West Tennessee Haiti Partnership

Agape Love

Thursday, April 16

One of the paradoxes of the 4th and final day doing clinic is – a sense of accomplishment that we are almost done and the sadness that we are almost done and will be leaving. As a team of 10 we have done the work of twice as many, seeing 268 people, a half-dozen more that I did not make cards on, and those that were repeats. The repeats were an issue of who “saw them”. It turns our that if the one of the nurses took their blood pressure, they wanted to have me, Dr. Sue retake their blood pressure. Apparently my blood pressure cuff must be more precise… flattering but not necessary. I explained to the team this is culturally based as well as it comes after 4 years of Dr.Nelson and I establishing a relationship with the people St. V; they know we love and care for their well being.

Observation: Through out the week, I have noticed the failure of the system in regards to trash/garbage collection. Sadly to say, there has been a regression in trash collection and people resort to old ways – piling it up on the corners. There are piles here and there, not the 3-story high burning mountain of rubble,  but never-the-less an eyesore!  There is also a great deal of trash scattered throughout the demolished buildings and in the streets. That said, there has been the installation of traffic lights (they will all work at some point) and the area around the National Palace, Historical museum is less congested with better traffic flow and less debris.

Let’s talk about the day at St. V. John Robert tried to slip a few of his friends in on Celia – but I observed this right away and clarified. John we are here for the children. We also will see their teachers and the support staff but cannot see the teacher’s mother, or their aunt or anyone not working at St. Vincent today! Yes of course, was the answer but I found myself repeating this message about an hour later and throughout the day. We are seeing the little ones now- so stinkin’ cute and some are so afraid of just getting on the scale let alone taking doing the hemacue. We skip these babies and do what we can. They do always want the suckers of course. This time a brought the tiny tootsie-roll pops – big hit. We had plenty of hygiene kits for the kids and left several for the Foyer, to be delivered later by Pere. There were a few RX interventions with the children; just the usual. And in the afternoon, some alarmingly high BP’s for some of the men. I did manage to track down Edward the elderly man with Afib and give him his supply of ASA and HTN medications. He should be good until we return in 6 months. I have heard from several that it is difficult to go to the brace shop to get medications. When giving them the medications for this extended period of time, I stress through John Robert how very important they are to me and how much they are needed at St. V.  Also,  it is really important to take the medications and NOT to sell it because they will not be healthy and be able to work…. let’s pray they get it. 

Step forward, step back. I have mentioned Zach was coming daily for his dressing change and new adult diaper actually seeking us out. Ummm it seems he was immediately taking off the “clean” adult depends and selling it, going back to the child size diaper held on with wire! That said, he brought me a little one seen earlier in the week saying he had an ear ache. I could not find anything but suspect he put something in his ear. I was pleased he stepped out of himself to think of this little boy.

Also, there seems to be a GI virus going around in the older girls room. As of Thursday, there have been 3 who have had a few hours of vomiting and diarrhea. It seems to have run it’s course by the next day. Try as I do to explain that this is best to let it pass through, to drink extra water.. they (Marie, JoJo, John, and the child) seem to think there is a magic potion in the pharmacy suitcase – sorry the TSA took it. 

When Margaret and I were seeing the last of the staff, relocating our mini-center to the pharmacy room, the rest of the team developed a strategy to distribute the flip-flops, toys, and bandanas to the children. WOOOOO the line was daunting! I thought over and over again we will not have enough. Gifts are gifts and as strange at it seems everyone wants one, including children that cannot walk or Zach without feet wanting flip flops. Marie Carmel calls me and tell me “I want one of what ever is in the room”. I repeat they are for the children, over and over and she says but that guy is there (one of the men). I get to the door of the library just as John Robert is about to let the first adult in – NO-  these are for the children. There were some adults sizes but not enough. Needless to say, the staff and a few teachers that had returned were not happy. Even John Robert said – not for my children. No John, you know we are here for the children and if I give you flip flops for your children, then I have to give JoJo flip flops for his 3 children, and all of the teachers will want flip flops for their children. Executive decision time…. we will pack all of the flip flops up, many smaller women and children’s sizes and all of the toys and give them to Pere. He will decide what to do with them; use them as gifts for the children and/or adults or what ever he thinks is best.  

But gifts big and small are precious. I will bring home and wish I could attach a picture now of a little gift that has a gigantic meaning. All of you know my fondness for Bergans, the little boy with no arms – not a secret. Each day during recess I give him a treat – something to eat. He usually comes into the clinic and I feed the smaller items to him and get him some water. Today, JoJo tells me Bergans has something for me. Something for me, this little boy who lives at St. V all week and goes home to Mama. He was waiting for me in the clinic during recess. And then in his two miniature fingers on his little nub he hands me a 1inch by 1 inch rubberlike little red house. FOR ME!! I have tears in my eyes now just thinking about it and the pure joy and love. I took his gift and thanked him bending down so he would see how much I appreciated it. He kissed me first on one check and then the other and in French says “I love you”. LOVE FOLKS – really love. I tell him I too love him and hug him. This my friends, it St. V.

We had John Robert bring Margaret (6 year-old with hydrocephalus), Diana,Yolene, and August (3 chldren with CP) to our little clinic rather than us going to see them in their sleeping area.  Between, Tiffany, Heather and I we kept Margaret outside in the fresh morning air for almost an hour, In fact, by the time I carried Margaret to John, she was fast asleep. After that we asked to see the little one, kindergarden and younger. Calley, our kid magnet for this trip looked out the door of the library/clinic and let me quote “oh y’all are you ready, this bunch is rambunctious”!! I wish I could have captured her smile. Her proclamation was correct and the little girls were more aggressive then the boys. Matthew (our 14 year old team member) really loved the little girls – not having sister, and thought they were so special.

Speaking of Matthew, I kept saying be careful with the little bottles of bubbles, if you give one to one child, you will have 25 wanting them. There were 2 little boys at recess standing at the door all BIG EYED pantomiming for bubbles. Matthew asked “ please Dr. T can I give just these 2 kids bubbles. OK – but be prepared. First there only 3 or 4 more, then 8 or 9 and then he was completely surrounded by 25 kids pushing, grabbing at him and demanding to get the bubbles. When he finally ran out he came back into the clinic with the BIG eyes, looked at me and and said  “OH MY Gosh”!!!  I nodded and asked “ well how did that go”, so much more of a learning experience than… I told you so!!

Our day was bittersweet! We could have used more time after distributing the flip flops, games and toys to say good- bye. We could always use more time – good bye is difficult, painful and at the same time have reached our pinnacle  and ready to go. As usual the children surround the van, wave, blow kisses and for those that speak call out good byes. 

Friday, April 17.
Our day on Thursday was not complete with leaving St. V. The students voted to go to Petonville for dinner at The View. In a democratic team, we go by majority rule… quick showers, some make up and a clean dress or outfit and off to another experience. This is interesting to see the contrast of St. V and many of the neighborhoods and lack of resources as well as street vendors, traffic and congestion and visit the “other half”. It was a loooooooooog slow process; although greatly enjoyed by all.

It was a short night before getting ready for the beach. There again, another adventure and another aspect of Haiti. I had secured the driver for the trip months ago, so one would think they would have been prepared to refuel the van without the whole team in attendance. BUT no! we loaded up, added the HHH accountant and went to get fuel and brought him back. We were really on the road by 9:00 with a command from Noel to  “lock the doors”.

Observation from yesterday about the trash. As we drove there was a woman sweeping the trash in the street. Noel made a comment about all of it – we exchange words in Spanish-this one being bascuda! I asked why don’t they put out barrels to collect the trash. DAH – as soon as I said this I also said, “they took them”. At the same time he said “they take them”. Maybe people think hey government if you are dumb enough to put out barrels for trash, I should be able to take them to sell or use. 

For the most part the trip was uneventful. We passed the relocation area after the earthquake. There is come construction going on, perhaps the people are getting the long awaited water, electricity, schools, etc.. We also passed Bill ClintonVillage!, sugar cane and banana plantations, a major semi-truck accident where the cab of the truck had burned and workers were redistributing the load of tomatoes in baskets; baskets to market not wooden or metal crates, big rattan baskets, and also, 2 very congested street markets. Doing one’s trading looks so different from a van as the woman is selling chicken parts on a blanket on the road; no ice. 

Kalico was lovely and they were ready for us. After paying for our entry, I prepurchased the beverage tickets (note to self – good idea). We had the beach to ourself. There was another couple but I do not think they noticed us – they were kind of busy and into themselves! Honeymoon???? We took in all the wonderful foliage, the variety of the foliage and the sweet aroma of the foliage; so different from home and so refreshing from the smells of petro, garbage and other city smells. I always feel a serenity at the ocean; the endlessness of the aqua blue water, the vastness of the space between the sky and the sea, the mountains pressing to the heavens, and the sheer, simple beauty of the water. If I had a previous life, I may have been a fish or maybe a mermaid!!  At any rate, we all LOVED and enjoyed the sea and would have wished for more time. The Haitian buffet was closed due to a lack of those to sample the delicate foods, but Mike and the staff served the buffet in small scale family style. I am really sure, no one left hungry.

We are sorting, tossing out and packing not only our personal items but purchased treasures (Kelly is the shopping Queen – more than me) with many wondering why things are not fitting into the suitcase. 

We have had an interesting and deep last team meeting. I asked “if you, the student, had endless resources and a team of people to make your wish come true, what would be your one undertaking”. Many of the answers are currently in development: fresh fruits and veggies, more protein in their diets to prevent birth defects, education and a bigger and better school, more space for the children and adults to live, a full-time resident nurse and staff to take care of those like Zach or Margaret, more room to play and be children, more things to play with, and 3 meals a day. I also asked “what is the one take-away point/issue you learned”. I will end the narrative of the CBU RN to BSN Haiti Service Learning team for this semester with Angela’s answer. “Love, not the today, superficial love but the deep Agape love the of the Bible”. Did you get that – LOVE – AGAPA!!  After a week in Haiti, stinking, sweating, eating strange and different foods, living in a room with almost total strangers, no hot water to wash away all the sweat,and goodness no air conditioning, buses that do not run, riding in an transport truck, being covered in dust from head to toe, missing our family and friends and comforts of the US, and feeling safe in our little Memphis world. I immediately thought of the song my Brownie troop used to sing. Love, love, love, love the Gospel in a word is love, Love thy neighbor as thy brother, love, love, love. Farewell and Peace be with you.
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