We know a number of you were praying for our flexible travel plans, thanks to the person sabotaging the radar system in Chicago, so wanted to contact you, but the lightning sabotaged the internet in Haiti for the last week, so the phones and internet were all down. I called Karen on my Haitian phone after our arrival but that did not work at all and the message that I was alive and back at work was hardly intelligible. So, we just got things up and running here today.
I normally have a few hectic days to end my week before I leave for Haiti, as I need to get all my Sunset patients taken care of, plus regular clinic work and that makes for a lot of charting to do in the evenings. When told by many individuals that I might have to change the plans for our team of 6, a call to American Airlines just ended up with a message that all agents were terribly busy and to call back later, no surprise. So, just kept on doing charts until they called me to inform me of the cancellation via a message, no live person, of course, at 10 pm on Friday. Since departure was scheduled for early afternoon routing through Chicago, trying to find alternative routes became a priority and I spent the next 3 hours negotiating flights via American agents booking on US Air, which company is in the process of merging with American Airlines, but the merger has more holes in it than glue at this stage. Essentially, they could promise me nothing other than that we would get charged for both bags that we had been promised free by American We always get one free for whoever is on my ticket up to 6 people and they usually give a second bag free for missions trips, which Tom Failing’s nephew had arranged for us beforehand. Plus, they stated that we would still have to collect our bags at 10 pm in Miami, haul them somewhere and recheck them the next day, and pay for the second bag, in the wee hours of the morning, a real hassle with the plane full of Haitians who sort of abide by their own set of rules. Since anything on the west side of the state runs through Chicago, that was not an option, so we were thankful that Dan Boerman graciously volunteered to take the baggage and half the team to Detroit and Karen and Marsha Langdon, Mike’s wife, took the rest of us, a real blessing. We arrived early at Metro and the Lord answered our fervent prayers by giving us an agent named Charlie O who was very kind and checked the bags all the way to Port au Prince (a savings of $240 for the group, but just as important, giving us at least another hour of sleep, as we could get up at 4:30 am to make the flight instead of 3:30). He also only charged us for the second bag when I explained the situation, a second blessing.
US Airways planes seemed much older than those of American, but the flights went great and smooth, we caught some sleep. Since I had already had a 4 hour night of sleep on Friday, at least getting another 4 1/2 on Saturday made things more tolerable. We met Dr. Mary Preston in the Port au Prince airport, as she flew from Ft. Lauderdale on an earlier flight, and all our luggage made it, a bit beaten up but intact. Hers didn’t, but we decided not to wait til the afternoon Lauderdale flight arrived as surgery clinic awaited me after the almost 5 hour road trip, we hate to make the patients wait too much longer. Again, by the grace of God and through your prayers, customs was a breeze and we made it to the truck by 10 am and had a decent trip to the hospital. Clinic was busy, the normal patients except I had a first experience. As you know, cellphones are often attached to one’s hip in the States, there are more of those here than one would expect with the poverty and they also seem irresistible. I was doing a pelvic exam on a lady that I would operate on later this week when her phone rang on the table a bit from the exam table and she jumped up and ran to answer it while I tried to retrieve my hand as quickly as possible. The Haitian nurse and doctor in the room with me were just as surprised (and amused). She told the party that the doctor was examining her and she would call back, hopped up on the table and waited for me to finish the exam, like it was “all in a day’s work”.
As this is the year for elections again, there have been a lot of riots in the major towns/villages along the route we have to take, as disgruntled people with much time on their hands than maybe they should is a recipe for trouble. We were thankful that they usually riot on the weekdays, thinking to have a greater impact on the commercial situation and thus disrupt those who might be able to do something about the injustices they perceive to need rectifying. However, we had to send Brenel, our maintenance individual to Port with the proper papers to get Dr. Mary’s suitcase on Monday and he ran into all sorts of trouble on the way back with it, getting here at 10:45 pm from a 5 am start on the express bus line, as the riots tend to disrupt anything of that nature. The government, likely using earthquake funds to supply their need for more cash, handed down an edict to raise the minimum wage, something that will cost us at least another $1000 per month, plus stimulating additional griping by those who get a higher wage now but will feel that the government raised the other employees wages, why can’t the Christian employer do something nice too. Just another reminder of governmental decisions often resulting in less than the most desirable long range results.
Duane and crew did a wonderful job of fixing the septic system to the point that it is usable. It still needs the rest of the second tank dug through the trash that has accumulated around the hospital over the years of use. Littering is not considered a bad thing. While we are driving to the hospital, plastic pop bottles, Styrofoam food containers, wrappers, etc, are tossed from the pickup/truck taxis flying along in front of us and bounce off our vehicle. People just walk and let similar items fall on the floor as they stroll along, including in the hospital, although Dr. William’s idea of placing a number of trash cans (many donated by Bob’s Disposal in Cutlerville) has helped in the hospital compound. Now I want to work on the area around the walls if possible. No one ever accused me of not having foolish dreams of progress, I suppose I wouldn’t be here otherwise? Anyway, the septic leak is corrected and the second hole and corresponding drain field is in progress. Plus, Dan Boerman (on the phone), Duane, Daniel Zales (a German missionary here teaching mechanics in the workshop), along with (in decreasing value as we go along) Dr. Moise and myself, were able to get the sterilizer and boiler going again as it wouldn’t work on Monday and we had done 5 hysterectomies plus a few smaller cases using most of our sterile supplies, and were dead in the water. Plus, Cayes General has been sending their material to us to sterilize as their machine doesn’t work, so there was a ton of stuff to prepare. Dan Boerman did a great job of directing us to diagnose and repair each step in an organized fashion and then Dr. Moise and I babysat the machine til 10 pm, when the cycle was done and we could safely sleep knowing that we could do the 7 hysterectomies scheduled for Tuesday with proper equipment. We had just settled down in bed when an ambulance came up to the gate, siren howling. Cayes General had sent a driver to get their equipment, despite the fact that we had called them and told them it would not be cool enough to open the door safely until much too late at night (and I didn’t mention that neither Dr. William, who was on call, or I wanted to sort out the material after midnight). They protested that they had several cases they still wanted to do that evening?, but we told them that we couldn’t control the breakdown either and they finally went home, only to return at daylight the next morning.
To end on a very positive note, Dr. William has been burdened about all the patients in the hospital who cannot go to church on Sunday and with my encouragement, started a morning service for patients and families right after my August departure. This week, Duane and Ruth, plus Beth and Mondesir, attended and there was a lot of enthusiasm at the service in our new chapel (thanks for all who helped make that great addition possible). Patients were wheeled in on wheelchairs, etc and much positive was generated in the way of people making spiritual decisions as a result. We praise the Lord for this very encouraging development and pray that it will continue and reach many more patients and families.
With thanksgiving for you all, and to Him Who makes life possible,
Bill, Duane, Ruth, Mike, Josh, Bill and Sue, Jenn and Mary