2010 Haiti Journal #5 January 20, 2010 Carrying Babies Out
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida (layover)
Dear Friends and Family,
There is so much to tell...latest news first:
We aren't sure we are coming home yet.
Not five minutes off the small plane last night from the Dominican Republic (story next time), we were asked to go back into Haiti to hand-carry out babies that need transport. Paul turned to me ans said, "I guess you want to go do that".
I nodded. He said he couldn't let me go back alone. We are waiting for details now.
We are emotionally on over-load. As Doctor Jim Morgan confided in me yesterday in Cite Soleil, the transition between depression and manic doesn't seem to happen in these conditions, they just exist together. He had seen between 45-50 amputations in two days at the bigger hospitals where he pulls two and three shifts. Dr Joey said that yesterday was the first 24 hour period without "after-shocks". Everything is a shock in Haiti, even for those of us who have been going in for years.
We stood still for a moment (rare for Dr.'s in Haiti) as we waited at the back of the "Lamp for Haiti" clinic for our traditional flat tire to be replaced (we have never gone a day in Haiti without a car breaking down - making schedule keeping a trick). We stood at the back of the “Lamp for Haiti” clinic in Cite Soleil. We had finished putting away piles of medical supplies that we had re-packed into four bulging bags. A flood of images flashed by.
On our way to the clinic yesterday morning we had passed the same neglected dead bodies on the road that we had the day before, photographed the same growing camps of people without shelter, watched small women with heavy loads pat other women in affection as they pass by other women friends who may be boiling plantain in hot oil, or dusting off used shoes they lay on the sidewalk for sale. Haitian women work every hour of the day...and usually can be seen by tiny oil lamp selling bits of candy or other treats at night. They seem to wake before dawn, because at daybreak I usually catch them scrubbing down a child or two with strong determined hands.
At the clinic yesterday I soothed and they sewed up a young man with a six day old gaping wound that wrapped his wrist and threatened to take his hand. Dr. Joey managed to do what I call a miracle. I only wish I had brought more lidocane...what I did bring wore off quickly as the teenage boy writhed in pain at each miraculous stitch (no one I know at the larger clinics would dare to sew a days-old wound) but he was determined. The teenage boy squeezed my hand tighter. Later, I told Mimi, the clinic manager, that it was a miracle, and she said, “Well, that's what we do here, we save things, we don't cut them off.”
While we waited for the tire, Paul and I followed the sound of a basketball into the next yard to watch a teenage boy play basketball without a net and re-committed to making a backboard happen, when we heard screams. I caught sight of a woman in full regal African dress wailing and running through the tight maze of crumbling homemade cinder block after rushing home to Haiti to discover the local priest was killed. Her friends couldn't contain her or her grief.
A few minutes later, two boys old enough to be in school, if there were one, had just given up teaching me the game they play with BB-size charcoal (as chalk) and 6 stones, and I followed a “baby” in to see Dr. Jim. Babies are so soothing to the soul...they make you stop thinking about yourself. I played my little hand game with him, but he didn't respond like most babies. After the mother and child stepped aside, he lowered his voice and confided...that is a 5 year old child she is carrying. I looked again...how could I have missed it? Jim said he couldn't believe it at first either. Then I noticed in the “baby's” mouth were six year old rotten molars. His pencil legs lay resigned around his mother's hips. This time we had brought the medicine he needed...but I noticed only two bottles children's vitamins left in the chest of the dozens we brought in last time...so doctor prescribed a weeks worth...it is the best we can do for now. The infection threatens him more right now.
Manic and depressed are blended...we cry and laugh and work all at the same time. Those who know me know that I am a pushover. I cry when I laugh, and when I see baby powder commercials. Yet, I find myself laughing at Mimi's or Paul's jokes, involuntarily sometimes. Then in a quiet moment the images comeback with the tears.
I will have to tell you the story of the Dominican Republic trip and the basketball hoop in another journal. We are waiting to hear if we go back in to carry babies out of Haiti. We had only stood on U.S. soil for a few minutes when we heard we may be needed to go back into Haiti. How can we say no?
My goal in the next few hours is to try to find medical supply donations in Ft Lauderdale to re-pack our bags with. I took a bath with my clothes last night so they would have most of the dirt off them.
Please know that your messages of support and pledges for Children's Hope really help, not only the work in Haiti, but my spirits. I am sorry I don't have time to respond personally to each of you. But I wish I could hug each one of you and give the traditional Haitian kiss.
Last night we were again gifted by connection with “Clean The World” to have them arrange to have one of the few private planes donating free passage in and out of Haiti for emergency patients, aid going in, and for people like us who had delivered supplies. Thank you to Bob for giving us a seat on his plane last night. We have tickets to fly home from Florida tonight, so were trying to leave Port au Prince yesterday to make that connection. Don't really know where we are going now.
In Haiti, the need is everywhere...and it will be a very long recovery. Please know how very much every dollar counts. It is not that there is no food in Haiti, but that the people are so very poor, and now there is clearly no work. For folks that live on less than $2 a day, when costs are as high as the US, then to be grieving, injured and out of work...is a desperate situation. We are staying in touch with donation pledges remotely, so please spread the word, share a journal or bit of story...every bit helps.
Also, I am sorry to be out of contact so often, but the conditions in Haiti did not allow for electricity for communication (don't worry Dr. Ben – the laptop held power). Many satellite towers are down, and without electricity then many routers won't work. peace.
Founder, Children's Hope
3025 A Cambridge Road, Cameron Park, CA 95682