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

A couple Brief Prayer Requests

Hi All:

I had planned on an update after we returned from Haiti, but life has been hectic for a number of reasons. The busy week ended well, we did 49 cases, few little ones as Dr. Moise does little things while I am gone, not sure if totally legal but he certainly is capable. Friday night, the 3 of us were wrapping things up, packing and just sharing thoughts. The main one I appreciated was that all 3 of us spontaneously agreed that the Lord had given each of us the very best spouse we could ever have and we thanked Him for that. That was a special thought. The trip home went well, though Michigan persisted in giving us a chilly reception. We hope it is the last for a while, at least til the late fall.

Sunday evening after church, we picked up our dear friend, Pastor Etienne Degbey, from a church in Indiana where he had spoken in the evening. He was our OR tech during our 10 years in Africa, as well as the leader in our largest church plant and now a national missionary there, working on his 3rd church, come briefly to stay with us during his reporting to his 4 supporting churches (and some individuals, including Karen and I). He speaks fluent French and Eve (the tribal language, tonal) but the mission here would like him to learn English better so he can be the area director for them there, but how to do it when no one speaks English to teach you and to practice with. He continues to be an inspiration to me, the fact that he and his family give their lives to their own people rather than going to the U.S. for a better life, at least financially, as many of his family have done. It had been 7 years since we last saw him, though the marvels of modern technology let us communicate regularly.

My health has given me some fits, have had almost constant nausea (common since my first cancer surgery and the following chemotherapy, but also often gets worse as an early warning sign of a developing infection). However, I never could find a fever, my blood counts were normal without signs of an infection, so kept watching, working and waiting. Finally, Thursday, things got worse with a fever spike, etc. I have cultures cooking and have started IV Vancomycin again and ask your prayers for wisdom in finding out why these bugs come back so often of late. We are super careful with line changes (the tubing part), just changed the line going into my chest/vena cava a month ago over a wire, so why can we not stay ahead of it. Planning on going to Haiti next weekend but pray that the riots will not wreck things for us and the Haitian people, a real possibility, but we want to go if at all possible. This infection will knock me back out of the Immunotherapy trials for a while, pray that the cancer and infection will be prevented from raising its evil head.

In His Service,

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

The Haitian Donkey and Friends Enjoy Haiti Again

Hi All:
Once again, the Haitian Donkey is happy to be warm and comfortable in his homeland. The last few weeks were a bit difficult as I have had 2 significant line infections since I came home last time, so that the spindly Haitian Donkey legs have been more shaky and feeble than normal. A week ago, I had my Hickman catheter changed over a wire as I have no easily available spots to put a new line in, it is a bit sore but otherwise doing well. I am on both IV antibiotics (Vancomycin) and oral large doses of Ciprofloxin, so hoping that I will make steady progress. It is nice to be in the warm environment so that the cold factor is non existent. We are sorry to hear that the nasty winter continues back home, but thankful for a bit of a respite.

The trip down here went very well except that, about 6 am, it felt like the plane hit a stray reindeer up at 30,000 ft. Everyone was a bit stunned, we had been warned that we would have turbulence over Kentucky and the rest of the way down, so they were doing the drink distribution early. I took a regular Sprite, feeling that a bit of sugar would perk things up on the inside. I had two sips and was dozing a bit when we hit the something and the plane lurched and I had a Sprite shower to contend with. I was holding the cup but not in the air so it went all over the place. The rest of the trip went smoothly after that. We went through customs and had a smooth trip to the hospital, for which we thank the Lord as we saw only the remaining effects of the rioting, burned tires and other junk but no rioting. 

We settled down in the hospital, all three of us staying in the little house up on the hill. Surgical clinic was rather busy, if this is an indication of what the week will be like, we will have a crazy week. It looks like the rest of the team, ie Dan and Micah, will have a busy time in the heat, as the well pump went out again and will have to be pulled and replaced, a sweaty job in the heat. The laundry washing machines have been a pain to keep running of late and again require attention. The truck needs some more welding to keep the bumpers functional, but ran well on the trip down, again, something to thank the Lord for.

Will try to do a better job of keeping you up to date, but appreciate your prayers for health, safety and progress as we serve our Lord here in Haiti at CSL.

In His Service,

Bill, Dan and Micah

Several Haitian Donkey Updates

Hi All:

I normally do an update while in Haiti, but thought I would share a few things from the USA end. As noted in the last update, we made it home smoothly, though with a chilly reception around midnight in GR. The weather has been less than accommodating for a frigid Haitian Donkey, I was dragging a bit after being home a week, some of which I attributed to the nasty prep for my 36th CT scan on the 26th, as it was downtown and there are not a lot of way stations with bathrooms enroute, so was careful with my fluids for fear of accidents. But, it hung on and I had constant nausea and no appetite, a good sign an infection is brewing. However, my temp and white blood counts remained normal, so just kept working and waiting. Tuesday night, it spiked in the middle of the night, so went to the hospital outpatient lab the next morning, in the total whiteout we were experiencing. I drive the highway to work every morning, feel like I know every bump along the way, etc, but could not see the exit in the snowstorm and almost missed it as in the exit lane but couldn’t see far enough in front of me to catch the ramp. 

I started on antibiotics that night and have had considerable improvement. How to keep the nasties away is a more difficult decision and appreciate prayer for wisdom in how God would have us proceed.  Due to the infection, I again was removed from another study for the time being.  We are scheduled to return on the 9th of March again with a team of 12, so need to be up on my game by then. This group will measure and give eyeglasses to those that need it, a new service for our patients that I am sure will be greatly appreciated. One of the last patients I saw in Haiti had gone to a Christmas celebration/party, where alcohol was abundant. Apparently he got in an altercation and the other side took a chunk out of his nose with a bite. He had gone to the Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital in Cayes, a private Canadian hospital specializing in these disorders, nothing was done and by now it had healed well, just minus a section. I likely would have tried a small graft if it was fresh, but at this point, will see what he looks like down the road and consider revision? 

I also wanted to share our statistics for 2018 for those of you who support our work in prayer, financial support and otherwise, so you can see what medically, at least, has been accomplished for the glory of God at Centre de Sante Lumiere. 

We did 512 Surgeries

66,933 patients were seen in the outpatient clinic

913 was the average number of hospitalizations per month/some would include ER overnight observations for stabilization

33,090 Lab tests were done (and that includes some down time with the machine, which hopefully we have fixed (thanks, Dan))

We also did 274 deliveries

As we don’t try to turn away anyone who cannot pay for their care, we have a Poor Fund that many of you contribute to on a regular basis, and we ended up with a total of $116,610 that we were able use to care for those unable to afford even our low rates, for which we are thankful. This represents about 17% of our budget total and thus allows us to care for many patients with limited capacity, as there are very few patients who have some form of insurance in Haiti. 

In His Service,

Bill, Dan and Duane and the rest of the Haiti Team

The Haitian Donkey and friends receive a chilly reception

Hi All:

We are back in the US, after having had a good trip home, despite the freezing temperatures that greeted us here in Grand Rapids. I don’t think the Missouri crew did much better as far as the heat wave, or lack of same.  Friday was good to wrap up loose ends for some of us, I was able to arrange some connections with the president of the mission, Pastor Alneve, for future hospital plans as well as arrange for the next team, the Optometry team from Ferris State University with leaders from Zeeland, MI who will work with them as well as a gentleman who has come for years repairing things for Radio Lumiere, another project that seems to require constant maintenance to keep going. On the other hand, Dan, Paul and Dave started a project to repair the OR table in Room 1 AFTER we were finished with surgery Friday afternoon. This table was donated several years ago by a team who worked here for a couple weeks and it is electric, so the nurses have become spoiled using it. However, last week, it would only go up, not down, a bit of a struggle for us who are not giants by nature, and we had to wait til the surgeries were over to attack it as the sterile environment sort of goes downhill with tools, people and parts all over the floor. So, they started later in the afternoon, but by God’s grace, were able to rearrange the parts so that some non vital functions no longer work (such as tilting the table one way or another) but the parts have been wired into the up and down section. I so much appreciate the talents of my coworkers, as my skills in that realm are so little that they might be labeled as nonexistent. I will see what happened to the older table that was there, as those older, nonelectric ones are much more durable, especially in the heat and humidity they are exposed to. 

I did make at least one error in the last update, you likely figured out that the Donkey miswrote it. I mentioned that Dan declared the state of emergency over the sewage situation, very appropriately, and asked that all workers, USA and Haitian (not American) work on this til it was resolved, which thankfully it was. On Tuesday, we also ran into another problem with no simple solution. The container from Amsterdam arrived in Port on the 30th of December, late, as the non profit was moving and I doubt they have a moving company do so as on a limited budget. So, we really wanted to get at the contents, but the Bill of Lading was sent DHL from Amsterdam on Dec 13, 2018 and an Edward H, 1312 (nothing in Haiti seems so organized that our employees have numbers) signed for the package, but no one knows who that person is. So, the clearing agent was warning us that he needed a copy of the original Bill of Lading from the shipping company. This required a release of responsibility from myself/CSL, so that if Edward H and we showed up to claim the container, they would not be held liable. None of us could figure out how to fill out this form online (and there were a number of younger, more computer savvy individuals trying to help us complete this form). English is clearly not the primary language of the agent at IDA in Amsterdam I was dealing with and, though I speak Dutch, my skills in the technical realm are limited. Everyone scurried around trying to get someone to budge or get the form filled out (NO progress on any front), when the papers suddenly appeared at Pastor Alneve’s church in Cayes on Friday, the package had been opened and rifled through. No one knows what really happened, maybe Edward H. was disappointed that there were only papers and no money in the package, maybe he had a strike of guilt of his conscience and returned it, but we are VERY thankful to the Lord that this was returned one way or another and we can proceed with clearing the container and much needed supplies. When they gave me the package Friday morning, I grabbed Jean Eddy to deliver it and the team said they saw him streak out of the hospital at high speed. He delivered it and then accompanied us to Port the next morning in the bus as he always is such a responsible person, making sure the team is well taken care of, much appreciated. 

The ladies left a very shipshape storage space and I do think that the employees will continue to keep things well organized. Likely not quite as good as at present, but much was packaged in plastic tubs so the critters no longer can sharpen their teeth on the supplies. Jose, as you know, a colorectal surgeon, had a number of his specialty cases to wrap up the week. When I was in training, we were always told that colorectal problems were limited to developed countries, as our diets are low in fiber, etc, so they don’t exist in 3rd world countries. I fear that this is one of the blissful theories that is propagated by those living in “ivory towers” and not really in touch with the real world, as I certainly have seen an incredible number of patients in both Africa and Haiti with difficulties in this area, with not a lot of simple solutions, as their diets are low in fiber and the options are limited. 

On a personal note, today marks the 6 year anniversary of being told I have this nasty cancer and the start of a long, tumultuous journey of three 15 hour surgeries, 2 rounds of chemotherapy and now, last Friday, I appear to be signed up for my 3rd round of immunotherapy. Will get eye and lung evaluations, it appears these treatments can take their toll on these organs, a bit scary, as a blind surgeon who cannot breathe is likely not all that useful either here or in Haiti. But, I try to proceed down the paths that the Lord opens up for me, these treatments may not help, may hurt or do nothing to slow down the cancer, but they do try to keep me going. As it is supposed to get UP to a negative 1 degree Farenheit on Wednesday, that troubling element does not do a lot of perk up my spirits, but every day I drive in my pickup to work or church, I thank the Lord that I don’t have to take a horse and buggy in the ice and snow. I know the Lord gives grace for what He puts before us, but I think my faith stumbles a bit at the difficult situations our forefathers had to endure. So, appreciate continued prayer for wisdom and strength to go through this round of treatment, make difficult plans for the future possibly without me, and that we will, as Heb 12 tells us, “fixing our eyes Jesus, who for the joy before Him endured the cross.”  Nothing I will have to endure comes close to that price He paid for my salvation. 

In His Service, 

Bill, Karen, Rachel, James and Jenn