One of the unique methods of transportation seen frequently in Haiti is the scrawny donkey, with sticks for legs, yet able to carry the loads it is expected to bear. I feel sorry for the critters, as, along with many others in Haiti, there is not enough available to feed the bellies aching for food there and the burdens they have to bear in so many realms are overwhelming to both see and endure. But, they plod along the paths with their loads faithfully and bring the burdens to the expected places despite the struggles they encounter en route. Not a day goes by at the hospital that I don’t see people coming and going on these beasts, plus they can travel the trails, which are probably much safer than the insane speeds the motorcycle taxis take other people on the roads (the only taxis allowed in the Cayes area are the most dangerous motorcycle taxis, I have never taken one and don’t think it would be wise to do so, except for the one trip with Rod and Duane to fly out in December, 2010, on the private plane Ken De Young brought in to take us out when the riots had everything blocked, that wasn’t exactly the funnest or safest trip either, but we had no alternative then so thankful that the Lord brought us out safely). Actually, that trip was on the cowpaths/trails to avoid the road blocks on the regular roads by the rioters, so safer in that realm, just the rock wielding protestors close to the airport had gotton wind something was up when the plane landed just before our arrival there and blocked that path also. Fortunately, some of our patients and others in the village recognized Rod and I and allowed us to avoid further confrontation with the rioters via a side route on foot to the plane, which we could see in the distance on the landing strip.
I think my progress along the road to a reasonable return of health has been similar to that of the plodding donkey. Maybe there are other similarities you have noticed between us, but remember that the Bible tells us to “speak the truth in love.” I am not as good as the donkey at plodding, being more impatient at times, wanting to get from here to there with a speed between the plod of the donkey and the whiz of the motorcycle taxi. But speed comes with a price, the rewired body doesn’t always like the type and volume of food presented to it, so it rebels the best way it knows how. We have had a lot of advice from friends, some of which has worked and some not so much thus far, partially because of the lack of the sphincter at the end of my stump of a stomach to control flow of food downstream. But, with the patience of Job, Karen keeps making some sorts of savory treats to consume as close to hourly as my mind and “mothers” can remember and I can fit into my patient schedule and thus I am glad to report that I think I have gained the 3rd pound for good and the incision seems to be making progress to closing the “tunnel” Karen pokes twice daily to keep the skin opening from closing until the deeper recesses heal from the bottom up. Although my weight gain is not so impressive, I really feel my muscle mass is improving (not visibly, the belt is on the tightest notch, don’t think I ever used that before) and I can do more physical activities and keep longer hours at the office, etc, for which I am very thankful. The Lord has blessed me with this measure of return to health and I thank the hundreds of you who are and have faithfully been praying to that goal. I have done several minor surgeries in the office again and will continue to slowly increase my availability, of course depending on what side effects the chemotherapy hauls along. Ir appears that both agents have hand and foot neuropathy as a major side effect, hopefully not permanent ( surgeon without feeling in his hands woudl probably be considered a bit challenged), some cardiac risk factors, of course the usual diarrhea, nausea and mouth sores, plus wiping out of blood counts (so will check my blood weekly while on the chemotherapy), in addition to some hearing loss and possible infusion site tissue damage/skin loss. Of course, we all can have an allergic reaction plus some kidney and liver damage, in addition to the fatigue, but I am hopeful that all of these will be minimal by the grace of God, and appreciate your continued prayers that He will bring it to pass.
The biggest reason for the hold up in the chemotherapy is being sure that we play by the rules of the insurance, such as it is. Being self employed, I purchased only a major medical plan (even that is $1300/month for a previously healthy Karen and I) so outpatient services are not covered, but figured that we could cover the smaller expenses and needed the policy for the catastrophes. We are very glad to report that, though the 2 weeks of incarceration at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center expenses for the hospital services only, ie NOT doctor’s charges yet, came to a tidy sum of $413,774.00, it does appear that, thanks to the Lord’s graciousness, the insurance will cover the majority of those costs. There are some charges they refuse, such as the blood typing and crossmatching charges, as the blood was drawn before I was admitted (of course, I was admitted at 5 am and surgery started at 8 am, not a lot of time to scrounge around for the 5 units of blood I eventually was given) but reason did not prevail with the insurance company, this still was an outpatient, and thus not covered, service. We won’t win all the battles, but we are trying to be prudent in facing future charges in the most cost effective fashion. Once all the issues are lined up, they tell me they will issue my “boarding pass,” for the 5 hour chemotherapy infusion each 3 weeks. Not sure if there is a hidden meaning behind the boarding pass, best to not let the imagination run too far with that.
Dr. Jim Webb was able to spend a week in Haiti and do surgeries, for which I am very thankful, plus he plans on returning the 8th of June for another week, possibly with Duane to do repairs, plan for next year’s work teams, etc. Among their cases, they had a 23 yr old woman with a perforated stomach ulcer and peritonitis, they were able to do the surgery but she did die a few days later, unfortunately. This is a real problem with follow up care, as our nursing staff is very limited in acute care training, even things like intake and output are major hurdles to overcome, I often end up getting up during the night to check on the patient myself as their training and motivation at times leaves a bit to be desired. Needless to say, the hospital needs a lot of prayer and wisdom for those of us in charge, even if, in my case, it is from afar for now, as we sort out how God would have us to proceed in the immediate and longer range future. Beth Newton, the only other American at the hospital, a nurse practitioner, has been invaluable in helping Dr. William keep me informed as to what we are doing and trying to keep things headed in a positive direction.
A minor issue of clarification to those who have been sending financial support to our nonprofit directly. As you know, our web site is called, www.servingincayes.com, but the nonprofit is “Centre de Sante Lumiere,” and checks should be made out to that title if possible, as the bank has been giving Kim Boerman some grief about those written out to the web site. As you know, the checks then can also be sent to 2886 Clydon Ave, S.W., Wyoming, MI 49519, which is where we have the Haiti depot and load the containers, etc. A second alternative always also is our church, Byron Center Bible Church, 8855 Byron Center Avenue, S.W., Byron Center, MI 49315 and that can be written out to the church directly. Thanks very much for your continued prayers and support of our efforts to serve Him at Centre de Sante Lumiere both here in the US in Haiti, for His glory.
In His Service,
Bill, Karen, Rachel, James and Jenn (and the Haiti crew)