On Monday morning, January 18, everyone nervously waited on Don and Troy and John to arrive back to Tabarre with the first load of patients. I don’t think anyone necessarily knew what to expect. I think I can safely say there was a bit of apprehension for all of us.
While we organized and set up supplies that Zach continued to bring in from Cazale, we learned from Tim that he would be going to the Embassy to work on the release of the kids at Heartline, two kids at RHFH and "our" girls. Zach dropped Ronel and Amos off at our house to wait it out and be ready if the good news came quickly.
As the truck pulled in we began lining people up outside on benches… some of the injuries were shocking and horrible, others were less difficult to look at but still very serious. The images you've seen on TV of bones poking straight out of skin and open gashes were exactly what we saw on the 6th day after the earthquake.
One of the very first patients was a young woman whose head was split open from her forehead/ skull down across the edge of her eye – it had been stitched elsewhere with very thick string in a couple of spots, it looked terrible. Lori Moise of Real Hope for Haiti boldly took on her case. A few hours later – the young woman left, obviously benefiting from the work of a skilled perfectionist.
The Docs and staff that came in on that first flight on Sunday all worked well together and challenged each other to work within the new system in which they found themselves. As happened all over the city that week, Doctors did things they would not do in the USA. They worked in anything but a sterile environment. They worked without the tools or medicines they might really want to use, they did their best with what they had.
Early on we were set up to be able to sedate our patients with Ketamine and the Anesthesiologist worked each case one by one and helped oversee each patient with great care and concern. We heard many funny things from the patients while they were sedated, lots of singing and boisterous conversation.
We’ve heard a lot of hospitals/clinics needed to work without being able to help their patients with pain, we’re so thankful it never came to that for us. We saw so many children and that would have made everything so much slower and more draining for everyone.
In those first days there were countless cases of people that had either not been seen at all, or had been seen once and had received a lot less than ideal care but were not left with any sort of follow up instructions. Some of the people spoke of being turned away many times in the aftermath and search for care. It was heartbreaking to hear their stories of searching for help at one full hospital after the next.
As they left they received a card listing their rendezvous time and day and they were told to watch for our big white truck with the cage and to return for a dressing change or a check-up. They were sent home with painkillers and instructions. We regret that the need was so intense and the work in front of the Docs so overwhelming at times - that we did not keep nearly the statistics we would liked to have kept. We do know that statistically we saw far more people 25 and under than 26 and older and we saw more women than men. Most injuries were crush injuries, either gaping wounds or broken bones. There were also a significant number of burns from the cooking taking place at the time of the EQ.
By the end of day one we knew we would have to have a true "hospital" section for after-care. We tried to do it in the recovery room area but it filled up too fast and so the building that was formerly a boys orphanage became our hospital. The patients, even in great pain and pretty serious situations, refused to enter the house no matter how safe we told them it was. The hospital "beds" began to be set up in the driveway on the large slab of cement. Some tarps were hung for protection from rain and sun.
Once the first truck load was treated those well enough to go home were brought home and the next group was located and brought back. In these lulls in the intense action there were recovering patients to look after and the staff used that time to make connections with supplies and attempted to keep up with new information as it came in. This time between patient loads proved to be key to our success because it gave the time needed to build relationships with other organizations and connect with key personnel to begin the crazy business of trading medicines and even patients.
The truck continued to go in and out of the "slums" for weeks to come, always finding new untreated people and always experiencing safety in areas considered dangerous by most. Each Doctor, Nurse, Physical Therapist, EMT, and Physicians Assistant that spent time working with the clinic has twenty or thirty stories of their own. Each of us connected with different people and learned the horrors and miracles they had experienced. I've said it so often, I wish these stories could all be told.
As the week wore on our house filled up with guests planned and unplanned. We wrote about that in a Thursday post. We handled the guests fairly well. It is always interesting watching different personalities jockey and figure each other out. There were a few nights with 22 people in the house, but most nights we ran around 15. There were of course some things that happened with a guest or two that stressed us out and caused tension, but under the circumstances we did great if I do say so myself.
If you've been reading since January you already know how God worked miracles for Collette and many others in very serious condition and made a way for them to be moved from the slums, to a makeshift hospital, to an enormous ship. Rather than re-write that particular portion of the week one story, it is here:
Day Three of Clinic/E.R. (This post has a CBS news video clip of the patients coming off of the helicopters and onto the ship.)
The only thing I will add is that on Wednesday, the day that we went to find the ship, things were very tense. I think we were all feeling the weight of day one and two and watching the cases that needed immediate surgery pile up. What were we going to do with all the people that needed surgery? People were a little shorter with one another and there were other outside factors that played into the stress.
I was being polite when I wrote about a little conflict I had and I will still be polite by not saying who it was. This man had committed to helping us for the day by doing three truck runs for us. We were giving him some food that he needed out of our supply. It was a basic trade-out that we agreed upon on Tuesday night. After his first run into Simone Pele on Wednesday he came back griping and complaining about how hard it was and how dumb it was to only be able to get ten people at a time. I happen to know the guy and really dislike him on a good day so I told him to beat it and forget about doing the other runs, we would figure it out. I was mad and I wanted the good ole' boy out of my face. John saw him on the road and said, "Hey, no way are you leaving, you promised three runs - get back to it." Ooops. John just shook his head at me.
When the aforementioned selfish ignoramus came back with the second load of patients he was in a foul mood and acting even more obnoxious than earlier in the day. Picture this: A man with bloody bandages around his head climbing out of the back of the truck, a woman with a limp baby sitting down to wait her turn, a seven year old boy crying in pain over his broken and floppy left leg, a sister with her brother who has lost his leg and it has not been closed properly ... all climbing down one-by-one out of the truck. As this is taking place the guy from the other mission says, "This is just a waste of my diesel." "I cannot keep going in and out of there when I don't know what is going on out at my place. I got people waiting on me!"
That statement about "wasting fuel" -- ON PEOPLE -- REAL LIVE HURTING PEOPLE -- brought on my second little rage fest. I asked him what in the world he thought was more important use of diesel? I was livid. I had to go inside and get the former Air Force Doc to go out and deal with him as he tried to leave without doing his third run of the day.
Our third run was to the Comfort Ship with 11 patients and we needed his big truck. We took three of our smaller vehicles with patients and this other truck with Mr. Yucky driving to go find the Comfort Ship.
Finding that location was a miracle in and of itself. I still get goosebumps recalling how that all went down. When we got there and tried to negotiate with the military people to call for a helicopter, we had more trouble with our buddy. He walked up and started telling the military how angry he was and spouting off at them about this and that. Jen put her hand up and said "That guy is not with us. He just drove a truck here." How embarrassing. I have not seen him again, but if I do I plan to tell him he does not belong in Haiti.
By Friday I think we were pretty ticked at a lot of things. Being ticked changes very little, but we felt it none the less. The supplies that sat on the tarmac and the frustration of finding what we needed sometimes resulted in a snaggy tweet from Troy or a angry word from me. We were not the only ones feeling that way, but if we had it to do over again we would have leaned less on our own ability to find supplies and more on trusting God to bring them to us --- because that is how it worked out anyway. :) The day we were going to run out of Morphine, guess what, Morphine showed up. It went like this day after day. It was a privilege to be able to watch it happen.
After five days of Heartline representatives going to the Embassy each day, finally many of the kids were cleared to leave Haiti on Friday evening the 22nd. I did not write about it at the time because I felt bad knowing so many parents were still waiting, the victory of getting a good portion of the Heartline kids out was overshadowed by the many still stuck. Unfortunately one of those kids was the one I made big promises to all week.
On Friday Tim, or John, or I don't know who called to say "Okay - FOR REAL - we are leaving tonight. Get the kids to the Embassy". (We thought they might leave on other occasions - so we needed to be told this was real.) Annie and Phoebe are too little to explain it to, but I did keep telling them that Megan was going to take them on an airplane. (Thank you is not enough to say to Megan, she helped us out so much by taking the girls to Florida.)
I had Amos and Ronel all decked out in really cute duds. They were so cute helping me choose things. They showered and got dressed in their "America clothes" and we waited until about 6pm to go over to the orphanage to join the other kids. When I pulled in and unloaded the kids with Megan; John walked up to tell me that Ronel was not approved. I basically said, "No - you're making that up." John assured me that Tim had called back to say Ronel was not approved. Yet, there he stood in his fancy outfit expecting to climb on the truck with his friend Amos. It was horrible. I just kept hugging him and telling him he would get to go .... that someone made a mistake. I felt like such a creep having to put those other kids in the truck while the oldest kid, who understood the most, was left in the dust watching them go. Ronel and I drove home. He got in bed and cried himself to sleep.
I looked back at what I wrote that day. I skipped all of this, it was too heavy and too unfair and I never said that our daughter got Humanitarian Parole along with our sweet niece that lived with us for more than two years. No fancy goodbye parties or time to get used to the idea, one phone call and they were gone. I felt the worst for Jeronne who lost a lot that week. Not only did the five kids leave, but then when Annie and Phoebe left she had to say goodbye to Annie for good and it all hurt a lot. I still cry thinking about this day and how hard it was on our sweet Jeronne. Bittersweet does not adequately describe it all.
Saturday we got up and went back at the business of the day - we wrote this in the morning:
We pray today is another day of miracles and divine appointments and saved lives. God is with us. Thank you for your prayers.
That turned out to be exactly what happened that day. On that Saturday a little boy named Jean with a bad amputation and a bone sticking out exposed was moved to the Miami Field Hospital, our first day to connect with them and get a promise of surgery.
Late that night a woman showed up bleeding badly. Ten minutes later an emergency c-section had been performed under flood lights powered by a small generator. If I had not seen it with my own eyes, I would not believe what took place. In a period of 97 seconds from the start of the incision the baby was out ... the baby was handed to Jen to work on and five minutes later the panic and fear began to subside and all present in the oddly lit room realized they'd just witnessed another miracle.
We entered week two of our clinic bolstered by these things.
To read the other parts see: