Google+ WTN Haiti Partnership: November 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I slept wonderfully last night, which is saying something in Haiti. The temperature is a cool 70 degrees at night, with a lovely breeze. Even the constant barking dogs did not keep me awake. How wonderful to escape the world of alarm clocks and cell phones.....ummmm....what is that ringing sound!!! Everyone in my room (there are six women in one room) awakened at 5 AM to the sound of a cell phone ringing.... two of us stumbled out of bed, trying to find the ringing phone in the pitch dark. It sounded like it was coming from under the bed next to mine. Jennifer helpfully found a flashlight while I was staring at the bed where the sound was coming from. Except that the person in the bed next to mine is deaf. Why would she have a cell phone alarm ringing at 5 AM? After what seemed like 5 minutes, the ringing stopped. I climbed back into bed, blissfully covering my face with the sheet, and RING. ..... there it goes again. Now it was funny. Hope started giggling, and now I was fully awake. About every 5 minutes after that, the phone would ring briefly.
Eventually we figured out the phone was in the room NEXT to ours, so the ringing was coming from just on the other side of the wall at the head of my bed. The owner of the cell phone was, shall we say, "sufficiently disciplined".
After breakfast, we were picked up by Pere Sadoni to go to the school and set up the clinic. How grand to drive throught the gates of St Vincent's, and see familiar smiling faces. Jo Jo greeted us as always. Jean Robert had his big grin and warm welcome. Drew and I set off right away with Jean Robert to find a local pharmacy, to purchase medicine for malaria and worms. We can't really buy these in large quantities for reasonable prices in the US, so we always buy them in Haiti. We were offered a driver, but I preferred to walk. However, after walking for 45 minutes and finding 3 closed pharmacies, I was beginning to wonder if we should have driven anyway. But the ever capable Jean Robert found us a pharmacy near the University Hospital, and we found what we wanted. Jean Robert taught me a new phrase today, "mwen bra dwat" which means "my right hand". Fortunately the 4th pharmacy was only 2 blocks from the school, so the walk back was a lot shorter.
We returned to St Vincent's, expecting everything to be set up to start clinic and run the pharmacy. It was, except that John Mutin could not find the medical cards. These are 5x7 cards, specially printed for our trips, which we use as both medical record and prescription card for patients to carry to the pharmacy. The cards help us stay organized in the clinic, help identify patients and keep track of what diagnosis, what medicine was prescribed, etc. John had searched through 2 dozen suitcases, unpacking all the other medical supplies, but no cards. After much fruitless searching we decided to use notebook paper instead, which basically functions but is more fragile and does not have the pre-printed information that the cards contain. At any rate, we got through clinic without them. We saw about 30 patients today, and Dr Jennifer Holbourn (the flashlight helper from 5 AM) worked in the physical therapy clinic. She is a doctor of manual therapy, and I have been very excited to bring her to St Vincent's to work with the handicapped children. Today the most wonderful thing happened. I saw Diana Vincent walking, using the parallel bars. Diana has cerebral palsy and is an orphan, having been abandoned by her mother at the age of 2 at St Vincent's. The first time I met Diana in 2008 she was so sick with pneumonia she couldn't lift her head off the pillow. Now she is growing and getting regular physical therapy and is actually learning to walk. We called several team members to come see, and cameras flashed like she was Jennifer Lopez. Many tears of joy were shed at seeing this darling girl with the beautiful smile take a few steps. We are inspired by the hope that she will not end up like some of the other children we know, confined to a wheelchair all her life.
Back at the guesthouse, after supper and determined to find those medical cards, I looked in a suitcase which was sitting by the door. Apparently it had been overlooked when we took our baggage to the school with all our supplies. Yes, there were the cards, along with rolled gauze (which John had been looking for in the clinic earlier) and several injectable medications, boxes of gloves, soap, and a host of very useful supplies! Ah well, at least we found it before our last day in Haiti.
We are planning to have Compline soon and close the day in thanksgiving for the progress we see at St Vincent's, the joy in the faces of our Haitian friends and the sheer delight at being in a place where God's blessings are so evident.

Susan Nelson

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Arrival Nov. 29 2011

We have safely arrived in Haiti and are now at the guest house, having enjoyed a tasty Haitian meal with fried plantains, black beans and rice, and my favorite dish, piclise. Our day in Memphis began at 4:30 AM arrival at the airport. We took off on time despite the snow in Memphis and connected easily in Charlotte. The Miami airport was an adventure as always, with 3 team members having to obtain boarding passes which for some reason were not issued in Memphis. We also encountered a very intense security guard at one point who threated to call the police to arrest us for walking past a barrier. But despite the anxieties, we met up with folks from Connecticut, North Carolina and Wash DC and got safely to Haiti with all our bags! A miracle in itself. The second miracle is how we fit 16 Americans into one minivan (2 of us went in a separate vehicle). Pere Sadoni told us the van was supposed to carry 18 people. It must mean 18 Haitians, because 16 Americans could barely squeeze in. Its a good thing we like each other. Thanks to all for the many prayers that got us here safely. It is about 72 deg now, breezy, and we are all very tired but happy to be in Haiti.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Trip to Haiti Nov 29-Dec5

We are going to Haiti in less than 24 hours.  So naturally I am up at 4 AM thinking about it.  We have 19 folks traveling with us this time, from North Carolina, Connecticut, Washington DC, New Orleans and Memphis.  The love of God which is so evident at St Vincent's, draws people from all over the country.  I am even taking a set of letters from a boys' school in Canada, written to the kids and handcarried by me.  The letter exchanges started about a year ago, and I will bring letters back from the St Vincent's kids, to mail back to Royal St George's College in Alberta.  I always feel like I am transporting great treasure when I carry these letters from one set of children to another.

So the last few days have been full of excitement, early morning awakenings, and flashes of momentary panic.  Calls to John Mutin "I forgot to buy lollipops!!!"  (for the children who come to the clinic).  Do we have enough batteries?  Where is the -FILL IN NAME OF MEDICAL EQUIPMENT HERE-"
Calls to Sherye "Did you tell everyone to bring a bathing suit?  Did you get stickers for the kids?  Do the team members have everyone's phone number?  Did you tell them to take their malaria medication..."  Each of these questions was a SEPARATE phone call, mind you.

Sitting at my computer yesterday morning, I suddenly couldn't remember booking my flight to Haiti.  Of course I did this in September, but for a long 10 minutes I was searching my email for the CONFIRMATION email from Orbitz.  Couldn't remember it was from Orbitz, so it took a while to find it.  What happened to the days when they MAILED you an actual ticket!!!  My brain is not conditioned to keep up with all this digital stuff.  My kids shudder when I hand them a piece of paperwork to keep up with.  They keep everything in their phone.

I realize that my anxiety is mostly founded on the feeling that I am not prepared for this trip, that I am not bringing enough supplies, that somehow despite months of planning I will fail to use all the resources available to me to do the most possible good for the children of St Vincent's.  Of course, there is no way to meet the vast needs we will encounter.  We can only bring what little we have and offer it in love. But I still worry that I am not doing enough. 

So to all of you wonderful  Haiti supporters who pray for our safety and our work in Haiti, get your knee pads ready.  We depart early Tuesday morning and return late Monday, Dec 5.  Pray for the safety of our medical supplies (no diversions by customs agents or anyone else) and especially for the Haitian people we will see in our clinic.  Pray that my Kreyol is better than it actually is.  Pray that our team members will be able to offer all the love and gifts we have been given, to share with our Haitian friends.

I hope to send posts to the blog while we are in Haiti.  If you are not already a follower, you may want to add your email to the "Follower" list.

Thank you all for your endless support
Susan Nelson

Dieumene update

Soon after my last post regarding Dieumene, I received a call from Christina Porter, she is with Child Springs International which is an organization in Atlanta which brings Haitian children to the states for surgery. Turns out they did Dieumene’s original surgery when she was 8 years old! And they are willing to arrange for her followup surgery. If that is not a miracle, then I don’t know what is.
I  forwarded the x-rays and other information to Child Springs.  They have experience with obtaining the passport/visa and other paperwork and everything else required to arrange this type of operation.

The xrays were reviewed by Dr Carl Fackler, a scoliosis specialist who offers his services to Child Spring International.  He determined that Dieumene does NOT need emergency surgery.  They will keep in touch with Dr Beauvoir, the orthopedic doctor at St Vincent's, to monitor Dieumene's situation.  And when I get to Haiti (in 2 days) I will give Dieumene a medical checkup to see what else might be causing her shortness of breath.  Apparently it is not related to her spinal problem.
Many thanks to those of you who quickly offered your help for Dieumene. And please offer thanks to our amazing God who moved this process forward at warp speed, it seems.

Susan Nelson

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dieumene needs surgery

We have received news from Dr Georges Beauvoir, the orthopedic surgeon who is now on staff at St Vincent's School. Dieumene had surgery on her spine, for scoliosis, when she was about 8 years old. Recently she has developed pain in her upper back and some difficulty breathing at times. According to Dr Beauvoir, the Harrington rod in her spine has separated from the vertebral column and needs to be repaired. He does not think she can get this type of surgery in Haiti.

Please start praying for a way to help Dieumene find someone to do this surgery for her in the United States, or possibly Canada.
Everyone who has visited St Vincent's knows Dieumene Cloristin, she is a vibrant personality and has big plans for her future. I hope somehow our Haiti partnership network can help her. If you have any ideas or connections to recommend, please post a comment on the blog for me to review.
Susan Nelson

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Making Nutrition a Sustainable Business in Haiti -

Paste this address into your browser to read about Abbott pharmaceuticals sponsoring local Haitian workers to sort peanuts and help in manufacturing of Medika Mamba, a nutritious peanut based food supplement that can save lives of severely malnourished children.