Hi! I decided in this update that I would make a bullet point list of things that have been happening lately, to give you a quick glance at life here for the past couple months. Then I will include a more detailed story about one particular patient, for those who have the time and want to read on.
So, the quick summary:
-I’ve had company up here on the mountain for the past six months straight. Jessica Kellogg has been up here keeping me company, helping out in the lab and clinic, and being a great friend the entire time. I’ve also had many other friends and relatives come and visit over the last couple of months. It has totally spoiled me and now I’m dreading being alone again up here in the early part of next year.
-Another class of sixth graders graduated and moved on to high school in the bigger cities of Haiti. Gregory Vil was one of them, and so was Benitho Antoine.
-The formula fund is still doing well, and has had some graduates recently… little 15 month olds that no longer need the milk and are now thriving. Thank you to all who help make that possible for these kids!
-My sister-in-law Angie came to visit me and taught me some new obstetrical techniques (she is an OB doctor). It was amazing having her here and learning from her.
-The hospital fund helped four people this month. One was a little girl who was dying of dehydration. The other was an elderly man in acute heart failure. The third was a teenage boy at our school who fell from a coconut tree, injured his abdomen, and needed surgery. The fourth was a 3 year old boy with acute tetanus. Thank you so much to all of you who give these people the chance to receive the medical care that they would otherwise be denied.
-The recent tropical storm (Noel) wreaked havoc in southern Haiti, and destroyed the roads leading up to Seguin. Large trucks are not able to traverse the road and get to Seguin with needed supplies, so the people on the mountain are struggling to find food to eat and charcoal to cook the food on. The river also is wide and rocky and hard to cross now. Please pray that the roads are fixed quickly.
-The clinic continues to be busy, with almost 20,000 patients on file. Last Monday was a pretty typical Monday for us, so I think I’ll describe it briefly for you all, to give you a better idea of what we do day to day. We saw 71 patients, with Margarethe doing the vital signs, me doing the patient consultations and procedures, Jessica helping with procedures and running the lab, and Losamene and Nadine working in the pharmacy. Of the 71 patients that we saw, one of them was in preterm labor and gave birth to a tiny but healthy 4 pound little boy. One of them had pneumonia and needed IV antibiotics, one of them was having a severe asthma attack and needed a nebulizer treatment, two of them had advanced cancer. Another one had urinary retention from an enlarged prostate. Two toddlers were so dehydrated from diarrhea that they were near death. One little girl needed an abscess drained, and one 17 year old girl was diagnosed with pregnancy and HIV. That’s a pretty typical Monday for us.
And now, here’s a story for all of you who want to keep reading!
The story of Esther, Haiti style
In the month of September, I had two visitors with me here in Seguin: Jessica and Heather. Both are veterans to Haiti and have been here many times before (thankfully). One day in clinic, Heather was taking vital signs and told me that there was a child with the “death stare” waiting to be seen. I walked into the room, and saw Esther. She is an eight month old child on our formula program, because her mother died shortly after she was born. Her grandmother brings her in each month for more formula. For the past several months, Esther has not been doing well. She has been losing weight and not developing as she should. She only weighs seven pounds. Each month we counsel her grandmother on how to feed her, but we have suspected for awhile that she is not being fed appropriately, for some reason or another. On this particular day, Esther was nearly in a coma. She was staring into space but not looking at anything, and was not very responsive to us or her grandmother. We tried for a long time to put an IV in her, but she was too dehydrated and we couldn’t access a vein. So, I put the IV fluid under her skin, to give her some hydration that way, and we decided to take her to Jacmel for more care.
When we arrived in Jacmel, the hospital did not have a pediatrician on site, so they had to contact one who was working nearby. He was rather rude to me on the phone, and refused to come see Esther or admit her without being paid up front. So, we decided to take Esther with us to the orphanage that we were babysitting that weekend for friends who needed a break. We brought Esther and her grandmother to the orphanage, and our friends (Danny and Leann Pye) set up a crib for Esther in their living room. Then they left for a brief sanity vacation, and we watched Esther night and day for the next three days. The children at the orphanage watched over her as well with heart-breaking concern. At first Esther seemed to be doing better, taking fluids and medicines by mouth, and began to urinate. But by the second evening, she was failing once again. We washed her and put her in new clothes, kept the mosquitoes off her, and prayed. Her grandmother didn’t stop praying the entire weekend. Unfortunately, on the morning of our third day in Jacmel, Esther breathed her last little breath and went to be with her Creator. Her eight months of life had been an uphill battle, and she was finally at rest. Esther’s grandmother covered her with a blanket and we delivered them home to their area of the mountains. The grandmother’s sad little stifled sobs in the back of our truck on the way home broke our hearts. We knew she would be weeping loudly in the Haitian grief tradition if she wasn’t alone in a car with Americans. She walked sadly away, and we drove the rest of the way home. That night, Heather, Jessica and I were in a funk. We had just spent the entire weekend caring for a little baby who didn’t make it. Where was her chance in life? Why did God choose to take her so soon? Could we have done anything more for her? Those were the questions racing through our heads.
Then, just before supper time, a knock came on our door. It was a patient of mine with her two twin boys. The boys were born almost one year ago, here at the clinic. They were both in breech position, and both born not breathing. The second born needed CPR for five minutes after birth before he finally started breathing on his own. At the time, I was not convinced that he would live very long, or that he would have full mental capacity…. But his grandmother had faith that God would give them two healthy babies, and she was right. The boys and their mother showed up at my door that day, after Esther’s death, and their reason for coming was just “to spend time here”. They brought a ton of fresh fruit and veggies that we cooked into a stew and ate together. They stayed the night, playing and chatting with us. The boys are both developing at a perfectly normal rate, with no problems whatsoever. They are so healthy and full of life. It was great for Heather and Jess and I to sit on the floor, playing and laughing with them, and enjoying life after such a hard weekend. I truly believe God sent them to our door that night to remind us that He is ultimately in control of everything. I’m glad that Jesus conquered the grave and that one day death will be vanquished. But until then, I’ll cling to the knowledge that God is in control, even in the sad moments, and that He knows best.
Thank you for taking time to read Esther’s story. Please pray for her grandmother and extended family during their time of grief. Below is a picture of Wankil and Wanso, the two twin boys, and of Esther.