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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!

Parents in rural Haiti sacrifice a lot for their children.  We see it on a daily basis as they walk for miles with little children in their arms under the hot sun, in the rain and on muddy or rocky terrain.  One little 14 month old girl was brought to the clinic as an emergency one day. A plank had fallen on her right foot and her big toe was badly cut, leaving just a strand of tissue holding it in place.  We told her mother she needed to go to the hospital right away to have the toe amputated. We could tell she was extremely poor and we were afraid she wouldn’t take the child down the mountain for care. So, we gave her some money from our Poor Fund to get down there on a motorcycle and to pay for her initial care.  Well, the little girl had the surgery and her mother faithfully walked down the mountain to the hospital every couple of days for the next two weeks for dressings and wound care. One day we stopped her and told her she could follow up with us instead and didn’t need to make the trek down to the hospital in Jeremie. So, since then, she’s been coming in for dressings and the wound is nearly healed.  She’s a cute little girl, usually with a big smile on her face and we enjoy seeing her. She’s also in our malnutrition program, so we’re helping her mother get her healthy. Hopefully, soon she’ll start to walk!

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We’re back to beanies again and this little girl was so scared when she saw a beanie for the first time that she screamed.

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Then, the temptation to touch the beanie was too much for her and, in spite of her fear, she cautiously reached out and touched it.

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Finally, she and beanie became best friends.

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One of our most faithful patients is little 7 year old Nadege Jean Louis, who has sickle cell anemia.  She’s a quiet little girl who always seems to appreciate coming to the clinic, even when she is having pain or fever from her sickle cell disease.  On a recent visit, her mother told me that Nadege “converted herself”. She decided, on her own, to go to a local church and accept the Lord. She’s been going to their services every week since then and is in the choir.  I asked the mother if she goes with Nadege to church and she said, “Oh no, I go to my own church. She goes to church by herself.” Amazing little girl! Pray for her health, both physical and spiritual.

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When people in the US give us gifts for our patients, they often take months to be shipped down here in drums on a shipping container.  But, they eventually arrive and we like to let them know that the gifts are being used and appreciated. Last November, my home church, Kingston Presbyterian Church, had an intergenerational Sunday School and they made various crafts to be sent to children here in Haiti.  One of the craft projects was to make little bunnies out of white washcloths, decorated with eyes, whiskers and a tail. Here is one of our patients holding his little NJ bunny! 

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It’s a boy and look at the braids!

We’ve recently started a program for malnourished children through the Haitian Public Health Department.  Every child under five is weighed and measured to determine if they are normal, at risk of malnutrition or have definite malnutrition.  If they are malnourished, they are entered into a program where they are given “Plumpynut”, a peanut butter mixture, daily and they’re seen at the clinic every two weeks for three months.  We have about 12 children enrolled in the program right now, including these 8 month old twins – a boy and a girl. Here they are with their parents, who walk about an hour each way to bring them to clinic every two weeks.  They are grateful for the help in raising these precious little babies.

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