Sunday, November 21, 2010

This past week

This past week was one of the busiest, most stressful weeks since I've been in Haiti - probably even more than the week after the earthquake. There are a number of factors that contributed to it including: the increase in cholera cases at the clinic, hosting a 10 person team from Minnesota, riots in Cap Haitian and surrounding areas and upcoming elections.

Right now I'm writing from Orlando, Florida where I am spending a vacation with my family. There were many times during this week that I didn't believe I would be here.

Here's how the week went.

Monday morning at about 7 am, my friend Ben and I head to the airport in Cap Haitian to pick up a 10 person team from Minnesota who were coming to help volunteer in the clinic and do some construction work. About half way their, we received a phone call from the owner of the van we had hired to help transport everyone home that the road was blocked just out of Cap Haitian, so we turned off the main highway and took some backroads to the airport - including a little bit of 4x4 ing. We made it to the airport by 8 am to meet the flight. They were a bit late, but eventually showed up. We were waiting for their luggage to arrive on the second cargo flight scheduled to land. It seemed to be delayed by about 2 hours, so we were trying to decide if we would wait at the airport for it, or go home and send someone back later to pick it it. While we were trying to decide, the airport was suddenly filled with people off the street as they were fleeing tear gas that the UN had released outside as some riots had broken out.

We began to learn that there were riots all over the city and after awhile learned that they were targeted against the UN under the accusation that they brought Cholera to Haiti. For the next few hours, we had very little information as to what was happening. We sat in the departures area of domestic flights, talking and playing cards to pass the time. After our truck and van were secured behind the airport gates, Ben decided to take a motorcycle taxi down the back roads to see if we would be able to leave by driving across the runway and out the fence.

He returned to say that we could go, but we had to hurry. So we gathered everyone, and unfortunately had to leave another American there by herself as she was driving a while Landcruiser that would attract too much attention and cause danger.

To get off the airport property, we had to pay off some young men who had set up a road block. There were a couple more small road blocks along the way, they we successfully negotiated our way through. The next hour was relatively quiet as we drove through a rural area to the town of Plain du Nord and Acul du Nord. At one point we had to cross through a river with a steep, muddy bank - luckily the 4x4 helped us through.

When we got to Acul du Nord, I thought we were in the clear, but as we turned onto the national highway, we learned there was one more big road block to cross at the town of Pillatre. Fortunately, the clinic's reputation, and our familiarity with some people helped us cross with a little pay off. We finally arrived at home at about 4 that afternoon.

For the past couple of weeks, the number of cholera victims has been growing. Over the weekend we had 50 patients in the hospital at a time, with many others coming on an outpatient basis being treated with oral re-hydration. The Minnesota team was eager to help in anyway they could, and jumped right to work helping change IV bags and doing what was needed.

The next morning, I began calling the airline to see if their luggage would be arriving that day. At one point they said the airport was open and the plane would come, so we sent two guys by motorcycle and back roads to the airport, but the plane never came. There were still riots and roadblocks around the city.

Each morning I would call to see if a plane was coming, but things never cleared up enough for the airport to open.

By Thursday, many of us were beginning to wonder if we would be able to get out of the country anytime soon. We started to pursue avenues to evacuate the Minnesota team earlier then their Monday departure date. At first, it was recommended that they leave via the Carnival Cruise ship that would be landing in nearby Labadee on Friday. But later learned that to do that, they would have to register at the American Embassy, all the way in Port au Prince. Then we learned that MFI would fly them out of Port au Prince at 1 pm the next day. That meant that they would have to start the 8 hour drive to Port that afternoon, sleep in Gonaives, and finish the drive in the morning. After much discussion and consultation, we decided that it was not a safe option as we had heard of several roadblocks being set up on that road.

We decided to wait and see if the airport would open Friday or Saturday to fly out on MFI or IBC.

Thursday night there were rumours that the roads were being cleaned up and on Friday morning, we awoke to the sounds of horns of big trucks passing by on the highway. A good sign. The airport opened later that day, however not in time for my IBC flight out to Ft. Lauderdale to come. We learned that IBC and MFI would be flying out Saturday am so we made arrangements to go on those.

Early Saturday am (5:30) I headed into Cap to the airport on the main roads to check in for my flight. The rest of the group came later that morning to check in to their MFI flight and by 12 o'clock, we were all on our way to the US.

The road blocks during the week had made it difficult for us to receive medical supplies at the clinic, so by friday, IV fluids were due to run out, but thankfully that afternoon, it was safe to drive to Cap to pick up a load from Doctors without Borders.

Please keep Haiti in your prayers. Elections are in one week. People are saying that this is fueling the riots, while others lay the blame solely on the UN and their lack of progress during their 5 year occupation, and the belief that Cholera was brought to Haiti by Nepalese UN soldiers. Whatever the case, tensions are high the country is hot, or as they would say in Kreyol "peyi cho".

Please pray that their are enough medical personal and supplies to treat the growing number of people infected with this deadly disease.

Pray that Ebenezer Clinic can make good decisions.

Pray for strength for Dr. Manno and the staff.

Please also pray that I have a restful and relaxing week in Florida with my family. My plan is to return to Haiti next Saturday as long as things stay calm.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Here we go...

It's been a crazy couple of weeks, and I think they are going to stay crazy for awhile.

Yesterday, we had 50 patients at the hospital. Those of you who have seen it, may wonder where in the world we can put 50 people... well, everywhere! An orphanage on the other side of Cap Haitian has donated a bunch of cots and have also constructed a make shift tarp shelter to the back of the hospital.

We are finding that God is continuing to provide for the needs of the hospital. When the container full of medical supplies arrived almost a year ago, many of us wondered when we would ever use some of the supplies donated - like adult diapers! Well, we know now. And we are so lucky that these supplies were already here, ready to be used.

Also, it's amazing that the Breton group finished tiling and painting the hospital just 2 days before the first cholera patient arrived!

Last night, a group of American and Dominican doctors and nurses arrived with a bunch more supplies and to help provide medical care, giving the Ebenezer staff much needed relief.

Tomorrow, a group of 10 will arrive from the States. A couple of them will help in the clinic, while the others will help construct some additional shelves for the depot and pharmacy.

Thank you from the staff and board of Ebenezer Clinic to all those who have donated to and come on a missions trip with the Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada to help with this construction. Without your help, many of the patients we are treating would have no where else to go.

Friday, November 12, 2010

And then the sun came out...


It feels so good to have the sun beating on my skin warming me up. Maybe now the muddy roads will being to dry and my clothes will dry!

I was just up at the clinic/hospital to see where things are at. Yesterday, we received another donation of IV fluids that should last us for about a week! So good.

Currently, we have 19 patients in the hospital. To date, we've treated 78 patients since the epidemic started.

What do we need? We need funds to help cover the extra expenses of running the generator 24/7 (it costs over $100US/day), and paying additional staff salaries. We weren't planning on opening the hospital yet, so we don't have a way to cover these expenses yet.

If you would like to help, you can make a donation through the Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada online via CanadaHelps. Please designate your gift to Haiti Clinic and write "cholera" in the comment box.

Or, you can send a cheque to:
Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada
PO Box 34025, RPO Fort Richmond
Winnipeg, MB   R3T 5T5

Attach a note saying your donation is for Cholera relief in Haiti.

Thanks for your continued prayers and support!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

22 degrees Celsius is chilly

Okay, call me a wimp, call me spoiled, I don't care. But after one week of  rainy, cloudy weather and temperatures no higher than 22 or 23 degrees Celsius, you would be chilly too. This past week I've been wearing jeans, long sleeved shirts, socks during the day and my winter time pj's at night with 2 sheets covering me. My clothes got washed on Monday... they are still not dry. They are strewn across the living room on chairs. I'm just hoping they dry before I send my next load on Monday! But, with all that, I'm thankful that I have a dry place to sleep every night.

Things are starting to slow down a bit at the clinic - well at least yesterday we did not receive as many cholera patients as the day before. So far we have treated over 35. Unfortunately, Wednesday night we lost our first 2 patients. One child, about 5 years old came in. They got the IV in, but a couple of hours later he was complaining of being cold and just seemed lifeless. He passed away. Another man, who we suspect was HIV positive, came in without any family and kept pulling out his IV so eventually he died as well.

On Monday we are expecting a group from Minnesota. There are a few medical professionals coming as well as some others who will help build shelves in the clinic and depot.

On Friday, I fly to Florida to spend a week with my family. I'm very excited to celebrate Christmas and Thanksgiving with them. I'm also excited to have a hot shower and put some overstretched t-shirts in a clothes dryer and shrink them back to their original size! Small things excite me these days...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Treating Cholera

We had 15 cholera patients in the hospital over the weekend. Here are a couple of stories of the people we are treating.

One woman came in to be treated by herself - her husband and children had already died of cholera earlier in the week so she is left with no family. Normally the family is responsible for feeding and caring for patients in Haitian hospitals - here she was able to find help. Please pray for her as she recovers and tries to begin her life again without her family.

A baby was brought in yesterday. He had just started to vomit and have diarrhea a half hour before and was already in shock. The mother was crying believing that he would die. It took about a half hour to get the IV in because his veins were already collapsed. This morning, he is alive.

We are learning that a lot of people are dying from cholera because many health professionals are not well educated about the disease and are afraid of contracting it. Also, in most hospitals, the patient must come with money to go buy their medication and IV's before they are treated. Can you imagine trying to find the money to buy medication while you are vomiting and suffering from diarrhea?

Please continue to pray for strength for the clinic staff and for all those we are treating.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Cholera in Limbe

As I’m sure you all have heard, there is a cholera outbreak in Haiti. It originated in the Artobonite Valley, about 100 kms from here, about two weeks ago. They have reported over 400 deaths and several thousand infections. A week ago, we started hearing about cases in the north (where I am) and on Monday we had our first cholera patient being treated at the almost finished hospital at Ebenezer Clinic, and last night we had 5 patients staying to be treated. These patients are coming from Limbe, about 5 kms away where we believe cholera has infected the river where many people wash clothes, bathe and gather water.

Cholera is a waterborne disease that causes dehydration by vomiting and severe diarrhoea. If untreated, it can be fatal within hours. However, the treatment is very simple – rehydration through IV fluids and antibiotics. 

The two hospitals in Limbe are full of cholera patients and so people are coming here once they’ve been turned away, or if they do not have the money to pay for treatment. We anticipate that the number of patients will only increase in the coming days.

How can you help? Please pray for the staff at Ebenezer Clinic who are serving above and beyond. Also, using the almost finished hospital as a treatment centre also means that the clinic will have extra expenses (running the generator almost 24 hours a day, buying extra medication, paying extra staff time). Most patients we are seeing will not be able to pay for their treatment. You can help offset these expenses by making a donation through the Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada. All donations are tax deductible and can be made online at (please designate your gift to Haiti Clinic and write “Cholera” in the comment box) or by mailing a cheque with a note that your donation is for Cholera in Haiti to:

Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada
PO Box 34025, RPO Fort Richmond
Winnipeg, MB R3T 5T5

Thanks for your support!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

This week

Early Monday morning (leaving the house at 6) we dropped off the Breton group at the airport. I have to say it was a very successful trip for them (I hope they feel the same way). We were busy and accomplished a lot of work and they met a lot of people. Thanks you guys!

On Monday we also received our first cholera patient at the hospital. Over the weekend they discovered that cholera is now originating in Limbe (about 5 km away) and both hospitals are full of cholera patients. Yesterday we received our second patient. We are trying to create a plan of how to respond with treatments and figure out what extra funds and staffing will be required. The hospital is almost finished - we would like to get the plumbing hooked up as soon as possible.

Over the weekend there were also reports that the cholera originated from a Nepalese UN Base in Haiti. Apparently the strain is the same as the one that is in Nepal (where cholera is endemic). This is makes things so much worse in my opinion and does nothing to help build trust between the UN and the Haitian people.

As if this weren't enough, Tomas is heading our way by the end of the week!