Bondye beni Sisters of Mercy! (God Bless). Team Mercy is going to work in Luly and Arcahaie and then to eat at the new residence of Vlad and Merline. They were living in tents, and a couple who had been working in Haiti asked them if they would house sit so they are living in a cement house! They were loaned a car too, but they had to give it back and said that they felt so bad always having to ask the Baptist group for a ride or to borrow a vehicle and then God sent them the Mercy Wagon! They say they never worry because if they are doing God’s work He provides what they need…one leap of faith after another.
We went to Archacaie to visit the park where the slaves used to be sold and where the Haitians first raised their flag of independence. Vlad led the Haitian team in singing the national anthem for us. It was a lovely town, and we split in two teams and alpha went to work in a Lutheran church. It was more stifling hot than any day yet; we saw 65 patients, and I developed my first migraine of the week. I only had ibuprofen. Since Merline (who just learned that she’s expecting!) is having morning sickness, I told her I would be sick with her today. Omega team worked at Luly on the beach and saw 25 patients. Randy started the IV today.
We rode back out through banana trees, mango and almond trees and saw some fertile soil; most of Haiti is barren so it was good to see this. We went to the house Vlad and Merline are house sitting which had a generator for electric and water pumped onto the roof. (They buy potable water.) I was given an ice pack for my head and a room to rest. I felt much better when I cooled down a little. We had a Haitian buffet prepared by our Haitian team mates, with delicious mango juice. We got to see Vlad and Merline’s November wedding album too. When we returned to the compound, Vlad presented me with a specially made plaque to thank Sisters of Mercy and all those who donated for the vehicle. It thanks all for enabling them to help others and says in Creole, “Thanks for being there for us”. It was very emotional when we remembered all of you who helped make the vehicle a reality. Leah and Sister Jill went to a Haitian service this evening; and Wendy, Randy, Vlad and I stayed at the compound with Curtis and Joyce readying things for our departure tomorrow. Because of Port Au Prince traffic, we will be leaving at 9:30 AM for our 1:30 PM flight so we will be traveling for at least 12 hours just to get to Charlotte and then still have to drive to Asheville. Sister Jill taught us the Mercy Blessing so we could give a parting blessing to our Haitian team mates. We indeed have had a very Holy Week and each of us is committed to returning to Haiti. Vlad teasingly said, “Don’t wait two years for the next trip!” Dr. Ellen Lawson, Team Mercy
Today alpha team worked in Lafiteau, a small village not far from our compound. Our Mobile clinic set up in a church constructed of block and screens and saw about 50 people. One very sick infant had pneumonia, and we gave her rocephin and decadron. We had some with malaria and some with worms and always fungal infections. We give plenty of vitamins to all. Mothers were thrilled with the formula and cloth diapers. We had also hygiene kits. Leah worked with my team alpha today, and two nurses from Global outreach worked with Vladimyr, Randy, and our Haitian teammates. We purchased some handmade things our Haitian team made because they really need the money.
Team omega had a few cholera cases today, and they worked in the UNICEF tent left at tent city. The government forced people to move their tents from the parks in Port Au Prince, and most are scattered on the hills just outside of the city. None of these camps have clean water sources or toilets so cholera can spread easily. Each day Vlad and Merline teach the people about cholera precautions and malaria precautions as we set up tables and chairs and set up triage, pharmacy and physician tables. We have to carry all of it every day and pack and repack in the van. We spend free time packaging medications for the next day. Sister Jill is doing the reflection tonight, and Leah will do it tomorrow. Team Mercy feels at home here now and is feeling sad about having to leave on Saturday. Joyce and Curtis Thrift are our hosts, and they have made us comfortable and welcome. Leah had fun playing soccer with the children in Lafiteau today. We will probably take a quick dip in the pool to cool off before dinner because it is extremely hot! Dr. Ellen Lawson for Team Mercy
Wendy, Sister Jill, Dr. Merline, Joyce, I (Dr. Ellen Lawson), and our Haitian friends just returned from the orphanage in what must be the armpit of the City of Port Au Prince. The streets were treacherous, and it was stifling hot as we wound deeper and deeper into the city and eventually were lost. Merline called the orphanage, and a man on scooter came and found us. We followed him to the orphanage which is has no sponsor. (After the earthquake, someone allowed a few people to use a house for the orphans.) We examined about fifty kids and then the adults. Most of the kids had worms and fungal infections and many had URI’s or malaria. They all complained of stomach pain, and it was hard to know if it was from worms or hunger. In bad times the children eat every other day; in good times they eat once a day. Our driver “Innocent” left us there and went out to buy food for them.
It was the first time we were alone in a very poor section of the city with no ID’s, passports or money. If he hadn’t come back to get us, I don’t think we could have made it out of there. None of us ate because we gave the kids our sandwiches and then Innocent arrived with sacks of flour and rice for them as well. At one point a woman at the orphanage said that the children were all praying for us and hoped we would return. It was very moving. The kids were thrilled with cups of water from our cooler. Joyce had made little packs of clothing, and each child received something that they proudly displayed. After we examined them we sent each child to the pharmacy for a lollipop and their medication. Wendy was tagged with giving rocephin shots, and Jill did a great job in the pharmacy. Our drivers did a fantastic job of singing songs and playing games with the kids. Then we left and spent probably an hour in the dodge-a-truck traffic.
Randy and Leah worked up in the mountains in Tapyio with Drs. Vladimyr and Francis, Sterling and crew. They actually had to climb a six-foot-steep embankment to hike to the “clinic”, a designated tree. The hard part was carrying all the huge heavy bins of medications and supplies up the mountain. Leah said Randy was “the man” of the transport operation. They treated a family of five blistered with scabies. Team Mercy was truly treating the sick in the wilderness; their pharmacy table was placed on a tarp on the ground. They started with seven patients and wound up with thirty-five, a light day because the villagers didn’t think we would come this holiday week. When we all got back to the compound, Randy enticed folks to try his peanut butter, mayo and tomato sandwiches. Tonight we are having Creole chicken, and it smells great. Wendy will be offering our reflection this night. More later. Team Mercy
We enjoyed a great Haitian-made dinner tonight – rice with fresh coconut and a sauce with sausage and lots of spices. We got a little respite in pool before dinner; felt great because we were cooped up providing patient care all day without electricity (so no fans) and no bathrooms. We spent the evening making and counting more pills for dispense. Patients are seen and get all of their meds for $2, but many cannot pay at all.
We were discussing needs for the new clinic as they have no furniture or exam tables…perhaps the next Mercy project?! Tomorrow we go to the mountains and/or an orphanage. Government told Vladimyr today that cholera is spreading again in southeast Port Au Prince so we are giving out hygiene kits made up of the soap tooth paste and tooth brushes you donated! Cholera is caused by vibrio cholera which is contained in feces of infected persons for two weeks. Since there is no sewage system, streams and rivers are used for bathroom, bathing and cooking so you can understand why the rains are dreaded. 700,000 people have been infected with cholera and 7,000 have died already. Leah has learned to take blood pressures; now so she will be very much at home in Urgent Care too. Good night from Team Mercy!
Bon jour! The phone insists it is 4:30 when it is 5:30 AM because it doesn’t know Haiti switched to daylight savings time this year. It is painful for Leah and I to get up at that time! Our peanut butter sandwiches are ready to go. Today I am working with Vlad, Merline, Wendy and Sister Jill at Cabaret where the permanent clinic will be dedicated. Randy and Leah are working in Titanyen with Francis.
Last night during share time we learned about a volunteer who died from heat stroke. She had a temp of 105 became confused, received 7 liters of fluid, spiked temp to 107 and died during the 20-minute ride to the hospital. Her sister flew down to escort her body back to NC and actually worked with the team in her late sister’s place before leaving for the States. Sister Jill lead our meditation last night so we had a Catholic-Baptist prayer share! We will have breakfast and pack our vans and go to our mobile clinics. (Tim, just because we saw 250 patients in 6 hours yesterday, don’t think that will translate in Urgent Care time! The only tests we had the supplies to perform were UPT and urine dipstick. And there’s no Practice Velocity electronic medical record here – our charts were index cards.) More later. Ellen for Team Mercy #116
We only lost one of nine suitcases; unfortunately it contained our two new stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs. We got up at 5:30 AM and split into Alpha and Omega teams, going to two different locations. Dr. Merline Roseau and I (Dr. Ellen Lawson) went with Wendy Gade, Sister Jill Weber and some interpreter/pharmacist staff to Bon Repos (which means good rest). However, there was no rest for us because Merline and I saw 150 patients! We had our first two cholera cases, both small children. Dr. Vladimyr Roseau and Dr. Francis (Merline’s sister) went to Cite Soleil and saw 50 patients and then joined us to help finish up. We feasted on peanut butter sandwiches; they were packed in plastic baggies. We were told not to touch them with our hands because of the cholera. Accountant Leah Singleton served as chief pharmacist at Cite Soleil; her training only took a few minutes because she is so adept at counting.
Leah and I slept in a room with a mini air conditioner and many fans. Sister Jill and Wendy opted for the hot room, and Randy slept on the back porch. On our way home from work Vladimyr took us to the site of the mass graves where there were multiple small crosses and one large one on the hillside – the burial site of 80,000 people. There are definite signs of progress in Haiti. Many of the tents have been replaced by metal shacks and tarps reading UNICEF and U.S. AID. There are street vendors and ramshackle store shacks open for business. The traffic is as always like riding in bumper cars dodging one another as we negotiate the scarred terrain. We took plenty of pictures of the new “Mercy Wagon” this morning with Vlad, Merline and our team. Vlad says he tells the story of our conversation on the bus after the quake when I asked how we could help him after we went home, and he responded, a 4WD vehicle. Funny, I tell that story a lot too. He said the dream has come true, and all of you that worked selling cookbooks and making donations made it come true. You are all very much part of this team: We are here for you!
Since we are on cholera precautions, they have set up a hand washing station outside the house with various soap, bleach and alcohol combinations. Day 2 we are going to the dedication of the new permanent clinic for Merline and Vlad, and we will work there and at Cabaret again as Alpha and Omega teams. They may name it the Alpha and Omega Clinic. On the wall in the dining area there are pictures of all the original teams including Team 5 (Pat Clackler, Obie, Brenda, and Claudine Cuento and I), Team 9 (Anne Duncan) and Team 13 (Donna Montgomery and Sister Jill). We are now Team 116! Wendy is in the shower again, and the rest of us are dirtier than we have been in a long time. Leah hasn’t had a shower since Asheville and I since Belmont. The food is better this time as our hosts (all teams have traveled under the auspices and protection of the NC Baptist Men) are able to purchase more things, but it is very expensive. Gas is $5 a gallon, and people live on $2 a day. Ellen