Canadian Medical Teams Helping Out in Haiti

Monthly Archives: October 2014

Homeward bound

As the minutes wind down on another trip everyone is exhausted, hot and in desperate need of a real shower! What a week though. Every time I think I’m getting used to this, Haiti proves me wrong. These medical missions are always fulfilling, busy and emotional for us all.  But above all, they are so rewarding.

The ER staff has been busy and the nurses have been covering different shifts, helping each other out.  That’s true teamwork.

The peds unit is always the hardest but again the nurses came through, pushed through some hard shifts and rose to a level above what anyone could expect.

The ICU once again was over flowing with the sickest patients in Haiti but our resident doctor, Dr. Stone, got it done in style.

We had a birthday today.  Our physio, Susan Baird. Not going to say how old but she is spending it in Haiti with the team. That’s commitment!

Perhaps the person who needs the biggest break is Dr. Dick Barter.  He has been down here for almost three weeks.  You would never say it.  His spirits are always high and his work ethic pushes us all to be a little better. Dick’s commitment to the people of Haiti is something we should all be truly proud of.

My 3 year-old son cried this morning when he woke because I wasn’t home.  Someday I hope he will understand. But for now it is a sign, not just for me but for all the hardworking members of our team. We need to get home.  We may be headed north but our hearts are big enough that a piece stays in Haiti.

Thank you all for reading and sending your kind words of support. It truly energizes us all.

– Andrew

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Long way from home

Seems strange to write a blog at a time when our nation has been shaken to its core. The terror and hysteria that must have evolved in Ottawa on Wednesday was felt by every Canadian around the world and Team Broken Earth in Haiti was no different.

Everyone was glued to the TV at the United Nations watching coverage on CNN.  Receiving texts and updates on Twitter, team members were somber and reflective.  All thoughts and prayers were directed to our nations capital.  We will all remember where we were as a team on October 22, 2014

The pace of the day was the only thing that kept us going.

The nurses in pediatrics visited an orphanage yesterday. One of the babies they checked on was a new arrival… he was found abandoned in a garbage pile the day before they arrived. The incredible people at the orphanage, devoting their lives to this cause, took the unclothed and malnourished baby in and began to provide immediate care. The nurses realized how sick the child was and today the baby arrived at our hospital for our team to help resuscitate and give him a starting chance at life.

Yesterday I witnessed poverty that I had never quite seen before and will never understand.  Travelling through the interior of Haiti, on what can only be described as donkey paths, I saw multiple children, of all ages, living in dirt huts with no clothing.  Naked children walking along the path.  Don’t get me wrong Port-au-Prince is poor, but being in place that’s even poorer, as in can’t even afford some clothing poor, is a level I have yet to experience.  It was tough to watch as we drove by in an air-conditioned truck.  Why them and not me? Take a minute to count your blessings. I did. I do that here often.

The good work continued on into the night for the OR team.  Trauma has been busy.  Busy is what keeps the focus away from the act of insanity at home. Thank God for the good people in the world.  I have to believe that although one madman can impact our world, so to can altruism, and altruism is more frequently found than madness.

Altruism can change the world.

– Andrew

Switchbacks and the journey

Yesterday I left Port-au-Prince to investigate other potential hospitals and sites for Team Broken Earth. It involved 6 hours in a car driving through winding bumpy roads. The horn, I have come to realize, is more important than the brakes or transmission in a car in Haiti.  Everyone communicates with the horn. It’s an amazing language they have developed and is extremely dangerous to travel without. Of course the constant honking meant no sleep but it gave an opportunity to reflect on our work here.

The trip involved going from the seaside of Port-au-Prince straight up the mountains and then over the top and down to Cap-Haitien. A harrowing, adventurous drive over dirt roads, through switchback after switchback climbing up the hill (a switchback is a 180° bend in a road or path leading up the side of a mountain). At every turn in a switchback, the horn would blow to make sure there wasn’t another vehicle traveling in the opposite direction coming down the hill. Occasionally entertaining but more often a white-knuckled experience.

As we were driving, at least 20 minutes from the last house I saw, there was a single little girl walking alone in a pink dress with a white shirt and a big smile.  There was no evidence of a house for almost the last half hour of the drive but there she was, walking, alone.   Where did she come from?  Where was she going? This lone young girl in the middle of nowhere… it caused me to suddenly reflect on where we had come from as a team and where we were going.

The idea that started with three or four people after the earthquake has now grown into over 500 volunteers. Don’t get me wrong, there have been harrowing switchbacks but we all climbed the hill together. As for where we are going… as we get larger and provide more care, education becomes more of the focus so that Haitians can begin to teach themselves.

But I think, more than the destination, perhaps like the smiling girl, it is about the journey, our collective personal journeys that make Team Broken Earth work.  People volunteer their time (often their vacation time), without pay, away from home and loved ones, to make a difference in the world.  And maybe that is the whole point. All we do, where we are going, is all about the journey towards education and helping people along the way.

We visited two sites when we got to our destination and both were struggling with a lack of equipment and funds.  But we did find one opportunity for a maternal team that may work for the delivery and caring for newborns, and of course made connections to teach in the future.

I’m anxious to return to the rest of the team to hear about their progress. They visited an orphanage today and the stories from there are always gut wrenching (apparently there was a new baby there brought in off the streets). Yeah. Believe me, those stories are hard on the heart.

Grant Boland and Michelle Murphy are headed to a school today to do an art class and Skype with some classes from home. Extending our reach towards the community is important!

So where are we going?  Honestly, I am not 100% certain. But I am 100% certain we are headed in the right direction by helping to change the face of a developing country. So grab a seat in the car and I will blow the horn to make the next turn in the switchback heading up the hill.  Together, we will get there.

– Andrew

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Planning and organizing for the week

I’ve heard that perfection is in the details but I beg to differ. I think perfection is found in organization. Maybe that’s the same thing. I’m a doctor not a linguist!  But I believe in the right people doing the right jobs and everything working in balance no matter how stressful it gets. We all work towards that here. And it’s a lesson we take back with us each time.

Anyways, no rest for the weary (or is it the wicked?). All hands were up bright and early today and it’s going to be a full day of clinic for the surgeons. Dr. Fitzpatrick (plastics) and Dr. Sampson (anesthesia) have been working as a team assessing pediatric patients for the OR this week.

Orthopedic surgeons Dr. Jackman and Dr. Moores travelled to the public hospital to triage which patients we could help in our limited time here.  Too many patients, too few hours. Unfortunately that’s always a problem here.

Patricia, an equipment rep for Stryker, has taken over as the lead logistics person, booking patients for surgery and detailing all equipment.   She’s been a real super star for the team this trip.

There was a massive rain storm last night. One of our rooms flooded.  Equipment and wet gear.  Electricity out.  But no dampened spirits.  Everyone is excited to start work tomorrow. It’s just one more hurdle to jump and we’re all pumped to go the distance.

Off to dry the floor…


Ps. Please send along any comments or questions you may have. We really do get by thanks to your support.

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The Energy of Inspiration.

Coming from an island in the raging North Atlantic, it might seem odd that a place like Haiti is more becoming like a second home. It’s been getting easier coming down here with every trip. I like to think that we’re getting it down, becoming more efficient, a little smoother.

Sure, it is always tough to leave home, but there’s always something so inspiring that brings us all back again and again. When I pause to think of the network we are creating, it just makes me so proud of our now national effort. From Calgary’s educational influence to communicating with Vancouver, Halifax and Ottawa about their upcoming trips, you really see the future take shape and for Haiti that means the most important commodity of all… hope. Many hands do lighten the load and, more importantly, they also extend the reach.

The organization of Broken Earth can be grueling at times. Six teams in a three-month period is not unlike organizing six different weddings. It can cause you to lose focus. Run you down. But then the kindness of an individual can completely recharge you. That happened to me just before we left…

One of our team members told me about a patient she had at our hospital in St. John’s. The patient’s name is Loretta and she was so moved by Broken Earth’s work in Haiti that she wanted to help too. Keep in mind this special person is in hospital, as a patient! She got the nurses to purchase first aid kits to bring to Haiti. On top of that, she wants to organize a fundraising dinner when she’s discharged. At a time when most people would be rightfully focused on themselves, Loretta is focused on helping us help the people of Haiti. Even writing this now, I get a rush and want to do more. Thank you for that, Loretta!

Now it’s back to work here in Port-au-Prince. Lot’s to do but thanks to people like Loretta and all our supporters, our team is ready for it.

– Andrew

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