Karen has graciously provided you all with a couple brief updates of our adjusted travel plans, as we were unable to do much about the blizzard that hit the northeast of the US and closed down the Philadelphia airport (and, of course much more), so that our flights were cancelled. I hit the ground running in the US as ended up working over 35 hours in the office in the 3 days I have been home so far, sort of like punishment for extending my stay in Haiti? So, most of you know we made it home via all different flights, but thank the Lord, it went well. As Karen hinted at in her notes, the chronically optimistic Haitian Donkey also feels that, by the grace of God, the meeting with the medical directors up at Hopital Justinien up in Cap Haitian seems to have gone very well also, certainly well beyond my wildest expectations, if it holds up. Will try to update you on a few of the highlights of the rest.
We had a bunch of surgeries to finish the week well, for which we are thankful. As usual, on my last day at the hospital, I try to get to bed a bit earlier than 11 pm, my normal nighttime goal in Haiti, as breakfast is at 6:30 and one can get some interruptions by the hospital, especially when my younger doctors are on call with me, something they try to arrange as they like having backup help “in house.” When possible, I try to attend devotions with the team from 8 to 9 pm and did so the last night. Afterwards, my friend Ido wanted to have me say “hi” to his wife, Henrietta, freezing in the Alberta snow, and he tried to get the internet working to do so. Somehow, while fussing with the electrical system, he got his head into the path of the ceiling fan and we ended up needing to stem the rivers of blood running down his face with a repair of his scalp. So, my sleep was a bit abbreviated and Butch and I ended up taking advantage of Duane’s putting a couple hospital mattresses in the back of the truck and slept while Jean Eddy drove Dr. William and us to Port the next morning at 2 am. We picked up Dr. Mario Florestal in Port (where his extended family and daughter live, his wife is a pediatrics resident at Cap Haitian) and headed up to Cap Haitian at 7 am. Jean Eddy drove us while the 3 physicians planned how to approach the authorities in the meeting the next morning. Mario was one of the few graduates of our medical school who was able to secure a residency spot in Haiti, not an easy thing to do as all slots normally are taken up by the public school graduates, who get first dibs at everything. Of course, many of them are children of the wealthy minority of Haiti, so this perpetuates the problem of the imbalance of medical care, most staying in Port au Prince where their families are and thus there is not much available to the poor folks who live out in the boondocks. Dr. Robert Belding, my longtime friend and a retired orthopedic surgeon from the Carolinas who has done a huge task of building up and running much of the orthopedics available at our sister hospital, Bonne Fin, has been behind Mario getting through school and influential in getting him into the residency. Mario is at present essentially the OB-Gyn department at Bonne Fin, in return for the help given him by Robert.
We spent several hours winding back and forth on the switchbacks through the Massif du Nord Mountain range, the usual narrow roads with NO guardrails to protect us from the 80 plus foot cliff drop offs that were at the edge of the road, NOT my favorite adventure. Jean Eddy concentrated on his driving, a definitely appreciated endeavor, but Dr. William kept reminding him that we needed to blow the horn as we entered each blind curve, often 180 degrees, in case a large truck or bus was coming from the other side and to warn them of our approach, a common procedure. He kept telling Jean Eddy to “quank, quank” the horn, and we dubbed him the duck. His response was that he preferred to be a living duck than a “tomato catsup” splat on the bottom of the cliff. Needless to say, we all were relieved to arrive on the other side of the mountains and arrive at the seaside city of Cap Haitian 11 hours after departing the hospital. We had a tour of the hospital provided by Dr. Mario, a bit depressing as not much seems to work and the people were packed in everywhere on cots, beds and floors, reminding me that I am not eager to have socialized medicine installed in the USA. They had a huge library of books, almost ALL in English (I think I found one in French in a brief scan of the titles) and the majority likely donated many decades after publication. Not sure how many can read light English reading, let alone the dry, dusty English texts?
Much to my surprise and encouragement, we were met on time (a very relative thing in Haiti, from my previous encounters) at 9 am the next morning by Drs. Yvel V. Zephyr, the OBGyn physician who is the general director of the residency programs there and Dr. Jean Jean Coq, a General Surgeon and the Medical Director of the hospital. They seemed very open to developing a collaboration between us and them, as they promised to strongly consider placing Drs. William and Moise into their surgical residency program (4 years each) soon in exchange for CSL helping them obtain needed supplies and helping their limited educational resources. The items they wished the most were OR supplies, as they have no working cautery machine (they lost theirs in the unpredictable governmental electrical power surges, we know all about that, as Dan and Duane have installed a huge voltage stabilizer on our hospital to protect it after we had considerable damage from them), so would have to tie all blood vessels and they also have no suture available (sort of a no win situation, it seems). With the help of my network of gracious friends, I hope to find affordable resources to help them care for their patients while they help us make our two doctors (and maybe a 3rd, Dr. Adult after they are done) legal surgeons, so that we can provide 24/7 surgical coverage at CSL and make the hospital much more likely to be sustainable. My dear wife spends a lot of time encouraging me in my work, both in the US and Haiti, but she also at times has to temper her “eternally optimistic husband,” and I am still riding on the proverbial cloud nine in my dreams of the possibilities. Yes, she is right, this is Haiti and words are cheap, as are promises, but I hardly noticed the cliff drop-offs on the road back as Dr. William and I tried to get our heads around the visions of the future and how to, with the Lord’s help of course, make this into reality.
There is a great need for prayer as we embark on this future for the ministry there, as much needs to be done in a way that is God honoring and to His glory, but we got back to Port au Prince and rented a hotel close to the airport and let Jean Eddy and Dr. William return to the hospital (picking up the Bill of Lading for the IDA/Amsterdam 40 ft container on the way to deliver it to the customs people) and back to our “normal work.” Butch and I put on every scrap of clothing we had for the night, as no one in the hotel could figure out how to program the AC in the place beyond freezing, so that was a good preparation for our return to the US. We arrived at 7 am at the airport to find out that all our flights had been cancelled (as expected) as we were scheduled to go PAP to Ft. Lauderdale to Philly (in the blizzard zone) and GR. After a good hour of negotiations, we went PAP to Miami, then Chicago and then Kalamazoo (airport code is AZO as Haiti has no idea where Kalamazoo, MI is, I think that added to the puzzle for the agent) and Karen picked us up there. We are still praising the Lord for a great week of work at the hospital and such a seemingly positive reception by the hospital chiefs. Pray that we will be diligent and appropriate in our future collaborative efforts to further the ministry there.
As this goes out, I am hopeful that the other 16 team members are on the first leg of their flight from Haiti and that they had a safe and productive time after our departure. We have shared in the past our frustrations with the USAID dealings with our hospital, most specifically with the irregular paying methods employed by the Haitian administration they employ as contractors to do the on site work. However, Dan contacted me yesterday and his opinion is that the new contracts with Pathfinder are worse than our previous 9 years with MSH, and that they have not paid their 33 or so workers for at least 4 months. We have reached a crisis point in our dealings with them, as Haitian work regulations require that we pay the employees ourselves if they don’t and this will make the financial situation at the hospital even worse. Dan and I have wanted to totally eliminate the program ever since we got involved, as it is a constant, major headache, but we realize that doing so will cause an uproar as 33 people or so will lose their jobs, a real problem as there are precious few available and we neither need the extra workers nor have the funds to pay them. I am extremely thankful for his willingness to help me in this endeavor as I have neither the time or ability to sort that all out by myself. We have set numerous deadlines to straighten things out, only to have the Haitians find excuses to not enforce them, but I don’t think we can procrastinate much longer. Only God can enlighten us at to how to resolve this properly and we are praying for His guidance in this aspect of the ministry.
In His Sevice,
Bill and the rest of the team of 18 (17 Hebrew slaves with one Egyptian taskmaster)