This was a first for me since the earthquake. At that time, as I was in Haiti for an extended time, I began sending out regular updates on the situation there to let people know what we were doing as well as thank and inform the hundreds of people who supported the great needs at that time in our work there at Centre de Sante Lumiere. I have kept up the information pathway, at times more faithfully and succinctly than others, but this time was unable to connect up. There was some intermittent connections through the USAID system, but this donkey is quite deficient in his technological skills and could not even get past inserting the interesting password correctly, despite some other team members trying their best to help him. Also, my travel computer was worked on during my last surgery and recovery and I can use it to word process but still am working on getting it up to speed. So, was unable to communicate much at all.
However, we had an eventful and productive trip for the most part. The group of 14 went down to Haiti via 8 different paths, partially because I was scrambling to get tickets for those who were willing to add on to the team after the hurricane now a month ago. Dan, Duane and Butch cleared lots of trees, both at the camp and at the hospital and the environs starting several days after the disaster, we came a week after their return. Ron and Linnea Shick have been long time friends from their years of work with construction teams in Haiti and came with a team of 11 (he and a team worked with Rod to put the roof on the hospital in 2007 and was pleased that it survived quite well), but for some reason their flight/plane was cancelled on Friday, so there was a huge backlog of people and baggage anxious to get in to Port au Prince. Our whole team made it in on Saturday, the last flight from Ft. Lauderdale on American, but 14 pieces of luggage, some containing vital elements for our work, did not, as the plane had too much weight. Micah, Tom and Jean Eddy went back and got all but one bag the next day, having to wait in Port all day before they were able to retrieve the bags (we didn’t have the last one yet when we left the country, NOT the first time that has happened). As pictures sent by other missionaries, such as the Wrays, Caleb and Olga, etc, have documented, there was widespread destruction and loss of homes, food supplies and lives in the southern section of Haiti as the hurricane center passed about 35 miles west of the hospital. We carried along a lot of our own food supplies and did not suffer for lack of food or water as we have pure water from the hospital deep well plus had limited food supplies we could obtain in the western section of Haiti. We are very thankful for Kathy and Karen heading up the cooking and food preparation department with help from Olga and her crew as well as Tabitha and Anna (who also had other duties).
The hospital was very full for the time we were there, partially because there are so many people with chronic diseases, infected wounds/injuries, etc and medical care, always a problem in Haiti, has been even less available since the hurricane. We did a number of debridements of necrotic and infected wounds, as well as two leg amputations on diabetic patients who have been unable to heal their chronic wounds/sores and have had invasion of the infection up their legs, requiring more drastic measures to save their lives. We did lose a lady with a bowel obstruction likely due to metastatic cancer that Dr. Luke had operated on a while back, we had our usual struggle finding the old chart, but when Luke walked up to see her with me, she remembered him and he could put the medical information into perspective. We stabilized her and were planning on taking her back to the OR to sort things out and hopefully give her a while longer by relieving her obstruction when she suddenly went rapidly downhill and passed away in a few hours. A very sad surprise for us all, as well as a young man in mid teens that was very hard to sort out with our limited diagnostic tools and sometimes even more limited patient cooperation (reasons for the latter not so clear) and we also were stabilizing him with antibiotics and fluids for an early morning exploration of his belly when he passed away that night. I had seen him late the night before and he seemed to be doing better (just going into an abdomen for an “exploration” has more long term medical repercussions in Haiti than it does in the US, due to our limitations in sorting things out, so we were proceeding carefully) so this was an even more painful result for us all. Other than those negative situations, our surgery and medical workload went quite well, for which we thank the Lord. Our chaplains continue their faithful work in reaching out to every patient with gospel tracts, several films that present our need for Jesus Christ as Savior, despite both being well beyond Haitian retirement age, a real encouragement for us all.
The various team members worked on repairs to hospital problems, a constant source of need to keep the hospital functioning, from plumbing difficulties to electrical, as well as going out into the surrounding villages to help clear trees that had fallen and were too large for the machetes to hack their way through, so we used the chain saw to make things more feasible. They also worked on getting houses back into a livable state, again a huge, undertaking that will last well into 2017. With the unrest and dishonest elements in the society taking matters into their own hands to procure supplies destined for more remote areas of the country, the UN was flying helicopters up into the mountains behind the hospital in large nets that dangled below the machines and could drop supplies without interference of the negative elements, plus there likely would not be very negotiable roads to get these lifesaving products to them quickly and safely. The helicopters regularly ferried the supplies out from the coast below us all day long, so we hope some of the needs were met for these already suffering folks. We are thankful that the feared cholera epidemic seems considerably less widespread than first predicted.
Our trips home seemed to have gone well, everyone arrived with their luggage except Karen and I, and the airlines just dropped off our bags a couple hours ago at our home (things are MUCH easier to handle in the US, even glitches) but, overall, I feel that things went as well as they could have under the circumstances and thank the Lord for all that the gang was able to accomplish. A big prayer request is that, next Sunday, the 20th of November, will be another attempt to have hotly contested presidential elections in Haiti, more than a year later than originally scheduled, with at least one party threatening to “burn the city” if his candidate (from one of the major parties) doesn’t get elected. Thus, we hope that things will get resolved, especially as Duane, Ruth, Sam, Dr. Jim Webb and I plan to return the 3rd of December for another round of work.
Thanks for all your prayers and encouragement for us even when we were “silent” in our updates. It is appreciated greatly.
In His Service,
Bill, Karen, Anna, Jo, John, Kathy, Kevin, Kurt, Luke, Micah, Ron, Tabitha, Tom and Travis