Google+ WTN Haiti Partnership: November 2012

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