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Greetings from Jérémie.  As some of you know, Cherlie and I were supposed to be in the US right now, travelling to NY/NJ to visit with family and churches, Milwaukee for a board meeting, Louisville for a medical missions conference and back home before Thanksgiving.  Then, Hurricane Matthew came along and changed our lives forever and our plans immediately.  We decided to stay here in Haiti in order to keep our clinic open and to serve as a bit of hope in the midst of despair.

Cherlie and I re- opened the clinic on Monday, October 17th and our patients have been grateful to see us.  Many of them are coming for medication refills, some have fevers and some are recovering from injuries sustained during the hurricane.  All of them have lost their houses and many of their possessions.  But, most of them somehow held onto their clinic receipt so we can look up their clinic record!  Amazing with all the water around that their receipts are intact (many of them were kept in a plastic medication bag, so they were protected from the water).

Nurse Vetelie Charles does some patient teaching at the start of our first day back in clinic.

Nurse Vetelie Charles does some patient teaching at the start of our first day back in clinic.

 

As we go up and down the mountain, we see signs of re-building, albeit not always polished.  Some people have collected tin that came off of other roofs and have put it on their house.  Others have built both walls and roof out of tin scraps.  In fact, people frequently recount how many people with thatched roof houses now have tin roofs!  Others have repaired part of their roof with tin scraps and used a tarp to cover the rest.  And, others have used the bark of fallen coconut trees to construct a new, little house until they can repair their old one.

Tin scraps cover a house that lost its roof

Tin scraps cover a house that lost its roof

 

Trees are starting to get new leaves, corn stalks are standing up, banana trees have sprouted new growth and the hills are greening up.  No longer is there that “scorched earth” look to the hills and valleys.  The worst is over, better days are to come.

CATCHING UP

We always like to acknowledge our visitors and didn’t have time to write a blog about our last visitors before the hurricane.  I wrote and told them that they were the last ones to see Jérémie as it was, not as it is now!  In September we had a wonderful team from Avera in South Dakota spend a week with us.  The team consisted of team leader and nurse Kathy English, nurse practitioners Theresa Hansen and Greta Martin, respiratory therapist Sharon Haverty, ultrasound technicians Paige Paquette and Aimee Hardy, ER nurse Karen Heideman, ER tech and pre-med student Dylan Goehner and technician Nicholas Romereim.  They helped with patient consultations, brought us an oxygen concentrator and taught us how to use it, taught Cherlie and me to do ultrasounds, painted, sanded and packed lots of medications.  We appreciated their help and their service to us and to our patients.  Thanks Avera Team!

Cherlie helps visiting RN Karen start an IV on a dehydrated patient

Cherlie helps visiting RN Karen start an IV on a dehydrated patient

 

Sharon and Kathy stand beside the oxygen concentrator the team brought down in their luggage!

Sharon and Kathy stand beside the oxygen concentrator the team brought down in their luggage!

 

Nicholas (L) and Dylan (R) paint a door for the pharmacy building

Nicholas (L) and Dylan (R) paint a door for the pharmacy building

 

Nurse Practitioner Theresa in her consultation room

Nurse Practitioner Theresa in her consultation room

 

Cherlie with her ultrasound teachers Paige (L) and Aimee (R)

Cherlie with her ultrasound teachers Paige (L) and Aimee (R)

 

Nurse practitioner Greta Martin helping out with Pap smear exams

Nurse practitioner Greta Martin helping out with Pap smear exams

 

The whole Avera team outside the clinic

The whole Avera team outside the clinic

 

For many years, Avera has been providing funds to build houses for rural Haitians such as those who live near our clinic.  While the team was here, we took them to see the home of a woman who has helped us out with light yard work since we first started our clinic ten years ago.  Marie has raised three sons on her own and they live a short distance down the hill from the clinic.  While they were visiting in September, the team went to see Marie and her home:

Avera team going to visit Marie’s home in September

Avera team going to visit Marie’s home in September

Unfortunately, Marie’s house was one of the thousands that were destroyed by the recent hurricane.  We think Marie and her family need some of those rebuilding funds soon!

Marie stands in front of what’s left of her home after Hurricane Matthew

Marie stands in front of what’s left of her home after Hurricane Matthew

 

THE VALUE OF POSSESSIONS

A few months ago an elderly man came to the clinic for consultation.  When he came into my consultation room, he carefully placed his satchel on the floor beside his chair.  Then, he covered it with an object that caught my attention because I couldn’t, in a brief glance, figure out what it was.  I took a history from him, trying to concentrate when my attention was really on the “object”.  I didn’t want to stare at it and make him feel uncomfortable but I had to figure out what it was!  I found my chance as I got up to listen to his heart and lungs.  He dutifully took deep breaths in and out and I was able to look straight down onto the object of my curiosity and, thus, solve my puzzle.  Here, draped across his old fabric satchel was a threadbare worn out towel.  The fabric had become so thin from use that it was difficult to tell that one day it had been made of terrycloth.  My patient now obviously carried it to wipe his sweaty brow as he walked along the mountain paths from his home.

One’s natural inclination would be to replace the old towel with a brand new one, presented to the patient in a grand manner, as evidence of our wonderful generosity.  But, looking at the towel carefully draped over the satchel, I began to think.  “How many brows has that towel wiped,” I thought.  “How many tears have been shed into its worn fabric?  How many gallons of bathing water has it absorbed for its owner and how many visitors has it served in his small, simple rural house.

I didn’t say anything about the towel that day.  Some time, when the time is right, I’ll offer him a replacement.

The object of my curiosity

The object of my curiosity

 

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We were blessed recently to have a visit from a group of friends from Milwaukee that included Ray and Donna Moon, Bob Chase, Yvonne DuCharme, Lawrence DuCharme, Brittany DuCharme and Dr. Ron Schroeder. They served with us for two weeks and did they work hard! We had asked that they come down to build cabinets for our laboratory and pharmacy and they accomplished this in splendid fashion under the expert eye of Bob Chase and with the assistance of Lawrence DuCharme and the rest of the team. Even Dr. Ron was put to work helping out after seeing patients with Dr. Wolf in the clinic.

Master cabinetmaker Bob Chase (left) and Lawrence DuCharme directed the team

Master cabinetmaker Bob Chase (left) and Lawrence DuCharme directed the team

Brittany (Lawrence and Yvonne’s niece) and Donna staining the cabinets on the pharmacy sidewalk

Brittany (Lawrence and Yvonne’s niece) and Donna staining the cabinets on the pharmacy sidewalk

Beginning of the installation of cabinets in the laboratory

Beginning of the installation of cabinets in the laboratory

Lab cabinets installed

Lab cabinets installed

In addition to making and installing the cabinets in the laboratory and pharmacy, the team painted and organized the electrical and plumbing rooms.

The women did most of the painting of the electrical and plumbing rooms, cleaning and organizing them as well.

The women did most of the painting of the electrical and plumbing rooms, cleaning and organizing them as well.

They also emptied out drums of clinic and laboratory supplies and organized them in the clinic and laboratory storerooms.

Boxes of laboratory and clinic supplies organized in the laboratory storeroom

Boxes of laboratory and clinic supplies organized in the laboratory storeroom

This team was the first of our visiting groups to stay overnight in our new second floor residence quarters. Once the iron doors and windows were installed in the residence to secure the building, we felt that it was safe enough for our visitors to stay up there during the week. This enabled them to start work earlier, finish later and avoid the fatigue of the drive up and down the mountain each day. We had two full beds and several cots up there with extra mattresses, linens and towels, canned foods, juice, milk and other staples, dishes, silverware, pots and pans and kitchen utensils. The team fixed their own food each day and seemed to enjoy their independence and the cool mountain breezes! Cherlie and I went back to our house in Jérémie each day to re-stock our clinic meds and check on the house and our dogs!

Dining room and kitchen of the residence

Dining room and kitchen of the residence

Donna, Ray, Bob, Brittany and Lawrence enjoying lunch up at the residence

Donna, Ray, Bob, Brittany and Lawrence enjoying lunch up at the residence

Engineers Lawrence and Brittany rigged up frames over their cots for mosquito nets.

Engineers Lawrence and Brittany rigged up frames over their cots for mosquito nets.

In addition to all of their other work, Bob decided that they should construct bunk beds for the residence bedrooms. So, after working several days on the design, the group set to work cutting and varnishing the pieces, after which they installed 4 bunk bed sets. Of course, they made sure they slept in them before they left the site!

All the plywood bunk bed parts lined up and ready to be installed

All the plywood bunk bed parts lined up and ready to be installed

It took a team to install the beds (Ray, Ron and Yvonne)

It took a team to install the beds (Ray, Ron and Yvonne)

Bunkbeds after installation in the bedrooms of the residence

Bunkbeds after installation in the bedrooms of the residence

While the construction team was working hard, Dr. Ron Schroeder was helping us see patients in our clinic. As a gynecologist, he offered specialty services to our patients that were very much appreciated and he performed almost 90 Pap smears during the two weeks he was here. He was a huge help to us and to our patients.

Dr. Ron consulting with a patient in our clinic

Dr. Ron consulting with a patient in our clinic

During the time the team was here, there were two situations that clearly showed us that people were praying for them in their service with us here in Haiti.

The first situation occurred late one afternoon after Cherlie and I had left to go back to Jérémie. As Ray was finishing work in the work shop, he accidentally cut his arm on the miter saw. Fortunately, the whole team mobilized and found instruments, suture material, gauze and gloves for Dr. Ron to use to suture the laceration. Ray was a good patient and was quickly patched up and ready to work again the next day!

Dr. Ron putting sutures in Ray’s arm laceration outside the clinic. Natural light is a wonderful thing!

Dr. Ron putting sutures in Ray’s arm laceration outside the clinic. Natural light is a wonderful thing!

Ray and Donna Moon, team organizers, take a little break from their work

Ray and Donna Moon, team organizers, take a little break from their work

The second situation that showed us God’s wonderful grace happened on Friday, January 29th, when the group was returning to Port au Prince (PAP) to fly out the following day to the US. During that week, there had been a lot of violence in PAP and the rural areas as a result of the cancelled Presidential runoff elections on January 24th. We were apprehensive about the political instability and considered several options in trying to get our visitors to PAP safely and on to their families in the US. We decided that we would have them go to PAP in our large jeep with Miller, our driver and Cherlie to accompany them in case of any demonstrations or problems on the road. They left Jérémie at 3am and were making wonderful progress when, an hour outside of PAP, a vehicle pulled out suddenly in front of the jeep and the vehicles collided in a noisy crash. Due to the grace of God, no one was seriously injured in either vehicle, although our jeep sustained major damage to the front end. If it wasn’t for a large iron bumper that we had installed when we first purchased the jeep, the damage and injuries could have been more significant. We are dismayed by the damaged jeep but praise the Lord for his protection of the passengers and driver. They were picked up by the guesthouse driver and made it back to the US without further problems and Cherlie came back to Jérémie on a bus. The jeep will stay in PAP until it gets repaired.

POLITICAL INSTABILITY

We appreciate your prayers for the political situation here in Haiti which is very unstable at this time. President Martelly is due to step down from power on February 7th and there is no duly elected president to take over from him. There is talk about a transitional government being set up but this has not yet been done. Every day there have been demonstrations in PAP and sometimes they have spread into the rural towns outside the capital. We have had to cancel visitors for February due to the instability and hope that the situation calms down so we can continue on with our normal activities and trips back and forth to Port au Prince in the near future.

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