West Tennessee Haiti Partnership

Haiti by moonlight

I wake up like its 6 AM and after tossing about for many minutes I get up to check the time, hoping its almost time to get up. Trying not to disturb everyone else while digging through my suitcase trying to find my watch. I walk outside on the patio and read the clockface by the light of the full moon. 2:15. Ah well.

The moonlight brightens the patio like a flashlight.. There is music playing of course, its Haiti. Sounds like a band or radio with drums and keyboards and lots of singing. From the patio I can see the lights of Port au Prince at a distance and the stars of Orion above me. A cool breeze blows through the mango trees all around the guesthouse where we are staying (and where some of us are sleeping at the moment).

We haven’t had internet connectivity all week so this is my first message to write about our trip. I typed this into my blackberry, hoping the message will get through at some point. What else is there to do at 2 AM but think about the kids we have seen?

So much to say about our work at St Vincent’s. Tonight after supper our team shared a bottle of Glenfiddich Scotch whiskey and shared stories. Bheki Khumalo is a podiatrist on our mission team and we have Nick Pesce, a physical therapist. They have worked steadily for 3 days with the Haitian therapist, Michel, seeing kids with developmental delay, rickets, and a variety of leg problems. The first day (Wed) was the clubfoot clinic. Dozens of babies and children under 2 years old with developmental delay and foot problems. At lunchtime on the first day, Nick said to me, “Did I mention I dont treat children?” To which I replied, “Did I mention we would be working in an ORPHANAGE?”

They could not finish seeing all the children who came that day, so Michel agreed to return the next day. And the next, even though she normally comes to St Vincent’s on Wednesdays only. She will return again on Monday, which I find remarkable and a credit to the dedication and talents of Nick and Bheki. Nick was inspired this evening as he talked about seeing babies the first day, not sure how he could help, then seeing teenagers the next day with permanent deformities because they had not received adequate PT. The light came on as he realized that he has a chance to develop a program, working with Michel, to keep kids like Diana Vincent from becoming permanently crippled. We met Diana on our first trip to St. Vincent’s in 2008 when she was so sick she could not pick up her head off the pillow. Each trip she grows bigger and stronger, although she still cant walk and has trouble holding her head up straight. I think she is about 4 years old now. We brought a child sized walker with us from Memphis, donated by Abby Nichols whose son has cerebral palsy and grew out of his walker. My husband had collapsed the walker so it would fit into a suitcase; we took it out with the bolts/nuts attached and John Mutin took it into the brace shop looking for tools and a wrench to put the walker back together. The men in the brace shop promptly took the walker from him and had it together in about 2 minutes.

Nick worked with Diana and some other young children at St. VIncent’s and showed the other therapist how to help these children learn to use the walker. It will be a miracle of God’s creation if these kids can learn to walk and get out of their wheelchairs, and Nick and Bheki believe they can do it, with continued help from Michel and an ongoing program of physical therapy. Also Bheki plans to make some braces for a boy named Levinsky, to help his legs straighten out so he will be able to walk. Now that’s something worth investing yourself in.

 Drew with Levinsky (blue shirt) and blind child at St. Vincent’s
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