A Straggling Haitian Donkey has a Fair Sized Road Bump to go Over

Hi All:
It has been a bit since I last gave you an update. It was a busy December and I felt a bit dragged out, but to be expected as still quite anemic and the clinic was quite busy with lots of problems, including several months of sinusitis and bronchitis. In late December, I started running a bit of a fever and a cough, so started some Zithromax and Mucinex and that seemed to improve some. I also developed a GI bleed, no obvious source but knowing I have a remnant of stomach left hooked directly to my small intestine, I worked harder on acid suppression. I was not winning, my White Count went up and my Hemoglobin down, exactly the opposite I was hoping for, so switched to Levaquin, a powerful oral antibiotic a week ago, as I cannot afford to infect my port in my chest and last weekend got some blood cultures, which so far have been negative, thank the Lord. I keep going as the worst thing to do for a pneumonia is to sit around, it is good to get up and help blow the gunk out, and, as I have a wimpy job, I kept going, being careful to follow proper precautions, although I really no longer have a cough, though still a fever a few times daily. I got my regularly scheduled 3 month CT scan to follow my cancer progress, not sure what they have to offer me if it advances, so far, no results on the reading.

I repeated the blood count yesterday, my white count is coming down but also my hemoglobin, a smidgen. So, again, my office staff took over and arranged for me to get IV Zyvox twice daily, I got the first dose a couple hours ago. I hate to think what that bugger costs. I don’t think they were going to tell me much, knowing I protest a lot, but they needed my input into choice of IV antibiotics, as we don’t use IV antibiotics in the office. I have to keep up for my surgical boards and want to do so even if I may never do it. Also, at times we get donations of medications in Haiti and we try to put them to use. Pray that I will be able to quickly recover, I will likely give myself a couple units of blood once the infection and fever settles down, as it has been almost a year since I saw a Hemoglobin of 10 (normal is 13 to 16 for our lab). I would love to get a bit more zip in my ambling hither and yon. Dan Boerman, Jose Dominguez and his son, Eric, as well as the 3 Griffhorsts and 5 others just returned last night. I haven’t spoken to anyone yet, but Dr. Moise called me last night and again today about administrative issues and he was very pleased with the progress they made (not that any of us is surprised).

Lord Willing, I will be healthy enough by the 4th of February to travel with another team of 11 to do more house and roof repairs, as well as painting, whatever the chiefs Duane and Dan decide needs to be done. I am looking forward to a number of folks going with us, including my nurse, Theresa, her son in law (a house builder) and his son, who helps his dad a lot, plus Butch and his son, Gabe, again construction guys. The sons are a bit young, but have good blood in them and want to not only have them help us but also invest into their lives and encourage them in seeking to serve our Lord. Margie and her husband Gordy, Teri, who has gone several times and is a tiny lady but never see her stop, amazing. We have a couple more painters from Margie’s church to round out the team.

So, asking prayer for a good result on my CT scan (will be several weeks before Dr. Bartlett reads the CD sent to him, and his opinion is the most inclusive, as he knows what he did in there and what is left behind, etc), a rapid recovery from my pneumonia (my repeat chest xray yesterday didn’t show much improvement in my right lower lobe pneumonia), ability to transfuse myself soon and get everything in order for a return trip with the group. Also pray for Dr. William, now the cleaning staff and guards at the government hospitals are on strike, again shutting down access to care for the poorer patients. He gets discouraged as cannot make much progress in his training. I think that is the way of life in Haiti, one has to claw for every inch of progress, whether personally or corporately.

In His Service,

Bill, Karen, Rachel, James and Jenn Ten Haaf

Transformation at Camp Mahanaim

Dear family and friends;
Merry Christmas! Thanks so much for your care and encouragement these past two months. We are going to try to show some of the transformation that has happened at Camp Mahanaim since hurricane Matthew struck just over two months ago. We are so thankful for your help and support as you have stood with us to make this recovery possible.

     

     

With the help of a team of 11 men we installed wire cages in the river and filled them with rocks. We are rebuilding the protective wall along the river on these rock cages. The river wall is 7 to 8 feet tall and is made of rocks cemented together. We have already brought in more than 110 truck loads of rocks.

This past month we said good-bye to our faithful old friend Rambo, who has been with us and served us well for many years. We also parted with the old army truck.

     

We are really thankful for the help and care from so many people in the village. They have been a huge encouragement and support to us. Thanks also to the team at Harvest International who have helped us greatly, including sending containers of food and supplies. We have been able to carry out distributions every couple weeks for the people who live near us.

     

Please continue to pray for us that God would direct us regarding the Renault Sunday school. This past Sunday we had more than 1,500 children. They really want to learn and are very well behaved, but we just don’t have enough space in the existing building and hardly in the yard.

It’s great to have our son Tim home for Christmas with us. He has made up a short video of the progress here at the Camp since the hurricane, if you’re interested in seeing the latest happenings in greater detail. We’re excited to have a real Haitian Pine Christmas tree this year.

Thanks again. Merry Christmas!

bye for now,

Love Rod, Deb, Katie and Tim

The Thankful Haitian Donkey receives a freezing welcome home

Hi All:
We wrapped up a warm week of work at Centre de Santé Lumiere Friday evening and woke up at 12:30 am for the trek back to the U.S. Actually, only Sam, Jim and I came back. I took Duane, Ruth, Ken and Gail to the Wray’s camp Friday afternoon (a good excuse to reduce the length of yet another administrative meeting with its endless deliberation that seems to prevail in almost any decision made in Haiti). The Haitian staff wanted to meet for more discussion regarding the new rules of accountability we have been trying to install for the last 2 years. These new policies have always met with resistance by the administrator, who in the past has even refused to let me store my tools in the room that contains the safe. It is located in the surgery hallway and I wanted to keep my ratchets, screwdrivers and other limited tools there as, at times, I need to adjust equipment like the dermatome, put new blades in equipment, and tighten screws that always seem to work their way loose. It is a small room/cubbyhole but still plenty of space for me to store my tools close to the OR. I tried leaving them in the general OR area, the hallway that leads to the OR is locked, but tools kept getting borrowed and not returned, it seems. Since I now keep them up in my bedroom closet, it is a bit farther away, but underlined his reluctance to let anyone, even me, into the hallowed room.  We obviously didn’t feel this was a wise accountability procedure and tried as a committee to encourage him to allow us to put in rules that always required 2 people to enter into the room and safe. Duane had even placed double locks on both the door to the room and the safe inside quite a while before, much to the dismay of the administrator.

When Duane came to replace the larger generator that died in August, the administrator was on vacation. No one could get at the money nor the checkbook and it precipitated a crisis that we used to more strongly encourage better accountability (as well as availability) in the system. Duane is a force to be reckoned with, so since we both were there this time, we opened the subject in our medical committee meeting again with no intention of backing down. In earlier meetings, everyone on the committee, tried to persuade him; this time, after the usual further discussion, we just told him (kindly) that he was outvoted. We again passed the measure and Duane changed the locks within a few hours, much to the frustration of the administrator. We told him he was welcome to go there anytime, just that he had only one key for both the door and the safe and could no longer enter alone and gave the same key to 2 other administrative people, the accountant and the head of nursing. The keys for the other locks on both structures were kept by the doctors, so we had some checks and balances, plus a team of 2 could get at funds no matter who was on vacation, though it always was one member of each department. I think it took him the rest of our time there to recover from the “shock” as he put it. He felt we needed more discussion and planning on how to make the new situation work, but finally seems to accept reality, though refuses to keep a key and does ‘NOT want to ever enter the safe again’? I guess no matter how long I am in Haiti, I won’t understand how some of their minds work.

That situation took a lot of my emotional energy, but I hope it is done and will put an end to the rumors that float around about where “our hard earned funds are going.” Haiti doesn’t have a lot of trusting people around, probably with good reason. Duane and the rest of the crew made some headway on getting employee houses repaired and covered, though Sam and Duane worked with the team of Haitians on one house that was at such a slant that neither wanted to get on that roof to put new roofing on for fear the whole thing would go down. Scary. We were inundated with requests from other employees who didn’t even have a house, for us to help them build a small 2 room house, as well as many of the neighbors of the hospital in the town of Simon, the street merchants and others in the surrounding area who sustained significant damage to their structures. It is hard to know how to best help those we should and how much to do with all the great needs they all have. It is amazing how quickly the trees and brush begin to sprout again and green reappears despite the destruction to cover it up. The bridges that went down still requite some navigation to get over the piles of dirt and debris that make a temporary crossing possible until some sort of repair can be arranged.

The trip home went quite well, I refrained from eating or drinking more than a few bites and unhooked my TPN before entering the airport, as I figured I would never make it through Haitian security with it on. In the U.S. (Grand Rapids), they know me quite well by now. I get a thorough body search and pat down and the bags are swiped and checked for residue, but I think that the situation would be way too complicated for the security in Port au Prince. So, I just sip on some water and have a few crackers to keep things quiet til I get back to the warm house and functioning facilities in the freezing cold. We had every scrap of clothing on while we waited for our carryons to come up to the jet bridge in Grand Rapids Saturday night, a major shock to our systems. But, we are thankful to be back in the routine of the US workload and for all of you who make our service for Him in Haiti possible. Pray for the 4 straggling members who will come home on Wednesday and for wisdom as we plan at least several more trips combining medicine with relief work for those who suffered so much loss in the hurricane. Once again, many thanks also for all who contributed to the “Rice and Goats” fund as we were able to make arrangements before we left for paying for the purchases to make the Haitian employee’s Christmas brighter at least from the nutritional standpoint. It is a joy to be a part of the large wonderful team of folks who work together to help Centre de Sante Lumiere shine more brightly for His glory.

In His Service,
Bill, Duane, Gail, Jim, Ken, Ruth and Sam

The Haitian Donkey enjoys a warm December in his Homeland

Hi All:
We are back at the hospital and the weather is perfect for a Haitian donkey; maybe not for those sweating in the sun pouring cement for hospital projects, but one gets no complaints from me. We had good flights down here, although the new American Airlines policy no longer gives free baggage for overseas flights? I did get two free as they bumped me to first class for the 25 minute flight to Chicago. They allowed me two free bags the whole way (I don’t think that is the normal way, (they rate it with the lowest class you have on the ticket), but I wasn’t about to complain). We likely will have several to take back for Olga and the Women’s Center, but still will have a lot less. The flights went well, thankfully, and although the plane was full, we got all our baggage. The custom’s agent told me I had to give the porter helping us ‘something for him’; I think with the government in an uproar, everyone “does what is right in his own eyes,” as Israel did in the day of the judges. I have no idea if I insulted him with the tip I sent back, Dr. William didn’t have any idea but felt I should as “he will likely remember you next time.” Yikes.

We had a good trip up here, took over 5 hours, but made it safely and got settled in, back on my TPN; am doing plenty well with the food intake. Let’s just say that everything tastes good, I do not eat a lot at a time but donkeys do better grazing anyway. Surgery has been light, as expected. December is always the lightest month with people getting ready for Christmas, plus the hurricane has hit the people quite hard financially. There is no question that the generosity of so many of you in supporting the hurricane devastated people and helping our “rice and goats” Christmas/end of year projects are most special again to our people (and ourselves, as we can see how much this is needed again). I haven’t had the chance to go out in the villages and see anything, but Duane and Ruth took pictures of the houses we are working on and they are quite decimated. Of course, everyone wants help and we cannot help everyone who lost part or all of their houses, but will try to help at least the employees as much as possible. Duane’s team is working on getting other projects done, trying to make some sense out of the storage of materials, as it is not so hot and need to get some organization. I don’t think that keeping things neat, clean and orderly is a highly valued Haitian virtue. Of course, some might rightly accuse the donkey of being quite Haitian in that respect. The difference is that I do try!

Dr. Jim Webb and I did surgery yesterday so Dr. Moise could go with Duane and plan the housing repairs that need to be done after we leave so that Dan and company can complete the projects in early January, the Lord willing. We had a heavily scarred hysterectomy that was a struggle, so we were thankful he came back with Duane about the time we were deep in the pelvis and the 3rd set of hands was greatly appreciated to expose the area and help us sort things out. I must admit I have gotten a bit spoiled having Drs. William and Moise working with me now for many years, i.e. having 3 of us in the more complicated cases. I guess I will have to have one of the OR nurses scrub more often and lend a hand, not as good as 3 physicians, but helpful.

Despite the surgery load being down a bit, the clinic has been quite busy, including the surgical clinic, so hopefully we will be able to help more in the year to come. The team has been fixing things around the hospital, including oiling locks and doors, repairing leaks in the roof and a variety of jobs that seem to need continual input to keep things going. Since a donkey is not so good at maintenance, it is even more appreciated. Dr. William’s wife has been ill with a nasty pneumonia, so Dr. Moise and I have promised him we will make house calls to check on her for him (we just finished one and she is making progress). She is one delightful lady, but has 5 active young sons to care for and just thinking about that makes me tired. Since no one has electricity and likely will not have it for months or maybe years to come (impossible for us in the States to even imagine), this adds strain to an already stressed economic system.

Once again, thanks for all you have done to encourage us and our Haitian brothers and sisters in their lives and service for our Lord in Les Cayes.

In His Service,

Bill, Duane, Gail, Jim, Ken, Ruth and Sam

The Haitian Donkey Returns to the Good Old USA with thanks

Hi All:
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