Saturday, May 29, 2010

Wade's Journal - Week 3 in Haiti

The TRTP team was able to visit Wade during their trip to Port au Prince earlier this month. He has been working tirelessly at the hospital and day clinic in PAP ever since his arrival.

The daily grind

The work in the hospital is intense. Days are long, 10 - 12 hours each. No breaks. Power bars and other "on the go" foods are eaten while working. On a rare occasion, a step outside to get a breath of "fresh" air. Temperatures in the mid to high 90s. At the end of each day: exhaustion.

Regardless, Wade was in good spirits during the two evening meals he shared with the TRTP team. But as soon as the meals were over, he collapsed on the bed, trying to cool off and get whatever rest he could before the bus picked him up the next morning to start all over again.

Thankfully, two other TRTP volunteers, Shawn and Annelies, were able to join him to work at the hospital for awhile. It was refreshing for Wade to work with friends.

But one of the benefits of this type of work is the contacts that are made. Our team has met medical professionals from around the world in every area of expertise imaginable. And, to keep it interesting, they even rubbed elbows with some movie stars who support the effort in Haiti. They have made great contacts that will be beneficial for future medical treatment requests by The Red Thread Promise.

According to Wade, some of the babies in the hospital were "dressed to the Ts by their mothers. It was very touching to see them doing whatever they could for their children."

An unexplained broken femur

Sadly, violent crime is a big reality downtown. In one afternoon he:
  • Saw a 12 year old girl with a gunshot wound through the chest and out the back. Unfortunately, they were ill equipped to help her and sent her to a better facility for treatment.
  • Treated 2 murderers that the police caught in unrelated incidences. One shot his girlfriend and the police shot him 3 times during his capture. The other killed his mother. His neighbors caught him and nearly beat him to death.
Anneleis in the ER treating one of the murderers

Prisoner chained to the bed

One of the many rats that can be found in the hospital

A family friend cleaning up in the street right outside the hospital

Please keep Wade, all medical personnel and volunteers (whether Haitian or foreign) in your thoughts and prayers. There is a long road ahead.

The Importance of Education in Haiti

We'd like to share a heart-wrenching story of a man we met in Gramothe back in March. His story is one of many that demonstrate the urgency of bringing education to the people of Haiti. (Author's note: some photos may be disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.)

Before we begin, we'd like to share some basic facts about education in Haiti*.
  • Fifty percent of primary school age children are not enrolled in school.
  • One third of girls over six never go to school.
  • Approximately 30% of children attending primary school will not make it to third grade; 60% will abandon school before sixth grade.
  • Only 15% of teachers at the primary level have basic teacher qualifications (including university degrees), and nearly 25% have never even attended secondary school.
  • The most startling statistic: 37.9% of the population is unable to read or write as compared to only 12% illiteracy in the rest of Latin America


We'd like to introduce you to Sainristil, father of 15 children, a farmer and long-time resident of Gramothe. We met him bright and early on the first day we worked at MTM's clinic in March. He was delirious with pain and showed us the cause: his hand was grossly swollen and black with injuries that none of us could identify. The tips of the fingers on his left hand were shaved down to pointy nubs, showing exposed dried tissue.

Sainristil (right) showing his injuries to Shawn, TRTP doctor (left) prior to treatment

After examination by the doctors, it was determined that he had dry gangrene on all of his fingers. The doctors treated him with strong antibiotics and referred him to a surgical center because his injuries were beyond the capabilities of MTM's clinic. But what could have caused such an injury?

Through an interpreter, we heard this sad, unfortunate story unravel.

On January 12th, Sainristil was walking his youngest daughter, Kenia, home from school. While walking along the river bed, the earthquake triggered a rockslide, striking this beautiful 6 year old. Two medical volunteers at MTM's clinic who witnessed the landslide, labored to breathe life into the little girl while transporting her via ATV to the closest hospital. Tragically, Kenia's injuries brought her short life to an end.

Six year old Kenia at school (photo courtesy of MTM)

In the midst of his substantial grief and loss, Sainristil stood strong and chose to help at rice distribution points set up to give much needed food to fellow Haitians. Sainristil explained to us that he was in serious pain following his work handling 100 lb sacks of rice. His left hand caused him such pain that a well-meaning friend suggested that he put his hand in boiling water for relief. Sadly, he took his friend's advice.

According to Sainristil, the pain subsided temporarily, but as you can imagine, the boiling water damaged his hand even further. His hand swelled up like a balloon and, being a farmer, he questioned how he would be able to farm with such a hand. So he did what he thought would be best—he began to carve away the swollen tissue from his fingers. As the gangrene developed, the real pain set in which is what brought him to the clinic seeking help.

Injury prior to treatment

Following the advice of the clinic doctors, Sainristil was able to get the treatment he needed from a local surgical center with help from MTM. Unfortunately, by the time we saw him again on Friday morning, four of his fingers had been amputated. He expressed his gratitude for the surgery and shared that the pain was much more manageable.

Following the amputation of 4 fingers

During The Red Thread Promise's most recent trip to Haiti in May, Kathy and the team were fortunate enough to see Sainristil again. Eight weeks had past since our last visit. Unfortunately, he had returned to the surgical center to have the remaining part of his hand removed. Angie, one of our team members, was able to measure him for a prosthesis that we hope to provide for him.

Following the amputation of entire hand

This true story weighs on our hearts and minds and demonstrates the value of education, which could have prevented this tragedy.
  • A basic anatomy class would have provided Sainristil sufficient knowledge about the human body that he would have known putting his hand in boiling water would cause more long-term problems than possible pain relief.
  • Literacy and access to a library or the internet would have allowed him to research his ailment before making life-altering decisions.
  • Understanding the importance of a medical consultation for diagnosis, treatment options and pain management in lieu of superstitious cures would have drastically changed the rest of his life.
Instead, in Gramothe, there is a well-meaning father who is now an amputee for life, whose capacity to be a provider for his remaining 14 children has been greatly diminished.

It is time for change.

* Unicef website, 2009; Haiti Interim Cooperation Framework Report, 2004; Unicef Humanitarian Action Report 2008; World Bank 2007 Project Appraisal Document for Education for All Program; Human Development Report 2009; UNDP Haiti Rapport National Sur Le Development Humain 2002

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Wade's Journal - Week 2 in Haiti

The Day Clinic

Wade working in the clinic with a patient

The 2nd floor of the clinic shows visible signs of heavy damage from the earthquake

The Hospital

Hospital Grounds
The hospital grounds still have some usable buildings but are supplemented with tents

Arrival at the hospital, waiting to get in
People have waited outside as long as 3 days trying to get in

ER waiting room
When there isn't space, people lie on the floor to wait

Emergency room

Post Op
The post op area for patients lucky enough to go there after surgery
Most are sent home directly after surgery

Pediatric tent
Parent and child with a make shift leg support

Tent wards where patients stay

Tap tap bus (public transportation) that flipped over while carrying 15 people

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Kathy & Tom - Days 1 & 2 in Haiti

Kathy, Tom and the team made it safely to Haiti despite late flights from New Orleans and Miami. They were greeted by Willem (MTM), Rachoul (Rivers of Hope orphanage director) and Jean Michelle (Rachoul's son) who took them to the guest house in the midst of a slow drizzle.

Haiti is in its second week of the rainy season, which normally lasts for approximately 6 weeks. The roads are taking a beating in all of the rain. Large potholes are now huge potholes. Vast areas of road has washed away leaving behind deep ruts that are difficult to traverse even in a truck. Large rocks and boulders have been washed into the streets making many impassible. Tomorrow the team will go to Port au Prince to see the affect the rain is having on the tent cities.

There are 7 people on the team, pictured from left to right:
  • Sally, representing the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia
  • Kathy, TRTP President
  • Randa, interior architect
  • Noor, urban planner
  • Tom, interior architect
  • Jennifer, former TRTP board member working for SDG Adoption
  • Angie, occupational therapist

Kindergardeners singing at the Gramothe School

A tour of MTM's school and church followed. Willem showed them the site for the new Children's Home orphanage on MTM's property. Then a trip up the mountain on foot to visit the village of Gramothe and surrounding areas.

Sally holding Rose at Rivers of Hope


Finally, they drove to Rivers of Hope to tour the facility and, of course, play with the beautiful children in Rachoul's care. There are 6 boys and 1 girl at this time. Praise God Christopher was feeling well today and running around like a typical healthy boy.

Tomorrow's schedule will be just as full. Check back for an update.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Honoring Mothers

The Red Thread Promise is thankful for mothers.
  • Birth mothers
  • Step-mothers
  • Mothers-to-be
  • Adoptive mothers
  • Foster mothers
  • Women who raise their grandchild, niece or nephew
  • Heartbroken mothers who have lost their child
  • Brave mothers who gave up their child for a better life
  • Those who dream of motherhood
A blessed day to all of you!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

TRTP Volunteer Back In Haiti

Wade treating an infant in a makeshift incubator

Wade, a Red Thread volunteer, is a retired geophysicist who worked on the exploration end of the oil business for numerous years. Now his focus is on humanitarian work and he serves as a physican assistant in the states.

Last weekend he flew into Port au Prince to volunteer at a day clinic and hospital in the heart of the city. His plan is to stay there working for approximately 4 weeks. We will be sharing his experience with you through our blog.

(Author's note: some photos may be disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.)

Wade's Journal - 1st week

Saturday, May 1

Well, I made it back to Port-au-Prince. Everything is about the same as I remember from our March 2010 trip. I can't see that anything has improved in the past month and a half.

I am staying in the same hotel as before. The staff is still here and I even ran into our trusty tour guide that we hired in March. He seemed to remember me when I told him I needed to go to the hospital. We walked over to the hospital so that I could check in prior to my first day's work. When I arrived, I spoke to Marlaine and she was glad to see me. There is much work to be done here and she is looking forward to the everyone returning. She sent me over to the ER/ICU building to talk to the IMC's doctor, Rob, who appears to be running the operation. He wanted me to start on the spot!

The emergency room was absolute chaos. If it as busy every day as it was then, there is going to be plenty for everyone to do. I plan to go back tomorrow and help triage in ER. Then Monday I will be in the day clinic. Rob is looking forward to all the help he can get. He has been here 5 weeks with one to go.

Sunday, May 2

Found out that I can not work in the ER until I have signed a waiver of liability which I can't do until Monday. So it is a day of lounging at the hotel pool contemplating the ills of the world. Frustrating.

Monday, May 3

Things did not go as expected today. The IMC will not let me work with them until next weekend. I got intensely bored sitting around the hotel so I decided to walk over to the hospital this afternoon just to observe and get a feel for the ER room and operations. On the way there I saw a some local men fighting in the middle of the street with a local policeman trying to stop it. It made me very uncomfortable. There is still much discontent here and tempers run hot.

I had the opportunity to talk at length to one of the night shift ER doctors who has been here for three days. He said it is really grim in the ER. The hospital where I will be working is like the old charity hospital in New Orleans. Loosely translated, that means that whenever there is a patient no one wants or knows what to do with, they get sent here. He shared that many of the patients are heavily medicated and sent home. These same patients would have been admitted to an intensive care unit if they were being treated in the US. Grim indeed.

Well, I guess I will find out for myself tomorrow. I hope to arrange with IMC to ride in their bus. Otherwise, I will hire a local guide, the same one we used on our last trip, to walk me to and from the clinic. Staying safe is a top priority.

Also heavy on my mind is the rain. It has been raining non-stop this evening. I can not image what it is like in the tent cities.

Tuesday, May 4

My second day went better but there are still some things that need to be worked out to make this as efficient as possible. I worked in the day clinic from 8:30 until 1:00. But after the lunch break my translators dissappeared. So I went over to the ER and helped in the triage.

It was there that I realized that patients who really did not need to be admitted to the ER were being refered to the day clinic where I should have been working if the translator had stayed. So I made the decision to set up shop right there and care for these people who I would have seen anyway. Since the ER is fairly well supported by interpreters, it worked out well. I have to say that it is much more satisfying to contribute to the ER effort instead of just walking around trying to find something to do.

I treated many people with various aches and pains as well as some malaria cases. In the ER I saw a young man whose bellybutton never closed and he had been having drainage his whole live (19 years!). Unfortunatelly, he also had an abdominal cavity infection and was in bad shape. I cared for an elderly man with unrinary retention which cause unbearable pain. In the ER they inserted a catheter and change his whole outlook on life. I even saw my second scrotal filariasis—about the size of a small volleyball! I refered him to surgery for possible removal.

It was a very productive day. I feel as though I touched many lives, even if only for a moment.

To top it off, Shawn arrived today (another Red Thread volunteer / physician). It was good to see him. I know he is looking forward to his first day tomorrow.

Baby in an improvised incubator

A baby who didn't make it

Local ambulance bringing a woman for treatment

Wednesday, May 5

Man transporting a coffin

Waiting for treatment of an obstructed bowel

A man waiting in the street for triage