medical services in Folsom, CA are 3,180 miles away from the seaside village of
Labadee, Haiti that sheltered me at Norm’s
Place a few years ago, but it may as well be light years away. The contrast
in care came crashing into real life this week as we tended Grandma Toby during
her emergency surgery in Folsom.
Grandma my Labadee story, in part to distract her from her pain and in part to
remind myself of the 50+ Haiti boxes Luke just dragged up from storage today,
the first step to packing over 1,000 lbs. of medical, sports and school
supplies that our Children’s Hope 2017 team will hand-carry into Haiti later
slowly earning her attention as more details came flooding back. “Oh, yes,
‘Norm’s Place’ – that’s the place that Norm runs up in Labadee. He’s about your
age, Grandma, an American, who once in Haiti fell in love with it and with a
woman there. So, he just stayed.”
interest grew as I described Norm. And though I was on a daybed next to hers,
our air-conditioned hospital room faded as I told her about Labadee that night.
Over my shoulder, she had a12-foot picture window view of oak woodlands from
her $40,000 hospital bed, but now, it was as if she were watching me in Labadee,
Haiti that night.
had been to Haiti previously doing human rights work, that night was the first
time I was given the ok to get into the Caribbean water “free of floaters”
(here they don’t have to push raw sewage directly into the sea).
I jumped at
the chance, literally. Leaving my clothes in the boat we “borrowed” to get to
the village, I dove off the back of the dingy. The nearly midnight moon danced
on the cove’s gentle waves, washing the salt and sweat and grime of the day to
the bottom of the sea. Glorious, warm water…never had a swim felt so free. For
a few moments, the squalor of nearby Shada slum faded. It was just me and the moon.
sheepishly, I made my way up the village path to Norm’s Place. What would he think of me and my long wet
hair dripping all over his place?
couldn’t resist,” I offered.
my kind of girl,” he said, handing me a shot of rum and a tiny lémon (lime). We toasted.
Maco and Sasha found their way to their rooms while Norm and I chatted. He asked
about my medical bag and my picture based book, Where Women Have No Doctor.
As a sociologist I have no medical training, but, bit by bit, (or tipa tipa), I have evolved into a
deliverer of such supplies, I explained on our second shot of rum.
Norm’s wife escorted some villagers begging transport for a young relative into
the room. The girl kept her eyes
downcast, and except for her furtive hand resting on her belly, I would not
have known she was in labor. The village’s Cuban doctor was away and the
midwife felt she couldn’t handle this life-threatening delivery.
protective of her 80 year-old rum-sipping husband said, “No way.” But, Norm had
the only truck capable of managing the mountain road on the other side of the
cove and to get to the truck he’d first need to navigate his small boat through
the bay around a rocky point, all with a 15 year-old in intense labor...