DOU BWA ROUGE TRIP REPORT: AID FOR HAITI MEDICAL TRIP, MAY 2013
Dear Friends and Family who have been so faithful in praying for our AFH team, below is my journal of the trip if you’d like to read details from my perspective. This is by no means comprehensive, but just what I remembered to write at the end of each long day. Thank you for your faithful prayers. We felt them and saw the results of them, and I personally know that my little family at home was saved from at least one tragedy because of your faithfully, persistent requests to God for us. I was humbled to go and serve as I could and even more so to be brought home safely. Sonja Everhart
May 18, 2013, am
Copied down a poem Dad wrote for me when I graduated college and started my first nursing job:
“For grit and grace in today’s workplace, I remember Him.
His face like flint to Jerusalem
His pure heart, the Father’s pleasure
His words of love, mine without measure,
Lord, I need You near. To Thee I rise,
Whose name I bear, Whose ways I prize.
For grit and grace to reflect Thy Son
Till the day is over and the race is run. – Dad
On my way to Haiti. Dad brought Sarah B. and I to the airport this morning, early. I catnapped on the first flight, so now I’ve had 3 hrs. sleep. Couldn’t sleep but an hour last night- too anxious to have everything ready and sad to leave my babies at home. Deep breaths, a few tears, many prayers and ready for this adventure. The Sovereign Lord who holds the galaxies in His hand, stretches that same hand down, down to earth and leads me, if I’ll follow. He goes before, preparing a way, softening hearts to His gospel. I pray that I live it out this week along with the team. AFH. Aid for Haiti. All for Him.
May 18th, pm
We arrived safely to Port Au Prince- very hot and humid as expected because of rainy season. The airport exterior is nondescript with some brightly painted ramshackle buildings as well. Spent too much time in the hot concrete baggage claim looking for a bag that never appeared. We’ll see. Michael Rudolph and Cindy Mast rescued us from baggage claim and the team was waiting out in the truck. A mountain of camping gear and medical supplies with us all standing in the back of the truck flying down the highway. There is a cage structure on the truck bed. Wonderful to be here and take in the noise, smells, exhaust, palm trees, mountains, ocean, brightly colored cars, buses, motor bikes everywhere – and people, people, people. Reminds me of my reading in Matthew on the plane: ” The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles- The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light and those who were sitting in the land and Shadow of death, Upon them a light dawned” Matthew 4:15, 16 (quoting Is. 9:2, 60:1-3)
We are fortunate to stay tonight at a Christian guest home, CAM, run by reformed Menonites from Ohio. They served a wonderful dinner and I drank so much ice water but still thirsty. Team meeting and sorting of medical supplies followed. Then a cool shower and now to sleep in a bed for the last time. Driving up the mountain to Do Bwa Wouj tomorrow and camping at the clinic area. Now for sleep. God is good.
Sunday May 19th
Continuing my reading in Matthew and loving it.
‘Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread…deliver us from evil…for Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen’ Matt. 6:9-13
Up at 6 am today to get ready, pack our bags, eat breakfast. Shannon and I made scrambled eggs for the team and the others sliced up the fresh mangos and made coffee. Fresh mangos bring back good memories of my trip to Honduras in summer of ’97. I can’t believe how long ago that’s been. Almost half my life ago. Another ride in the back of the luggage laden truck, standing, driving fast, bracing ourselves and having such a good time together. The fellowship has been wonderful. The warm sun, beautiful ocean and mountain views during the almost 3 hr. ride. Made 2 stops for Michael, the ‘on the ground’ team member here in Haiti full time since the 2010 Earthquake, to put chains on the tires for the rocky, steep climb. Took lots of pictures, hiked a bit during the stop for chains. Beautiful mountain views, palms, banana trees, mango trees, corn. There would/should be many more trees though – deforestation history. Arrived here in village of Do-Bwa-Woug while church still going strong. Vibrant singing, clapping, preaching, praying. We were introdued and greeted with clapping, blessings, smiles. A very warm, vibrant, loving group of believers. Gorgeous people and I’m in love with all of the children- big brown eyes and shy smiles.
Set up tents inside concrete block structure with tarp roof – very thankful since it’s rainy season. Lunch of noodles and sausage with sauce plus Louisiana style hot sauce. I opted out of the mayo and sweet ketchup toppings. (All meals cooked over open fire out back by Haitian church ladies who live on site.) Set up pharmacy station for tomorrow and reviewed diseases: malaria, typhoid, cholera, etc. Dinner, hymn sing, back to tents, fun girl times, talking, laughing, reading, writing in journals, trying to learn some creole. Lovely hike today too, through the village – though very muddy, red clay. ‘But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.’
Monday May 20th
It rained very hard last night for a couple hrs and then consistently but lighter through the night. I awoke many times and my headache from the day persisted. Very sore today, but excited for the day. Breakfast of spaghetti noodles with hot dog chunks. I should’ve realized it was too early for hot sauce. Ate some bites of cereal bar to settle my stomach. Probably some unsettling was nerves for the first day. Haitian villagers already lined up outside the chapel, which we have set up for clinic with curtains to separate exam rooms and a pharmacy. Day spent triaging, taking vitals, filling prescriptions, teaching through interpreters. The automatic/battery operated BP cuff was not working, so I taught Elijah and Sarah how to take manual blood pressures, etc. They’re quick learners and will soon be experts. It’s hot but not unbearable- rain in the afternoon but we kept on with short meal breaks, treating about 120 pts. today including malaria, typhoid, malnutrition, worms, etc. Beautiful babies and children, broke my heart to see them so lethargic and weak. Several children with club feet, lady with radial head fracture, splinted by Caleb and Jerry, I think. Highlight of my day was assisting Caleb taking a bullet out of a woman’s thigh. We wore camping headlights for light and he did a great job dissecting down and then let me close the fascia layer. I did a running vicryl stitch. My first time ever! Then he closed the skin nicely and we dressed it . Made my day. After dinner we watched Michael debride a lady’s two thumbs – one partially bitten off and the other cut with a machete. Wonderful how he is fluent in Creole and can communicate. I forgot to mention a morning devotion, hymn sing and then late evening hike (group) up the road to attempt phone calls home- little reception and raining- not sure texts went through. Cold bucket shower tonight – felt wonderful. Bible reading, to bed.
I didn’t sleep well last night- I couldn’t reach Doug by phone or text yesterday and felt uneasy. I think this, and the roosters, woke me up in the night and being uncomfortable I couldn’t sleep for several hrs. Very tired today, but God gave grace and we treated about 120 pts today – preop, clinic visit, lab, pharmacy, education, more procedures. Such good fellowship and commraderie amongst the team and the Haitian believers and interpreters. They serve so cheerfully. One of the sweet cooks here is about 35 wks. pregnant and preeclamptic by vitals and urinalysis. She was told that to save her and the baby, she needs to ride down the mountain and then on to a hospital in PAP and probably be delivered w/in 36hrs. She was so sweet and hiding tears. It breaks my heart to see the realities and dangers of third world jungle life. ‘Lord, watch over Genovese and her baby’. ‘He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases’. Isaiah 53:4
Last of all, what has been weighing on my heart today is a woman 9 mo pregnant wo came to clinic yesterday and was treated for heartburn. I knew she was close to delivering, but she wasn’t in labor yet, was told that we would help if she called for us or came to us for delivery. She wanted to birth at home with her midwife and gave birth to twins last night. The first one died right away and the other one later. We were told she didn’t want them and left them alone to die. She has other children. I have grieved for those babies all day and wonder at the sin-numbed soul. But for the grace of God would I be one. “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick…I desire compassion and not sacrifice, for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matt 9:12, 13 ( Side note: many mothers and grandmothers have offered their children to Cindy when she sees them in clinic – I think they are weary of seeing their children hungry, malnurished etc. Cindy tells them that she would if allowed and has given out much protein powder for shakes, electrolytes, vitamins, toys, and even her own jar of peanut butter. One return text from Konrad that came through says that he’s setting up bunkbeds – Cindy told him we’d try to sneak some babies home in our backpacks. I wish.)
We hiked again after procedures and dinner – I climbed atop an old wall on an old building on the mountain with Elijah and Michael and found reception. I resked my neck to call home, but only got voicemail. I hope my family is not concerned and doing well and happy. Doug is wonderful to take off work and be home with the kids. The Lord has been so kind to allow me to do this.
Wed. May 22nd
Today was so long it feels like days since I got up this morning at 6:30am. Breakfast of mango and my cereal bar with syrupy sweet coffee. Then group devotions led by the guys – today was Caleb- ‘The Lord is our rock’ – very fitting for the day as it turns out. Patients waiting in line outside the chapel as every day. Jerry, an ED nurse, and I were seeing pts. this morning to give Caleb a break and consulting him when needed. I was thrilled to find a baby’s heartbeat with fetal doppler and watch the lady hear the strong, fast heartbeat for the first time. She had thought she was losing the baby. Her eyes were wide and full of happy tears. Cindy, pediatric PA, is again seeing all the children and most of their parents. She has done a wonderful job.
First thing today an apparently elderly, emaciated Haitian brought in on a stretcher. Appeared to have cancer in his abdomen – hard and visibly bumpy. Too far gone to send for surgery and too weak. Turns out he was only 39 years old, and up until 3 mo ago was the strongest man in his village. Caleb and Michael agreed on palliative care and gave him pain meds to send home with him. Michael shared the gospel in Creole and the man said he was a believer in Jesus, had burned all of his voo doo charms, but didn’t know any of the Bible’s teachings. Michael told me later that he gave one of the Creole audio Bibles to this family so they could listen to the N.T. in their home. It solar charges so they can listen over and over. What a blessing. I know the Lord had something special in mind for the audio Bibles.
Next came many more of the same pt. problems as before, but a 4 yr old named Linda came back again. She was diagnosed Monday with Typhoid and given meds and told to return today if worse. Parents brought her in after turn for the worse, dehydrated, poor vital signs, lethargic, in her mom’s arms. Held ouside in her mama’s lap in the shade under the palm trees while Jerry started an IV and I managed her fluid bolus of LR. Later rocephin added for more antibiotic coverage. Within a few minutes of IV fluids, she started to blink more and look better, by evening child rehydrated, more alert, hungry, able to void for urinalysis, and go home with family. Another IV for a 20 something woman with persistent vomiting for 15 days. Lab results back, and pregnant- which she already knew and didn’t tell us and we suspected. Michael talked with her to encourage her not to take an abortion pill. 3L of NS and anti nausea meds, vitamins, etc, later – Pt. smiling, feeling better. Parents at her side. Endless day of filling meds, etc, 12 hrs, then I assisted Caleb in removing a scarred mass on a lady’s backside that made it painful to sit down. Very deep and difficult, considering limited instrumentation and tempermental hand-held cautery. Fibrous tissue removed, so hopefully pt. can sit down without pain. Morphine injection during and sublingual zofran after with pain meds. (Pt. came back next day for more antibiotics, smiling, very happy).
Truly the Lord is our rock. A 15 hr workday amongst friends, bone tired but in good fellowship. I was happy to hear the local Haitian pastor preaching to the waiting patients since massive rains have prevented people from coming out to evening Gospel meetings. The Lord knows best. We smile and work hard. Reminds me of James chptr 2? “Faith without workds is dead…show me your faith without your works and I will show you my faith by my works.” To God be the glory.
Friday May 24th
I’m on an airplane in Miami, heading home. Whirlwind day yesterday and too tired to write. After a short night’s sleep Wed, we were up at 6am TH -packing bags, tearing down tents, several hrs. of clinic. Packed up all the medical supplies, loaded the vintage beast of a Land Cruiser – this time with all the buckets of meds/supplies under our baggage, tents-piled high, the team riding standing again in the bed of the caged truck. Took two additional people down with us partway – so 13 people! It’s more enjoyable in the back of the truck with the sun and wind, but b/c of limited space and my tendency for motion sickness when I can’t see over the load, I was voted to ride up front. Michael driving and Martalise and I sharing the other seat. A fun surprise to discover that Martalise speaks Spanish as well as Creole so we could talk on the way down to her stop. She and her husband, Brother Drakes, were heading to his mother’s home, then on to the Dominican Republic where they live now. Marta is a phychologist who volunteers at her church counceling inner city youth and teens.
I fogot to mention the departure-it was difficult saying goodbye to such sweet people-so loving and little Veronica hugging me during the final prayer and farewell. Her mother is Genovese, the pregnant woman with preeclampsia who had left that morning on the back of a mule, I believe, to head down the mountain, stopping overnight on the way to PAP to be hospitalized and deliver the baby early. The truck ride would have been too bumpy and hard on her. The night before, Genovese was up late with us watching over our post-surgical pt. We encouraged her to please rest and put her feet up. In the states she would have been on strict bedrest. She always smiled and was constantly serving. Her three children are some favorites with our team-Leonardo, Veronica, Michael. Her husband is brothers with Drakes and Olivier (one of our interpreters).
Also said goodbye to a little girl named Loveli, who gave me fruit for a going away gift. Passed out candy and hugs all around as we said goodby. Tears during the prayer -hard to leave a part of one’s heart behind in a farway place, but better than not having done so. I think loving and letting go enlarges the heart. “Freely you received, freely give.” Matthew 10:8
The trip down the mountain to PAP was very enjoyable. We stopped at a lookout ridge with a view of a beautiful waterfall. Shannon and I hiked down to a mango tree and tried our hand at knocking mangos down with rocks like the locals. It appears we would starve here on our own. We hiked to the ridge and saw the others had hiked down into denser jungle grass/trees toward the waterfall but were unable to cross all the way to the falls. If they had been swimming we would have hiked down gladly. Turns out they had an adventure with cuts, scrapes, and snakes so we’re happy with our pictures from above.
I asked Michael a lot of questions about the Island seasons, vegetation, crops, his work here now and in the months following the earthquake when he came and stayed 3 yrs ago until now. The physicians who came for earthquake aid told Michael, who was already a paramedic, that the experience he gained in 4 months of 20+ hr days of trauma and delivering babies, etc. was about the equivalent of 2 yrs of medical school residency in the states. He continues to work part time in a medical clinic near the AFH land, as well as travel all over the country providing medical and spiritual assistance to different villages. That clinic as well as the temporary one that we set up, both charge a small fee b/c the people are proud to be able to pay something for service and we don’t want to develop an even greater sense of dependence on handouts. No one is ever turned away for lack of funds, though. Having arrived a day late for the trip, I had missed some of this info, as well as the tour of the AFH land, and am happy to get some questions answered.
Beautiful island sunshine and breeze through open windows flying down the mountain now that we were off of the rocky trails and onto pavement. Roads crowded with people walking, pulling carts, leading cows and pigs and goats, riding horses and mules laden with mangos, avocados, bananas, sweet potatoes, etc. Children walking along the road carrying machetes, same as their parents. People sitting in roadside stands selling produce, etc. Gradeschool age children holding the younger ones by the hand, walking along the roads, or over mountain paths. Sisters carrying younger siblings on their backs, though seemingly too small to do so. Pregnant women hiking up the steep mountain roads with their load of produce in a bag or bucket on their head. Everywhere little brown baby bottoms as toddlers run around without pants – probably for easy potty training as no one seems to use diapers. Women carry their babies with towels around the babies. The upside is we saw no diaper rash problems in clinic.
Still driving/flying down the mountain, weaving in and around trucks and motorcycles all laden with produce and people. I am reminded of verses I’ve been reading in Matthew of Jesus in the villages- of simple ways of life and a slower tempo to the day – of life in its bare essentials- food, clothing, shelter, life, death, and looking beyond the temporal as life is known to be short and accepted as such. “Jesus, going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.'”
Safe arrival back to CAM where we spent the first night at the guest house. Real beds and showers after 4 nights of sleeping on our thin mats in tents on hard clay floors and taking cold ‘bucket showers’. Some of course chose not to try the bucket shower so this was their first shower in 5 days. They will remain nameless. I personally enjoyed the cold bucket shower while camping, especially after a sweaty day in clinic and assisting in a not-so-minor procedure. Maybe I didn’t get the full camping experience.
Dinner was served to our whole team by the CAM folks who run the guest program-dinner at tables on their long front porch with expansive views of the port with the city lights twinkling on the far side. Not very many city lights for such a massive crowd of people in huts and slums. We met several Americans at dinner, one of whom has the job of overseeing many of the schools in Haiti-he travels 2 weeks of every month, visiting villages, schools, overseeing curriculum, teachers, outcomes, etc, and the subsidizing of much of the cost of books, etc.
After dinner, we all walked back to the main living quarters where we have our team meetings. For the first time in 5 days, I was able to reach my family by phone and hear their happy chatter of the last day of school party etc. The few times we found reception from Do-Bwa-Wouj, I had only reached Doug’s voicemail. I am very thankful for a wonderful husband who cheerfully agreed to take time off of work to stay home with kids and run the house for me, as well as both of our moms and other siblings who stepped in to help. I am acutely aware of all the details that come into focus and have to fall into place for a trip like this to happen. Sacrifices by those close to me, gifts of supplies from my coworkers at LMH and mostly the prayers of so many that I cannot count – asking the Lord for grace, safety, wisdom, open hearts, strength for each day, unity for the team; I feel that all of the prayers were answered and more that we did not think to ask for.
Our team meeting last night to wrap up the trip was a wonderful time of sharing best and most challenging times, what we’ve learned, and acknowledging that we have all felt the prayers lifting us up and giving unity and good harmony as a team. We sang hymns together for the last time, as we have every night. We are so thankful for the dear sister in Lawrence who thought to print off copies of our favorite hymns so we could sing together. We are also humbled to know that another sister has been fasting and praying for us and the work here every day until our return.
When I was tempted at times to be tired of filling meds and explaining the same things over and over through the interpreters, I was continuously reminded of the verse in Matthew 10:24 which says ‘ A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master.’ If the God of all creation would humble Himself to be born as a human baby, grow, live among sinful mankind, serve them and then die on a cross made from a tree that He himself created, to pay the price for mine and all of mankind’s sins – how can I hold myself above even the most mundane tasks?
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give You rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and You will find rest for Your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matt 11:28-30