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

The Haitian Donkey and friends are making good progress together

Hi All:
Once again, the week flies by here. We all seem to make good progress, though some differences of opinion as to the pleasure of the heat index. As per normal, I am loving it, the rest of the crew seems to think it is an unseasonably hot October for Haiti. Poor Duane is out in the sun with the crew, they poured the floor Monday, then have been fabricating the forms for the walls and roof of the new, improved, incinerator. The sun definitely beats down on their heads and wears the crew down, but they are steadily making progress. I think he plans to pour the walls and top on Monday. His crew is definitely being stressed to the limit to get the work done, although our projects are starting to get wrapped up and they fear that the opportunities at CSL will be drying up soon, so they are motivated to do their best. Someone who is always there and was missed by Duane on Monday was Alphonse, who many of you know if you have been to Haiti on work teams, now he is 82 but is always there. I ended up taking a large bladder stone and a bunch of gravel out of his bladder on Monday and he is recuperating well.

Surgery is going well though busy, to be expected as I missed my last trip here last month. Tabitha had never seen a dermoid ovarian cyst, so we obliged her with 2 this week. The first was about 12 x 10 x 8 inches and adherent to everything, the intestines, the walls and fluid filled but also a good sized ball of hair that interested her but also made her stomach a bit queasy. We did a second one today that was much smaller and also had a hairball plus teeth, just to keep things interesting. Our cases this week include a number of patients operated on elsewhere in the past with a significant amount of residual scar tissue, making things a lot more of a puzzle and messy. I am encouraging everyone possible to come see Dr. Luke when he follows me in early November, as we cannot accommodate them all and he is willing to pick up the slack (greatly appreciated).

I did notice that both Dr. Moise and I have matured some since we started here over 14 years ago, some of the joints talk to you during long cases and we work hard at getting done by 8 pm at night so that we can get a good night’s sleep. We have made it each night, not by much, like 2 minutes, but thankful that we can serve so many suffering souls. The head OR nurse, Miss Lisberthe, slept at the hospital last night as she didn’t want to make the journey home late at night just to return in the early am. Her level of dedication is a major reason why we have so few infections working here in Haiti, as she scrubs both ORs from floor to ceiling and everything in them the week before I arrive and everything is spotless. She seems to have a significant amount of energy and often takes off on the run to get a tool I ask for (unfortunately sometimes too fast, not waiting long enough to totally understand what we need and she comes back with something other than what I really need and I have to wing it and use it a bit before asking again for what I really want, so as to not hurt her feelings). However, it is so much easier to direct someone that is moving than to get them to overcome their inertia.

It has also been a bit difficult to get an open bed for more surgical patients as we are full all the time at present, having a number of medical patients, a couple burns, some CHF people and other serious cases tying up the beds. Overall, everyone seems to be adjusting well to the situation. It is difficult to realize that my next trip will be December already and making plans for our Rice and Goats fund to be distributed at Christmas, as this year it will be most appreciated again, as the exchange rate is 74 Goudes to 1 USD, making life a struggle for especially our 30 people who make less than $100 US/month. So I thank you all in advance for making this possible, we all greatly appreciate it.

In His Service,

Bill, Duane, Ruth, Tabitha and Zella

The Haitian Donkey and friends enjoy pleasant weather

Hi All:
I first want to give you a brief update as to the health status of the Haitian Donkey. As you know, I had been undergoing experimental immunotherapy as no one really knows what to do with me and my cancer. The cost of the medicine, since my insurance does not cover experimental treatments, is $160,000 per year, so we opted for a cousin that is trying to get a piece of the market and thus a bunch of red tape but not much expense. There are a number of conflicting opinions as to whether or not it was helping me slow down the relentless growth of the cancer, but by the study guidelines, it was growing too rapidly and I was dropped out of the study last Monday. My oncologist promises to look for another study, as other options are limited, I also am still waiting for Dr. Bartlett to read the latest CT scan and give me his opinion of what comes next. Because of my short bowel syndrome, it has to be an IV study as I would not qualify for anything oral.

I must admit that I have more energy and feel good off the medicine, but then, no one disagrees that it is, at best, a controlled poison? So, along with Duane, Ruth, Tabitha and Zella, we departed early on Saturday morning for the homeland of the Donkey. By God’s grace, other than some significant turbulence, the trip went well, including the customs inspection. There were a number of reminders of the violence that erupted last Wednesday, again some political uprisings, along the way, as the less than great roads were disrupted further with the tire burnings every so far on the road. Allegedly this planned rioting was to commemorate the death of some other(s?) in previous rioting, unfortunately, some more were killed in this episode. They also took out a bridge about an hour from the hospital, allegedly to force the government to construct a bigger, better one? I remember all the politicians vying for office back in Michigan bemoaning the state of our roads and the need to plow a bunch of money into fixing them up properly and I smile when I wonder what they would think of what our vehicles have to endure.

We have settled in well, as we arrived in the early evening, I was able to sleep 12 hours pretty much uninterrupted (except for the obligatory potty breaks that have been part of life for the last 3 years) and feel very perky. We have a pretty full schedule set up, if everyone shows up, of course, for the week. The Haitian Goude has sunk lower again, a real problem as much of the food supply and other essential goods comes in from the US and thus life is more difficult for the Haitian Donkey’s friends and coworkers here in Haiti. Duane will start on the incinerator project in the morning, apparently the government inspectors are coming this week (good timing as he can hopefully convince them their plans wouldn’t work anywhere nearly as well as the ones he is using). Glad Tabitha is here to help me in the OR, etc. They also have made sure that I am not hurting for food, yikes.

Am finishing on Monday as we did get the internet hooked up and can communicate again. The OR was busy, as expected, but went well overall. Have seen some interesting stuff, some of which is not fit for printing for a variety of reasons. One poor young girl of 10 years of age has one leg at least 4 inches shorter than the other, I think she might have had a congenital dislocated hip that was never attended to and sits up by her waist, not sure there is a lot we can do now, but will see what the xrays show. She certainly adapts well and is most delightful to treat so far. Several other young children have other congenital deformities, including one with a cleft lip and palate (I do lips but cannot do a palate as don’t have the obturators to keep the little one from destroying my repair with their tongue). Another had cerebral palsy and has very spastic legs, to the point that she cannot walk. So, have been working on trying to get our Physical Therapy department set up, still running into roadblocks as no one wants to challenge the previous person.

Will send this while the internet is working and express our appreciation for your prayers, encouragement and other support for the work here at Centre de Sante Lumiere in Cayes. We are thankful that the last earthquake didn’t do any damage to the southern part of the island this time, though people still have the last one well imprinted in their minds.

In His Service,

Bill, Duane, Ruth, Tabitha and Zella

The Haitian donkey brings Haitian weather back home, helping with aches and pains

Hi All:
We finished out the week well, doing all the cases that came our way and finished off a few more on early Friday morning. As we were finishing, a lady came in, with arrested labor with her baby in distress. We gave it a try as she had delivered 2 children already normally and we figured the space was adequate for the little one to pass on out. I left the nurses and Dr. Moise to do this while I finished packing my carry ons, cleaned up the room (I try to leave all spic and span to reduce the influx of cockroaches that make the place their home in our absence) and loaded the truck. We only had the kitchen to wipe down and we would be on our way when Dr. Moise came to suggest that the baby would not be able to find it’s way out and wanted to do a C section. We did it, very thankful that we made the decision as the uterus was paper thin and the baby in major distress.  We were able to finally get the little one breathing on it’s own, repair the lady and take off for Port.

You notice that I didn’t mention the gender of the little one. Everyone is amazed that I didn’t notice but all I ever care about is keeping the mom healthy and having a healthy baby, whether it is a boy or a girl seems like the last thing on my list (and I get a lot of ribbing over this). My priorities seem a bit different than others in that department, for which I get a goodly amount of grief. However, the little one was really wedged in the pelvis and we were covered with sweat trying to get him or her out of the belly alive. I woke up the next morning with a significant strain of my neck, bouncing back home on the plane and in the airports didn’t do a lot to make it better and it still gives me some grief. I have had a couple of physical therapy treatments by my good friend, Todd Wehrmeyer, and they have helped, but am ready to have those aches and pains go, especially as I get another immunotherapy treatment tomorrow and it tends to cause aches and pains all by itself, especially as they up the dose each time I visit them.  Ibuprofen does a lot more to help me feel better, but that little remnant of stomach I have left does not tolerate it and Tylenol is like sending a child to do an adult’s job, makes me feel better but the patient, not so much.

Dr. Bartlett’s PA, Heather, called me 3 days ago and said that they were happy that the cancer progress seems to be slowed down to maybe stable and want me to continue the treatment as long as possible/tolerable. So, will submit to it tomorrow and appreciate your prayers that it will continue to kill cancer cells instead of me and, Lord Willing, prolong my life and productivity. My partner has been on vacation, so the office has been a bit of a rat race, especially as my neck is still stiffer than it should be.

I had a nice visit with Dr. William on Friday night as he came to see us on our way out. I was encouraged as he seems to be more perky, likely because he can “see the light at the end of the tunnel” and the second 2 years are less punishing than the first two years, as the lower two years do all sorts of “grunt work” to keep patients happy until the older doctors can do the surgery. A bit different, maybe more than a bit, than what we do here in the US. We talked a bit about his plans for next year, they ship them off hither and yon to round out their training, in theory, a good idea, we will just leave it at that. Dan, Duane and the wonderful team of Haiti USA members loaded a 40 foot container with stuff for the hospital as well as Rod and Debbie Wray on the 30th, so that is underway, thankfully. Since Karen and I and our family members always did this the years we were in Africa, we greatly appreciate the number of folks who help out in this area.

So, as this has been written in a couple segments as I have time between patient duties, will send this off and update you a bit later on some of the information of what we have done at CSL Haiti in the last year, etc.  As always, thank you so very much for your help and encouragement.

In His Service,

Tom and Bill

The Haitian Donkey and his friends enjoy warm and wet weather

Hi All:

Am waiting for Dr. Moise and the med student, Dubuisson, to complete a vaginal hysterectomy (not enough room for 3 people, so I am there ready to help out if needed but Dubuisson is tougher and younger and will let him assist Dr. Moise, as the surgery is really a one doctor case with an assistant to pass tools, hold retractors, etc).  So far, the week has promised to be busy all the way, so trying to be up for it. We had two hysterectomies yesterday, 5 today, plus a bunch of other cases and, if surgical clinic numbers have any indication, it will be a crazy time. Other than the volume, things are going well with one very sad exception. Yesterday, a young lady (ok, age is quite relative now) with a huge bunch of fibroids in her uterus was complaining the last few months that the pain was unbearable and she begged me to do a hysterectomy despite her young age. I scheduled her for yesterday, we did some young kids first thing, as always, as they can’t be trusted to not eat, given the chance. She complained to me when I brought up the little ones afterwards that the pain in her abdomen was unbearable and wanted me to do the surgery sooner. We brought her to the OR about noon, but then, even before we started, she complained of shortness of breath and rapidly went downhill and passed away, despite our attempts at CPR, etc. I wonder if she had a blood clot that traveled to her lungs, likely aggravated by the huge masses in her uterus? Her pastor had a lot of kind words to say about her afterwards, so trusting that she is in heaven, but it certainly was a major shock to us all and a reminder of how fragile life is, especially here.

The trip down was not quite uneventful, the plane to Philadelphia was only about 20% full?, to Miami was totally packed and that to Port au Prince was probably 20% full also, mostly Americans on mission trips. We assumed the last plane was empty (as was the waiting room in Port au Prince for the return trip) due to all the unrest in country reducing desire to travel. We had a 2+ hour layover in Miami, then they announced that a bracket on the outside of the plane was broken and the Miami mechanics were getting advice from the Dallas mechanics about how to fix it. Two hours later, it was fixed, but then the pilot was running out of time, so another crew had to be found. About then, American Airlines brought a cart to the jet bridge with sandwiches and drinks and chips to calm the passengers and we were ready to go. However, by now, we had lost our push back crew, then we had lost our place in the takeoff line, so we finally took off, knowing things were going from bad to worse, seemingly. Midflight, they announced that, to encourage the passengers, they were passing out free alcoholic drinks (Tom and I figured that might have been after they noticed that the majority of us on the plane were missionaries and unlikely to take them up on the offer).

On arrival to Port, a number of our small group of passengers were unable to find our luggage, so that prompted another delay while we filed all the paperwork needed (you have to have all your boarding passes to be able to qualify for this, but I knew that from previous mishaps and always hang on to them) and we headed out without any luggage, arriving at the hospital about 1 am. Poor Jean Eddy and Dudu went back the next day as Jean Eddy has done this many times and was afraid the suitcases would be empty if we didn’t jump on it as soon as it came in, likely he is right. Only 2 made it that day and 2 the next day, but we appear to not have lost anything, a real reason to thank the Lord (and those of you who were aware and prayed for this to occur). I must admit I was wiped out, as had my Immunotherapy on Monday and the last 2 sessions have been tougher. They increase the dose each time til I can no longer tolerate it and these were #s 6 and 7. Basically, no appetite, some nausea, all over body aches, low grade fever and no energy. Other than that, tolerable. I do think that I was able to adjust my schedule for the rest of the year so that I don’t leave for Haiti on the weekend after treatment, it still is not fun if I am home, but not getting much sleep for a couple days enroute here doesn’t help fight the situation.

I have not yet heard back from Dr. Bartlett regarding my latest CT scan 10 days ago (the Spectrum reading says maybe 10% advancement in the cancer, but they also state my nonexistent spleen is normal, so one has to take that with a grain of salt). I continue to be thankful that, although I am slower than I would like to be, I am still able to work pretty much normally and Karen and my coworkers, friends and family are super supportive and I consider myself very blessed of God. When I see all the frustration and discouragement of so many of our Haitian brothers and sisters, especially those who don’t know the Lord and are trapped in the voodoo problems, I really am appreciative of His care of me through you all and your prayers. I just finished reading Job on the plane ride in and couldn’t imagine scraping myself with a broken piece of pottery all by my lonesome, seemingly abandoned by all, including God (we know better but poor Job didn’t).

Tom has repaired some things in the hospital as well as in the place we stay, again a blessing greatly appreciated. The employees thanked the Lord this morning in chapel for the downpour we had last night, I briefly woke up with the lightening bolts and thunderclaps, but the rain beating on the roof is very soothing. The dependence on God for our daily bread is so much more obvious when they have so little and one does not go to the grocery store to get rations. Not a bad reminder for us to go to Him for all our needs regularly. Continue to pray for wisdom, strength and endurance for the rest of the week.

In His Service,

Tom and Bill