April 13, 2012

All Good Things

Eleven days left.  Holy cow.  I’m sitting here, under the balcony, in complete darkness, listening to the sound of pouring rain, and trying to process it all.  I’ve been trying to remember the mindset I had when I came here three months ago... all the thoughts, goals, anticipations, and how my experiences have reflected them in the past three months.  It is hard to separate yourself from them when you’re in the midst of it, but I imagine after I get back to the States I’ll have plenty of time to formulate my thoughts and see a big picture.  Right now I’m just trying to soak up every minute.  I was talking to my sister about it the other night, and I realized that other than the people at home- my family and friends- I don’t miss anything about the United States.  None of the comforts, culture, distractions.  I haven’t watched TV, gone shopping, or sent a text message for three months, and I totally love it.  I was surprised at how easily and quickly I was able to adjust to life here... now I’m wondering how and if I’ll be able to adjust back just as smoothly.  Honestly I sort of doubt it.  All good things come to an end... the Weepies song is playing in my head.  
We had another medical team come right after I wrote my last entry a month ago, and that was my favorite week so far.  Heidi, an amazing nurse I’ve worked with on each of my trips in the past, was here with a team from Montana.  She and her daughter Jessa let Leslee and me share their room at Auberge, a beautiful hotel in Carrefour that I stayed at last summer.  While they were here, we visited two of the other Hope Alive clinics, on the other side of the Island.  We drove for five hours, on winding roads, past mountains and the Caribbean, until we turned onto a dirt road that we followed for the next hour, past farms and remote villages, through a jungle-like landscape.  The clinic appeared out of nowhere, along with a crowd of villagers, dressed in their best clothes to come see the doctor.  We worked for a few hours and had to leave early because it looked like it was going to rain, which would make the road we came in on impassable, possibly for days.  We loaded up the back of the truck with coconuts from the clinic’s palm trees, and headed back to the Mariani clinic.  The rest of the week we were so busy seeing patients, and I LOVED it!  I got to give a couple shots and help stitch some pretty bad injuries.  I really hope I’m as good of a nurse as Heidi one day, and it was such a privilege getting to learn from her.  On the last day there were so many patients, so Jessa and I got to set up our own station.  We’d see the patients, take their vitals, then get their histories and information.  Most of the time it was fairly simple to diagnose their problems, but we’d write down the information and send them to the doctor to prescribe them the medication they needed.  After the last clinic day was over, we hiked up into the villages surrounding the clinic.  We passed the houses of many families that come to the clinic or the school-children who pass me on my runs every morning.  And the view from higher up in the mountains... oh my gosh it is incredible.  Mina, our cat, ran away for four days, which was a traumatic experience, and I cannot express to you the extent of my joy when she returned.  She’s still just as lovable and feisty as ever.  
After the Montana team left, one of my best friends came for a week!  It ruled.  We spent the days painting the clinic, working with the Haitian medical staff, and going to the beach.  And the nights, we spent in the kitchen cooking dinner and listening to music, on the roof talking under the stars, or in the newly finished guest house watching movies.  It was so refreshing and restful.  We’ve had two teams since then, both of them really quality groups, with people who it was a privilege to get to know and who helped the clinic so much.        
The clinic has been very busy, even without any American medical teams here.  I’ve been working with the Haitian nurse and doctor occasionally, and have learned most of the the Creole terms for the common maladies here- cold, cough, fever, worms, infections, etc.  Even though they are exceptionally strong people, there are so many health issues because of the living conditions.  Kids get worms from eating mud cakes, a concoction of dirt, water, flour, and sugar... terrible, but unfortunately common for many poor families living here.  People live in tents, have little access to clean water, and labor in the hot sun everyday.  So even with their strength, their bodies are constantly fighting to stay healthy.  The clinic is open every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, but for the past couple months, every Wednesday and Friday without fail, there have been people, waiting outside our gate, in need of medical help, many having walked from great distances.  And we have to tell them that there are no doctors here.  Hope Alive is one of the only medical organizations in the area, and the only one providing free medicine to patients.  People even refer to it as a hospital.  Two weeks ago, we were out in the village when a woman collapsed and clutched her chest.  Even though there were no doctors here, we brought her to the clinic and gave her a place to rest and some pain medicine.  Last week a little boy came in with a knife wound.  He had gotten into a fight, and another kid had slashed his head.  Luckily one of the girls on the team was an EMT, and she was able to clean and bandage the wound, but he desperately needed stitches.  Yesterday after my run, a pregnant woman was waiting outside with her two or three year old son.  The little boy was obviously sick, and she told me he had a bad fever.  It broke my heart to tell her that there were no doctors here and that she would have to return the next day.  Leslee is praying about opening the clinic another day, which is a huge financial commitment and therefore step of faith, but its so obviously needed.       

For the past three days Leslee and I have been speaking in Creole only.  It’s been so difficult!  And I haven’t had too much to say as a result.  :)  But I really wish we had started doing this sooner, because it is helping so much.  I’ve learned a lot, but most of the staff can speak English fairly to very well, so I’ve become somewhat lazy in practicing.  Today after clinic, the pharmacist Martine and the nurse Marice taught Leslee and me how to make Labouille, a Haitian porridge.  After I learned, I told them that I am almost Haitian.  They told me I need a Haitian husband first, haha.  
Tomorrow morning I’m flying to Jacmel, a village on the Caribbean side of Haiti, to see the Hands & Feet project.  Hands & Feet is an orphanage ministry started by the band Audio Adrenaline awhile back.  I don’t know much else about it, but I’m excited to see that part of the country and another ministry.  My next (and maybe last?) update will probably be after I get back to the States, unless I find time for a quick update before.  N a wè pita!  

Patients waiting for the clinic to open

After stitching up a man's foot injury
Sweet little honeys at World Harvest

"We are Friends" Love this.

One of my running pals, Cristophe

The view from above our clinic

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