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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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We are blessed to have a lot of churches, children and adults who send us toys and beanie babies so we can give them to our pediatric patients.  In the US, most children love little beanies and stuffed animals and grab them tight when they’re given to them. In Haiti, though, most little girls are scared of the beanies and cry when they see them, because they’re not used to such things.  Here’s how one beanie episode played out:

You want me to touch this?

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No thanks, Doc.

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Well, on second thought, Mom, maybe you can put it in your purse to take home.

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Most of the boys accept beanies right away without fear, but when given a choice they usually prefer cars!  This little boy is quite happy with a beanie but he was already given a car on a previous visit. That’s probably why he’s smiling so much.

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In rural Haiti, it is traditional that parents do not cut a boy’s hair until he is walking and talking.  So, most boys under two years of age have long, braided hair that makes them look like girls! I always laugh about it, asking parents what connection there is between hair and feet?!  Of course, they have their beliefs and stick with them no matter what the doctor thinks. Here’s a cute little braided-hair boy who came to see us a few weeks ago:

Stay tuned for another fun post featuring more of our pediatric patients tomorrow!

In the midst of all the political upheaval in Port-au-Prince lately, life here in Jérémie has been relatively normal.  We are in the process of advancing our latrine building efforts to include the communities of Duchene (just down the mountain from the clinic) and Gatineau itself.  These are communities where we do not have volunteer Community Promoters.  But, before we build latrines, we always want to be sure that the community is educated with regard to basic principles of water, sanitation and hygiene.  So, we’ve conducted several training sessions in the communities to help them understand how water is contaminated, the importance of washing hands and treating water before drinking and the importance of using latrines.  Each community chose a committee that has the responsibility of deciding who should receive a latrine and then the committee helps supervise construction of the latrines, including the transportation of materials from the drop-off point to each house, etc.  We met with over 100 community members from Gatineau a few months ago and they chose a committee to supervise the latrine project.  They then chose the people they felt should receive latrines, according to criteria we set up.  Last week we met with the latrine recipients to give them further training regarding construction and maintenance of the latrines.  Here are some photos from our meeting:

IMG_2061A member of the Gatineau committee participates in a discussion regarding construction and maintenance of latrines.

IMG_7273Our promoters helped us teach the Gatineau community members about basic water and sanitation principles.

We met with all of our Promoters after the latrine meeting, to plan educational sessions for people living in the areas around some of the water springs we hope to cap.  We want to be sure they are agreeable with plans to cap the springs and are willing to take ownership of the project.  Capping the underground springs will provide clean sources of potable water to thousands of people.

IMG_7624.jpgMeeting with the Promoters regarding the capping of water sources. 

We’re excited about being able to expand our Water and Sanitation Program in this way, thanks to a grant from Rotary International.  We’re doing all the advance training that is necessary before the construction funds reach us.  We’re hoping to get the latrines built and springs capped during the summer dry season.  Pray with us for success!

As we’ve mentioned in Facebook posts, we were blessed to have pre-med student Natalie Anumolu with us for a month from Milwaukee.  In addition to helping with a lot of spreadsheets and data entry for our Community Development programs, she also was able to spend some time observing us in the clinic, in order to better understand medical missions in Haiti.

IMG_3501.jpgNatalie sits in Dr. Wolf’s exam room during a patient consultation.

One of the side benefits of her observation was a chance to see cute little patients like this:

IMG_7725.jpgA timid smile from a little girl when she receives a beanie baby.

We are blessed at Friends for Health in Haiti to have a number of wonderful partners who help us accomplish our ministry in Haiti.  One of our partners is Avera Health System in Sioux Falls, SD and they donate much-needed medical equipment to us for our clinic in Gatineau.  Another partner is Harvest Call, the mission arm of Apostolic Christian Church (ACC) in Bluffton, IN, who allow us to ship supplies and equipment on their containers coming down to Haiti.  Helping us coordinate all of these supplies and transportation are FHH Logistics Managers Ray and Donna Moon, who are based in Milwaukee.

We recently were notified that a container with equipment of ours arrived at the ACC warehouse in Cayes.  So, we made several trips with our driver in a big box truck to get the equipment, bring it to Jérémie and up to the clinic in Gatineau.  I want to share with you the complicated process!

Delicate clinic equipment is packed in plywood crates in the US in order to ship it down to us safely and without damage.  The crates on this shipment weighed between 1200 and 1800 pounds each and were put on the shipping container with the use of a fork lift.  In Cayes, they were put onto our truck also with use of a fork lift.  But, once they get to our clinic, the crates had to be taken apart on the truck and each piece of equipment removed and taken into the clinic by hand. In other words, the equipment was carried by several strong-bodied young Haitian men!

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The crate containing the portable xray machine being taken apart on the truck.

 

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The xray machine is maneuvered onto a plywood ramp where it is rolled down to the clinic sidewalk.

 

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All hands help to get the xray machine carefully from the ramp onto the concrete sidewalk.

 

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End result with xray machine safely in the clinic radiology room.  Hooray!

 

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A similar process was followed to get the ultrasound machine off the truck and into the clinic.

Likewise, three examination tables were taken off the truck and carried into the clinic.  Each table weighed over 500 pounds and boards needed to be placed under the base of the tables to allow them to be carried by several men on each side.

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Six men carry one of the examination tables into the clinic.

 

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Cherlie makes sure the table is positioned correctly and is in good working order.

 

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My consultation room received a beautiful new exam table, this one without torn upholstery as the last one had!

 

Third table

Before moving it off the truck, the table had to be connected to electricity to allow the head to be put flat so it could be carried into the clinic. 

Two of the tables are adjustable, so the gynecologists can adjust the height of the table according to the procedure they are doing.  Dr. Gil and Kathy English acquired them and sent them down to us, thanks to Avera Health System.

We’re grateful to all who were involved in getting this equipment to us and safely into the clinic.  As the Haitian saying goes, “many hands make light work”.

We had another wonderful visit from our Avera partners from South Dakota at the end of May and this visit was dedicated to the care of women. Dr. Gil English, an OB/gyn physician, came down for his fourth visit, along with his wife Kathy, who organizes all the Avera teams. Dr. Gil has been doing Pap smears for our female patients and then follows up with those who have abnormal results. He examines the cervix with a machine called a colposcope, to see if there is evidence of cancerous cells and sometimes does a LEEP procedure to remove cancerous cells if necessary. All of this technology is unheard of in a remote place like Gatineau. But, Avera has helped us bring advanced medical care to our patients and they are grateful. For us in the clinic, we are thrilled to be able to not only diagnose abnormal Pap smears but to also treat early disease that could lead to overt cervical cancer. It is a luxury and we appreciate it very much.

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Dr. Gil doing a patient consultation

 

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Kathy English helps out by doing a pregnancy test for one of Dr. Gil’s patients.

Dr. English was trained as a Family Physician before he specialized in Obstetrics and Gynecology. So, when he’s in Haiti, he’s often asked to see some of our medical patients. His FP training comes in handy when he’s diagnosing hypertension, diabetes and acid reflux! It’s a huge help to us for him to offer “full service medical care”.

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Dr. Gil examines a patient’s eyes as part of a complete physical examination

Other members of the Avera team included nurses Caitlin Powell, Kaitlyn Rooney, ultrasound technician Jodi Lienhard and radiology technician Rhonda Engebretson. Everyone pitched in to help where needed as Dr. Gil and I saw over 80 patients a day.

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Jodi does an ultrasound on an OB patient as Cherlie looks on.

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Rhonda helps out by providing new tennis shoes to one of our patients.

 

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Kaitlyn looks on as Cherlie interviews a patient.

While the team was with us, a young boy was brought to the clinic by his parents after falling out of a tree. He had a laceration on the left side of his forehead, but he also had an obvious deformity of the right side of the head that appeared to be a depressed skull fracture. We evaluated him quickly and decided that he should go down to the government hospital in Jérémie for xrays and a surgical evaluation.

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Dr. Wolf examines a young boy with a head injury and possible skull fracture

 

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Caitlin and Cherlie put a dressing on the boy’s laceration before sending him and his family to the hospital in Jérémie

We were pleased to be joined on Wednesday by the Avera “breast team” including Dr. Andrew Soye, Jo Ellen Deschamp and Jill Schultz. They spent the week in Jérémie doing breast exams, ultrasounds and biopsies for breast cancer screening and came to Gatineau on Wednesday to do the same for our rural patients. It was definitely a week for women as we offered both cervical cancer screening and breast cancer screening. We are very grateful to the Avera teams for offering these sophisticated services to our patients. Thank you Avera!

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Cherlie and Dr. Wolf pose with the “Avera breast team” (Cherlie, Jill, Rhonda, Dr. Soye, Jo Ellen and Dr. Wolf)

 

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