The phone didn’t work well when I tried to call Karen on Thursday night, so couldn’t bring her up to date, but not sure what the term up to date means anyway at present. I had a most wonderful team of coworkers at the hospital all week, including several of my family members, Margie Punter and her new husband, Gordy Bonzelaar, who loved his first episode overseas and seemed to be able to do a lot of different needed tasks. Marge’s sister in law is my office nurse, Theresa Ragsdale, who has gone to Haiti many times and does a ton of work, with her husband, Bob, on this side of the water to sort through donated medical material and ship what we can use on containers. She brought her son in law, Sheldon De Kryger, a house builder and his son, Daniel. Between these two and with considerable help from Gordy, they got the old hostel remodeled with a new roof (many thanks to Scott Yordy (ACC construction) for lending us the materials to finish the job), dug a septic tank and remodeled the inside of half the house to make it quite suitable. Putting a square roof on a not so square building led to some frustrations to these 3 novice missionary workers, but they soldiered through and got most of the house at least closed up properly. There is some work to be done, such as putting on doors (we have the metal doors on the outside to keep the riffraff out, but a vast amount of progress was made.
We all appreciate the new chaplains, and the house will be a hospital chaplain house, but it was supposed to be a secret. When the chaplain made a call to see me and pray for my health, I asked him who had told him we were trying to build this for the chaplain. He smiled and paused for a minute, then said “maybe God told me.” I guess I couldn’t get much further on that account. He seemed very pleased and excited with the house, although had some suggestions (exactly why I didn’t want to have him know til we assigned the house for him to use during his chaplaincy duration). But I greatly appreciated the fact that he is always present during my clinic visits, as I had a 48 year old lady who was told her vaginal bleeding and abdominal pain was due to fibroids and she needed an operation elsewhere. I did a pelvic (not a common procedure in Haiti it seems, though they let me do it without trouble) and found an extensive cervical cancer that had spread into her bladder and enveloped her pelvis, something likely not resectable even in the US at this stage, and we have no chemo or radiation therapy, unfortunately, in the country. I spent considerable time with her and her husband, then introduced him to them trying to help them with the enormous difficulties facing them. Our mastectomy is doing well, as well as the number of hysterectomies and the hernias. As I mentioned before, Theresa was pressed into duty in the OR as we were short a nurse, then the second one (a very reliable and hard working nurse) had an urgent problem in Port au Prince and asked off for the rest of Tuesday and promised to return as soon as she could resolve it. That ended up being Friday morning, so Theresa slaved in the OR all week, doing an admirable job (NOT a surprise).
Gabe, my nephew, helped in the OR (a surprise as my little brother, Butch, avoids the OR like the plague) as well as doing some welding and some painting and other projects, as he broke his most important wrist bone snow boarding after we had bought the tickets, so he was making the best of it and seems to have done quite well adjusting to it. I was thankful how polite and gracious the two young men were in helping out where needed, being willing to be a “gopher” when needed to get supplies, bring food to workers, etc. My little brother, Butch, who has made many trips with me as well as helping Dan and Duane right after the earthquake (they called him a machine with a chain saw) clearing up the fallen trees that had damaged houses but would take days to chop with the machete, continues to amaze me with his ability to do a great variety of jobs (as have a goodly number of previous team members) but rest assured that those genes never got transmitted to me. Somewhere in the 14 years between us, new skills were inserted into our family? He raced around all day trying to keep projects going, repair items that needed it, such as the laboratory refrigerator that stopped working a bit before we came, it was a gas one, but just sort of petered out. There were 3 other ladies, 2 novices, who slaved from dusk to dawn on a variety of projects, doing a lot of cleaning and painting in the dental area and hospital generally, as well as helping Butch with the house repairs that he needed help with. They are more plucky than I, climbing up on the roofs to put up tin, etc, something I have considerable trouble with, as we don’t make Depends large enough to contain my stress when up over 8 feet or so.
Marge did a fair amount of progress but also kept everyone well fed. Except for Butch, who literally ran all over to keep the projects going and seems skinnier than I have seen him on our return, I don’t think any of us suffered from malnutrition. Wednesday morning, I went for a meeting with the mission president to try to regulate some administrative affairs, he had a most lovely cool breeze coming in the windows, but I started chilling and had a relapse when I finished the meeting with severe chills, retching and inability to do anything with such trembling members. I managed to get back home but had another episode the next morning, 9 am again, very similar to what was happening in the US with my pneumonia, but no respiratory symptoms. As the last blood cultures came up with a GI bug, where it came from was never found, though they changed my port, had a lot of difficulty getting it in and it was negative, I have been reluctant to see the Infectious Disease experts as they insisted on changing it last time and will likely do it again, and I need it to remain alive. As I seem to absorb little of what I do eat (though I enjoy trying to eat), I have stopped all food except clear liquids to see if maybe my fistula could be leaking/inflamed a bit and thus seeding my bloodstream? Waiting for the blood cultures done this morning and tomorrow morning to come back to guide us, but did start some broad spectrum injectable antibiotics on my nurse’s suggestion on Thursday, as we were worried they might show me off the plane if I had an episode on Saturday and didn’t want to spend time in the ER in Philadelphia or Lauderdale.. Did well until they did a forever body pat down in Lauderdale and I was shivering as they had almost all my clothes off except the last layers and wouldn’t let me touch them til all cleared. My team again was wonderful in helping me keep going, sharing layers of clothing to get me back in the warm department, as I admittedly was a bit woozy and wobbly. They borrowed an empty wheelchair in Lauderdale, but I insisted on walking in Philadelphia as was better and no longer shaky, though these episodes take a bit out of me.
I could not attend the second administrative meeting on Friday, but pray for healing that I may go back with Tom Failing, Tabitha Sheen and her niece on March 4, as they want me there. We unearthed a considerable amount of questionable activities in the financial department, which all the terrified employees are scared to tell me about as repercussions are very alive and well and can be fatal in Haiti. We coaxed it out of them and have armed ourselves to put an end to the years of administrative struggles, hopefully on my next visit. It will be painful, will try to put all the repercussions on myself to protect my employees, but it clearly has to be done as there are too many major irregularities there. So, pray for healing, courage and wisdom from on high for the next trip to be possible and productive. Thanks for all you do to keep us going.
In His Service,
Bill, Butch, Daniel, Gabe, Gord, Heather, Lori, Margie, Sheldon, Teri, and Theresa,