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As most of you who have been following us very long know, life here in Haiti can be difficult and challenging on a regular basis.  Just over the past few days there has been unrest again in Port-au-Prince, making travel difficult and creating uncertainty regarding whether or not to have visitors come to work with us.  Right now, we have a group of 7 waiting in Port-au-Prince at a hotel, unable to get out to Jérémie.  The predictions that this unrest would be short-lived are proving themselves to be quite wrong, unfortunately.  We appreciate your continued prayers for them.

In our daily lives, we often have difficulties as well, mostly related to ADLs, or activities of daily living.  There are things that we take for granted in the United States such as 24/7 electricity, running, drinkable water and flushing toilets.  In Haiti those things are a luxury.  How well do we now know it!

For the past three months, Cherlie and I have not had running water at our house in Jérémie.  This is because the transportation department has torn up the water pipes along the sides of the road outside our house in order to build drainage ditches and pave the road.  It’s a huge government project that just started recently.

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Part of a PVC pip lying on the road after being dug up by construction equipment.

Road construction3Drainage ditch being built along one side of the road going into town. 

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Drainage ditches on both sides of the road. 

So, why do we not have water and how does the water system work around here?

Well, our house is situated on the main road leading from the town of Jérémie to the airport. Along the road, buried not very deeply, are pipes that bring water from a huge reservoir several miles from us, into town.  These pipes supply the numerous public fountains along the road, where people can get water on a near-constant basis without paying for it (it usually runs all the time during the day).

Other people, like us, pay a monthly fee to the government and we have a pipe that comes in off the road onto our property.  Even so, we have never received water all the time, so we have plastic storage tanks, 200 gallon and 400 gallon, on our roof to conserve water.  Normally, when the water is turned on for us, coming in from the road, there is enough pressure in the pipes to push it all the way up onto the roof and into the storage tanks.  When the tanks are full, the water turns off and goes instead into a large cistern under Cherlie’s closet.  This is basically a big room built into the lower floor of the house and conserves water for the times when we don’t get it coming in through the pipes. We have a water pump in the cistern so we can pump water from the cistern up to the roof if needed.  Water then feeds by gravity from the roof tanks down into the bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchen for our daily use.  When it’s just the two of us here, the roof tanks can last for 2 – 3 weeks with conservative water use.  And, by pumping water from the cistern to the roof, our water supply can last for a couple of months (as long as we don’t do laundry with it).

Well, the cistern is now empty.  So, for the past month or two, we have been bringing buckets and 5 gallon jugs of water from the clinic (where we have a very good well and plenty of water) down for our use at home.  We’re bathing from water in buckets (which is definitely a technique to be mastered!) and using buckets of water to flush the toilets.  Needless to say, our upper body strength is being improved with all the buckets we carry to our bathrooms every day!

They say that necessity is the mother of invention and, in our case, that’s proving to be true.  The other day I went down to the government water office and asked them how long we would be without water.  “Oh, it’s going to be a long time,” the guy in the office said. “It’s not just a matter of repairing the pipes, all new pipes need to be laid,” he explained.  Of course, the problem was not their fault, it was the fault of the transportation department (all part of the same government but so what?). So, we realized that we’re in this for the long haul and if we want to have water for our visitors and if we want to take showers again instead of bucket baths, we need to do something about it.

Let me digress by saying that we did try to do something about our water situation two years ago because we were suffering from vandalism of our pipes.  We had another mission organization come dig a well in our yard but lost our $5000 investment when they struck salty water!

But, our present situation is a real dilemma that won’t be resolved soon.  So, we decided to set up a rainwater collection system using drainage pipes that come off our roof and connecting them to the cistern under Cherlie’s closet.  Once there’s rain water in the cistern, we can pump it up to the roof and have running water again!

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PVC pipe coming from the roof and going into the cistern to collect rain water.

Of course, with our new system, we need rain.  So, let the rain dances begin!

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We’ve written a lot of blogs about medical teams that come to visit us from Avera Health System in Sioux Falls, SD, but that’s because they send a team to visit us three times each year! Last week, we had a visit from an Avera team of twelve and it was another wonderful week of hard work, enthusiasm, expertise, fun and fellowship.  The leader of the team, as always, was nurse Kathy English and she did another superb job of organizing the logistics.  She had everyone prepared for his/her tasks, giving the seven nurses on the team assignments to follow throughout the course of each day.  It made things run very smoothly, helping us not only in the clinic but also in the pharmacy and lab as well.

The team consisted of Dr. Gil English, Dr. Scott Peterson, farmer Jamie Voneye, ultrasound technician Joan Eischen, rancher/handyman Jerome Malsom and his wife, nurse Gerri. Other nurses included Stephanie Brandt, Allison Pederson, Sara Romeo, Ashley Walter and Shauni Dietrich.

 

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Dr. Gil English had a very productive week as he did Pap smears on new patients and provided follow up for previous patients with abnormal results.  It is such a blessing to us to have his expertise available to our patients.  Rather than just diagnose possible cervical cancer, Dr. English is able to provide definitive treatment to remove abnormal areas and he’s truly saving lives.

 

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Dr. Wolf consults with Dr. English regarding one of her patients

 

Family physician Dr. Scott Peterson was with us again, one of multiple visits for him.  Scott saw patients of all ages, did Pap smears and helped Dr. Wolf do some gastroscopy exams as well.

 

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Dr. Scott looks on as Dr. Wolf performs a gastroscopy.

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Dr. Scott examines a patient in the clinic.

 

The clinic was crowded all week because people knew we had visitors to help us out.  Many women came because they wanted to get a Pap smear. In the four days the Avera team was here we saw 398 patients, close to one hundred each day!

 

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The front porch of the clinic was overflowing each day and there were 50-60 more on the benches each afternoon, preparing to spend the night in order to be seen the following day.

 

We felt especially blessed to have Joan with us, since she was a radiology technician before she became an ultrasound technician.  She did both ultrasounds and x-rays for our patients and we made many very important diagnoses thanks to her expertise.  In addition, she organized the x-ray room, setting up shelves to hold important supplies and arranging the equipment in a way that will be easy for us to use.

 

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Joan does an ultrasound on one of our little patients.

 

The nurses were fantastic, helping to start IV’s and sedate patients for gastroscopies, doing vital signs, assisting the physicians, doing rapid lab tests and helping out in the pharmacy.

 

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Stephanie takes vital signs on a patient.

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Nurses Ally, Sara, and Kathy help Cherlie and pharmacy tech Marie Vierge in the pharmacy.

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Shauni feeds a malnourished, hungry infant.

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Kathy helps out by writing receipts in the pharmacy.

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Geri and Stephanie do some dental hygiene teaching for patients waiting to be seen in the clinic.

 

Jerome kept busy most of the week driving the skid steer (he was the one who found it and arranged for its purchase in the US).  He cut down the ridge along the side of the road leading up to the clinic to prepare it for building a retaining wall along the edge of our property.

 

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Jerome hauls rocks from the side of the road with the skid steer as Viel helps.

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Side of the road leading up to the clinic, trimmed back by Jerome with the backhoe.

 

South Dakota farmer Jamie came down with the team to determine the potential for some future agricultural programs. We were thrilled to have Jamie with us and he helped out in many ways throughout the week.  Jamie helped Jerome with the skid steer, organized the tools in the workshop, helped fix some equipment and even helped to count meds in the pharmacy!  Jamie also planted a couple of “experimental” gardens at the clinic…“experimental” meaning they may or may or may not grow!

 

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Jamie shows Gemi and Cherlie his new garden!

 

Jamie also went out with some of the nurses to two communities to help with health teaching and blood pressure checks.  Along the way, he learned about Haitian farming from Gemi and the translator and visited with farmers.

 

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The hike to Charlotte involved climbing a steep mountain but the team was up for the challenge!

 

The community of Charlette welcomed the team warmly, even providing them with breakfast of fresh eggs and milk.  Their local church doubles as the school. The team did some health teaching for children and adults, after which they checked blood pressures, referring those with high readings to the clinic for follow up.

 

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Members of Charlotte participate in a hypertension teaching session.

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Avera nurses check blood pressures for people in Charlette.

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Ashley makes a new friend!

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Ally gets a warm embrace!

 

Jamie had so much fun playing with the children in the schools where the health teaching was being done that a mother put her infant daughter in his arms!  Jamie and his wife have 5 boys so holding a little girl made him all smiles.

 

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Jamie is loving holding this little girl!

 

Cherlie went with another group of nurses and Dr. Scott to the village of Labastille to do some health teaching and check blood pressures.

 

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Sara and Cherlie and the team on their way to Labastille.

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Health teaching in Labastille school.

 

One of the highlights of this visit was receiving a gift that was made by some friends of Jerome and Gerri Malsom – a hand-made quilt of the US and Canada with each state identified so that future visitors can pin a button on their home location.  Over the years, we will be able to get an idea of how far our visitors are traveling to come work with us.

 

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Jerome, Dr. Wolf, and Gerri hold up the handmade quilt that was brought down as a gift to us. It is now hanging on a wall in the clinic residence.

 

Much thanks to the Avera team and their generous friends and supporters!  It was a wonderful week for the clinic, our staff and especially our patients.  Blessings to you!

Twas the day before Christmas and the good doctor and nurse played Santa on their way down the mountain after clinic.  Last year, we had some wonderful visitors here in December who made up gift bags of clothing and toys that we distributed to about 100 children who lived in homes along the road we take back and forth to clinic.  Well, this year we didn’t have Santa’s elves to help us out, so Cherlieand I were left to our own devices, short on time and lacking in creativity.  There were some large stuffed animals that had been sent down to us by some generous partners, sitting in bags in our clinic conference room.  They actually were a little irritating to me because they were big and took up a lot of room and we couldn’t really give them out to our clinic patients without causing some jealousy (we usually give out small beanies or small toy cars to our young patients, not big animals like these).  So, for months the animals have been waiting patiently for a chance to bless someone’s little life.

Well, that chance came today when I received a visit from one of my favorite little 7-year old boys.  He’s been coming to the clinic since he was an infant and waves to us on his way to school every day.  I was smitten with him years ago.  Today he came in with his mother for a consultation and I realized I had to come up with a wonderful Christmas gift for him since it was the day before Christmas!  What a dilemma!  I couldn’t just run out to the local Walmart, so I visited the conference room instead.  There, I saw the stuffed animals, sitting in plastic bags, bursting with pride at the thought of going home with one of my favorite boys!  And, go home they did, six of them actually, one for each of the children in the home.  

Emmanuel holding his new stuffed animal

 Well, now that the idea was in my head, all the children who came to clinic today received a large stuffed animal.  

Another young patient with her new stuffed friend.

At the end of the day, we filled the car with the rest of the stuffed animals and gave them out to our other little friends along the road down from the clinic.  They were thrilled with the gifts and I was glad to have the opportunity of giving them away for a good cause. 

Cousins from three families are all smiles!

Another little friend of ours with a stuffed animal almost as tall as she is!

 So, the moral of our story today is twofold:  what may be an irritation to us can turn into a wonderful blessing and eventually everything that comes to us to be given away is done so, in the right context and through the right relationships.  Thanks to our partners for making gifts possible.  

 Cherlie and I and our staff wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!!!

Last April, at our annual fundraising banquet in Milwaukee, we announced the start of a new Goat Program. The program is designed to help rural families generate income to support themselves and their children.  The response to our request for funding was overwhelming!  Everyone wanted to buy a goat or two or three!  As a result, we quickly began making plans to initiate the program in four communities near our outpatient clinic in Gatineau.  The communities we chose were Duchene, Gatineau, Nouvelette and Fraise, the latter two being communities where we have our Community Promoters and Water and Sanitation program.  All four are communities in which we’ve built latrines. Each of the four communities is well-organized and has leadership within, making them ideal places to begin this new and exciting Goat Program!

The first step was to have the communities set up a committee that will provide oversight of the program.  The committees then chose two people to take responsibility as supervisors of the program, keeping all of the statistics and managing the day-to-day operations of the program.  The supervisors will report to Gemi and Viel, our Community Coordinators, and then to Cherlie and me.  Each of the four committees chose 25 families to receive two female goats each. They also chose two other families to care for the two bucks that will be used for breeding.

In August, in collaboration with our partners from Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church in Columbia, South Carolina, we held training sessions for the goat recipient families in each of the communities.  We taught them about caring for the goats and trained them on Biblically-based business principles.  After this, the families began to get ready to receive the goats, building pens and shelters for the two bucks that will be used for breeding, and preparing their yards to receive the female goats.

When Cherlie and I got back from our trip to the U.S. in November, we met with Gemi and Viel to plan our goat purchasing strategy.  A couple of weeks ago, we put that strategy into operation!  Each day of the week, a different community in the area holds a market where agricultural products and animals, such as sheep, goats and pigs, are sold.  Gemi and Viel went with our veterinary technician, Bruni Chevalier, and supervisors from one of the four communities to a different market each day of the week, purchasing goats for their specific community that day.  On Tuesdays, there is a market in Leon and Nouvelette is the community that is closest to Leon.  So, the “team” went from Nouvelette to Leon to purchase female goats for families in Leon.

Leading the goatsTeam members lead goats home from the market in Leon to Nouvelette

The goats were led home by the team members, who had to walk up and down the mountain paths and sometimes cross streams and creeks.  Some of the goats didn’t seem too excited about jumping across the water!

Cross whatYou want me to cross what?  To go where?

Wednesday is market day in Marfranc, which is closest to Fraise, so on Wednesday a team went from Fraise to the market in Marfranc. Marfranc is a large market and the team was able to purchase about 25 goats in one day!

Marfran herdGoats all standing around in Marfranc market

Marfran1Beautiful female goats!

The purchase of each goat has to be registered by an official who sits in the market area. Each goat is given a registration number and paperwork to prove ownership.  This paperwork allows the new owner to bring the goat to his/her own community.  Theft of animals is common here, so the paperwork is necessary to prove that the new owner legally purchased the animal.

registrationThe registration official at the Marfranc market registers all the goats.

Once the goats are purchased, they are placed with their new owners who begin to care for them.  Thus far, almost 70 goats have been purchased by Gemi and his team.  Medications for worms and parasites were purchased also and are being given to the new goats by Bruni, our veterinary technician.  We want the females to be in top shape when breeding begins early next year.

MedsMedications that were purchased for the newly acquired goats.

We want to thank all of our donors and supporters for this wonderful start to our new Goat Program! We especially thank Wade McGuinn and our partners from Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church as well as Dr. Nancy Willerton from Denver, Colorado, for their expertise and assistance with this program.  If you haven’t already, you can still buy a goat or two or three!  Each female costs about $50 and the breeding males cost $200.  Pray with us for continued success in the program.

Cherlie and I have been in the U.S. for the past couple of weeks.  At the end of October, we were privileged to be a part of a Haiti Appreciation Luncheon at my home church, Kingston Presbyterian Church (KPC) in NJ.  We had a great time catching up with lots of friends and church members from KPC as well as other churches in the area. We are so grateful for their faithful support of our ministry in Haiti.  Presbyterian Women from the New Brunswick Presbytery provided us with a wonderful lunch, replete with homemade desserts! Thanks to Helen Burd, who rallied the Presbyterian Women troops, and Pastor Sharyl Dixon who coordinated all the Kingston Presbyterian Church faithful.

Luncheon collageLuncheon attendees enjoying the food and fellowship as well as an update from Dr. Wolf!

CraftsOne of the highlights of the luncheon was the sale of Haitian crafts, just in time for the holidays

Some of the crafts that were sold at the luncheon were handmade items sewn and embroidered by students and graduates of Centre Lumiere, a vocational school in Cayes, Haiti, run by missionaries who we used to work with.  Their aprons, purses, accessory bags, microwave pads, tea towels and pot holders were beautiful and almost sold out. Centre Lumiere items will soon be available for sale on the Friends for Health in Haiti website. Stay tuned!

ApronsHandmade mother/daughter aprons and other items made by students and graduates of Centre Lumiere in Cayes, Haiti

The day after the luncheon, I attended church at Kingston Presbyterian Church, my home church.  In Sunday School, they asked me to speak to the youth about my early years growing up in the church and the influence it had on my decision to be a missionary.  After that, everyone joined together in organizing a craft project to be used by our patients as they wait for their turn to be seen in clinic. It was intergenerational Sunday and young and old joined together to count plastic beads and cut plastic cord to put in a bag to be used to make a lovely necklace.  When we get back to Haiti, we’ll distribute the materials to patients who are staying overnight on the clinic porch and will see what creations they show us in the morning!

Bead makingYoung and old(er) making up plastic bags with beads and cords for necklaces.

Two of the VIPs in Sunday School that day were my sisters, Laura Bedient, who is also a member at the church and Janice McMullin, who came up from her home in Virginia for the occasion.

sistersDr. Wolf’s sisters Laura Bedient and Janice McMullin in Sunday School

After our wonderful time in NJ, Cherlie and I then flew out to Milwaukee.  There we had a productive FHH board meeting, shared a meal with our logistics coordinators Ray and Donna Moon, met with prayer partners at Eastbrook Church and took care of doctor and dentist appointments.  We spent a wonderful morning in our new FHH office with Development Director Natasha Irish and Administrative Assistant Susan Baumgartner. Although lacking office furniture, the office is warm and welcoming and the productivity of Natasha and Susan is quite amazing!  We’re thrilled to have them both on board.

Last Wednesday, seven of us took a road trip to Louisville, KY to attend the annual Global Health Conference co-sponsored by Christian Medical and Dental Association.  One of the reasons we went to the conference this year was to promote the fifth edition of a book I co-authored, which now has a new title “Handbook of Medicine – a manual for practitioners in low-resource settings”.  Our team consisted of Cherlie and me, logistics coordinators Ray and Donna Moon, Yvonne Ducharme, Jeanette Schweitzer and Development Director Natasha Irish.

IMG_5620The new fifth edition of a book co-authored by Dr. Wolf.

On our way, Ray and Donna drove a rental truck to Bluffton, IN, filled with drums of medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, toys and clothing for our patients in Haiti.  We dropped off the items at the warehouse of Harvest Call, the mission branch of Apostolic Christian Church, who allow us to ship things on their containers to Haiti.  Then, we continued on our way to the missions conference.

Unloading the truck was a team effort! 

While I was at the Christian Medical and Dental Association booth discussing the new book, the rest of the team was networking with other organizations, attending the seminars and making friends with medical personnel who might some day be able to help us out in Haiti.  Thank you, team, for all your hard work during the weekend! If you want a copy of the book, go to the CMDA website (http://www.cmda.org).  

 

Not everyone who visited the clinic with the Avera team provided medical care. One of our volunteers fulfilled a very important role during his time at the clinic: handyman! Dan Irvine was gracious enough to strap on his tool belt and tackle some of the projects on Dr. Wolf’s to-do list. Most of his tasks involved hanging or assembling. Dan hung clocks, otoscopes, and hand sanitizer dispensers on the clinic walls. He hung ceiling fans throughout the clinic buildings. He assembled a television cart and mounted a TV to be used for educational videos. Dan even spruced up Dr. Wolf’s and Cherlie’s home with some new handmade curtains sent all the way from South Dakota.

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The highlight of Dan’s week was putting our new skid steer to use! Dan hauled some rocks leftover from construction on the road outside of the clinic to the creek underneath the bridge. Dan also used the skid steer to help spread some dirt outside of the residence building for planting. Miller gave him a hand, delivering loads of dirt in the dump truck. The kids waiting at the clinic enjoyed watching the action!

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We are lucky to have a pharmacy at our clinic from which our patients can receive their medications from.

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We purchase a lot of our medications directly in Haiti; however, some vitamins and other medicines cannot be found there or are temporarily unavailable. When visiting teams come to Haiti, they bring a supply of what we need. The Avera team came with a fresh supply of vitamins and other valuable medications for our pharmacy.

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One of our volunteers, Sharon (a respiratory therapist with Avera), made the pharmacy her project for the week. In addition to counting and restocking meds, she took on the task of organizing and labeling all of the medication shelves in the store room. Together, Sharon and Bevin (one of the Avera nurses) sorted all of the medications alphabetically and re-labeled the shelves, making it easier to find medication in an efficient and timely manner.

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Sharon and Bevin sorting medications.

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We are thankful for all of the volunteers who visit our clinic and enthusiastically tackle any project we throw their way. Thanks for helping make our pharmacy run a little smoother, Sharon and Bevin!

Our week at the clinic was filled with some amazing firsts! This included the first ultrasounds and x-rays to be conducted with the equipment that Avera Health graciously donated a few months ago.

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Susan spent a few hours getting the equipment all hooked up and ready for use!

Susan Calmus, with the Avera McKennan School of Radiologic Technology, taught Cherlie how to use the new equipment. It didn’t take long before Cherlie was performing x-rays on her own.

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Sue teaching Cherlie how to use the x-ray equipment.

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Getting a patient set up for an x-ray.

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Cherlie takes her first x-ray!

One patient seen for x-ray was seven year old Gina who has a congenital cardiac lesion. Gina did great following Cherlie and Sue’s instructions. She thought it was pretty neat to see her own x-ray picture on the screen!

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Cherlie gives Gina instructions in preparation for her x-ray.

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It’s a team effort, with Sue stepping in to help during the x-ray.

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Dr. English was also able to ultrasounds on a few of the pregnant patients he saw. He was able to tell this 23-week pregnant woman that her baby looked healthy AND that she was expecting a baby girl!

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Dr. English, Sue, and Kristi conduct the first ultrasound with the new equipment.

Prior to the addition of this new equipment, several years ago, generous donors gave us funds to purchase a handheld Vscan ultrasound machine that allows for quick ultrasounds within the consultation room.  It has been invaluable for rapid abdominal and obstetrical assessments.

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There aren’t many rural clinics in Haiti with the capacity to perform x-rays and ultrasounds. We are lucky to have this equipment at our fingertips! Thank you, donors!

While our clinic is focused on curative care, we also have a prevention program that allows us to reach the communities around Gatineau Health Center. Through our Water and Sanitation program we have been able to educate 24 Community Promoters to work in 12 communities. Since 2013, our Community Promoters have assisted community members in building more than 200 ventilated pit latrines for families living in these 12 communities. Our prevention program only continues to grow!

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The view of Gatineau Health Center (top center) during our walk back from Chonel.

While the Avera team was visiting Haiti, we were able to visit two remote communities by foot to do some education regarding hypertension. Each team was led by two of our Community Coordinators, Gemi and Viel, and a translator. Our first team visited the village of Chonel.

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FHH Development Director Natasha with our two Community Coordinators, Gemi and Viel.

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Avera team members Kari, Kristy, and Chelsea with our translator, Reggie.

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An old Hatian home outside of the church in Chonel.

We were greeted by a church full of people, eager to participate in a discussion regarding hypertension. The Avera team facilitated an educational activity using straws to show the force of blood flow from the arteries in our heart to other parts of the body. They had patients manipulate the straws as they completed a series of drawings regarding what happens when a patient has high blood pressure.

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After they completed their teaching, the team began conducting blood pressure checks. The Avera team was able to make several referrals for patients that needed to be seen by Dr. Wolf due to a high blood pressure reading. One referral was made for a young woman who had recently given birth and had a very high blood pressure reading. After explaining to her that she was at high risk for having a stroke, the woman walked to the clinic to be seen by Dr. Wolf and the Avera physicians.

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The first group’s visit ended with a time of fellowship and heart-shaped balloons before starting the hike back to the clinic.

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Our second Avera team went out with the Community Coordinators and translator later in the week to the community of Campagne. This village was a little harder to get to than the first.  The hike through the difficult terrain gave all of us a greater appreciation for what patients go through to access medical care.

Similar to the first team, the second group also educated a church full of people on hypertension. There was much discussion with this group regarding the causes of high blood pressure. The people were eager to learn and participate!

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Blood pressure checks were conducted by Dr. Becky and nurses Tracy and Bevin. Even our Community Coordinators, the pastor of the church, and our translators had their blood pressures checked. Like the previous group, referrals to see Dr. Wolf at the clinic were written and many patients indicated that they needed to visit the clinic for a refill on their blood pressure medications.

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We ended our visit with the people of Campagne with fellowship, laughter, and heart-shaped balloons as a reminder of what they’d learned that day.

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Visiting these two communities was a privilege. Our teams were warmly welcomed and it was wonderful hearing how much the people appreciated the Gatineau Health Center!

Our days started early in Haiti! We were up before the sun to the sounds of the roosters. After a quick breakfast and a cup of coffee we were out the door. The hour drive from Jeremie up the mountain the clinic site was one of the favorite parts of my day. The luscious, green rolling hills and the architecture in Jeremie were beautiful. 

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As we drove up the mountain, people waved and called out “Bonjou, Doctor!” as our white truck rolled by. Kids in brightly-colored school uniforms smiled as they walked both up and down the mountain to their schools. When we finally reached the clinic site and crossed over the bridge, we were always greeted by benches full of waiting patients. Patients begin coming to the clinic the prior day, often spending the night sleeping on the wooden benches.

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Each day at Centre de Sante de Gatineau (Gatineau Health Center) starts with prayer and song. Our registration clerk/chaplain, Adrien, welcomes all of the patients and gives a brief introduction to how the clinic operates. Cherlie and Dr. Wolf come out to greet patients next and go over some clinic guidelines. Our Avera team was also introduced at the start of clinic each day.

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Dr. Wolf introduces some of our Avera volunteers (from left to right): Dr. Gilbert English, Kathy English, Nurse Practitioner Chelsea Western, and Dr. Rebecca Vande Kop.

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Dr. Wolf introduces the rest of the Avera team (from left to right): Tracy, Kristi, Kari, Bevin, Dan, and Sharon.

Numbers are handed out to each patient waiting on the benches for a consultation. On average, forty numbers are given out each day. More than twice that number were seen with the additional Avera providers during our visit.  Patients returning for a follow-up with Dr. Wolf are placed directly in the rendezvous waiting area.

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Each morning, before patients were called back for consultations, the Avera team led a brief dental education session. They explained proper oral hygiene and demonstrated brushing techniques. Each patient also received a new toothbrush.

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Clinic operations begin for the day! Charts are pulled and patients begin lining up at the window to pay. Patients pay a small consultation fee to be seen at the clinic. 

When a patient’s number is called, they see one of the nurses first. Their vitals are taken and a basic assessment is completed.

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After they see one of the nurses, patients wait to be seen by Dr. Wolf. With our Avera team at the clinic, patients were also seen by three other providers: Dr. English, Dr. Becky, and Nurse Practitioner Chelsea. Having extra hands allowed us to see between 85 to 100 patients each day!

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Dr. Wolf exams one of the patients in our malnutrition program.

After patients are finished with their consultation or follow-up, they move to the bench outside of the pharmacy. Patients go into the pharmacy individually to pay for and receive their medications, along with instructions for how to take them.

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Most of the day at the clinic is spent patiently waiting. The benches and yard always seem full of people waiting. Some nap in the shade while others visit the little food stand on the road outside of the clinic. Most spend time in conversation with one another.  Some patients spend a full day waiting for a spot on the bench just to be seen the next day. Their desire to receive quality medical care does not go unnoticed.

As clinic begins to wrap up for the day, people take their places to be seen for the next day. Adrien gives instructions to those waiting before the clinic is closed up for the day. Each day we left to already-full benches for the next day of clinic. On our very last day, our group paused for a picture on the clinic grounds. This was the only day we left to empty clinic benches since patients were not being seen at the clinic on Friday. It was a bittersweet end to an amazing week at Centre de Sante de Gatineau.

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The Centre de Sante de Gatineau staff with our Avera team of volunteers: Dr. Gilbert English, Kathy English, Susan Calmus, Kristi Vos, Kari Wynia, Tracy Barton-Opdahl, Bevin Clapper, Dr. Rebecca Vande Kop, Chelsea Westerman, Sharon Haverty, and Dan Irvine.

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I mean it when I describe our time at the clinic as inspiring. When you think about medical care in a rural mountain area of Haiti, you probably don’t picture a facility as expansive as what we have at Gatineau Health Center. Not only do we have a safe, clean, comprehensive medical facility to provide quality patient care in – we have a dedicated, compassionate staff. It is the people, both staff and patients, that make Centre de Sante de Gatineau an inspiring place. God has certainly blessed our ministry in Haiti beyond measure!

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