Happenings in Haiti

Dear family and friends;

It was a pleasure to have Dr. Bill (left) and Dr. Jon Roberts (right) here.

Dr. Bill is doing very well and thank you for your faithful, continued prayers for him. His recovery since the operation has been miraculous, and his continued ministry here in Haiti is extraordinary. Dr. Jon has been a huge encouragement to us all.

Deb fitting and prescribing eye glasses at a medical clinic

We are in the process of building apartment / suites for longer term visitors here at Camp Mahanaim. The project is progressing well, and we should have two apartments for couples and two for singles when finished. Deb helps set the levels for the cement roof.

We continue to have camp for children / youth even while the construction is happening.    The camp in March had 160 campers aged 12 to 18 and several of them accepted the Lord as their savior while they were here.

We are also working on construction of the bathroom building for the gymnasium. It is nearing completion and should be in use by the end of April, Lord willing.

It was great to have our son Tim come visit us for the past two weeks. He was able to join the Athletes in Action men’s volleyball team as they played against the Haiti National volleyball teams.

This past weekend, while Tim was here, I took the opportunity to return home for a few days. Although it was a very short trip, it was a great blessing as I hadn’t been to Canada since 2012. It was special to meet our first Grand daughter (Ellyanna) and spend a lot of time with my parents. My mom is down to 90 lbs now as ALS continues to attack her body. It was great to see her peaceful contentment as her faith and hope is truly in God.

Thanks for your prayers and care,

bye for now,

Love Rod, Debbie and Katie

Home with Friends (again)

Hi All:

This is an update from a whirlwind driven Haitian donkey who is back home. Remember that donkeys don’t like to go at something other than their own pace and can dig in their heels if pushed otherwise. But, by the grace of God, we were able to fly along at the predetermined pace of the workload there, something that seems to have a mind and life of it’s own, and get done what seems to have needed to get done (needless to say, some things didn’t get done that might have needed attention, just ran out of daylight and evening hours to do the work) and literally were able to fly back home without much of a hitch. Unfortunately, one of us seems to have brought along some friends in the GI tract, hopefully they will pass off the scene soon. Just for the record, that person did not indulge much, if at all, in Haitian food, as the rest of us did, so that does not seem to be the cause of grief.

As mentioned in my delayed update, we ended up with late nights, despite all hands on deck doing their best to keep things going. Thus, I didn’t get an update finished til Thursday, as kept having snags with trying to whip off something in the late night hours (probably not the wisest thing to do in the first place, but donkeys are not always accused of great amounts of wisdom) and then having the computer eat, or otherwise hide from my abilities to recover it, what I had tried to recover and complete what had been started the evening before. Maybe the computer, who has made likely the majority of my 150 trips back and forth to Haiti in my backpack, is starting to show signs of wear and tear, but not sure my aged and non technological brain could comprehend learning new tricks, for it is hard for an old Haitian donkey to learn new tricks, of course. In any case, I apologize for delayed updates. As Dr. William was gone during the day with the Missouri team at Rod and Debbie Wray’s camp (actually out at their mobile medical mission sites) a supportive ministry in many ways for our outreaches, as we do the surgeries they find out there and help us by paying for them, a great big help for us, we were a planned doctor short for the week, something we can deal with. However, USAID had unexpectedly pulled Dr. Sony to Port for meetings on treating AIDS patients for several weeks, etc, seminars they organize to teach the Haitian physicians under their training, on a regular basis, something I wasn’t aware of, nor do we usually get much advanced notice, the usual Haitian way of doing things, it seems. Communication and consideration are apparently not high priority items. So, we were 2 doctors short for the majority of the week in one of the busiest weeks I have had in a while.

Travis is only a 3rd year premed student, who does work in a nursing home while in college and has shadowed some doctors in the US, so had a small amount of medical exposure, but wanted to come out and see what missionary medicine was realistically about. What I had planned for him wasn’t quite what he got, but he seems to have risen to the occasion quite well, and we all are thankful. We ended up doing 64 cases, many of them fairly complex and causing the two of us to have rivers of sweat pouring down our bodies for a good share of the time, despite mostly having air conditioning in the OR. The Haitian doctors wear their scrubs OVER their regular clothing a lot, even I sweat thinking about that, despite my liking the temperature on the warm side myself. I had him scrub on as many cases as possible as wanted to have him get his feet wet, but he seems to have a considerable aptitude for the work and also a good pair of hands and a good work ethic (likely from his family as I understand Dad is a hard driven builder and uncle a lawn maintenance specialist and he has spent a lot of time and sweat on those endeavors). As he fit in well and quickly, we moved him from second assistant (ie holding retractors and passing instruments to the two people (Dr. Moise and I most often) doing the majority of the surgery) to first assistant to Dr. Moise later in the day on Monday on hernias and other smaller procedures, ie less demanding cases, so I could go to surgery clinic in the afternoon and see the patients that had been seen that day in the regular clinic and needed me to see and sort them out. He responded well to the challenge and we then began running the second room later each day to keep the pace going when possible for all but the really major cases when I could have Dr. William or Dr. Adult come in in the evenings after their respective obligations in the clinics were completed to make us a group of 4, after doing the larger cases, hysterectomies, C sections and the like during the day with Dr. Moise and Travis helping me (or more likely, us two helping Moise, as he has progressed quite nicely over the 11 years of training).

We had a nice mix of cases, from removing a goodly number of growths from various body parts, both inside and outside the belly/abdomen, including a huge, over 2 gallon, ovarian cyst from a lady the Missouri team sent us from the Renault Sunday School site. She had delivered a child 5 months ago, but her belly rapidly regained it’s pregnant form and she could not longer eat or feed her baby, so two lives were at stake. Thanks to the ultrasound unit provided from our friends via Vi Anderson and Dr. Sid Fortney, we were able to diagnose the gallons being enclosed an ovarian cyst rather than freely floating in her abdomen (as it was in my case, in those cases, usually much more serious and likely a cancer versus being benign, as it was in her case) and we were able to remove it and send her back home a revitalized young lady. We also did a repeat C section on Friday from government hospital which had a bunch of dense adhesions and we ended up having to resect some small bowel to put the pieces back in some semblance of proper order. She has AIDs, so really tried our best to minimize the stress on her already struggling system and am praying that she will do well. We were able to put a split thickness skin graft on the gardener who was growing his own garden of maggots in his tibia the last time I was there, we had shown them the door and needed to get the exposed bone covered with a nice bed of living tissue to receive the graft during the month I was back in the US to hopefully get this delightful 79 year old gardener back at his job on the compound soon. My patient with gigantism and neurofibromatosis, who I have resected softball sized tumors from different body areas now four times over the years when they outstrip their blood supply and the central tissue dies and rots, came back to have me do it again on his right leg. He is one huge fellow (his hands, feet and toes are almost twice mine in thickness and largeness) and we give each other hugs each time we cross paths before doing the nasty job of cleaning up and trying to cover the holes left behind when the dead tissue is removed.

The multitalented Dan Boerman came this time to help me try to sort out the financial situation of the hospital better, as well as to inform my colleagues there that the USAID aspect of our work, the community health sector, is creating financial havoc for the acute care aspect of the hospital outreach. Over the last year, he has diligently waded through the confusing array of facts and figures and estimates that the hospital is supporting the preventative and AIDS/TB curative aspect of the hospital work to the point that it is risking a financial collapse for our entire system. He presented his conclusions, not sure we were able to convince the rest of the leadership team that we need to make major changes to the situation to correct the course of the ship of state to prevent it sinking. I think there is a lot of fuzzy math involved on their part, nothing dishonest, just not clear to those who really do not understand finances properly (and that would include this Haitian donkey, if it were not for my friend helping to enlighten me, of course). So, pray for God’s intervention and direction for us all so that we do not make a financial mistake that would put a huge hole in our testimony as a God honoring institution caring for patients in a compassionate but also fiscally responsible manner. Does that make sense? Only the Lord can make us all see what He would have us to do to rectify this properly.

Besides struggling to help us in the financial sector, he was invaluable in helping keep things afloat in the mechanical sector, as we needed to get a second cautery unit up and running to run both OR rooms simultaneously and the AC in the main room blew a switch designed to carry current to a light bulb, not a large, 220 volt window AC unit. Just fixing those problems would have been something none of the rest of us could diagnose in a month of Sundays, as the saying goes? He took a few minutes and corrected it, as well as a drip coming from it that would sprinkle you as you entered the room, and a host of other projects that we thanked the Lord daily for his willingness to repair for us. He also helped with some questionable wiring situations for the skin graft equipment on Friday afternoon, so we could finish all the tasks we needed to before departure the next morning in the wee hours. We, Travis, Dan and I, reflected on our shared observations of our week on the way home and will share one of them with you in closing. As we picked our way through the darkness, peering for signs of vehicles without running lights at all (and a few without headlights either, both motorcycles and huge trucks), we wondered at the logic behind a government who required all vehicles to add a second license plate (likely to gather funds for the upcoming elections hopefully scheduled for later this year and stimulating lots of protests that make about as much sense and do about as much good as those in other countries recently) and now gives tickets for not wearing the seat belt, but does not punish the scores (certainly more than the majority of vehicles) of trucks without more than hopefully one of the two headlights as the only source of illumination for them and nothing for the rest of us to distinguish where they are going at rather high rates of speed, nor restricting the hundreds of trucks of various sizes that have just a bench lining the back of the truck and pack customers in the back without a tailgate and have people hanging off the back to get from point A to point B at rather rapid speeds. I am thankful that I have my trips in and out of country scheduled on the weekends because of my work needs in our clinic in the US, as that avoids the daily riots aimed at bringing the government to it’s knees but is mostly restricted to the week days to stop and destroy buses and trucks bringing people and goods to their desired destinations. Pray that, in the midst of the chaos, we can be instrumental in bringing the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who need it as much as the rest of us in more structured situations.

In His Service,

Bill, Dan and Kim Boerman and Travis Blok

The Haitian Donkey thaws out

Hi All:

We are glad to report that the temperature in Haiti is pretty much perfect for the skinny Haitian donkey. We have had a fair amount of balmy weather, nice and warm with a pleasant breeze, just about perfect for critters of my personality. We had a nice trip down without any hitches except a bit more adventuresome trip to the hospital, but all our luggage made it and we settled in to the surgical clinic about 4 pm, a bit later than usual. There was a proverbial horde of patients waiting for us, so that we didn’t get done til 8:30 pm, and it has been a sign of the week to come. However, by the grace of God, we are doing well and making solid progress.

We rode down to Cayes with the second half of Dr. Jon Robert’s team. Jon and I met first now 11 years ago, on our first trips to CSL (I had been on the other side of the country for a while and had moved to Cayes/CSL to start up their surgery program in 2004) and we have become fast friends and work together at improving things for Haiti now for years. However, normally, Jon and I don’t go to Haiti at the same time, as he swipes Dr. William or Moise to translate and see patients with his team, this year consisting of 5 physicians, several nurses, a couple pharmacists and others. They worked Monday and Tuesday at the church in Renault, where the Wrays have the Sunday School program among the poorest of the poor of Cayes. So, it is useful for them to have one of my two surgeons in training with them, as they can verify the cases, give an idea of the price of the surgery, and get the wheels rolling to get it done here. However, as it was Travis’ spring break from Western Michigan pre-med studies and he has wanted to go with me for years, we ended up going at the same time. Travis is a young Christian I met several years ago when speaking at his school after the earthquake and we have stayed in touch since. It is and continues to be good to work together in treating the Haitian patients. We also have been working on getting things organized for the likely formal finishing of our Haitian doctors surgical training and it appears that Jon Roberts and his crew may be able to help us considerably with the details of our collaborative effort. I am excited about the possibilities of some of the Missouri based crew helping us get materials from their hospitals as well as possibly having some Haitian residents spend some time with them, a real plus for our collaborative effort with the hospital up north.

We also have had a vast number of patients to do this week. Thus far, I think we have done 50 cases and tomorrow does not look like a light day. So, this is my explanation as to why I have not produced an update yet, we are getting home around 10 pm each night, it seems. Even the Ever ready Haitian Donkey/Bunny is not sure he wants to keep this pace up, but we are glad that we are able to help as many patients as possible during our week here. We had someone fall from a tree today and crush his pelvis and be unable to void, as he has ruptured his urethra and his bladder was most of the way up to his ears. We also had a sad C section yesterday, the lady had no idea that she was pregnant and came in for severe belly pain for 2 days, wondering whatever could be the problem. When we examined her, the baby was a transverse lie (ie not able to get out sideways) and in distress with very weak heart tones. I briefly tried to turn the child, as I feared it likely was not salvageable, but eventually did the C section and the child was clearly dead on delivery. A very sad situation.

So, will send this out tonight as need to at least let you know that we are very alive and very well. I certainly will not lose any weight this week, as Dan cooks a hearty breakfast each day, Miss Line’s mom, who has been cooking our noon Haitian meal ever since I came here in 2004, gives a huge lunch, and now Kim Boerman makes a great supper each night of a variety of tasty treats. So, I do not suffer in that department at all. Thanks for praying for our efforts. Please also pray for my sister, Margie, and her husband, Harold Punter, as he is very sick in Butterworth Hospital/Spectrum, with complications of his pancreatic cancer and they need God’s encouragement and direction for the days ahead.

In His Service,

Bill, Dan, Kim and Travis

Brief Update from the Chilled Haitian Donkey

Hi All:

I just wanted to send a brief update for prayer as we are still in the subzero temperatures and it will be a couple more weeks before we go again. However, there are a couple items of prayer that we would appreciate your attention to.

As we mentioned when we last left Haiti in January, we had a seemingly quite positive meeting with the officials at the Justinien Hospital in Cap Haitian, where we are hoping to set up a collaborative effort where we will help them with some of their dire equipment needs in exchange for them putting two of our doctors, who I have been teaching for 11 years now, through their program and making them official Haitian surgeons. I have emailed them but have received no response back yet, not necessarily a surprise, but we are hoping that Dr. William and his wife, Estelle, can go up this coming Friday via a reportedly flatter and less dangerous route through the mountains and see if their family can at least consider moving up there for his 4 years of training. This is a great request as I would dearly love to see the whole family stay together (they have 5 almost identical sons, ages 4 to 11 or so, my memory is not perfect, sorry) as this will be a stressful time for them in any situation, but being together will be important for their home and family life. Of course, that will be a big expenditure, but I am hoping this also will work out.

Dr. William will be bringing the first of the installments of some shared equipment, this in the way of some sutures, as they have NO sutures at all for the hospital, the size of which was hard to estimate (ie number of beds available), but I will see if he can get more specifics to share. We are hoping that this will encourage them to consider him and a second doctor from CSL as residents in their program soon. Pray for safety, that they will not get lost (we did once on our return, not a huge time loss, but roads are not marked well, if at all, in Haiti) and that they will be able to discern the Lord’s direction for their lives and ministry on this trip.

Also, keep praying for my sister Marge and her husband, Harold, in their most difficult battle with his pancreatic cancer. They are going through some trying days and need His help and strength each moment of the days.

Thank you very much for faithfully bringing us and God’s ministry in Haiti before His throne of grace.

In His Service,

Bill