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

The Haitian Donkey and friends make progress

 

(Sorry, this is very late as could not make the computer in Haiti do my address lists, you all know I am technologically challenged)

 

Hi All:

Once again, we are making progress but also trying to be sure we tie up loose ends, if possible. Surgery has continued to go well, yesterday was a very full day as we had 4 scheduled hysterectomies, then had two twisted ovarian cysts come in, both in a lot of pain, understandably, as the ovary is dying due to the twist cutting off the blood supply and it becoming very painful. They are fun to do as they usually are rather dramatic, they come in in a lot of pain and the next day, though the incision is painful, they are much relieved and bounce back quickly. We also did an interesting neck mass as well as the usual hernias, etc. Overall, a very satisfying day. We did have an 85 year old lady we had done a hernia on the day before have some bleeding when I saw her in the morning on the dressing, that seemed to stop all day long, then restart in the evening, so I took her to the OR to sew it and it stopped again. I had her get up and walk around, not a drop came out, so a puzzle, but then restarted this morning and we found the culprit and fixed it.

Speaking of culprits, when we arrived, the entire physical therapy department, which had been polished up last month by Margie and Marcia, was pouring raw sewage out under the door on our arrival. How long this had been going on was anybody’s guess, trying to get facts straight in Haiti is always a difficult situation. Patients will tell you the problem has been there for years, just to emphasize that they want you to take them seriously and fix the problem, often confusing the situation rather than clarifying it. However, it appeared that there was a blockage downstream and all the sewage from the hospital was finding this easy way out.  Even in the OR, the rather unpleasant smell permeated most everything. After some research, Dan declared a state of emergency and kept all the American and US workers to dig in the driveway, trying to find the obstruction. As the driveway has a lot of traffic, the ground is very hard and they needed pick axes as well as shovels to find the plugged pipe. After many hours of hard labor, they were able to locate the river of foul water blockage and repair it. It was a bunch of “flushable wipes” that did not flush and plugged up the 4 inch pipe on the way to the septic tank. We are very thankful for the success of their labors, though it is a bit of a puzzle how this got there, as Haitians normally do not flush even toilet paper, rather put it in the wastebasket provided in the bathroom to prevent filling up of the outhouse sewage hole, which just lets the material seep out into the ground around it. This has put them considerably behind on the list of projects they have to attend to. Dan and the crew have had a number of other urgent repair projects, from the microscope in the lab and the chemical analyzer to fixing the fussy washing machines and helping me fix items in the OR, so, as usual, he is greatly appreciated. I am constantly amazed at the multiple talents God gives to those who are willing to accompany me to Haiti and work away at anything that presents itself.

Jose brought two delightful ladies who work in the surgical supply department at his hospital to help arrange the supply storage rooms. They have been working in a sweaty, dusty and dirty environment very diligently. There are numerous termite trails and they have made inroads into some of the supply, despite the monthly termite sprays that the maintenance crew is supposed to do. The termites destroy anything made of wood around here and we are slowly replacing shelves, etc with metal materials as we find these. We greatly appreciate their labors. Jose himself has been very helpful in keeping the OR running smoothly and allowing me some time to do administrative meetings, especially Tuesday as we had Dr. William with us for the day. He worked in the OR in the morning and we had a lengthy meeting about some plans for reintegration of him in 20 months or so back into CSL and more of planning for workable options should I be less able to return or not at all. I much prefer to work in the OR, but I suppose this is needful. Actually, I know it is, but not my forte. Jose also has added some dimensions to our activities with his opinions. Sunday morning, everyone went to Renault and then the camp except he and I. As we got home late from the airport Saturday night, after getting things put  away, it was midnight and I slept in a bit in the morning, as the hospital chapel service for the patients is 10 am. I came out pre shower and his remark was that I should give some attention to my “Dutch hair.” He has nice, short, curly hair that likely takes little effort to look acceptable, though admittedly I don’t put a lot into my hair if possible. He also has dubbed himself the “Missouri Mule.” He seems never at a loss for some interesting comments, including those revolving around his area of expertise, some surprises he has found there, etc.

Will get to bed and get ready for our last day in Haiti again. Thank you so much for your prayer and other support of our ministry here for His glory at Centre de Sante Lumiere.

In His Service,

Bill, Dan, Dave, Jenna, Jordan,  Jose, Joshua, Kelly, Mary, Patti, Paul, Stephanie

The Haitian Donkey and friends enjoy Haitian sunshine

Hi All:
Once again, we are very thankful to the Lord that He has seen fit to allow us to return to Haiti and serve Him here with our brothers and sisters. As most of you know, I was quite ill after the return from the last trip in December. As I was in Haiti for the first 3 days of my line infection, by the time I got home, it had entrenched itself very well before I got home, got blood cultures and was able to start IV antibiotics. With all the fluid retention that is part of the body’s response to stresses such as surgery or infections, I was up 16lbs from my normal and struggling with excess fluid in my lungs, a bit scary at times. I know many of your were praying for me and I greatly appreciate it, as God was gracious again and has kept me going for the time being. So, the twelve of us, 9 from Grand Rapids and 3 from Missouri, met in Miami and flew in to Port au Prince Saturday afternoon. Thankfully, everything there went well and we were on the road soon. I had operated on the driver last year, so he was more kindly inclined to go carefully and we had a good trip back to the hospital.

Surgical clinic was interesting, both Jose and I worked with Moise and it rolled well. We had a good variety of cases and, if they all show up, surgery will go well. The rest of the crew went to the Sunday School at Renault and then to the camp and had an enjoyable day. The weather has been perfect to a bit cool for the Haitian Donkey, so tolerable for the rest of the team. One group is building the morgue and a couple bathrooms for the patients in the downstairs of the hospital, another is putting some roofs on houses in the village and there have been a number of repair projects that need attention. Dan has been trying to repair the chemistry machine for the lab with some success thus far, also trying to repair the washing machine in the laundry. We also are organizing the storage rooms further and making progress in that regard.

Surgery is doing well. The number of cases has been a bit limited, to be expected during the early part of the year, as no one has a lot of money left, with the holidays, school fees for the new year, etc. So, have been able to work on a number of projects, not finishing any, but trying to make some progress as time allows. We are possibly interviewing a physical therapy assistant to work with Isaac this week. There appears to not be many of these individuals in the country, so a lot of negotiating is needed to sort things out, including salary, etc. Pray for wisdom, as years of struggling with the previous individual make us want to start this department back up on a good foot (no pun intended).

Thanks for praying for us and your support in so many ways. It is appreciated.

Bill, Dan, Dave, Jenna, Jordan, Jose, Joshua, Kelly, Mary, Patti, Paul,  Stephanie

The Haitian Donkey and friends / family are doing will in Haiti

Hi All:
The week has been busy but good, as usual. Wednesday was quite busy in the OR, we did a number of interesting cases, including a difficult large thyroid mass, an interesting breast problem, a bit of a struggle with another hysterectomy and a number of more routine cases. Additionally, we did some other interesting cases that are not acceptable to talk about in mixed company. I also saw a pastor (it is the annual church convention next door, always the first week in December, so some of them profit by seeing me with problems) with a fair sized stomach tumor that has eroded and is bleeding, so he is anemic. We are pumping him up and I hope to do it with Jose and Moise next month, a bit out of our comfort zone, but with the 3 of us, we hope to be able to help him out as he doesn’t have the money for the prices in Port, often 3-4 times what we charge. I also had a lady with schizophrenia whose daughter in law injects her monthly with meds and keeps things on a fairly even keel. However, she traveled out of the country and charged her brother in law with the task of the injection. Unfortunately, he goofed and gave her 10 times the dosage, they showed up in a panic this morning and we are watching her carefully. I think she will do well despite the error, though will have a few side effects in the meanwhile.

I cannot believe the amount of work the team is getting done, as usual. My sister, Margie and her friend, Marsha, have cleaned, patched holes and painted the physical therapy room. We also enlisted the help of the deaf mute person who works in physical therapy (don’t ask me too many questions, I don’t know how this all works, but it seems to do well) plus a somewhat sluggish guard to scrub the crutches, walkers, wheelchairs and the rest of the equipment, so all will be clean and shiny. I am impressed and appreciative. Butch and Gordy have repaired (with the help of Rod) the water pump, the sterilizer, and have installed the hurricane shields for the hospital windows with the help of the ever faithful Dudu. I worry about Sam (I am – his nickname per Butch, it is obvious which one of us still has little ones at home) as he is a bit more mature than the rest of us and won’t quit when I tell him to. So he is quite wiped out by nightfall, but ready to go at it again in the morning. He and Jean Herbert have made 13 benches for the patients to sit on on the veranda and in various places around the hospital. He certainly is also appreciated as much as the rest of the crew, they all are willing to get filthy in the jobs they are doing, a really good testimony to our brothers and sisters here.

The heat has been tough on the rest of the crew, I am loving it, of course. My energy level seems a bit lower than normal but I make it through each day just fine. Everyone seems to enjoy the Haitian meals we have at lunch, so far, we have NOT had the boiled fish, PTL. I can eat almost anything, but that one is a bit of a struggle. The eyes staring at me really don’t bother me, just not enamored with the taste of this type of boiled fish. (I spoke too soon, we had it for lunch, but the rest of the team did ok, maybe just my taste buds are off, will blame the chemotherapy?) We started this morning with a little fellow of about 4 years age with a modified circumcision, to finish what he began in error, poor fellow. The rest of the surgeries have gone well again today, we had a brief meeting with the employees and passed out the wrapped tote boxes from the young folks at Jamestown Baptist Church. That was a nice pre-Christmas gift for the employees. No one opened their package, so I couldn’t satisfy my curiosity and figure out what was in the packages. Once again, I have to thank all of you who gave so generously to the “Rice and Goats Fund.” It is humbling and encouraging to me that you all are willing to help the Haitian employees once again.

In His Service, with Thanksgiving,

Bill, Butch, Gord, Marcia, Margie and Sam

The Haitian Donkey and friends arrive back home to chilly temperatures

Hi All:
We are thankful that, at least some of us, have arrived back home safely with only a few minimal speed bumps. Tabitha, Zella and I had a good flight to Miami, arriving early but needing to wait for the jammed arrival bays to empty a slot for us, so lost the 30 minutes we had gained by sitting out on the tarmac. We then pulled up to the bay and they brought out the jet bridge but were unable to open the door that would funnel us upstairs to the passport control to prevent us from entering illegally? They had to wait another 30 minutes or so to have the Miami Dade police arrive and open the door for us to empty out. I always leave a minimum of 2 hrs in Miami for unplanned extras but the poor lady in front of us had only left 90 minutes and undoubtedly missed her connection. Fortunately, Tabitha and Zella had over 2 hrs also as we got jammed up in TSA and again were routed to the outside to try to get us through it faster (that has been the last 2 times, I have not been impressed with the speed saved). Actually, Tabitha and Zella did progress pretty well, my line was a rookie (hopefully) who sent everything through repeatedly and took forever so I think we processed only 10 people in more than 30 minutes. A couple times I think I saw her coworkers roll their eyes at her requests, but progress remained at a donkey’s pace. The rest of the trip went fine for us, but we somehow had a miscommunication with Jean Eddy about him staying in Port after dropping us off at 6:30 am to take 2 men from Jamestown Baptist Church who were to work with Duane and Ruth next week. We had made a bunch of sandwiches for them to last the day, I did have them get 2 fuel filters for the Kia supposedly while they were waiting, but I know that Jean Eddy was a bit worried as his father in law is failing fast, confused and disruptive at his home (he stays with them) plus his wife is struggling with her diabetes and I know he had a lot on his mind. I have given him some medication to sedate him some and make him more manageable, but he insists on taking off the diapers we give him and doing things here, there and everywhere.

Long story short, they went back to the hospital with the fuel filters but no passengers! That is totally out of character for Jean Eddy, who is very meticulous in his work. Once again, we had to call upon our faithful friend, Dr. William, who is still working in the burn center at Doctors without Borders (he said they treat over 1,000 burns yearly, what a painful situation) who was able to get free and arrange their transport to Cayes. He put them on a taxi from the airport to the hospital with an estimated arrival time of 11 pm but we got a text today that the taxi had an accident en route, so they had quite a traumatic trip overall. Mob rule takes over when, especially a foreigner in a vehicle hits someone else (even if they are not driving) and they pound the vehicle trying to punish the people “responsible”. I have always offered the drivers $50 US, about 3 days pay for a good driver, if they will go slowly, they have never taken me up on it. So they ended up paying $500 US to obtain their “get out of jail card.” Again, not their fault, but in Haiti, guilty until proven innocent is the law. Hopefully they have recovered today and can have a productive week after all.

We wrapped up surgery well, Dr. Moise had caught a cold and was struggling to keep the pace going but we were able to double team the ORs as much as possible and thus get him home sooner to rest and bounce back. He remains very dedicated to the work and is appreciated by myself and others. The other doctors don’t seem to share his and William’s dedication and this is frustrating to us all. For them, this is more a job rather than a ministry, to a degree, similar to some of what I perceive as struggles in medical care in the US, so many people involved that the patient gets caught in dropped passes, etc. Moise and William (both local boys, living a few hundred yards from the hospital) always saw every one of their patients every day and developed relationships with them in a good sense and the patients appreciated it. Moise has been trying, without much success yet, to get more accountability in the care system. Pray for wisdom, encouragement and cooperation for him in this regard. We finished with a couple more interesting patients, including the one from the prison system where they have rather bizarre activities?

Last update, I bragged a bit about how hard Miss Lisberthe (Nurse Beth is her English name) works to keep the OR going and clean, single handedly responsible for our very low infection rate. I would expect it is lower than the US, partially because our people don’t have much in the way of resistant organisms, etc but much credit goes to her hard work also. Her skill in choosing husbands is maybe not as good, both ended up in adultery and she divorced them promptly and will now remain single. She has one 24 yr old daughter by the first fellow but has a large heart for helping others. Last month, an uncle brought a boy with some congenital deformities for surgery. We fixed some of it, will see what progresses with the rest, but the uncle never came back to pick up the orphan (we found it out from the young man, who looks like he is 6 but is allegedly 12, that he has not had parents for years and has been bounced from place to place, not ever being wanted). So, the boy just hung around the hospital, eating what he could find. Now, Miss Lisberthe has brought him food and will see if she can raise him as her own. How this all fits in the legal system is not clear, but she is going to enroll him in school tomorrow, got him some clothes (from the donated stuff I bring down) and will take him in. He already calls her his “Mama” with a broad smile. He is called John, but then likely 80% of Haitian men are called John, so will wait to see what more distinctive name he inherits from her? Those are the things that greatly encourage us, when the Christian brothers and sisters take care of their own without our help (though Tabitha and I have promised to help with the school expenses as she has limited funds and is still building a couple rooms for herself on her dad’s cement roof).

So, will get this delayed update off and, once again, thank you all for your support, prayers and encouragement of our ministry for Him in Centre de Sante Lumiere in Cayes, Haiti. Thanks also for the donations we have received so far for the “Rice and Goats Fund” which will encourage our employees so much at the season that we remember the great Gift God gave us in sending His Son for us.

In His Service,

Bill, Duane, Ruth, Tabitha and Zella