West Tennessee Haiti Partnership

First Steps

Today was our first day at St. Vincent’s. Four of our team were first time visitors. For the rest of us, it feels like coming home to enter the gates and be greeted by familiar faces and big smiles. The kids run up and greet the people they recognize, like family.

The CBU nurses set up their stations to do check ups. Which included height and weight on all the children, vital signs and hemoglobin. All this data will be entered into a database, to compare with previous trips. We see, for example, that Dieumene is no longer anemic, compared to previous measurements. Dr. Trzynka gave this young woman a stern lecture last time she was here about taking her vitamins regularly. On the other hand, several of the teenage girls are more anemic than on previous visits. We also found several kids with worms, which is unusual for the school. We learned that the water treatment filtration system has been out of service for some time, and we wonder if these facts are related.

Tiffany, one of the CBU nursing team, had a unique experience helping Dr. Jenn do physical therapy. Jenn was here with Dr. Khumalo in January, when he repaired several foot and limb deformities. One of these children is named Christina Jean Paul. Christina is 16 years old, was born with club feet and has been in a wheelchair her entire life. Dr. Khumalo operated on her left foot last August, and her right foot 3 months ago. Today Jenn showed Tiffany how to stretch Christina’s legs and ankles and encourage her to begin to put weight on her feet. Then it was time for Christina to stand up. With support of each arm, Christina stepped forward and took THE FIRST STEPS OF HER LIFE. Tiffany told us later she did not realize at the time that Christina had never walked before. It was only afterwards she learned the full story, and was overcome by the knowledge that she had helped a child walk for the first time in her life. The first person she called was her mom! Nice to know, as a mom, that even when our daughters are competent professionals, they still reach out to share their most intense experiences.

Dr. Ibe, our cardiologist, saw one of our kids with a heart murmur. I have followed 3 kids at St Vincent’s with heart murmurs for several years, and it has been my dream to bring a cardiologist to Haiti to evaluate them, figure out if they need further testing or maybe even corrective surgery. We rented an EKG machine, begged and borrowed an ultrasound, and brought all that equipment with us. So Dr. Ibe had his own cardiac diagnostic unit set up in the clinic. He tells me that Michel, one of the children he saw today, has a hole in the septum (dividing wall) between her left and right ventricle, which is what I suspected. My tentative diagnosis using only my stethoscope! The good news is that she does not have any enlargement of the heart or problems with her lungs. So she does not need surgery. What a gift to be able to tell this child’s mother that she will survive into adulthood and does not need special treatment. Tomorrow Dr. Ibe will see the other two children and give us valuable information about them as well.

As I write this post, Dr. Vickie, our microbiologist, has been cutting out clown faces to use at a carnival activity tomorrow with the children. The CBU nursing team is making plaster of Paris giant teeth for a demonstration on proper tooth brushing. Dr. Ibe has been giving an explanation to Ashley and Brittany about EKGs and what they mean. Jenn is finishing her billing for her private practice in Memphis. We read Compline with Drew just before he went to bed, since he is leaving tomorrow to return to Memphis.

Tomorrow another clinic day. Another adventure on our bus with the rear bumper dragging in the street, and the door that doesn’t always open. Hoping the power is on at the school tomorrow (we paid for gas today to run the generator), and that we have clean drinking water. Knowing we will see smiles and friendly faces welcoming us like family.

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