main roads in Port au Prince, where people from the community there have set up make shift tents of plastic and sheets. We will also be working closely with some of the police from the same community who lost approximately 80 police officers when their building collapsed during the earthquake.

I learned a few days before I arrived that one of the volunteers on this trip is a guy I worked with in Limbe Haiti 11 years ago. He is the only other volunteer on this trip with prior experience in Haiti who also speaks Creole. Coincidentally he is also staying for a month. We have been asked to stay behind each weekend and help coordinate what ever is needed in PAP while the rest of the team journeys back to La Romana. The new team then arrives resupplies with necessary medicines and then makes the return trip back the following Monday. From what we have heard there is a fair amount of security on the ground with UN and US soldiers doing patrols. We also have security where we are staying and should not have any problems.

It is rumoured that there is a functioning internet café around the corner where we will be staying. Hopefully I'll be able to stay in fairly regular contact with Jessica and send updates


Thursday, January 28, 2010


In the fall of 1995 I boarded a plane to Haiti for what would be one of the greatest experiences of my life. For the next four years I lived and worked in the northern town of Limbe, Haiti at a rural Missionary hospital called L'hopital Bon Samaritan (HBS). In 1999, I left Haiti to go back to school and became a Physician Assistant (PA). When the earthquake hit Haiti, the news was pouring in about how increasingly desperate the situation was becoming. To me it made good sense to start looking into possibilities to return and lend a hand in the medical effort there.

Last week, I expected to arrive in Haiti and work for the UN for a month. I purchased supplies, packed my bags, said goodbye, and waited for my travel arrangements. By the weekend, I received an e-mail that they had changed their mind and would not be bringing in extra medical personnel.

I have spent the last several days networking, making phone calls, and trying to arrange travel to get to Haiti. Today I got the news that I was accepted by Baptist International Ministries (BIM) as a volunteer. The new plan is to fly to the Dominican Republic on Saturday and join a team of about 25 medical personnel. After the team is assembled, we will leave the Dominican Republic Sunday night to cross over into Haiti Monday morning. Upon arriving in Port au Prince, we plan to provide medical aid to some of the many tent communities that are popping up all over the city. At the end of the week the team and I will return to the DR. Then a new team will be assembled, more supplies purchased, and Sunday we will do the whole thing over again. I intend to stay the month of February.

Many of you have asked if you can help financially. I am taking this next month off unpaid so we'll be short of funds for rent and utilities. We could use help with the airfare and money to cover expenses the month I am in Haiti. There is a PayPal link below for the US dollars (please note: gifts aren't tax deductible - sorry!) and a Gift Aid fund for the UK. Excess money donated will be passed on to the BIM missionary I will be working with. The money will be used to treat the victims of the earthquake by purchasing necessary medical supplies, antibiotics, food, water, or to pay for these supplies to be brought into the country. For those of you that are interested in donating money, I'll send specific details about those accounts soon.

I am very grateful to everyone who has encouraged us while Jessica and I have been trying to figure out a way for me to help in Haiti. We would very much appreciate your continued prayer while I am away. Pray that the team would work well together, be competent, and effective. Pray also for the people of Haiti, that they can perceiver and find away to recover as well as their basic daily needs of food, water, shelter, and medicine.

Thank you for all your love and support. As possible, I will send updates through Jessica.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Haiti update from Jeremy

Well, I'm still here in the UK waiting for travel info; I have been packed for the last 36 hours and I’m anxious to leave.

Here is what I know so far…
I'm planning to head to Haiti for a month to help in what ever way I can. I have linked up with a group called PAE who were a subcontractor under the UN in charge of security. It’s not my first choice but beggars can't be choosers. Since the earthquake all available medical people have been pressed into service. They have brought on 2 additional to make a total of three. I have been told I will be working some of the time at the Argentinian Hospital near the airport in Port Au Prince. I don't yet know where I'll be staying. I have been told to bring a tent -- it could be anywhere. Hopefully I'll be able to send back regular updates but Internet is sporadic at the moment.

Thanks for all of your prayer and support.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Back to Britain

We are settling in nicely. Madison is doing ok. She is definitely getting older. She doesn't see or hear as well as she did. We are finding things that used to be easy daily tasks with her not as easy now. She definitely drinks a lot more water than she used to. I can hardly keep her bowl full. Jeremy did a dip stick test on her urine for diabetes but it didn't indicate that she had it. Keep in mind that it was human dipstick but he said it just measured sugar in her urine. Anyway, we really have to stay on top of keeping her bowl full of water and her bladder empty. We started keeping her in our bathroom at night in case she wets then it won’t be on the carpet. The door is right next to my side of the bed so it feels more like she’s right there next me. We have lots of great "footpaths" near us so we all have enjoyed walking together. Everything is really green and beautiful!

Work is still going well. I’m grateful to have a job I like!

I'm going to start working on my business cards, business info sheet, portfolio, etc. for J Bird Designs again next week. Hopefully I can take some more classes this fall.

We bought at dinning table Saturday. It's being delivered on Friday and I can't wait! It's nothing fancy but I really like it. It is a round drop leaf table. It'll be perfect for just Jeremy and me to eat at with the leaves down. Or we can raise them for up to 6 people but it'll be a cozy fit. Our chairs are a mix-matched but I'm going to paint them all the same color and distress them the same. I haven’t decided what color yet. I miss doing projects like that so I'm really excited to pick my color and get going. We bought them at a charity shop (like Goodwill) so we saved a bundle!

We have been looking for a car. Boy-o-boy am I ready! We are going to rent one, not this weekend but the next, if we haven't found one buy then. I have always wanted to take Madison to the beach but now we can take her to the English Coast. I saw a place I think Jeremy would love. It’s called the "Jurassic Coast". It's a stretch of the southern coast that is known for it's fossils and rustic shore line. He’s into fossils so I think it'll be lots on fun. We really enjoy exploring when we have rented a car in the past. We always run a few errands when we have a car too. Cost-co, IKEA and Tesco are always on the list to get things that are too hard to carry on bikes. This time we'll be getting a few organizers for our closets, a mop, a new broom, and a curtain rod. Having are car will defintaly make life here easier!

I hope to upload some pictures and video of our last flat and our new house in the near future...stay tuned!