Thanks so much for your encouragement and prayers. Like some have said, sometimes blogging is therapy for those of us that can’t afford it! :o) It’s nice to be able to just write and to have people interact with things. In our life in general, whether it’s through blogging or talking to people, Chris and I have always felt that it’s important to share all sides of our life in Haiti. There are many wonderful things about living here, but they are not the whole picture. And, there are many difficult things about living here, but they are not the whole picture. I have seen how easy it is for people to see one side or the other and label Haiti as that one thing, and not understand why others might feel differently, or even argue that others are wrong. Our hope is that through sharing our personal experiences, as they are, and our feelings through them that people might have a wider perspective. I appreciate that you’re willing to read and live life with us in a way.
I went up to Canaan yesterday as planned and had a great day helping out in the clinic. I got to be the *pharmacist* for the day. Bobi worked along side me and gave me direction, but by the time we left around 3 pm I was rocking prescriptions. I should state that most prescriptions filled were things like Ibuprofen, antacids, malaria pills, and vitamins. Nothing too complex. We’ve seen this a lot, and yesterday just reaffirmed it for me, but most of the illnesses that people struggle with here are either waterborne and preventable, or are simple things like acid reflux, high blood pressure etc, mostly diet related. I would say about 70% of the patients that came through were prescribed something for one of those issues. Education about healthy eating, like not using MSG – it’s every where and can actually be bought in a shaker to just pour right on food – heavy amounts of oil, or eating more vegetables and fruit are is so important. At one point yesterday morning Bobi and I just glanced out the clinic door and I saw about 5 kids under the age of about 6 all eating things like Cheeto’s. This is very normal. They would be so much better off if their mothers would take the same money used to by the junk food and buy them a mango or something like that. And headaches, lots of headaches. I suspect, as we see it with our workers, that people simply don’t drink enough water, and I get that because their options for clean water are so few and far between. That’s why I LOVE the filters!
There are three Haitian nurses working there and they’re all sweet ladies. It’s fun for me to see how they’ve improved how things work up there in just a matter of months. Elsie and Bobi have done a lot of work. When Elsie first arrived a year and a half ago they were seeing 5-10 patients a day. Yesterday they had about 65, their regular average now. Lots of training and lots of development has happened and word has spread through the community that it’s a good place to go. After Chris gets back from his trip I think I’m going to try and go up one day a week, probably to help out with their Medika Manba program. I love the program and have helped out before. Bobi and I were throwing ideas around yesterday about how we could have our two organizations work together more, especially in the Medika Manba setting, and it’s exciting to see if we can develop something. I have all sorts of ideas rolling around in my head. SO many ideas :o)
I had an interesting experience while up there yesterday. It was challenging in the sense that I really had to think through how to deal with it.
Canaan has a ticket system where they hand out raffle style tickets as people arrive. At that time people pay their small fee for the consult (all prescriptions are free). They keep that ticket and when they go to have their dossier pulled from the file they receive the matching ticket to hold onto until they see the nurse. It’s a good system that is working. People arrive starting at 5 am or so and by 8 am all the tickets for the day (60 or more) have been handed out, so anyone arriving late will be asked to come back the next day and be told to come early. Standard operating procedure.
Around 10 am I had my back turned to the door where Bobi hands out the prescriptions that have been filled, and was in the process of filling another one. A woman came up to the door and asked Bobi for a ticket and Bobi started to try to explain the process. As they talked I knew I recognized the voice, so I just glanced over my shoulder to confirm. I was right in my guess about the voice owner and my stomach kind of lurched. As Bobi explained that the tickets had all been handed out and that she would need to return the woman went on to explain that she lived “lwen” – far. Bobi asked how far. She said Kan Marie, about 15 minutes down the road from where we live towards St.Marc. My stomach did another big lurch and my mind started racing. I kept listening in to the conversation debating whether or not I should pull Bobi aside, but wanting to stay back and give Bobi a chance to let her discernment do it’s job. I’m glad I did because Bobi stayed firm and just told the woman that she was sorry she didn’t arrive earlier but they had all the patients they could see that day and she would either need to come back the next day or go to another clinic.
Why was my stomach lurching and my mind racing? Well, the woman at the door didn’t actually live in Kan Marie, she lived at the top of my driveway. She used to work for us, her family has given us many problems and her son is one of the people we know is involved in the van fire and death threats.
It was hard for me to see her there. What was harder for me though was listening to her lie to Bobi with a smile on her face. I debated over and over about calling Bobi over to tell her but decided to trust Bobi’s judgement unless she would have made and exception based on the lies. Bobi has a good sense of discernment and later told me that she felt something just wasn’t right, which I was able to affirm. It was so hard for me to separate my personal feelings towards this woman and her family and the actual situation at hand. No matter what I might feel, I believe that she has the right to medical care – but I don’t believe she shouldn’t have exceptions made because she can lie with a smile on her face. As I was listening to her spin her story I felt a sense of affirmation on a personal level because Chris and I had always wondered how often we had been lied to when she worked for us and I was able to see how easily it came yesterday. That gave me such a deep sense of sadness. These are the things that are hard. Knowing that we’re here to help people and that some feel it necessary to lie and cheat their way through so they can gain more, get more, receive more. On the flip side, it touches me more deeply when you see the gratitude of those that are truly appreciative of the help you are offering. It was just one of those moral moments in life. Ugh.
When I got home the first thing I heard as I was climbing the stairs to the house was Olivia screaming. I ran in the house to find Chris cuddling her on the couch and her freaking out in a non-sensical way. Chris filled me in on the days events. He had gone out of the house for about 3 minutes (that seems to be her magic time frame for destruction) and left her with Evens in the house (he was fixing our sink faucet). When Chris came back up Olivia was laying on the floor, which is her normal “I know I’m in trouble here so I’ll look cute” pose with the bottle of laundry stain remover in hand. She was soaked because she likes spray bottles and thought it would be fun to soak herself down, face included. I know, I know, put that stuff away! It was in the bathroom cupboard with the laundry detergent and normally isn’t a problem. It will NOT be going back there! Chris stripped her down and put her in the tub. She apparently played for about an hour, then got out and went to have lunch. Totally normal and happy. Then had a nap and about an hour into it woke up screaming. From that point on she wouldn’t open her eyes. Our best guess was that she had gotten some of the stain remover in her eyes, but it didn’t bother her initially because she was blinking and bathing and stuff like that. When she went to sleep whatever might have been left in there just sat and started to aggravate things. We rinsed her eyes out a few times with eye wash and each time she got a bit better, but she was not happy and very clingy and wouldn’t open her eyes. Also very lethargic and sweaty/clammy. We took her to see a nurse friend, called the number on the back of the bottle and talked to another nurse here in Haiti. The general consensus from the company and the nurses was that the stuff wasn’t poisonous and was a mild eye irritant. Nothing dangerous with long term effects. Phew.
We went home and put her to bed but sleeping was not on her agenda. Our nurse friend had decided to come stay the night so she could stay up with Olivia and keep an eye on her for us and let us get some rest. What a huge blessing! I was having problems sleeping because it was so hot and my bones were bothering me (stupid bones) so I was up with Olivia until about 11:30 pm.
When Chris was talking to the guy at the company, the guy made a suggestion and I wanted to pass it on to all of you parents with little ones because it’s not something we had thought about, but works great. He suggested we put Olivia in the tub, in a bath, and just pour water over her head because it was easier than fighting her to keep her eyes open to rinse them out. Toddlers have a natural reaction to open their eyes and gasp for air when they have water poured over their heads. No, it’s not fun for them, but it works. I ended up climbing into a warm bath with Olivia and held her on my lap while I did short bursts of head soaking. In the 30 minutes that we were in the tub she freaked out less and would really only cry as the water was coming down, but as soon as I said, “Okay, we’re going to take a break,” she would stop and flop against me. It was a good sign because she was responding normally, just not opening her eyes much, though she did a couple of times which was great.
Another thing that was interesting to learn from talking to Lori, one of the other nurses, was that Olivia was sweating because she was stressed. We were concerned that there was something else going on, but Lori said that often young kids get stressed when they don’t understand what’s going on or are feeling some pain that they can’t do anything about. It helped me to relax a bit as a mom and know that cuddling and comfort were the best things we could be doing for Olivia. Man, parenting is HARD!
Ingrid sat up with Olivia most of the night because Liv didn’t want to be in her own bed alone. She slept intermittently in Ingirds arms, so she was pretty tired and is actually now happy to be sleeping in her own bed and has been for almost two hours. This morning she was definitely feeling better because she was willing to do things that were normal, like sit at the table and eat breakfast. But, she preferred to do it with her eyes closed. No, I’m not joking. That kid ate all of her scrambled eggs and bacon and drank her water like Ray Charles played the piano. As breakfast progressed we realized that somewhere between 5:30 and 5:45 am a certain someone was not only feeling better, but had figured out that this whole closed eye thing was a fabulous attention grabber. I know this because when she was put down on the floor she would open her eyes until someone saw her with them open, and then would quickly close them and proceed to walk around and show us how fabulous she was at not bumping into things.
Yes people, she is only 18 months old. This is where you shake your heads and mutter, “Yeah, they’re going to have fun with that one!” :o)