Google+ WTN Haiti Partnership: 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Our last day in Haiti  is bitter sweet as you can imagine.  Thoughts of leaving these children behind crowd in your mind with watching them play and smile and steal your heart.

John Mutin has made a particular friend of a boy at the school.  His name is a difficult Haitian name for us Americans, and I believe he is the same boy who captured Dr Sue Trzynka's heart on her last trip.  His name is Benissoin, or something like that, but Clark (a CBU nurse) apparently nicknamed him "Bennie".
A year ago, Bennie first met John when he crawled up into his lap during the Sunday Eucharist.  Bennie has no arms, and he found the welcoming arms and big lap of John Mutin to contentedly spend the rest of the service.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Beer and Benadryl

Sleeping in Haiti is always a challenge.  I am a light sleeper by nature, and an early riser even in the States (hence my occasional blog posts at 4 AM).  Add to that the excitement of being in Haiti, not to mention the barking dogs, crowing roosters, and strange cries of the "monkey birds".  Falling asleep is difficult under a mosquito net with bug spray on my face.

This was my tenth trip to Haiti. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Blessings and Thanks from Haiti

Dear brothers and sisters,

It is with great honor and pleasure that I am writing you today, on behalf of the coordination of the Partnership Program of the Diocese of Haiti. As I think about the past year with the Partnership Program, I am overcome with gratitude to you as our partners for having a huge hand in making this year as successful and wonderful as it was. I cannot begin to express how thankful I and everyone here are for all of your continued love and support. You have shown us how important our mission is to you, and how much we mean to you in many ways. We have thoroughly enjoyed your visits, and there are not words for how thankful we are for your support with tuition for the students, the support in the feeding program, the healthcare, and not to mention all the thoughts and prayers we know you are sending each day. As we close out 2012, and move into the next year, we are so filled with hope and excitement. We cannot wait to see how God uses all of us together to change lives in Haiti in the coming year.

I wish you and your families the very merriest of Christmases and a Happy and Blessed New Year!

Kesner Ajax

Rev. Dr. Kesner Ajax is executive director of BTI, a high-quality post-secondary school in Les Cayes, Haiti supported by the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti and ER-D. He also coordinates the Partnership Program of the Diocese of Haiti.  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

NYT: Haitian Govt Campaign to Close "Orphanages" Full of Non-Orphans

Trying to Close Orphanages Where Many Aren’t Orphans at All
The Haitian government has started a campaign to try to keep parents from sending their children away simply because they cannot afford to support them. We know at least a few of children in this situation at St. Vincent. The campaign is part of an effort to comply with new rules on adoption by the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions. Many of us remember the story of Americans arrested after trying to adopt several dozen Haitian children who were not actually orphans. Emily Brennen reports, "Of theroughly 30,000 children in Haitian institutions and the hundreds adopted by foreigners each year, the Haitian government estimates that 80 percent have at least one living parent." Read more below, and leave your comments on our page.

Mission Trip Photos Nov. 2012

The best of our photographs from our collective cameras will be available on this online photo album. More may be uploaded later, so keep an eye on it. There is a lot to find, including pics of the team and the kids at St. Vincent's learning, relaxing, and playing.

This cover photo is one of the older students who is reading from the New Testament on a braille sheet during the Feast of St. Vincent. If you look closely, you can see she is blind.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


My last morning in Haiti.  The guest house is quiet, not even the cooks are awake yet. I think it was the dogs that woke me up this time, for some reason they start barking between 3 and 4 AM every night. Stephen is sleeping on the couch across the room from where I sit at the computer.  He does not like to go to bed, even in Haiti.  So he falls asleep on the couch, like he has since he was a little boy.

At supper tonight we talked about our favorite things in Haiti, and our least favorite things.  The group had  few items under the "least favorite" category.  They miss hot baths and water pressure (the shower sprays a half-hearted stream of water that is anywhere from ice cold to tepid).  Andrew says his first meal in America will be a Big Mac.  He says he doesn't even like fast food, but says, "I love America, and I want a Big Mac".  This is Andrew's first trip overseas.  What a way to experience the world outside of the United States.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Today is Sunday, or Dimanche in Kreyol.  We will attend services at Holy Trinity Cathedral, in the open pavilion next to the crumbled Cathedral.  Lots of singing in French (and certainly a long sermon in Kreyol, I already warned the group).    Then we will walk to St Vincent's, eat our usual granola bar/fruit snack/summer sausage lunch, and visit with the children.  Adam is our "activities coordinator", and plans for us to make prayer beads  with the children, play with balloons and bubbles, make bracelets, color, paint fingernails, and anything else you can imagine with suitcases full of goodies brought by the team and a schoolyard full of kids.  Probably we will have about 50 kids with us today, only the kids who live at the school will be there.  There will be struggling Americans trying to speak Kreyol and some of us learning sign language from Sherye and from the deaf kids.  Not me, I vowed to try to learn only one language at a time!

Clinic Day 2

It's 4:30 AM in Haiti.  I am sitting on the couch in the guest house, listening to the rooster (Haiti taught me that roosters don't only crow at daybreak) and the crickets, and some distant traffic sounds.  Also one of the beds in the girls' room squeaks whenever its occupant turns over.  I think that may be what woke me up.  I enjoy being up early here, listening to the night and thinking about everything that has happened during the day.

Last night we had a rainstorm,

Thursday, November 29, 2012

First Day at St Vincent's

Thanks be to God through all of your prayers, we all arrived safely in Port au Prince, including every last suitcase!  Andrew and Shruti had a delayed flight out of Nashville, so did not land in Miami until 2:00 PM.  Our plane was scheduled to leave at 2:25 and boarding was long finished by the time they landed in Miami.   I was stalling the gate agents from closing the door before Andrew and Shruti made it from gate D60 to gate D25.  Lots of texting back and forth , RUN! I told them. I pleaded with the gate agent that my son was joining me and I could not leave Miami without him.  Poor Andrew was dripping with sweat when he ran up to the gate, since they were hauling several 50 lb suitcases full of medical supplies and food for the children at St Vincent's.

The rest of us managed to travel First Class on American Airlines from Chicago to Miami, and were treated to a full meal, free drinks (one team member even had a Mimosa!) and amazingly comfortable seats.  Of course, those big seats apparently eat cell phones, since Sherye lost her cell phone and Brandy spent 20 minutes crawling under her seat, after we landed in Port au Prince, to retrieve her phone.

Port au Prince traffic delayed our arrival at the guest house; normally a 20 minute ride, it took us 2 and 1/2 hours.  In a hot bus.  Moving inches at a time up the street.  No complaints however, and all were thrilled to finally arrive.  The guest house is reached at the bottom of a narrow driveway with a sharp 90 deg turn at the bottom, so our bus driver did not want to navigate down the driveway.  This meant unloading all 22 suitcases, (remember they are 50 lbs each) down the hill.  Actually 21 suitcases and one guitar. And hauling them back UP the driveway this morning, to load them back onto the bus to get to the school.  There is probably a better solution, but it was not immediately obvious to us.

Today I saw about 40 patients in the medical clinic, with the help of Shruti Singh, 4th year UT medical student, and Robbie Skinner, who has finished college and is hoping to go to medical school next year.
We were able to followup on many of the patients seen by the CBU nurses two weeks ago.  The nurses had done wellness assessments on every kid at the school, which made it easy for me to focus on a smaller number of patients.  Dr Jenn (Holbourn) worked in the physical therapy clinic with Andrew Street, and also two Haitian PT students who happened to be doing a rotation at St Vincent's.  They were very excited to learn from Dr Jenn, and their English was excellent, which was a double bonus.  One patient Dr Jenn saw was 14 months old and the mother reported he was not eating well and not growing properly.  She sent Andrew to come get me, so I could examine the child.  He had an obvious heart murmur, and signs of liver enlargement which is due to the blood backing up from the heart into the liver  I think he likely has a VSD, which is a hole in the septum or wall that divides the two ventricles.  This is a common cardiac  birth defect in children.  Fortunately, Emmanuel, one of the PT students, also works with MediShare in Port au Prince, which offers xray services and specialist care for patients.  I hope this patient will be able to see a cardiologist and have an ultrasound done to determine exactly what his heart defect is.    Whether he will be able to be treated for this problem is doubtful.

I challenged Shruti to calculate pediatric dosages for antibiotic treatment for a few of our patients; I think she is now a confirmed internist, meaning that she does not want to have to calculate those ever again! She just finished her multiple interviews for an internal medicine residency, so I think she has decided she made the right specialty choice.

Lunch was granola bars, raisins and fruit snacks; my two boys brought some summer sausage and cheddar cheese, which was very popular!  Then back to the clinic for the afternoon and we finished by about 3:30 PM
Adam got to play guitar this afternoon with Mackenson, one of the kids who lives at St Vincent's.  Apparently House of the Rising Sun is well known even in Haiti.

Sherye was everywhere at once, interpreting for the deaf patients.  She and Dr Jenn are worried about the kids who live upstairs in the dorm, the kids who are so disabled they can't come downstairs.  They spend most or all of their time in one room, and we are concerned about their social development and their lack of stimulation.    More discussion to follow with all the folks who care about the kids at St Vincent's:  what is the best way to help these children.

Tonight we had another fabulous meal at the Guest House, my favorite Haitian dish, piclis, was on the menu again.  This is sort of a HOT HAITIAN COLE SLAW and I love it.  Even the peanut butter in Haiti is spicy, with a little pepper in it!  We surprised Stephen with a chocolate birthday cake, with 25 candles and the usual singing!  Nice to spend one's birthday in Haiti, I think.  Certainly one of his more memorable birthdays, I imagine.

Tomorrow we will have clinic again; Jean Robert will bring his daughters for a checkup and we will see a young man who was quite sick with fever and headache this afternoon.  I gave him some medication and asked  him to return tomorrow morning so I can see if he is improving.

Some of the team managed to watch the Grizzlies game last night at the guest house...between all of them we have multiple I phones, laptops, I pads, etc.  I am typing this blog entry on Stephen's laptop.  Definitely more high tech than I am used to.  The WiFi connection works much better than the guest house computer, which is a plus.

Thank you all for your continued prayers.  It is exhausting and thrilling to be here, and always reminds me of how much more there is to do for these children

Susan Nelson

Saturday, November 10, 2012

CBU Nurses in Haiti - Last Day

We had a nice rain last night; thus, it seems a little cooler this morning. We woke to the smell of “pan francis”  French toast in our US world. Everyone is excited about our beach day. I am hoping to talk Jonas, our tour guide and driver into going to the Montana to see the sunset over Port au Prince and adult beverage. 

The end of the trip ailments are developing. Kathy’s tickly throat has moved into her chest and she could sing Bass. Laura has a mystery rash on the side of her neck; not an ailment but the guys all look like Chiapets, especially Greg, who might have more hair on his face than on his head. There are also some “special friendships” developing.

It was a lovely trip to the beach. Although there were several other groups at Wahoo Beach and very few chairs pool side. Believe it or not, there was a group from the town where I grew up, Fort Wayne, IN. The Chapel comes four times a year and supports the City of Hope. The waves were rough, there was little sunshine and lots of cloud cover but it was really the perfect beach day.  Our drive to the beach included a stop at the mass grave following the earthquake. The drive home included a stop at the Montana Hotel. Jonas got us in despite the President of Haiti being there. What a beautiful view. 
Many suggested this be a regular stop on the tour. Unfortunately, we did not get to see the sunset over Port au Prince  - a good time was had by all. 

We had our final team meeting following dinner. We reflected on the work we did, the children, the work left to do, lessons learned and about 20 suggestions for how to do it the next time. That said, it was agreed upon with Garrett’s input as in Matthew “ what you do for the least of these you do for me” (no verse) was the greatest gift of all. Most of the gals were in tears, perhaps precipitated by the adult beverage from the Montana and Greg said he came to get to know his classmates but left with so much more. Throughout the day many of us wondered and spoke about [a few children] and if their ulcers were cleaned and taken care of and if Margaret came home from the hospital, and if this child got this or how special this child was and so on and on and on. Garrett reflected the pain and joy he felt at the same time feeding a blind child a scope of ice cream. Greg said we may have miserable days and think do I have to do another 13 hours in the ICU and then... there is a child without arms. Ramelle (God has a very special gift in her) cried that she can hardly stand to leave the children the second time. Kathy encouraged all of them to talk to one another to share and reflect and remember because as hard as our families and friends may try - they don’t and cannot get it! 

You know the cliche don’t judge until you walk a mile in another woman’s shoes (or mans). Many may see the children of St. V’s as unfortunate but are they? Is their blight in life as deaf or blind or armless better or worse than the other children in Haiti? Some may judge as to what kind of parent leaves their child at St. Vincent’s? Others understood that the parent made a tremendous sacrifice giving their child to St. Vincent’s knowing they could not provide for the child and knowing the child would have a much better life. I ask, is this any different that the ultimate sacrifice that was made for us by God? 

On the eve of our departure, as all are packing and looking forward to our “blessed lives’ in the US we know we will always carry Haiti in our hearts and the children of St. Vincents to the depth of our souls. On my first visit to Haiti a young Haitian man said, all that we are and all that we do is a gift. He was correct - sort of. The gift is not what we do or bring to the children and people of Haiti but what they, the people, the children, the smiles, the laughter, the tears, the hugs and the thanks yous do for us. We come thinking we are whole and leave knowing we are broken and in need for the same kind of love and grace as the children of St Vincent’s. 

Thanks to all who have supported this mission and for sharing our aches and pains and joys and tears. We all hope in some micro way you can grasp the passion we have for St. Vincent’s.

God’s Blessings, Sue

Dr. Sue Trzynka teaches nursing at CBU in Memphis and lives in Jackson, TN

CBU Nurses in Haiti - Day 6

Think Frankie Valle and “Oh What a Night”.... Oh What a Day!!! Early November in Haiti.
We started off early to find the Art Market and made it too early - it did not open until 9. Oh what a find!! Each of us carried away our Haitian treasures from tin wall hangings to wooden bowls, to stationary, and baskets, and Christmas decorations to painting that Clark the new master trader made possible from street vendors. And, we carried them off in hand woven reed totes.

Next stop the grocery. We cleaned them out of coconut cookies and big containers of ice cream and plastic bags for all the goodies after the carnival. Kathy and I distributed and personally gave each child in the special needs area and kindergarten a beanie baby. Jennifer - took some terrific pictures. She is the team Ansel Adams!! Unfortunately, we learned Margaret had seizures last night and had gone to the hospital. She was expected to return this afternoon , per Pere [Sadoni] but we did not see her when we left at 3:30. I gave a toy to Clarisanne for her. 

When we arrived at St. Vincent, we waited around for an hour and a half until Jean Robert said we had to see 20 of the deaf children that he forgot!! and 20 minutes prior to us sitting up the ice cream for the children. Let me echo Laura - seriously!! Every student jumped to attention and voile in 25 minutes we processed all 20 kids through with a few needing something for a cold, fungus on their feet and one major case of otitis. Good teamwork.

Now the fun!! At first, the children came to the courtyard area for their ice cream and cookie. YUM YUM!! I was with a couple of the children asking them if it was good and one sweet child saw I did not have one and wanted to give me his - God love him. Such a rare treat and he wanted me to have his chocolate ice cream. All 6 tubes disappeared in a matter of about 30 minutes. 

The bubbles were a hit, as was Kathy and the face painting. My special little guy has learned my name - Suzan! That’s works me!! Actually it just about turned me into a puddle. 

Now the carnival - music and fun. The classrooms were set up and ready to go. 
Oh my goodness!! the line to duck pond (tub with water) was stormed; 7-14-21 were the lucky numbers to get both crayons and a coloring book, the rest received either just crayons or colored pencils. They came back again and again and I was giving out bubble gum and other candy, finally ended by giving out the ducks.  

The other game areas went just as well with the ring toss a favorite and jump robes the favorite prize. The mini-balls, notebooks, pencil holders, bubbles,  and pencils and stickers... to be honest each item given to a child or adult produced a huge smile!! 

Kathy had a special joy watching the blind children playing the ring toss with the area cheering and encouraging each of them to success; a community effort for them. Ramelle was reduced to tears! Jean Robert took them home for his family! 

When we got on the bus we were stinkin’ tired. No seriously. We stunk and we were tired. Some of us may not have taken the best of pictures for the team shot but if you had seen us when we got on the bus.... not pretty!! You know the cliche’ ridin hard and put away wet - that says it for all of us. Clark has given up his week long dream of going to RAM!!

Dinner was a treat; parsley potatoes, slaw, tomatoes, avocados, and roast pork. There are others at the guest house but you would think we had not eaten all week. AND Greg, that guy has a hollow leg and a super charged metabolism. 

This is our last day with the children and always bitter sweet. I look forward to our beach day but am sad to leave them. Hugs and kisses from so many, including Marie Carmel and JoJo, and all the special sweet precious children. 

Okay... time for the Prestige I put in the freezer when we got back and a shower. Note I did not say hot shower... that is a figment of my imagination. Blessings to all who have supported this mission both emotionally and with fund for the school. Oh what a glorious day!

Dr. Sue Trzynka teaches nursing at CBU in Memphis and lives in Jackson, TN

CBU Nurses in Haiti - Day 5

What a beautiful morning!! Except that darn crow that was making so much noise one was tempted to look for a good ol’ gun! Boom! right out of that tree, which ever tree it was sitting in.

After an extra cup of coffee, off to St. Vincent. Jean Robert had to leave for an hour so clinic started late. We saw all of the children by 11:30. Sadly, there are less children, surely not 250. A few people that came through the gate having heard we were here and were also seen. There continues to be a great deal of fungus between toes and some scabies. I ran an afternoon clinic for tylenol, motrin, vitamins and tums. Little complaints from the cooks and laundry staff, just needing to feel important too. 

Kathy and I met with Pere Sadoni and discussed plans for tomorrow. 1) We do not need to be there early for a clinic since we have seen the kids. Thus, we are going to the art market for a couple hours and from there to the grocery to get ice cream and cookies for our Sundaes. 2) Distribution of the toys and gifts to the children. Pere was very specific how items that are to be given. The stuffed toys will be given to the kindergarten children, prizes will be given to a child and if they do not like it and give it back, we keep it, do not throw the toys or candy to the children - it is rude and causes problems. 3) There was a bus schedule that had us leaving for the airport on Saturday at 0730... waiting in the airport for 6 hours did not seem too smart. We are now planning to leave at 1100. 

Of course, the most important thing Pere asked was “how are the children”? I assured him they are great. They look great and healthy. 

I had my hour with my special little boy, Barganis (Clark is calling him Bennie). This precious baby about 6 has skin folds for arms. I feed him lunch - he does not like rice too much but did like the fish. I carried him to the clinic and showed him the pictures Laura took and pictures of my family. He liked the pictures of my husband, Mike and I said it was Papa, my oldest grandson Michael (Michel), Emilia (Emily) and the baby. Every picture he saw with one of them, he immediately called out their names, Papa, Michel, Emilia, baby and of course every picture with a car was machine!! He wanted to look at them over and over. And of course, I gave him another pi wi li. His smile just about melts my heart.

JoJo finished his special picture for me. It cost me 40 bucks but worth it. It is nice, a little different for him but the fact that he made it for me - priceless. I know just where it will go in my office. He then recruited the rest of the team to buy pictures; Laura, Patti, Marcia, and Verlee. He is still in negotiations with Lee Ann and Stephanie. 

No swimming today. The pump bit the dust and the pool has a lovely green hue! 

We have sorted and bagged and organized all the goodies. Kathy has all the games assigned to each of us. We are starting with the ice cream, face painting (one little thing), and bubbles. Pere said he would try to find music for us. This promises to be a great success or a mad failure - pray for success.

Dr. Sue Trzynka teaches nursing at CBU in Memphis and lives in Jackson, TN

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

CBU Nurses in Haiti - Day 4

Day 4 - Nov 6th

A lovely day... of course we did not have electricity for a couple hours. Verlee reminded all “Dr. Trzynka told us we might not have electricity”.

The bus arrived on time and off to another exciting day. The clinic was set up and ready to go in short order but there was a delay in bringing the children. All but Kathy and the leadership nurses, Ramelle, Clark, and Christen changed positions today. Verlee seems to work magic on the children and pretty much everybody else including people on the street. Her new name is “Sister Big Girl”. She of course takes it all in stride and jokes about all the comments the men are making. We processed all 60 children by 11:30, had a lunch break, and began to see the laundry ladies and cooks.

We have a list of needs that is growing. We need gero-vitamins, adult vitamins, prenatal vitamins for new moms and infant vitamins. We need an ACE inhibitor for Marie Carmel and would be good to have for others. There is only one bottle of HCTZ and 2 of beta-blockers (50 mg). Greg reorganized the pharmacy - again and it would probably meet military standards!!

The children are so special and are very grateful for each hygiene kit that we give them. Today with the club foot clinic all the moms and dads were asking for toothbrushes. Really they were not asking but were demonstrating brushing their teeth. We just cannot give one a toothbrush and not give all of them one. I did break the rules and give a dum dum to the cutest little chubby boy who sat on my lap and gave me hugs; I am a push over. JoJo gave a painting demonstration and is making something in yellow that “I will just love”. Tomorrow he will be showing his artwork - the group is on notice.... bring your money.

The cool off time in the pool was a very animated volleyball game. There were no winners - just fun. The spaghetti with meat sauce for dinner was greeted with joy and completely enjoyed by all. There was a salad with dried figs, carrots, cashews, broccoli, pineapples, and something else that was delicious. The cole slaw was extra, extra spicy that required a bucket of water or a fire extinguisher!!

So now after sorting the hygiene kits again to make sure all combs, kleenex, bandaids and anything extra has been removed, some of the group is doing clinical logs, some playing cards, a couple painting numbers on the bottle of plastics ducks and others following the election of facebook.

Lee Ann summed up the day... blessed, Jennifer - rewarding, Garrett -refreshing, Greg - hot (of course we kept him in the pharmacy closet all day), Patti - teamwork, Stephanie - smooth, Kathy - joyful, Clark - fun (he played soccer with the kids), Ramelle - inspiring, Verlee - joy, Laura - meaningful, Marcia - happy, and Summer is asleep. My word..... worthwhile.

Dr. Sue Trzynka teaches nursing at CBU in Memphis and lives in Jackson, TN

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

CBU Nurses in Hait--Day 3, Nov. 5

Alta dia, alta adventura...

Ramelle, a senior leadership student had a wonderful vision in her head for running clinic today. She shared it last night. When we got to St. Vincent’s the vision became a distant memory.  Having anticipated the unknown - I was prepared to write an alternative plan; after working out a few kinks - success. 
The issue, a physical therapy clinic in the large room. [Normally the nurses would have their wellness assessments in the large room.  Apparently there were other activities going on, so they had to relocate to the smaller exam rooms in the clinic building.]

Problem 2:  A bag full of supplies was left behind, leaving us with one otoscope to evaluate the children’s ears... we did this during the assessment with height, weight and arm circumference. Solved.
Problem 3: A student observed water placed into the cold container was not sealed and we received misinformation that it was not clean... Oh no, this would require each of us to have a “cipro shot” after dinner.  Not true, Pere Sadoni confirmed about 3 hours later the water was indeed clean and good to drink. 

Okay all the little stuff out of the way... we saw 60 children, distributed 60 hygiene kits.  [Other] children not seen [in clinic were] walking around motioning brushing their teeth and wanting kits. The first child to complete his assessment was very proud and went around the yard waving his new kit tormenting this peers with the biggest smile!!!  As always - the [pi wi lis] (dum dum lollipops to us) were a welcome treat. 

We took a little walking tour to the bookstore and a side trip to the nun’s retirement home in terrible disrepair. These frail little ladies were so happy to see people - young people in particular, they were eager to give everyone of us a kiss. 

The trip home (to the guest house) required a short side trip to the market. Now that Summer [nursing student who fainted at church yesterday due to the heat] has regained her appetite, there is little if any candy, chips and soda left!! We have discovered these little cookies - kind of a vanilla wafer with coconut and they will be a great addition to the Sundays for the carnival.

After a very long trip home.... terrible traffic, numerous accidents and road rage we made it home. The team was meeting around the pool and all went well, until Summer accidentally helped Jennifer into the pool and Clark assisted with a gentle pull of the ankles. Jennifer was a good sport and promised not to hurt anyone tonight but they are on notice......

We had goat for dinner. I had peanut butter. 

Supplies are all together for tomorrow, otoscopes checked with new batteries, students are working on log sheets, Ramelle, Laura (picture lady) and Christen are working on posters with the pictures of last spring for the children to see. 

Another successful and blessed day. 

P.S. we heard that Shermedia, a [nursing] student who was going to join us had successful surgery and the preliminary report was negative for cancer. Truly a blessing!! 

Dr. Sue Trzynka teaches nursing students at CBU in Memphis and lives in Jackson, TN.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Arrival of the CBU Nurses, Day 1

To the Haiti Partnership and Dr. Nelson,

We made it and so did all our luggage and giant tubs of food. There was a little disorganization (more than usual) at the airport and but we finally met up with Pere Sadoni. I was very glad to see him and he got a BIG hug from me.

The mini bus was nice - air conditioning and room to stack, and stack, and stack the bags. However, it was too wide to get down the drive to the guest house; we unloaded all our stuff and hauled it down the drive. That earned each of us a Prestige (Haitian beer).

They are expanding the church and closing it in with walls; no ceiling fans. The choir of course did beautiful songs. Church was lovely with a baptism and communion, until that is one student got dizzy, vomited and fainted!! She revived for a time but after church we ended up sending her and another back to the guest house while the rest went to see the children. When she fainted, a "boy scout" came up to me hugged me and said "do you remember me I am Markason". Of course I did and returned his hug. Marie Carmel was in her place watching over us. She confirmed that the children are getting only one meal a day. JoJo was watching TV to regain his focus so he could paint. He too was pleased to see us and promised to paint me a beautiful sunset. We had Jean Robert take us to a market where I ordered ice cream for Thursday and then to try and find the Iron Market. The latter did not go so well, either he or the bus driver did not seem to know where we wanted to go. Gail is back from a funeral so I will get her advise on this issue. The nurses' cleaned out the new gift shop at Holy Trinity while I was with the ill student. Overall, the group is mixing well since I have nursing students for 3 different groups.

We are thinking of you and all are asking when you are coming. Marie Carmel wanted to know if Sienna is coming with you later this month. Cristiana looked great, Margaret has grown and looks much like she has filled out some. Zachary was not too pleased to see I returned; Clark says he associates us with pain!!

The orthotics building is under construction and according to Andy and the other guys they're doing well.

It is really hot. Ramelle thought it seemed more hot and humid, and I tried to tease her that it was her age but finally had to agree it is really hot.

Will write to you often --- miss your smile with us.

Dr. Sue Trzynka teaches nursing students at CBU in Memphis and lives in Jackson, TN.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

CBU nurses in Haiti

This morning at the Memphis Airport at 5 AM I greeted 15 nurses from Christian Brothers University, off to work at St Vincent's School  for a week.   I could spot them from the other end of the airport with their heavily loaded bags.  One by one, bags loaded onto the scales, with the airlines ticket agent who seemed unfriendly at first but turned out to be helpful in his own way.  The weight limit is 50 lbs, and for an "overweight" bag it is 70 lbs.  Several bags "squeaked in" at 52 lbs, passed through by the ticket agent.  Lots of crayons, jump ropes, and bags of food moved back and forth from one suitcase to another, to avoid excess baggage fees for being over 50 lbs.   Apparently there is no weight limit for your carryon bag, just a size limit.  Hence much of the overflow ended up in  carryon backpacks, stuffed beyond zipper capacity!

At 5 AM, even the airport Starbucks is not open yet.  Even so, all the team members seemed wide awake and excited about their trip.  3 team members are returning for their second stint at St Vincent's, including Dr Sue Trzynka, Clark and Kristen.  I asked Clark to check on the trench that runs through the middle of the school courtyard, which drains water from the bathrooms.  Basically it is an open sewer.  Drew Woodruff gave Pere Sadoni some cash on his last trip, specifically to cover the trench.  During our last trip,  Clark fished more than one soccer ball out of this trench.

I wanted to stuff myself into one of their suitcases, but as I said, they were already over their weight limit!
As I drove home, still dark in Memphis, I thought about the blessing of 15 nurses going to St Vincent's to do wellness assessments on all the kids.  I thought about how excited the children will be to see the visitors, to play with them, braid their hair, have  their nails painted (the boys love this too!), sing songs and eat some of the goodies stuffed into those backpacks.

I include the prayer below as an offering for the 15 nurses travelling to see our kids in Haiti today.  

A Collect for Grace
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have
brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your
mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome
by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of
your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Susan Nelson

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Getting ready for November trip

Well, its 4 AM and here I am at the computer blogging about Haiti.  Must be getting close to another trip.  This is a time where I start waking up in the middle of the night, excited about going and worrying about "things left undone".  My husband asked me yesterday, what I was worried about, since I have ordered our medical supplies, our team has their airline tickets arranged, and all we have to do now is wait for November 28.  Easy for him to say!

We have a group of 15 nurses going to Haiti from CBU, they leave Nov 2.  Their leader is the amazing Dr Evelyn Sue Trzynka, "Sue" to most of us.  She and I have been exchanging emails like crazy.  I recognize in her the same "OMG I AM LEAVING FOR HAITI IN 10...9...8...7 DAYS" panic mode that I  experience before a trip.  The desire to take everything you can possibly stuff into your suitcase, to give to the children of St Vincent's.  The worry about making connections in Miami (BOY I HATE THAT AIRPORT!)  The worry about making everything work out when we get there, the clinic, the pharmacy, the "fun activities" planned for the children....  Will all our bags arrive in Port au Prince? Will we have enough interpreters? (you can never have enough interpreters) Will  Pere Sadoni be there to meet us at the airport? (he always is)
Will we be able to see all the children in clinic?

This will be Dr Sue's second trip to St Vincent's, and when I lead the team in November it will be my 10th trip to Haiti.  I don't think the anxiety lessens, I just worry about different things.  I no longer worry about safety of the team (we are very protected by our Haitian friends and very careful about staying within the walls of the school or the guest house).  I also don't worry about being useful.  I used to fret that the big American teams were more trouble to the priest, Pere Sadoni, than we were worth.  I finally decided that God has blessed me with this opportunity to go to Haiti over and over, and take lots of other people to learn about this wonderful school, this "Cathedral for Children" as Deacon Drew calls it.

Susan Nelson

National Haitian American Health Alliance

Below is a summary from the 9th annual conference, held Oct 18-19 in Washington DC.  What struck me was the information about HIV:

HIV/AIDS was held as a success story in Haiti. It was announced that the rate in Haiti has been reduced to 1.9%. It was said that the infrastructure in HIV was instrumental in managing the cholera outbreak. There is a lot of progress reported in preventing and treating Cholera. The good news is that there is a timeline with important milestones for the eventual elimination of cholera in Haiti.

You can read the entire summary if you wish, included below.

National Haitian American Health Alliance(NHAHA)

Thank you to all those who participated in NHAHA’s 9th Annual conference in Washington DC. The conference was rich in content and great discussion. We were honored with the presence of Dr. Guirlene Raymond , Director General from the Ministry of Health (MSPP). The challenges are enormous but there has been a lot of effort towards the rebuilding of the Haiti health system’s infrastructure. The country is currently finalizing their 10-year plan and entering the Action plan phase. Notable strategies include the alignment of NGO’s into the plan, the restructuration and building of medical facilities throughout the country. Human resources and system strengthening will continue to be areas for continued need.
The conference facilitated cross fertilization of ideas from major stakeholders in Haitian Health. Dr. Eddis Charlotte, Coordinator of the Haiti Health Reconstruction for
U.S. Government provided the update and progress for the US government. She emphasized the commitment of the US government to accompany the Ministry of Health in its efforts as the leader of the system. The conference allowed different point of views. Dr. Marc Weisbrot leveled some criticism of the US government for their handling of the reconstruction and the cholera outbreak. He advocated for the US reparation to cholera victims and the rebuilding of the water, sanitation infrastructure in Haiti.
The case for water of sanitation as the first public health necessity for Haiti permeated throughout the conference. The role of food and nutrition was also emphasized, by Dr. June Pierre-Louis. Solving these basic needs will go far in preventing many health problems we see today and put Haiti on the road for the 21st century.
The need for research in Haitian health was well demonstrated by Dr. Linda Marc. There is a burgeoning development for great collaborative research work in Haitian health. She gave an overview NHAHA’s work and past and current work in HIV/AIDS and Mental Health that have been undertaken by Haitian researchers such as herself and provided a vision for new efforts in that area.
One of the most critical policy issues for Haiti health care was brought forth by Dr. Jesse Bump who presented us with the options for Universal health coverage. He provided an analysis of other countries and urges us to look into the Rwanda system as an example for Haiti. The message is that for Haiti, it will cost billions of dollars and requires the commitment of the leaders and contribution from the government and citizens to make it work. It can happen if as a whole the citizenry demands it.
The disparity in Haitian Health in the US was introduced by Dr. Paul Cadet, president of the Haitian Physicians Abroad. The root causes for health disparities in the US was analyzed by Dr. Vigilance. It showed the connection between social determinants and health of minorities. Dr. Fabienne Santel underscored the need to have minority groups represented in clinical trials. Dr. Patrick Richard, Health Economist made the case for health equity by showing the high cost of health disparities in the US. Mental Health emerged as an area of important need. Dr. Nicky Bellamy spoke on SAMHSA’s response after the earthquake which funded three programs in New York, Boston and Florida. Dr. Naturale specifically spoke on importance of a system in place for meeting the mental health need of children and women.
HIV/AIDS was held as a success story in Haiti. It was announced that the rate in Haiti has been reduced to 1.9%. It was said that the infrastructure in HIV was instrumental in managing the cholera outbreak. There is a lot of progress reported in preventing and treating Cholera. The good news is that there is a timeline with important milestones for the eventual elimination of cholera in Haiti.
Dr. Patrick Von Fricken talked about the work being done in Malaria control in Gressier and showed the picture of a testing lab that improves the identification and treatment of the disease.
The conference highlighted a great deal of NGO’s such as I-TECH in capacity building in support of MSPP. Dr. Rachel Labbe-Coq presented on an initiative for strengthening two of the hospitals in the country. Dr. Judy Art was applauded for his implementation of and inexpensive, easy Electronic Medical Records system at his clinic in Petite Riviere. He is able to remotely follow the clinic operation in real time while at the conference. Dr. Chierci shared an innovative approach of community health approach in “Au Borgne” in the mountainside in the North of Haiti. The program called: “Sante Nan Lakou” use the method of providing services to clusters of families living in their homes connected around a yard. It gave all of us a pause when the picture of the mobile clinic came up on the screen. It was a donkey climbing the mountain carrying medical supply.
The conference ended with Dr. Carmelle Belle-Fleur with the role of Nurses and an overview with a project with Hunter College for training Haitian Nurses in partnership with the school of Nursing in Haiti. Dr. Flore Lindor-Latortue from Florida, gave a motivating and captivating talk on the rights of Haitians for health equality. The last presentation by Dr. Marjorie Brennan brought all of us back to the Humanitarian reason for medical missions in Haiti but reminded us on how to do it effectively and respectfully.
Some major concerns on Housing, economic development, education as related to health were also raised.
We were hosted by Mr. Paul Altidor at the Haitian embassy at a closing reception. His address accentuated the recurring themes of the conference and the principles enunciated by MSPP that included sustainability, accountability, transparency, coordination and collaboration.
The year 2013 will be NHAHA’s 10th year anniversary. NHAHA’s goal continues to be a locus of information, a platform for exchanges, a voice for health equity policies and a bridge for the Haitian diaspora to contribute to the efforts in Haiti.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Note on Hurricane Sandy from Bishop Duracin of Haiti

This is to inform my Brothers and Sisters in the house of Bishops that even though the hurricane Sandy did not pass directly on Haiti, many damages have been done because of the heavy rains and winds it has projected all over the country. According to the government's assessment of the situation, as of this morning about 16 people are dead. Many people are being affected by this hurricane because of their living situation; as you may know due to the earthquake of January 12th 2010, a lot of people are still living in tents in a lot of places, and some others live in areas that are near the water. 

Damages are being registered all over the country and people are evacuating their houses to go to safer places. According to reports received from our priests, people of all of our congregations have been affected. There is a situation of lack of food, clean water, medicine, added to the situation of people which have been already fragile because many families have been confronting with their problems of sending their kids to school, and now I have just learned that many school supplies that have already been in possession of our kids have been swept away by the raging waters entering school facilities and families homes. So we need your prayers and support.

Hope this finds all of you well, I send you greetings in the Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Rt. Rev. J. Zaché Duracin
Bishop of Haiti

This message was sent through the Bishops and spouses email network via Bishop Sandy Hampton and forwarded to us by Jeannie Johnson, wife of Bishop Don Johnson of West TN.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


 Several months ago we asked for donations of crocs to take to our kids at St Vincent's.  One of our St Mary's parishioners, Cathie Pruitt, helped coordinate a HUGE donation from Chung Shi of cases and cases of "Dux", which are similar to crocs.  Pictured are Drew Woodruff with Ramelle Wheeler, seated on the chancel steps at St Mary's.  Ramelle is a nursing student from CBU, and went to Haiti with our team in March 2012.  She tells the story of handing out crocs to the teenagers, and having none big enough for the older teenage boys.  She promised Ricardo, one of the St Vincent's students, that she would bring him a pair of crocs big enough for his size 10 feet!  Now Ricardo will have many colors to choose from.  The only problem remains getting all those shoes to Haiti, but with another 15 nurses returning to St Vincent's during the first week of November, that's a lot of suitcases! 
Many thanks to the donors for making this generous donation  Many children will be happy to get a brand new pair of shoes especially suited for the dusty streets of Port au Prince.

An Update on Haiti | Society of Saint Margaret

Read this update by Sister Marjorie (pictured far right in the photo) about her visit to Haiti and about the ordination of Haiti's new Suffragan Bishop, Pere Oge Beauvoir. Click on the link below the photo.

Bishop Oge Beauvoir with the Sisters

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Next mission trip in November-team is ready

After a flurry of emails and phone calls between Texas, North Carolina, Ohio, CUBA and Memphis, we have our team of 15 ready to go to St Vincent's in November.  One of our team members, Jill Bullard,  is an episcopal deacon in North Carolina, who is currently spending some time in Cuba.  Last minute calls to the travel agent required at least one email exchange with her.  You know that anxiety of booking flights, spelling your name "exactly as it appears on your passport" so you wont get any hassles going through security, making sure all your connections are good, "Oops, wait, I forgot to add travel insurance",  etc?  Multiply that by 15 and imagine my email inbox and cell phone voice mail the afternoon of this Friday last.  SHEESH!

Here is our valiant team going to St Vincent's in November (November 28-Dec4)
Drew Woodruff, deacon at St Mary's Cathedral
Susan Nelson, MD, St Mary's
Adam and Stephen Nelson, my sons (Stephen is at St John's)
Dr. Bheki Khumalo, podiatrist, Grace St Luke's
Sherye Fairbanks, deaf interpreter, Holy Communion
John Mutin, paramedic, Holy Communion
Dr. Jennifer Holbourne, physical therapist
Dr. Keisha Land, pharmacist
Brandy Britton, nurse (our newest recruit!)

Jackie Harris, MD
Jill Bullard, deacon

Sonya Yencer, Red Thread Promise (organization that supports St Vincent's School and other children's charities, check out their blog at
Hana Yencer, her daughter

Angelene Price, Sherye's niece

Please add these folks to your prayer list, that God will prepare their hearts for the work they will do in Haiti

Each team member is responsible for their own airfare and lodging.  The plane tickets cost $750, and lodging is $330 for 6 days in Haiti at the guest house. If you would like to support the travel costs of this coming trip, your donation would be greatly appreciated by team members who have to raise their own funds!  You can mail your donation to The West Tennessee Haiti Partnership, c/o Denny Calloway, Diocese of West Tennessee, 692 Poplar, Memphis TN 38105.  Please mark your donation "for travel costs, Nov 2012"

God continues to send us amazing folks to join our teams. 12 members of this team have been to Haiti before, and are ready and willing to spend their own money and time to go again.  That tells you the power of the experience we have working with the children at St Vincent's.
Watch this blog over the next few months for updates about the rebuilding of the school and other news about St Vincent's School
Susan Nelson

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Shoes for our kids

Last November, our team took several suitcases worth of crocs (shoes) for the kids at St Vincents. Unfortunately, because the crocs were collected at St Marys school, which is a GIRLS school, the shoes were all small sizes, none big enough for many of our teenage boys!  Ramelle, one of our nurses, says she will never forget the look of disappointment on Ricardo's face.  She vowed not to return to Haiti without a pair of shoes for him and the other teenage boys at the school. 

Now we have a very generous donation from a company called Chung Shi, who makes shoes called Dux. They are similar to crocs, and of good quality.  They have donated 150 pairs of shoes for us to take to St Vincents.  Cathie Pruitt, a parishioner at St Marys Cathedral, has worked with Drew Woodruff to make this possible.

This Saturday, June 9, at 10 AM, we will have a formal "presentation" of the shoes to Drew Woodruff at St Marys Cathedral. Many thanks to all who made this possible and for your prayers which continue to make amazing things possible for our kids at St Vincents.

Susan Nelson

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Holy God We Praise Thy Name

I remember this hymn from my childhood in the Catholic church, and even Episcopalians sing it occasionally. To hear it sung in French, at Holy Trinity Cathedral, was a moving experience for all of us on our last Sunday in Haiti. The members of Holy Trinity watched their beloved and magnificent cathedral turn to piles of rubble and dust along with much of the rest of Port au Prince, in the earthquake of January 12, 2010. Today I was back in my own beloved cathedral of St Mary's, in Memphis, for Palm Sunday. I have often wondered how I would feel if St Marys were reduced to a pile of stones, the windows destroyed like the beautiful painted murals that once decorated the walls of Holy Trinity Cathedral. The people of Holy Trinity worship now in an open air pavilion, next door to their ruined cathedral. Their acolytes carry lighted torches and incense, and their priests consecrate the bread and wine the same as ever. The choir sings with joy on their faces and fills the open space with a wonderful sound. The Sunday we were there, they sang several familiar hymns, including Blessed Assurance (in French of course). The Blessed Assurance of God's faithfulness, even when what you see around you is destruction. I realized that even though the entire service was in another language, I was worshipping without words. Today, at St Marys, as we ended the dramatic Palm Sunday service, we sang "Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom". I wept as I sang, thinking of all the children at St Vincents and the people of Haiti whom I have come to know over the last 4 years. Jesus will surely remember them and lead them, singing, into His Kingdom.

Susan Nelson

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pills R Us

One sees many things on the streets of Port au Prince, a crazy jumble of humanity and all manner of items for sale. One of our favorites is the man carrying a huge bucket, with an inverted cone of medications. The pills are packaged in blister packs, so the vendor has sheets and sheets of plastic blister packs in yellow, pink, blue, green, and white, even brown, displayed as a 4 foot tall cone shaped bulletin board, if you will. We never got close enough to read the names of the medications, but I imagine you can buy antibiotics, blood pressure medicine, cough and cold remedies, and probably things you never thought of. Also spotted on the streets for sale were stereo equipment, DVDs, handsome wooden furniture, plastic bins/buckets, mattresses, sugar cane (this comes in huge 4 foot lengths), fruit(melons of all kinds), bedframes, books, shoes, clothing including mens' suits, baby strollers. Its like Wal-Mart, but streetside. We spotted a baby stroller that we thought about buying, because we needed to make a seat for Margaret Vincent. Margaret is hydrocephalic, about 2 years old, and was left at St Vincents during one of our previous trips in 2009. See earlier posts about her story. She is one of the many handicapped orphans brought to the school by their parents. When I brought Dr Jeanne Jemison, a developmental pediatrician, to Haiti with me, my hope was that she would help me work with several particular students, and Margaret Vincent was one of them. Dr Jeanne examined Margaret, who spends her days in a crib upstairs at the school. She is well cared for, but severely handicapped so that she cannot sit up by herself, or even hold up her oversized head which looks too big for her small body. The matrons who care for her try to prop her up in a wheelchair, but she basically lays across the seat with her head hanging off one arm of the wheelchair, and her legs across the other arm of the chair. She holds her arms bent tightly at the elbows, but with stretching one can straightem her arms almost completely. She responds with a smile when you talk to her or stroke her face. Over the course of the week, Dr Jeanne, Clark (one of the CBU nurses) and I were scouting for adaptive materials to help this little girl. Dr Jeanne wanted to make some splints to help her hold her arms out straight, to keep them from becoming permanently contracted. In conversation with the school's orthopedic doctor, we found some plastic splint material we could use. How to form it so it would fit her arm, and not cut into her skin? Should we cover it with gauze, or leave it as is? We consulted an occupational therapist who happened to be staying at the same guest house. She recommended we leave the plastic uncovered, since it is manufactured with small holes in it, to allow the skin to breathe. We visited the school's brace shop, and spoke with the workers there who make braces and prosthetic appliances for the students, with simple tools and what looks like 1950s machinery. Dr Jeanne said the place reminded her of Campbell Clinic in the 1950s, where her father, an orthopedic surgeon, worked at one time. We had measured Margaret's arms and needed a splint 6 inches by 2 and 1/2 inches, for each arm. They cut the material for us. We worried about the sharp plastic corners. No problem, they said, and promptly rounded the corners with a lathe. So obvious! Our next treasure to find was an old car seat, actually gathering dust in a shed behind the guest house. The guest house is owned and operated by Healing Hands for Haiti, an organization which works on rehabilitating injured and disabled people! So they have lots of adaptive equipment, walkers, canes, etc, just lying around. Dr Jeanne spotted a car seat, the kind for an older child, with straps to hold Margaret sitting upright, and a back tall enough to support her entire trunk, much better than the wheelchair. Gail Buck, the proprietor of the guest house, kindly let me have the car seat for Margaret. All that remained was something to support her neck. Jeanne said what we needed was one of those airplane neck pillows that people travel with. Kristen graciously donated her pillow to the cause. The final result was magnificent. Margaret can now sit up in her car seat, strapped in so she does not fall out, with a pillow to support her head. She can see better and interact with the other children much better. She will be at less risk for skin pressure sores since she isnt lying in the crib all day. Dr Jeanne instructed the matrons carefully, through an interpreter, how to apply the splint with an Ace wrap, and to leave them on only at night. As Clark was working with Dr Jeanne to put all this together for Margaret, he made a comment (reported to me later) which will stay with me for a long time. He said that he thought that the reason he was put on this earth, was to care for children like Margaret.

"What Ladder"

Speaking of 12 women in one room, (see earlier post), a few of us had the pleasure of sleeping on the top bunk. The first few nights we were divided between two rooms, and the "older women" (that would be me, Amy, Sue, Karen and Jeanne) had our own room, lower bunks thank you. That is until Jeanne moved in the middle of the night one night, attempting to get away from the snoring. (names kept confidential to protect the innocent). She caused a brief upset by climbing onto the top bunk above Sue,who naturally was not expecting someone to climb into the bed above her in the middle of the night. At any rate, the weekend brought another group from Boston to the guest house, so all the Tennessee folks had to pile into one room, which meant some had to take top bunks. Sue, being the fearless leader from CBU, volunteered. Of course she didnt think about being one of the SHORTEST women, which made climbing onto the top bunk particularly challenging. One night I had already climbed into bed, settled in under the mosquito net, and was about passed out when I heard several loud "ooomphs" from just above me. This was the end of the week, as I said, so ordinary things take on a humorous note due to fatigue and mental exhaustion. I started giggling and couldnt stop. Then someone said to Sue, "You know there's a ladder!". This was our last night in the room and Sue had been struggling into that top bunk for 3 nights. Tee Hee

An Unlimited Supply of...

AKA Things We Will No Longer Take for Granted I polled our team members at the end of our week in Haiti, asking what they thought they would never again take for granted when they returned to their lives in the US. Here is the list: Soap in the Bathroom Clean water out of the tap, for brushing teeth ( as opposed to walking down the hall to the purified water cooler, usually done AFTER you are standing at the sink, with a full mouth of toothpaste, then realize you dont have any water to rinse your mouth with) Flushing toilets (Siennas personal favorite) Toilet paper in the bathroom Paper to dry your hands on. (common bathroom themes apparent) Hot showers Cold Diet Coke LUNCH! ( this vote from Brianna. Lunch each day was whatever we brought to the school in backpacks, usually bags of peanuts and granola bars. By Friday the pickings were pretty slim) Reliable electricity Clean streets A dresser to put your clothes in ( with 12 women in one room at the guest house, it felt like summer camp) The children at St Vincents have all their clothes in suitcases. The only personal space they have is their bunk bed. The ability to hear, and to see, and to walk normally. To communicate with the people around you. To connect easily with friends and family by cell phone. Texting has become second nature for many of us. The phone at the guest house could be used to call the States, but only the speaker phone worked. So calls home were not exactly private! "Hey ?Baby! I love you" followed by embarrassed grins from the team member in Haiti, knowing he was in a room full of 6-10 other people, all listening. Lastly, all the married folk agreed that the love of a supportive spouse gave them the energy and support needed to make this trip, to face the uncertainties of traveling in Haiti and the tragedies abundant all around us Thank you to all those who made it possible for us to be in Haiti. We appreciate you now more than ever.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Amazing grace

Amazing, Amazing

This is the word Dr. Susan Nelson used to describe St. Vincent’s School and Orphanage and the children in Haiti. A facility she has been serving since 2008 through the West Tennessee Haiti Partnership.

True – the school is amazing, given the lack of resources available to them. True - the children are amazing given their unique situations.

From the onset, the first ten minutes at the school I would have described the environment, children and staff as not Amazing but Amazing Grace.

The blind, deaf, mentally and physically impaired children are the epitome of amazing grace. The blind children lock arms and walk throughout the small compound, keeping one another safe. They smile, laugh, play and sing or play the violin without the aide of their eyes. The deaf children guide the blind, push those confined to wheelchairs to class or the clinic, and express the desires of a child via sign language and smiles. The smiles – the dance of joy when a 5 year old deaf child tries on the pink crocs and dances!! The smiles as the children color, paint, make jewelry, or play ball with others. The little boy that was a resident of St. Vincent’s that had shoes but wanted shoes for his two friends, day students at St. Vincent’s that did not have shoes. These two boys, his friends, lived with their families – he did not have a traditional family but rather the family at St. Vincent’s. An orphan concerned for his shoeless friends- Amazing Grace.

Marie Carmel, the 46 year-old wheelchair bound cook, unofficial matriarch, and life-time resident of St. Vincent’s. Marie was dropped off at St. Vincent’s when she was a baby, almost 47 years ago: her birthday is April 26th. She has no knowledge of her family, yet she smiles and enjoys the children and her place of honor at St. Vincent’s. Each day she sits in the breezy place, in her wheelchair watching the children – overseeing the activities of the children, the courtyard and orphanage - Amazing Grace.

There is Jo Jo, the artist in residence. John Joseph, the rock star – he is limbless yet creates masterpieces with the use of an bandage to his right “nub” or his mouth. He signs with his nubs, eyebrows, lips, and face…he communicates with the deaf children, he translates English to Creole or Creole to English. He is the unofficial patriarch of St. Vincent’s, a 50 year resident. He does not know his birth family – yet he knows the story of each child at St. Vincent’s. He smiles, laughs, jokes and makes light of his lack of extremities. He never complains – Amazing Grace.

There is Margaret. The hydrocephalic toddler abandoned in November of 2010. She is fed, always dressed appropriately with even a ribbon occasionally in her hair. She does not speak. She does not walk and yet she responds to the touch of her caregivers. She responds to the physical therapy provided to prevent her arms and legs from contracting. This innocent, helpless child is loved by her caregivers: given to St. Vincent’s by a caring family member, who could not provide for her-Amazing Grace.

There is Pere (Father) Sadoni, the Priest and administrator of St. Vincent’s. A quiet young man in his early 30’s. He manages not only the orphanage and school but a church. He is guarded almost shy but so tender when you see him touch a child. He is devoted to the children, both residences and day-students. He uses the resources made available to make a difference in the lives of all the children. He allows a teenage boy to stay at St. Vincent’s and attend high school because he has no where to go. This boy lost his mother, the cook, and his younger brother in the earthquake. He could see them, he could hear them, he could give them water and food for three days but could not get them out of the rubble and they died. He plays his guitar and sings. He is not bitter or angry or troubled at the world but has moved forward. He provides comfort to the blind and deaf children and adults at the orphanage. He assures Father Sadoni he will work hard to be a good student – Amazing Grace.

Seven nurses enrolled at Christian Brothers University in the RN to BSN program and myself, their teacher were witnesses to the Amazing Grace of St. Vincent’s School and Orphanage in Port au’ Prince, Haiti. For five, short incredible days, we left our comfortable homes and families to travel to St. Vincent’s. The students assessed and documented the height, weight, arm circumference, and heart and lung sounds of 208 children in four – six hour days. They played with these children. They colored with the blind and deaf. They painted the nails, combed the hair and made beaded necklaces. They held them. They cradled them in their arms and loved them. These seven nurses immersed themselves with the children and staff of St. Vincent’s – Amazing Grace.

This was designed as a student clinical experience, a “mission trip” to provide health care to Haiti. However it reality, it was a human experience where the children and adults of St. Vincent gave far more to us, the CBU community then we did to them through their Amazing Grace.

Sue Trzynka, Ph.D., RN

Friday, March 16, 2012

End of week note

We saw all 200+ kids plus ~50 adult staff members. Diagnosed tuberculosis in one patient, found two kids with heart problems, others with routine skin problems, minor respiratory complaints, lots of MAL TET (headache) and back ache. My Kreyol is getting better but still have great trouble comprehending. The kids laugh at me. We handed out >200 hygiene kits (soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, wash cloth) and all the crocs.
Tomorrow we go to the beach for some much needed relaxation.
Will try to send you a quick note tomorrow. I am very content and pleased with our trip and our amazing group of nurses from CBU.

Already making plans for next November


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Playing the power game

Every time I get started on a blog post, the power goes out. I will have to write more when I get back to Memphis. Please know that all the ibuprofen and tylenol donations were much appreciated by many of our adult patients. Many of the teenage girls are grateful for ibuprofen for menstrual cramps and migraine headaches.
We are all safe and working very hard.

I wish I could write more but it will have to wait.... Power acting funny.....THIS IS HAITI!


Crocs for St. Vincent

Hello everyone!   This is just an update to let everyone know that In the recent St Marys School and Holy Communion church event, over 200 pairs of brand new Crocs were donated to St. Vincent's!  Outdoors Inc donated over 26 pairs.  Excellent job and many thanks to all who donated.  Photos below.