An Update On The Haitian Donkey’s Progress And That Of His Homeland

Hi All:

Due to a number of somewhat turbulent events in the Donkey’s life, I have been behind on correspondence.  As mentioned, Duane and Dr. Jim Webb drove in and flew out of Cayes in early July.  We are thankful that it appears that the political situation in Haiti has quieted down for the present time and traffic is going well. I spoke with Dr. Moise today and he reports all is peaceful, they have been able to get supplies, etc.  So, Lord Willing, Dr. Fred Brown and Tom Failing will leave Saturday for a week of service without hassles. 

My fistula has not responded to nothing by mouth at all for the last month in addition to nothing except clear liquids the month before that.  Thus, Dr. Dan De Cook has graciously accepted the challenge to try to explore my belly wall and see if he can find an acceptable solution to the mess I seem to be.  Pray for wisdom and direction for him this Friday as he will try to repair this somewhat delicate situation.  I certainly am praying that it is fixable and I can return to eating, or at least drinking, something for the remainder of my life.  He did a CT scan on me last Wednesday, I don’t know the results yet but very interested in the progress of the cancer, etc, as it has been over 6 months since my last one.  I have been on antibiotics continuously for the last 2 months and have slowly increased in strength and my hemoglobin, partially as blood has only been drawn in small amounts for my TPN control. 

I am almost able to move into James and Jenn’s basement apartment.  It is much better than I had thought it would be, the bedrooms are bigger, enough to have my computer/desk in it in addition to my bed and a dresser.  I am very thankful for everyone who has worked so hard to help make this difficult move possible.  Being in our old house has many fond memories, sometimes sadness as it is so much Karen, and a lot of work to keep up for one simple Haitian Donkey (even with help from his friends).  But, realistically, I cannot keep that up, so the move is necessary.  We have not yet sold it, but praying that also will become a reality soon. I am spending a few days in Arkansas with Rachel, as we brought down some of Karen’s furniture and keepsakes down here and I am helping her settling into a new house, hanging up pictures, etc before returning to Michigan, work and surgery.  It is nice and warm down here, even the Haitian Donkey sweats at times! 

Once again, thanks so much for your prayers, encouragement and help that so many of you have offered us during the last few difficult months.

In His Service, Bill, Rachel, James and Jenn Ten Haaf

The Haitian Donkey Is In The Waiting Game (Sigh)

Hi All:

As mentioned before, Duane and I had planned on going the 8th of June, but the violence that prevented our trip is still going on.  I spoke with Dr. Moise this morning, things are settled down in Cayes somewhat, but the road to Port au Prince remains blocked by the rioters.  Thus, trucks and buses have been unable to bring people and goods where they need to go.  It also means that our teams cannot get back and forth, specifically the next trip planned for the 9th of July, unless things calm down quickly. Duane and Jim Webb (a retired surgeon in the GR area that helps out whenever needed and his health is good enough, he is a real trooper). 

Hopefully, this will give me a chance to get back on my feet with healing of the abscess in my lower left abdomen, the fistula that peeks out it’s ugly head in the lower aspect of my incision after likely being quiet for 3 years (we can’t be sure, but it is in the same place, though putting out nastier stuff).  We also need to be sure my line infection clears up in the midst of all this.  Plus, I have lost considerable weight and need to get my strength and blood counts up, not easy to do on only clear liquids (to try to heal the fistula without further, risky surgery).  It all amounts to the Haitian Donkey having even scrawnier legs and ambling along in a somewhat less than robust fashion.

In the midst of all this, we are working on finishing the basement at James and Jenn’s house so I can move in there with the remaining kitty cat of Karens and selling our house.  Many people have done a tremendous amount of work to help us and we now pray that things can be completed in the near future and I can begin to find where things are?  Also, we are still trying to get all the paperwork associated with the death of my wife arranged, including setting up things so that it will be easier for the kids in the event of my homegoing.  As you know, I have been preparing things for Karen to have and do after I would pass away, we weren’t quite prepared for what happened and still miss her terribly. 

Pray for wisdom for all these situations, especially for peace to return to Haiti, where the people have suffered so much for so long with no reasonable end in sight. 

In His service,

Bill, Rachel, James and Jenn 

The Haitian Donkey is not Welcome in His Homeland

Hi All:
I should be in Haiti, letting you know of the work progress and enjoying the warmth of the sun. However, Dr. William called me Friday morning and said that the hospital he is training in, the largest government hospital in Port au Prince, was shutting down all operations possible and sending people home for their safety as demonstrations scheduled for Sunday were started early.  After checking with several other colleagues, both Haitians and Expats, Duane and I reluctantly decided it would not be prudent to risk it and we cancelled.  Admittedly I have been fighting a fever and have started my third IV antibiotic since Karen passed away, as well as an oral one and still feeling under the weather, but didn’t want to disappoint my brothers and sisters there.

One of our reliable contacts are our fellow missionaries and dear friends, Johannes and Luise, but they were about an hour up the road from the hospital towards Port, usually things have calmed down considerably once we get a couple hours out towards the hospital, so well within the “calm zone.”  We could not contact them due to them being away from the internet, etc.  They contacted us yesterday morning and said it was God’s Wisdom that we did not go, as they had 3 roadblocks on the way back home for that hour run, two of which they got through but the third pelted them with stones.  Their vehicle is clearly marked as MEBSH so they didn’t respect that and would likely not have respected them.  They had to back up and take the two track roads back home (almost everyone has 4 wheel drives, a necessity there).  Rod had similar problems getting home from the Sunday School/Feeding Program and Johannes and Luise said that no one was even able to come to be seen at the hospital (and thus would not be able to come for surgery) due to the violence.  So, once again, the country is struggling with no clear resolution in sight as it is a longstanding, complex situation that brought this on and who all is/are the real culprit(s) is very unclear.

Since I was staying home, the sore lump on my belly wall that I have had for 3 years, since Dr. Dan De Cook drained my fistula, had been growing more tender. I blamed it on lifting boxes in our attempt to move out of our house into James and Jenn’s basement, not that the family would let me do much, they consider me a first class wimp, I fear.  But, I figured to contact Dan as I had a light schedule and he graciously saw me on Monday, did an ultrasound and drained a bunch of smelly pus, cancer cells and who knows what else out.  So, I have another pipe sticking out of my belly which doesn’t always give the best of odors, he will see me in a week and decide if he needs to take me to the OR and clean things up more extensively, which I am fearful he will likely do. 

So, would appreciate prayer for wisdom and strength for the above situations, both for Haiti and my personal health.  Also, I want to thank all of you once again for all your prayers, notes of encouragement and just many offers to help in any way in this difficult time in our lives.

In His Service,

Bill and Duane (and Rachel, James and Jenn)

The Haitian Donkey And Friends Return To The Northland

Hi All:

Since the last update had technical difficulties and I could not figure out how to send it out until I got home (will see if can get technical help in that department, no hope for the Donkey to learn such high tech skills), I will update you further on the rest of the week and specific prayer requests.  The week continued to be quite productive, though had another major struggle in that we had another ruptured tubal pregnancy come in that we were preparing for surgery when she passed and we could not bring her back.  She was the sister of one of our guards, Baoo, so that was doubly hard as part of our employee’s family.  Such a reminder of how fragile life is, how quickly, as James tells us, “for what is your life, it is even a vapor, that appears for a while and then vanisheth.”  We are thankful that, although there is NO functional Red Cross facility in either Cayes or Port (and thus all of south Haiti), that our lady with the huge tumors and considerable blood loss is doing well despite the hurdles thrown at her. 

The rest of the 40 some surgeries went well for the week, thankfully.  Saw a cleft lip, which I will do next time, and a cleft palate, which I will not do (as don’t have the obturator, like the top half of a denture, custom made for the little one, so that s/he will not tear up my repair with the tongue).  She seems to be growing well, but hope Smile Train or someone similar will come in the near future to do this.  The surgery itself is not all that hard, I have done it before, but was dismayed when the repair was destroyed when the child tries sucking (even if we dropper feed it).  I also saw the 90 (now) year old man Moise and I resected a huge cancer from his nose and face, I do have some positive margins, but no visible cancer, so discussed with him and his family that I would wait til some came back (not wait so long so it is huge again, though) and reresect if it does, as at 90, he might just live a happy life and pass away of other causes before it becomes a problem again.  He was quite happy with the overall situation.

Duane and Evert fixed a number of problems (though decided that we would not have the Haitian employee who considers himself an electrician after a week of classes in Port do any more electrical work, as he attempted a project with some quite negative results).  Bravery sometimes can have less than desirable endings, especially in the electrical realm.  Sometimes it is braver, and certainly wiser, to ask for help before attempting something we are ill prepared to undertake, whether in the medical/surgical realm or building repairs.  The battery backup system batteries, originally installed by USAID, have started to come to the end of their lives at about 7 years and we are exploring which of a number of expensive alternatives to give us power when we don’t run the generator (or the few hours a day the government may decide to give us some electricity)  This also requires considerable prayer for wisdom to maintain this vital system.  We are working at limiting electrical usage, it seems that turning off lights and fans, etc is an unknown concept in Haiti, one does not stop the water in the river from running, why stop the electricity when it wants to come out?  Or, for that matter, the water that wants to come out of the faucet?  Novel concepts. 

Unfortunately, despite being on both IV Vancomycin and oral Levaquin, I spiked a temp on Thursday evening and have been struggling since. I got repeat blood cultures and other labs done which showed no growth (good, but then why the temp)  but need prayer for wisdom as my Infectious Disease doctor is afraid that the only solution is to pull my last upper body line and then have to go to the groins, difficult to take showers, be active with a pipe sticking out there, not something I am looking forward to.  I also will see my cardiologist before work on Tuesday and see if my heart is functioning better.  So appreciate prayer for wisdom and favorable outcomes on these fronts.  At present, the oncologists state that they want to wait 3 months to see if I can remain infection free before considering further treatment, especially in the immunotherapy realm.  My blood results also showed that my anemia is slowly getting worse, I was reduced to begging to get one unit of blood transfused (all sorts of new rules based on numbers, but what about the poor patient?) 

Dr. WiIliam has gone to France for his 2 months of required training in laparoscopic surgery, I was finally able to make the proper arrangements, we could not purchase the tickets til we got the visa to go there and we couldn’t get that from the French Embassy til we had the letter of invitation from the hospital in France.  I can see that I still have considerable work on the transition front at Centre de Sante Lumiere, to get the situation ready for my possible absence, so would like to be as functional as I can be for a while longer, the Lord permitting.  Also have things to settle and organize on the home front, so Karen is not left with a bunch of problems. 

As always, thanks so much for your prayer and support of our service for our Risen Saviour at Centre de Sante Lumiere in Les Cayes, Haiti.

In His Service,

Bill, Duane, Evert, Linda, Robin, Ruth and Tabitha

The Haitian Donkey And Friends Enjoy Working In The Homeland

Hi All:


It is hard to believe that it is Tuesday night already and we have passed the halfway mark in our work here again.  As requested in our brief update a week ago, we were somewhat concerned regarding the political upheavals here as well as my health concerns.  We are happy to thank you all for your prayer and support as we had a good trip down here, at least the Haitian Donkey and his friend, the Dutch Donkey, as we were joined in Atlanta by Duane and Ruth.  Tabitha, Linda and Robin came on American and were supposed to land in Port 2 hr before us, but had some weight trouble and had to return to the gate to off load some, so were there a bit before us.  We had a very slow trip to the hospital, about 6 hr, but partially because there were so many police stops in Port and we are thankful that that likely helps keep the rioting down somewhat.  So, everything comes with a price.

We arrived in Simon late on Saturday, the MEBSH folks had their annual convention at the 1500 seat church next door, where the whole courtyard was filled with benches and tarps and there was a huge screen attached to the church so that the thousands outside the courtyard could also profit from the singing and preaching.  We only got the tail end of the meetings, as the church is right next door to the hospital, but we enjoyed what we could understand of the services.  They were done on Sunday after the morning service but they really get into the fellowship and there reportedly were 10,000 people in attendance.  Apparently, they had people come inside in shifts so that it would be fair to all, all the cars that normally were in the courtyard were kept out so more people could attend, so we had people and vehicles everywhere (not that that many people have cars, maybe 50 or 60 were along the road.  People left in droves, a bunch went by on their way home in the back of a dump truck, singing away.  A good start to our week.

Evert (the Dutch Donkey, he also named himself) is a HVAC person from Lowell, MI, and has been invaluable at fixing stuff here.  Duane has been working with some of the Haitian team on storage shelving as well as getting the supplies we sent in a container from Bluffton a while back, including 2 new radiators for the generators, other needed supplies.  Evert has a couple Haitians working with him, they have repaired the truck in several needed places, including the AC and the broken off door handle, they replaced the well pump again and have a host of other projects lined up.  Duane is building some tables for the physical therapy department, as Mme Shaller has brought a physical therapy assistant and will work with her people to get the department back up and running, a great blessing for all concerned and a relief for me.  Both men will keep busy til they leave, as usual, as they have a rather long list of projects to complete.

Ruth, Linda and Robin have been organizing the pharmacy and taking inventory and putting it on the computer as we hope to work more efficiently in ordering and using our supplies, though admittedly, at times it seems impossible to get the Haitian doctors and pharmacy people to think outside the box.  Often it is like the patients back home who are convinced that Advil or Motrin works better than Ibuprofen, despite much higher cost for the same stuff.  They also are working on other organizational projects.

Surgery has been busy, we are very glad that Tabitha is here to help us in the OR.  We had 3 fairly difficult hysterectomies yesterday, 2 difficult hernias (and a couple easier ones) and a ruptured tubal pregnancy that was a bit of a struggle.  We also had an incarcerated hernia come in that had a very low blood pressure and, while we were stabilizing him for surgery, he passed away, a very sad surprise for us all.  Also had a lady in severe congestive heart failure, surely would like to have some of the medicines we use so freely in the US.  Today, we had an easy hysterectomy, a thyroid mass and some hernias that weren’t bad, but then had an add on exploration of the abdomen in a 65 yr old lady who looked well over 9 months pregnant and had had previous surgery, so lots of scar tissue and we had a sweat bath trying to sort it all out as she had huge masses all over her abdomen that were troublesome and stuck to everything, colon, small bowel, side walls of the abdomen and we struggled for hours to sort things out.  I am watching her carefully all night, trying to get some blood for transfusion, a difficult chore here in Haiti on a good day.  So, appreciate prayer for wisdom and healing for her.  Tomorrow has 11 cases scheduled, so if all show up, will be a run day.  Am thankful that my health is holding up but did not feel I could leave the patient tonight for a wonderful meal at Johannes and Luise’s house (Tabitha was late, I would be late also), but still have a lot to do and want to keep a close eye on her, her fluid balance, etc.

So, we thank you all for your prayers and support for the ministry, the trip over (and back) and our work output during our time here, that all we do may bring glory to our Savior, whose indescribable gift we will celebrate this coming weekend and the reason we all are here at Centre de Sante Lumiere.  Also, pray for Duane’s dad, he has been in and out of the hospital all last week and this one, now in Brookcrest with severe infections (we used to keep them in the hospital to stabilize them, now they get sent back out as soon as possible and end up coming back?)

In His Service,
Bill, Duane, Evert, Linda, Robin, Ruth, and Tabitha