The Haitian Donkey Has A Short Update

Hi All:

Last time, I discussed that I would get 3 units of blood and have a stomach tube put in for a blow hole if the pressure builds up.  I got the blood, but the CT scan showed that my tiny stomach remnant was stuck to the posterior abdomen and thus not accessible.  After all my extensive surgeries, the tons of scar tissue would make an open procedure quite risky and I could have more grief, so we did this with needles and dilators under fluoroscopy.  There was a dilated loop of small bowel in front of it, so they placed a smaller tube into this, hoping it was not too far downstream.  It is small in diameter but has provided a fair amount of pressure relief.  I close it when I take medicines, etc for a bit, though have stopped any oral intake except maybe about 3 glasses of water each day and a few spoonfuls of blenderized whatever the kids are having.  This seems to have worked pretty well and I am thankful that I have less vomiting.  I still have a considerable amount of heartburn, so sleep in the upright recliner a lot to limit that. 

I now have an immobilizer for my gimpy left leg.  I cannot lift it up off the bed, etc, so presume the cancer (I have several palpable masses the size of golf balls and one the size of a baseball in my belly) has put pressure on my nerves that control my leg as it had been fine until 6 weeks ago and have had 6 falls since.  Now being careful but hate being limited.  The immobilizer helps a lot, though one has a stiff leg in it and slows me down.  Since it is my left leg, I am hoping I can drive some, as I feel decent otherwise.  The kids are not quite as enthusiastic about that as I am. 

Rachel flew back home to Arkansas to do some work at the university she cannot do on line, hopes to be back in 2 1/2 weeks.  She has been a great help and encouragement, keeps us all on our toes and has helped Jenn a lot with sharing the tasks of meal preparation and laundry, for which we are very thankful.  She sleeps in her bedroom in the basement, so if I vomit or have some grief in the night, she is right there.  Between the 3 kids, I am very well taken care of.

I have had regular contact with Dr. Moise, who tells me that the hospital is functioning fine but the patient load has tapered down to about a quarter of normal volume due to the Covid scares.  They persist in only having the government controlling testing, and that only a limited amount in Port au Prince, so one really has no good idea how many cases they have.  It is reported that they have 81 proven cases and only 8 deaths on the WHO site, but due to limited testing capacity, it is likely a lot more.  He said that, due to government regulations, they try to practice “social distancing” for the patients coming to the clinic and have spread them out over the hospital veranda, etc, but the patients have trouble comprehending what they are doing and cooperating.  Most of them were packed like sardines in the taxi getting there, so why do they have to stay apart.  Haitians tend to have a lesser concept of personal space than we do, they live under crowded conditions for the most part, so like the more cozy atmosphere.  No employees seem to be ill, thankfully, as they do wear masks and protective gear as much as possible.  I am continuing to look into avenues to get more supplies, including more surgical tools for the future as they are very expensive to buy and trying to get good used equipment where possible.  I have not had contact with Dr. William for several weeks, as the internet does not work well in Port, so only usually have contact with him when he is with his family in Cayes, but travel is very limited at present due to Covid. Pray that he will finish well and adjust well to reintegration at the hospital when he hopes to be done in October.

As always, thanks so much for your prayers, support and other encouragement for our ministry at Centre de Sante Lumiere. 

In His Service,

Bill, James, Jenn, Rachel and the rest of the Haiti Team

Brief Update On Haiti And It’s Donkey

Hi All:

The Haitian Donkey has been quite busy trying to stay healthy, so a bit behind on other things.  I have mentioned the distasteful flooding that has bothered me for the last month on an increasingly frequent basis.  I also have had a central line (for my TPN feedings) infection, again the fungus, likely the same species (they didn’t do the complete testing this time, not sure why).  So, back on the Sporonox, have 3 weeks down and 6 to go.  It is very tough on my already feeble intestinal tract, but no alternatives.   I had my central line changed last Friday, that went well, thankfully.  My 3 holes that are the cause of the flooding have been a struggle, Dr. De Cook took out the drain that has been there since the last surgery in August right after I got back from Haiti in December but the volume has not diminished and we are working on trying to put ostomy bags over them with varying amounts of success.  Rachel and Jenn have accompanied me to the Holland Hospital Wound and Ostomy Clinic to learn the technique as they give me a mirror but it is below the tiny bulge of my belly and hard for a donkey to do.  The largest hole has developed a fair amount of infection in the tissues around it, so Dr. De Cook is planning on trying to clean things up in hopes that the ostomy will be more manageable.  I have to be at Holland Hospital at 12:30 tomorrow, so likely will start the operation about 2 or a bit after, if all goes as planned.  For a time, I will have a larger yet hole, but hoping it will heal up and be smaller and more able to be sealed in the future.  Pray for wisdom for Dr. De Cook and healing for the Haitian Donkey. 

It has been a bit hard to juggle other activities around the work schedule and my at least weekly visits to Holland Hospital for the changes and adjustments to the ostomy.  Jenn has been doing the changes at home between the visits, she has a real aptitude and is greatly appreciated, though she is not enthused about the smelliness of the affair and, at times, we have to do this daily on one or both bags.  Hopefully things will smooth out over time, both in the irregularity of the belly wall (so the bags will stick better and not leak) and our skill in keeping the fluids where they are supposed to be.  I have eaten very little as the Sporonox inhibits any appetite, but we still have enough drainage from the sites to make it unpleasant. 

Dan, Duane, Jose and Kevin (another surgeon friend of Jose’s) will leave tomorrow for a week in Haiti.  It seems things are starting to settle down and we are praying that will continue and they can do the work they would like to get done.  Dan, Margie, Tabitha and I plan on going on the 14th of February for our week there, again, most delighted that our friend, Ken De Young, is willing to fly us in and out as he will be there with a team on their projects there.  What a blessing.  In addition to the other jobs she will do in the OR, Tabitha (and maybe Margie will need to help some) will do my ostomy changes and teach Miss Lisberthe and others to do them when I make my future trips. 

By God’s grace, we already have had some money promised towards the Solar Project and we are excited that things are progressing for that also.  Will keep you updated on all aspects of our work as time and new developments come out as we greatly appreciate all the prayers, support and encouragement you all are to us daily as we strive to serve our Savior at Centre de Sante Lumiere, Les Cayes.

In His Service,

Bill for Dan, Duane, Jose, Kevin and the rest of the Haiti Team

A Brief Update On The Haitian Donkey’s Arrival Back In Frigid Michigan

Hi All: 

First of all, my computer in Haiti has some glitches and there are some errors in the last update, for which I apologize.  My spelling is certainly not perfect, but neither is it that bad.  Hopefully you could sort out what a Dutch/Haitian Donkey meant.  Karen always tried to proofread my updates, sometimes a frustrating task for her as she was of the opinion that my English was not great and my French worse (fortunately, she could not evaluate my Dutch, as surely that lacked even more).  So, will give you a brief update on the pressing issues.

First of all, other than the freezing temps on our arrival, the trip home went well.  Ken, as always, is a most gracious friend and we had a great flight back to Port with him and a few other passengers.  He has been making many more trips to Haiti to help out with a variety of projects he has become involved in and his initial conversation to us was that when he first met me back during the earthquake relief effort, he shared with his friends that he had met this crazy American surgeon who tried to go monthly to Haiti.  Since then, he has been doing more and more with Haiti and, if I remember right, this was like his 18th trip or so to Haiti in 2019.  He has a larger plane than the one we flew in on during the earthquake and what he used to fly Duane and I and others during the elections and all the unrest back in late 2010 and it is a very nice ride, even for the Donkey who isn’t in love with flying.  It is exciting to hear what all he has become involved with to help the Haitians in their struggles and I hope we can meet up again in the future, Lord Willing.

Politically, things seemed a bit quieter for likely a few weeks, though as mentioned, traffic was greatly reduced due to the fears of the rioters doing damage to the people and the transports, no matter what type of vehicle it would be. Dr. William was with us for a bit of the week and shared that he has treated so very many people who have been shot (and many who have passed away) by the armed gangs and rioters.  He was obviously quite saddened by his fellow citizens and the senseless acts they have been doing to their brothers and sisters, stating that the young were by far the most frequent victims.  Haitians are used to constant turmoil and unrest, but the intensity and duration of this present disruption of life has most of them troubled. 

We will continue to look into ways to help the hospital adjust to the struggles that the future seems to bring them, most notably looking into possibilities of the solar system reducing our dependence on the unreliable fuel supply and the totally nonexistent (though we keep getting charged for the “privilege of access to power” at a rather healthy rate. (Rumor, likely with some basis in fact, is that Haiti owes in the billions for fuel and the uncertainty of someone willing to extend further credit may be questionable).   We are planning to totally disconnect from government power as they have given us somewhere in the range of 24 hr in the last 6 months or so, if my aged memory serves me correctly, Dan was rattling off the figures, and he calculated we paid like $30 for each kilowatt hour.  In the meantime, we continue to raise funds for the “rice and goats fund” to help them survive in the short term and at least have a bit more to be joyful for this season of celebration of Christ’s birth.  We thank all of you who have been contributing to make this possible again this year.  We will email them the total raised on the 23rd of December and then divide it up among the 106 employees of Centre de Sante Lumiere.

Once again, thanks so much for your prayers, encouragement and other means of support for our efforts to serve our Lord in Les Cayes, Haiti, for His glory.

In His Service,

Bill, Dan and Duane

The Haitian Donkey Is Loving The Warmth But Not The Floods

Hi All:

The week has been progressing nicely after the rough start.  Monday night, the retching stopped and Duane had made some chicken noodle soup for the three of us and my little bowl tasted so good.  I didn’t eat much the next day, but Johannes and Luise invited us over for dinner Tuesday night, always a gastronomic experience. They certainly know now, but don’t know if they knew it before, but they make special dishes and they have a book of the 100 best dishes of the world, one for most countries and they made Nasi Goreng, the food from Indonesia, a variety of fried rice and one of my most favorite foods in the world.  Needless to say, any thought of not eating succumbed to the temptation. They sent the rest home with me and I continue to enjoy small amounts regularly.  However, my belly fistula has rebelled and I have been changing my clothes at least twice daily as it suddenly discharges not so savory intestinal contents that flood my dressings and other equipment designed to control the outbursts.  I have a stack of scrubs in my bedroom to change into as needed, but will stop eating and drinking Saturday morning as don’t have that option on the planes.  My strength is returning and have been able to keep the clinic running (short as Dr. Rachel has been ill all week) so have tried to help out with more than just surgical patients.  It would be easier to do the surgeries with Dr. William or Moise and make the others work in the clinic, as they know the French meds better than I, etc, but my goal is to help the hospital progress all I can.  We have goodly numbers but they are down from normal and few people come further than 1/2 hour from here as the roads are dangerous. Normally I have people come from as far as Port au Prince and further, but that has been limited.

Dan and Duane have been fixing things, though I think Dan has given up on trying to fix the lab machine I brought all those suitcases of reagents for and we will carry it back home and send it back in January with the team then (Jose and a couple of his colleagues plan to come with Dan and Duane) and Dan will go with me in February whenever we can find a way to get here with Delta dropping out and in country travel likely remaining nasty.  Sometimes it is a bit eerie as it is so quiet on the road that goes past the hospital,  where normally the traffic is noisy as one could not drive in Haiti without a horn and they use it liberally. As the hospital is on a hill, the traffic has a blind corner to turn from the town of Simon onto the dirt road that runs to the missionary housing and other places past us.  So, vehicles toot their horns when they approach, but things are very quiet around here. There just are very little in the way of motorcycle taxis or other modes of transportation around, nice to have it quiet, but the reason, not so good.   Speaking of the hill, the government told us a while ago that they were going to widen the road (someone out of country must have donated the huge payloader, it was brand new and worked well), so they told us to move the fence around the hospital back 10 feet.  We didn’t want it on the edge, as the poles are imbedded in cement, so Dan and Duane and crew moved it back 13 feet or so. Despite our protests, the government took the whole 13 feet, exposing the cement bases which now are unstable.  Another way that Haiti makes things more difficult than it needs to be.  They are organizing the guards more, with the anticipated continued unrest, to handle the possible difficulties that may arise with robbers, etc.  The guards told them they didn’t like the bright shirts they had supplied them because they can’t hide well if trouble comes with them on.  An interesting concept.  They have finished the cashier’s room and we hope this will help relieve some of the congestion in the lab, clinic, etc area.  They are trying to organize things to allow us to use less fuel until, hopefully, we can raise funds for a solar project.  There is so much uncertainty that it sometimes is hard to know how to proceed. 

Surgery went pretty well so far.  William went back to his training program so I have filled in more.  Did a small lady with a huge, fibroid filled uterus on Thursday that was a struggle from start to finish. I must have been more tense than I realized as my upper back was speaking to me the last 1/2 hr of the case.  We also had 2 people attacked by boar hogs 8 hr apart show up at about the same time last evening. We ended up trying to salvage the lady’s leg tendons and clean up all the debris and infection the pig had left, as I doubt he brushed his teeth before biting her.  I worry a lot about losing the tendons in the infection that inevitably will follow, plus a lot of her skin was literally chewed up and not salvagable to cover the defect. .  Physiotherapy is progressing nicely, thanks to Ulrike Schaller, a physical therapist from Germany who does this at Port a Piment an hour up the road donating some of her time to us, as well as her great expertise and some of her trainees and we are very excited about the development of that department.  

Lord willing, we will pack our bags tonight and take a flight with our friend, Ken De Young, tomorrow morning and hope to get home a bit before midnight.  Pray for safety on the trip, no floods of intestinal contents and also that we will be able to make plans for some sort of safe travel to the hospital in the months to come.  Obviously, if God brings a measure of peace to Haiti, that would make things so much simpler, but we will try to make plans otherwise if needed.  It is hard to plan without knowing what is going on.  Thanks again so much  for all your support, prayers, encouragement for us and our CSL team as we strive to serve Him safely for His glory.

In His Service,

Bill, Dan and Duane

The Haitian Donkey Looks To An Uncertain Future

Hi All:

Usually, I try to be upbeat about what is going on in the Haitian Donkey’s life, whether his personal health or that of the hospital in his homeland.  I must admit that it has been a bit more difficult on both fronts.  There is not a lot of news about Haiti on the usual news outlets, probably because it is a small country and has struggled with disasters for years.  Plus, the information is a bit biased from the editor’s viewpoint, often proposing simple, though fairly unrealistic, conclusions, at least from the somewhat biased Haitian Donkey’s viewpoint.  I get fairly unbiased reports from my 3 contacts on the ground there, Drs. Moise and William and the administrator, Welser Romulus.  However, it looks rather bleak from what I am hearing, as there seems to be no end in sight to the destruction and violence.  We have been able to secure some fuel for the hospital and have been able to continue to offer services (except surgery since my last trip, in September) and this has been especially important as even the government hospital in Cayes has closed, last I knew, due to violence.  This puts added strain on our people, who mostly walk to work, as the motorcycle taxis they used to take are few and far between and very expensive, as the fuel is expensive and hard to get.  Thus, Dan, Duane and I have made plans to fly in to Port on December 7th and our gracious friend since he flew me in after the earthquake, Ken De Young, has volunteered to take us to and from the hospital.  That is a special blessing as he is a great and smooth pilot and I have not gotton airsick with him, thanks to his extra care.  Since we don’t know what the future holds, as Delta has cancelled all flights to Haiti starting the first of January and in country flights are difficult at best, we will try to do as much as we can to work on preparing for the future until we can come back, Lord willing.  Please pray for encouragement, safety and for God to intervene in their futures in Haiti, as man’s attempts are only going from bad to worse. 

Concerning the Donkey’s health, I have started eating a little each day, partially as I am on my 7th week of treatment for the yeast/fungus in my bloodstream, a difficult diagnosis to come up with and even more difficult to treat.  I am midway through a month of an oral treatment that is not so kind to my intestinal system.  I have gained a little weight by eating, but the price has been vastly increased output from the 2 holes in the front of my belly and the skin is painful, red and raw from the intestinal juices chewing on them.  So, as soon as I get done with the antifungal treatment, I hope to stop eating for a bit and let my abdominal skin heal up, hopefully.  At present, I don’t dare as my stomach, such as it is, needs something to buffer the meds I have to take orally.  I try to gently wash the skin as often as I can, changing the dressings frequently as they soak (and smell) in an hour or so, to limit the exposure of the chemicals to my wimpy skin.  I must admit that it can be a bit wearing at times and my energy level isn’t what I want it to be.  I have been able to continue to keep up with my work schedule but not much more yet due to the reduced zip in the Donkey’s step.  .   

James, Jenn and I will fly to Arkansas early on Thanksgiving Day to spend the time with Rachel.  Thanksgiving has always been our family’s favorite holiday, as it is dedicated to nothing other than thanking God for His gracious provision in our lives (very little commercialism, etc).  The last year has been quite difficult for us, but, when I think of what the Pilgrims went through the last year before they celebrated the first Thanksgiving, I realize that I am blessed indeed.  So many of them died of diseases we easily get over today, they lacked food most of the time, while we have the opposite problem and thus we will be extra thankful to Him for His watchcare over us again.  The next Saturday we will go to Haiti again and then will consider what, if any reasonable, options exist for the Haitian Donkey.

Thanks so much again for your willingness to donate to the “Rice and Goats” fund, though we may have to substitute yams and corn grown locally in the Cayes area for the rice, as there has not been any for many months now, as it is a rare vehicle that dares to brave the gangs and rioters to bring needed supplies out to our area.  Several special friends (who have all been to Haiti several times) asked if they could contribute to the fund but also give something extra a bit earlier to relieve the suffering, which I did, and the administrator, Welser, said this was a special encouragement to the employees, as everything is scarce and expensive.  We appreciate the prayers, encouragement and support you all give us as we strive to serve Him at Centre de Sante Lumiere in Cayes, Haiti.

In His Service, Bill for us all