Saturday, May 23, 2015

Peace in the Storm

Greetings! Starting with introductions, I am Alyssa Martin the newest member on the Alegue Clinic team. I came a little over three weeks ago with plans to stay for awhile so I am sure you will hear more from me! A little background, I am a newly graduated Registered Nurse from Ontario, Canada. I feel I have much to learn but, am excited about all the learning opportunities ahead. I am blessed to be working with a wonderful team who is willing to teach me and support me in my adjustment to Haiti clinic life. I have already had many great learning opportunities in the past few weeks and am excited to learn much more about the culture and the people.

Myself with a baby at the clinic

I am going to give you a little update on yesterday’s events since it is still fresh in my mind...

The day started out calm and peaceful after morning devotions one of the girls said, “I feel this will be a peaceful day!” The morning was calm and peaceful we had a number of patients but nothing out of the ordinary.

Around 1330 we had a sudden break in the calmness. A woman was carried in on a cot with burns over 75% of her body 50% full thickness and 25% partial thickness. Immediately, we tried to start IV’s in her which was a very difficult task, as many of her superficial veins were burnt. All that was running through my mind was fluid resuscitation STAT, 2 large 18 gauge bore IV’s or that’s what they teach in trauma classes, but real life is never that easy. Kin finally got one IV in and then we decided to attempt an IO, which was successful. We got fluids running and covered the lady with a sterile gown.
Our patient ready to transport

Hans in the mean time called Haiti Air to see if they would be willing to come pick her up. They told us they would try, weather dependent. We loaded her up trying to keep her warm as the wind rushed by. Arriving at the soccer field 20 minutes later, only to discover the helicopter had not yet arrived. We were all silently praying that it would be clear enough for the helicopter to land, knowing it would be in the best interest of our patient. Hans got a call soon and was told it was too foggy for the helicopter to land but we could wait 10-15 minutes and they may try again. We could not wait. This lady needed help and she needed help fast if she was going to survive. We needed to hit the trail for Petite Goave.
Ready and waiting for the helicopter

We stopped off at the clinic gathered supplies, transferred into the land cruiser and off we were to Petite Goave. Kin and I in the back trying to hold the IV’s so that they would run. The patient wiggled herself free from the straps on the cot and was restless. Up and down, up and down, the poor lady could not get comfortable. Our poor IV’s were a hopeless case one was leaking, change the bag, another had occluded what next? Finally, when we thought we had them going and then the patient would change position or the fluid would be empty.  Oh no, now the IO is leaking our faithful IO. We discovered that the connector had cracked. I don’t think IO's are meant to bounce all over the place :).  I was feeling hopeless. All I had ever learned was push fluids into burn patients and now it seemed we had a difficulty whichever way we turned.

It was a welcome sight to arrive at the Petite Goave hospital and see a little ambulance waiting for us. We transferred her to the ambulance. After talking to the driver and son as to where she was going, they were off with lights and sirens. We smiled and were relieved to see she was headed to Port au Prince hopefully in record time. It was a tired and weary team that headed back up the trail to Alegue. We talked of all the what if’s and only if’s but rested in the fact we had done the best we could in this situation.

Was the day peaceful looking on?  I would say probably not in my own eyes but, I can rest in the fact that God was with us and never let us down. He has protected us in so many ways and given us wisdom and grace for every situation. God is a faithful God and I have no doubt in my mind that He was with us yesterday. Knowing that peace in our hearts can give us peace amidst unpredictable situations.

I was planning to post this yesterday. Oops! I guess it didn't happen time ran away. Enjoy!

~ Alyssa 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Little Shots

...that we've seen recently...

You wouldn't recognize this bright-eyed little face from a couple weeks ago!  She's the one whose distraught mother rushed into the clinic with her cause she was in respiratory distress from a very plugged nose that Mali unplugged. :)  If you remember, she also had a strange mouth condition that has totally cleared up! 

I was quite pleased to see how well this set of twins was doing after their mother had been giving me the report that, "they are just too small and really need formula."   I finally convinced her to bring them and show me, after which I assured her she's doing a super job and that they're growing very well! :) 

This little boy is a heart wrenching sight.  He's the one I'd mentioned that literally seems to be starving to death.  The case is very unclear, but we suspect that he may have a perforated bowel, which could've come as a complication of possibly having typhoid.  

When he came in a few weeks ago with a fever, swollen stomach, lack of appetite, and was passing blood, we had sent him out to a hospital in Port au Prince for care.  They came back with the report that they couldn't do anything for him but give him meds.  

So now he's back, and even though he eats, it doesn't appear that he's properly absorbing anything.   The picture below was taken the day we took him out to town a few weeks ago...

Last week a few of us made a house call to check on a young stroke patient who needed more meds.  This set of twin girls, Martha and Anita, are his half sisters.  A cute little pair.  :)

And here recently we had a second baby boy come to clinic with a unilateral cleft lip and palate!  It's strange to see two exact cases in a month's time like this.  

I think a number of us have passed our designated blogging days by with no blogs to show for them, and now we're all catching up at once, cause I noticed Alyssa blogged last night, and Mali was also talking about doing one...:)  

Anyway, hope you all have a blessed evening in your respective places!  I came across this quote the other day, and since I'm not really in the frame of mind to write anything more substantial for a post tonight, I'll share it instead...:)

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” 
-Hellen Keller

More later. :)


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Shopping Trip

I'm getting ready to fall asleep to the sound of whirring fans attempting to curb the heat of another sultry tropical night in the coastal town of Petit Goâve. Donavan and I are planning on heading to Port au Prince early in the morning to spend an exhausting day buying the monthly medicines and supplies for clinic and I'm already missing our mission and the cool, fresh air of the mountains. I'll explain a few things about the process of meds shopping so you can better understand why I chose to use the word "exhausting".
First of all, driving anywhere in the bustling city of Port au Prince is a combination of honking horns, billowing clouds of putrid exhaust, hair raising close shaves with fellow motorists on the pot hole ridden streets and traffic sitting bumper to bumper for hours at a time waiting on random busses and trucks to turn around or enter from a side street ahead. We have several wholesale pharmaceutical distributors that we order from each month and everything would be very simple if they actually would have everything listed in their product catalogues, but of course there are always several things on each order that are not in stock and it's up to us to find an alternate source which is often more expensive. Add to that trying to talk a language that I still do not find coming to me naturally and picking up the main monthly groceries for the mission as well as quite a few other random errands followed by the 4 to 5 hour trip back home (remember the streets!) and tired is an understatement to describe how one feels. Anyway, enough complaining.
  There are many things of beauty, life and joy to be thankful for. Beautiful ocean waves along the shore next to the highway with an ancient looking patched up sailboat here or there on the glistening surface of the water. Children and young people playing along the streets despite the trash strewn around. Just the simple fact of having most of the meds we need available and being able to use them to help further Christ's Kingdom is a huge blessing in itself.
  Life isn't generally easy in Haiti for anyone, but it is still life, and life is always beautiful. May our lives be a proof of the life and power of Him who created us that we can draw others to Him so they too can know that source from where life itself originates.

For the team,

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Yesterday's Blag

*Oops!  I checked the calendar as I got ready this morning to confirm that it was indeed me on call after clinic today, but I didn't notice until just tonight that my name was also on for blogging!

You know the word blog (spelled blag) in Creole, means joke?.  So when I say I'm going to do a blog, I always think of making a joke. :). But sometimes trying to blog on time IS a joke!  I don't think I would have had time today even if I had known earlier that I was s'posed to!

But now here I am, tucked comfortably in bed, soaking up the peaceful sound of a silent night... That is, silent except for the combined musical chants of innumerable  slimy green frogs, even more nocturnal crickets, and an occasional bark from a neighbor's dog or a small distant rock slide on a nearby mountainside...*

...and then I fell asleep on the job.  That's as far as my inspiration took me last night before those soothing night sounds lulled me right to sleep!

So back to yesterday.  

We arrived at clinic to find a steadily growing crowd until, by the time Fre Nores prayed and we got started, all the benches outside were filled to overflowing!

As I was just finishing up one consultation for a baby with a strange skin infection, a very worried mother came rushing into my room cradling her 8 day old baby girl who was obviously having difficulty breathing.

Mali quickly took the baby and seated the mother, who was still very distraught, almost to the point of panic, and then started examining the baby. 

She discovered that her tiny little nose was clogged with what looked like a rock hard chunk of meconium, and when the baby tried breathing through her mouth, she'd suck her tongue to the roof of her mouth, hence her breathing problem.  

Almost immediately after removing the chunk (which I could hardly stand to watch Mali do, cause pulling stuff out of noses just...gets to me:-0), the baby calmed down and her oxygen stats climbed right back up to normal

But apparently that wasn't the baby's only problem, as you can see in this picture, she had a strange condition in her mouth too that we're treating and following...
Poor baby was not ok with us opening her mouth. 

The rest of the day went well, and we all came home to eat around 2:30.  I spent the afternoon cleaning out the cholera shack again, doing some clinic organizing, and taking care of the handful of after hour patients that came.  

After supper, just as we finished Bible study, we got the knock on the gate we'd been waiting for, cause someone had called Mali earlier and told her a lady in labor was on her way.  It's nice having a heads up like that! 

Hans, Alyssa, and I started hurrying down, and then running, when we heard very serious "woi-ing" labor cries coming from the clinic!

And sure enough.  That baby was born no later than 15 minutes after we got there, a healthy little boy that lost no time looking for something to eat!  :)

I was so grateful he came so fast, cause I    had been so tired, and really didn't feel up to the thought of maybe being up a good deal of the night!  But God knew that. :)
               Gotta love the hat! :)

We're excited about our newest Al├Ęgue addition, Alyssa, who's an RN from Canada that's committed to two years here!    This was the first birth we did together! :)

Another day has slipped away, and here I am again in bed where admittedly I should be sleeping, but instead I'm listening to the beautiful tropical night sounds again, determined to get this finished and posted before tomorrow...  :)

Hope you all have a restful night!


Saturday, May 2, 2015

A Day Through My Eyes

...which were not able to focus very well this morning.  Mali's grandmother had made a generous donation of a bunch of reading glasses when she went home, and Mali and I decided to each wear a pair on the way to work.  The pair I had was so strong that I had trouble focusing on anything, hence my route became slightly curvier than usual, as I tripped my way to clinic in Mali's footsteps. 

Upon entering the gate at clinic and after removing my eye aides so that I could actually see again, I took in the sight of a rather-small-for-a-Friday crowd. 

Standing to one side was a young gentleman named Reginald that I know from the school here.  He had come to ask for a bandage for his knee that was sore from their football match the day before.  Aylég's school played one of the neighboring schools in a game that ended with one team having scored one point, and the other none.

....We lost, and no, I don't really want to talk about it.

Anyway, after greeting another young player who informed me that his whole body hurt, but that he couldn't take any pain pills for it because when he swallows pills they get stuck in his throat, I moved on toward the clinic door. 

While passing through the crowd, a rendezvous card was shoved into my hand from a young woman who I had wanted to see Doctor Felix.  Since he wasn't able to make it up this week, I went ahead and called her in to ask her if she would mind coming back in a week to try again.  Thankfully, she was very understanding and sweet about it, and I was able to send her back on her way shortly thereafter.

From there, I moved out to the blood pressure desk, where I had a single patient waiting for me that had somehow managed to slip in in front of the crowd.  Her name is Elian, and she lives with our neighbor Madam Moise, who doubles as the area witch doctor.  Elian's position with her gives her enough leverage in the community that few people will try to stop her from doing what she wants.  And what she generally seems to want is to be rather careless about following her blood pressure appointments.  She was actually here on the date that she was given for once, so I was still a bit proud of her, even if she did sneak in early and not pay a dime to Direk.

Our morning devotional out front was done shortly after she left, and our day began in earnest.

While working through my short line of blood pressure people (I'm not sure, but I think the other half of the people that I had marked down for today must have gone to market instead), one little old lady was describing a Small Something that was wrong with her neck.  She described it as a little thing that danced in the side of her neck, and was happy to illustrate the dance moves using her fingers.  She was such an adorable little thing, in her red mouchwa and plaid jumper, with her tiny fingers waving around as she attempted to describe her problem, that I could hardly hold my grin back.

After working my morning blood pressure program people through, I decided to chip in and help with a few consultation people, since Mis Marquis was gone for the day.

My first patient that I saw was here because she had "sezisman" (basically, that I'm not really sure how to say it in English.  Emotional distress/turmoil/stress?).  Her brother had passed away on Tuesday, from what they were told was cholera, at a neighboring hospital who's cholera treatment is....shall we say...somewhat lacking?  She was apparently in some sort of disagreement with the person who had diagnosed him, since she told me that he didn't actually have cholera.  She had come to us today because she was in pain.  It's not uncommon to see people here not long after a family member passed away, in pain and sore after all that happens at the funeral, with blood pressure crazy high, and the headache to go along with it.

After prescribing her meds, I squeezed her hand and told her how sorry I was about her brother.  Her eyes welled with tears as she told me, "BonDye konnen.".

God knows. 

And He does.   He always does.  He knows so much better than we do from our infinitesimal viewpoint here on earth. 

I walked out of the room to see that another blood pressure person had decided to show up too, so I walked over to take care of him.  He was an older gentleman, and when I bent over to take his blood pressure, I noted his glasses case in his front pocket.  Tears instantaneously sprang to my eyes, as a wave of emotion washed over me.  My daddy has a glasses case almost exactly like that one, and I suddenly found myself missing him so badly that my whole chest ached.

It's funny, sometimes, the way something can just hit you out of nowhere like that. 

Today, I squared my shoulders, blinked back the tears, and shoved the emotions down where they belonged again, then smiled at the gentleman and told him that I liked his case, since it reminded me of my dad and the one he had.  His surprise as he pulled it out his pocket and stared at it with new respect in his eyes was enough to make my smile genuine.

I walked back into the exam room to find that Whit had pulled back another friend of ours.  A man and his young daughter, who has been having some respiratory trouble this week.  We got to know their family, and this nine month old baby in particular, when they were staying here with another son who was sick for nearly a week.  He kept telling me yesterday that he has four sons, but this is his only daughter, and he is clearly quite attached to her. 

He doesn't have any money to pay us for what we're doing for them, but he consistently brings gifts of food for us when he comes.  Today was a beautiful sack of yams, and he told me that when he comes back he wants to bring watercress so that we can make a salad. 

He's convinced the baby would have died if we hadn't helped them make a trip out to town last week, and he is now eternally grateful. 

The young sixteen year old girl that we had done a paracentesis on a few weeks ago was also around, as she had been given a rendezvous to come see the doctor today for another paracentesis.  Clearly, that didn't work out, so Whit refilled her meds and told them to try again next week, then attempted to send them on their way. 

I say attempted because this particular girl and her mother are....rather attached to our clinic, it would seem.  They never want to leave.  We've had a hard time getting them out of here every time they come back, and today was no different. 

The mule that she had arrived on was still in the vicinity for a while, until I finished bandaging her ten year old younger sister.  She had apparently stumbled and sat down a little hard on something a little sharp, as she had a fair-sized scrape on a part of her anatomy that made sitting down rather painful. 

I bandaged her up, packed up some bandage supplies to send home with her, and went out to tell them all that they could go home.  They all nodded sweetly and said that they were just waiting for the swelling in the older girls feet to go down a bit before they left.  I told that was fine, but that they needed to head home before long, since they should be home before dark.  

I went back inside, and when I came back out less than ten minutes later, the younger daughter was gone.  When I asked where she was, they said she had left for home.  A shot of panic flew through my mind as I calmly inquired as to the whereabouts of the beast.  When they told me it was gone, I sighed and went to tell Whit the bad news. 

The rest of the day was rather uneventful, and we actually had time to help Donny and David work on painting the doors and window bars for the church in the afternoon.  It was youth night, and we were having cupcakes in honor of our dear Whitney's birthday, which was Thursday.  The cupcake decorating was a joint effort of...nearly all of us.  To say they looked interesting and kinda cute would be...kind. :o)

We were just getting ready to sit down for the meal, when a knock sent me jogging out to the gate.  A young man was cut and waiting for a nurse at clinic. 

When Whitney, Hans and I arrived, we discovered that it was in fact one of the young professors at the school here, who also attends church with us.  Apparently some kid had thought it would be cool to chuck a rock at his head and then run away, leaving Emanuel with a not-very-long-but-quite-deep gash on his temple and a throbbing headache.  Whit stitched him up, and sent them back on their way, and we followed them out the door and headed home to our own waiting meal.

Well, today has turned into tomorrow, as I was simply too sleepy to finish this up last night.  I'm on call today, and when I went down to check on a couple other patients this morning, the girl and her mother were still there.  I told them that they absolutely have to leave today, as I plan to lock the outside gate up as soon as our other two patients down there leave for home.

They just blinked at me. 

So I sighed, repeated that they HAVE to go home, and retreated home for brunch.

...some battles I just can't seem to win.


Update from Marla

This post is written by Marla, almost a month ago and I made a mistake and didn’t get it posted. I’m sorry. Enjoy her words almost a month l...