"God is good all the time and all the time God is good." Natural disasters and poverty can tempt us to question the goodness of God. In the midst the suffering I saw, God reminded me many times of His goodness. The churches in Haiti are now full at every service and people are repenting and turning to God. God is providing for His people. Christians have the opportunity to show the Haitians that the compassion of Christ is leading them to try to help meet their physical, spiritual and emotional needs.
How do you describe a week in a third world country suffering from the crippling effects of a corrupt government, years of poverty, and now a horrible earthquake? How do you describe the sad site of tents made from bed sheets? How do you describe the site of a crushed houses, churches, businesses, and government buildings? I don’t know. I will try to relate some of my memories of the precious week I was privileged to spend in Haiti.
Since the day of the earthquake, God laid on my heart the burden to go and help provide medical relief. I didn’t know when or how. I didn’ know if I would be able to get off of work or not. I didn’t know what organization I should go with. I did not know if my skills would be of use down there or not. God knew. I left it in His hands and He provided.
February 12th I found out about an opportunity to go with for a week (leaving February 20th) with International Faith Mission (IFM). I thought I would at least try to get off work, but I doubted I would be able to get off. Well, God surprised me and I was able to get off.
I contacted IFM and at first they were unsure if someone else would be able to travel with me. That same evening I got the director of the mission called me and said Dr. Jordan Dutter was planning to also travel to Haiti on February 20th. So I made my final decision and said I would go. The tickets were bought that next day.
Saturday, February 20th, my parents and I met the Dutter family on the way to O’Hare Airport. Dr. Jordan has had a Family Practice office in Flora, IN for the past 10 years. Him, his wife Deanna, and three children are members of the New Conference German Baptist church.
God provided again and we were both able to check in two suitcases each with medical supplies and have the luggage fee waived. We got to Miami at 11:30pm and had a few hrs to blow before our 8:30am flight into Port–au-Prince.
Trying to find a place to stretch out was difficult. We did find two curved benches on either side of a little alcohol stand (it was closed). So we tried to get some shut–eye. Yeah right. We were kept awake by the bright lights and the computer automated voice.
We were met by two Haitians who are with IFM. We rode through the sections of town that had been most devastated by the earthquake. Very sad…. crumbled homes, businesses, churches, and government buildings. I was glad to have been able to take the tour right away so we could have a glimpse into what our patients had been through.
IFM’s mission is about one hour from the airport at the outskirts of the city. We would be spending the nights at their compound. We went to their church service that evening. The service was very well attended by Haitians and a few IFM staff. Through the long church service, the only thing we recognized was the tunes to the songs. We were told that they were discussing if the earthquake was God’s judgment on Haiti. At the end of the service, an invitation was given and an older gentleman went forward. May God continue to turn hearts toward Himself.
Bright and early (6:30) Monday morning we ate breakfast and had devotions with the rest of the medical team and IFM staff. The medical team got on the back of the mission’s pick–up truck and settled in for the 1 ½ hr ride into town for the mobile clinic. The medical team was headed up by Fay and Juanita Zook. They are a very nice older couple who have years of experience working in Haiti. She is a nurse who also saw patients and prescribed (because of her yrs of experience). He was our lab guy who did all our malaria, typhoid, glucose, etc tests.
Three other nurses, Juanita Riehl, Diane Green, and Cheryl Kaufman had all been there for several weeks and all had been to Haiti on previous trips. Dr. Jordan and I were the "new kids on the block."
IFM had partnered with two larger organizations, Merlin and Goal– Ireland. These groups are based out of the UK. They had plastic and orthopedic surgeons and nurses. By the time I got there they had a very nice setup with a surgery tent, recovery tent, and post-op tents. IFM stepped out of the surgery department and are operating an out–patient clinic (doctor’s office). This setup (Merlin & IFM) is on an old tennis court. Merlin is planning to stay until at least the end of March.
On Monday and Tuesday I helped fill the prescriptions that the doctors wrote. We had three sometimes four doctors writing perscriptions and three nurses filling prescriptions. It was difficult to keep our medications organized, but we tried to make do and work as best as we could. We saw a lot of patients with malaria, infections, high blood pressure, upset stomachs and pain. We gave a lot of chloroquine (for malaria), antibiotics, antifungal creams, Tums, Prilosec & Pepcid, Ibuprofen, Tylenol and high blood pressure pills. We saw 130–150 patients a day. Often multiple family members would come together to be seen. We carefully distributed some food to patients with several children. We wished we could have given food and a nice tent to each one, but we weren’t able to.
Tuesday, God reminded us that He is still in the business of performing miracles to provide for His children. We had very few small bottles to pour liquid vitamins and malaria medicine in for young children. We never ran out of bottles. We were almost done seeing patients, when a lady came back from the lab with a positive malaria test. We thought we didn’t have any anti malaria medicine left. We prayed out loud as we looked through multiple boxes. We finally found one small Ziploc bag with the dose she needed. Thank you Lord! We had started putting our boxes of supplies away, when another lady came back with a positive malaria test. Uh oh! "Lord, you provided before and we know you can provide again." After searching thru many boxes and suitcases of donated medications, we found two small Ziploc bags of the dose of anti malaria medicine!!! We really felt like God allowed that experience to test and build our faith.
Wednesday morning I woke up feeling very sick. I was unable to keep food down and had a very strong stomach ache. I stayed back at the mission house that day. I was very disappointed to miss that particular day of clinic. Elwood and Anita had emailed me and said they were planning on coming into Port–au–Prince and would like to see me that day. So I was really disappointed that I wasn’t going to be able to see them. Through the disappointments, God reminded me that He is in control and I need to trust Him more.
The IFM staff girls checked on me as I tried to get better. I felt somewhat better in the evening, but not completely. Thursday morning I badly wanted to go, but there was a still a strong ache in my stomach. The girls convinced me that it would be better to stay back and recover, than to be miserable at clinic or even later when I was traveling. I was able to slowly keep down more food and liquids.
Thursday evening I met a young lady who I will never forget. After the earthquake, IFM took several ambulance loads of patients the several hour trip to the Dominican Republic to receive medical attention. Recently, IFM heard that these people were no longer being cared for, but still needed medical attention. So, a couple guys went back to the DR to find these people.
Twenty–two old, Amanda had broken her lower left leg and lower left arm. She had an external fixator (pins sticking out of her leg to hold the bone in place) on her leg and a rod had been placed in her arm. Amanda had not been given pain medication for the past 4 days and there was no plan of when to take out the external fixator. We were sure the Merlin doctors would be willing to care for her. So our tiny living room was partitioned off from the kitchen with sheets over a wire and she was placed on the sofa. She had a male family member (I don’t know if he was her brother, husband, or boyfriend) with her that stayed by her side. It was difficult to know what pain medication to give her since we wouldn’t be able to monitor her throughout the night. After much discussion we gave her two Tylenol PM and 600mg of Ibuprofen. We felt guilty not giving something stronger, but we didn’t have anything to reverse possible negative side effects. I gave her more Ibuprofen during the night. In the morning we gave her a shot in her leg muscle of a muscle relaxer and more Ibuprofen later in the ambulance. Another nurse, Juanita Riehl and I rode with her and her family member in the ambulance from the mission house to the clinic. It was difficult to keep her comfortable on the very long bumpy ride. She was experiencing some heartburn so we scraped the peanut butter off of peanut butter crackers and let her eat them. I really hadn’t been able to do that much for Amanda, but I felt like she understood that we cared and were doing what we could. I feel like one of the reasons God brought Amanda into my life was so I could do for her what I had went into nursing for.
Amanda was admitted to the Merlin camp when we arrived. They made plans to schedule surgery to take the pins out of her leg. They said it looked like her arm was infected and they would need to do surgery to clean it out. I stopped by her bed and gave her a smile, a "hi", and a patted her good arm, before I left. My prayer is that I will someday meet Amanda in Heaven. She touched my life in a very profound, but hard–to–describe way.
We had a couple new members on the IFM medical team the end of the week. Dr. Mike and his nurse Kim from Ohio, Miriam a nurse from Ontario, and Joanna, one of the IFM staff girls.
Friday, I was able to help Cheryl with some dressing changes. We would take the old dressing off, clean it with saline and have Dr. Allison look at it. Dr. Allison was from Whales and was working with Merlin. Some patients we just applied triple antibiotic ointment to their nicely healing wounds. The previous doctors from Ireland had been putting honey on some of the dressings. This was a very foreign idea to me, but since I have been home, I looked it up. This very old remedy works for several reasons including that the high sugar content discourages growth of infection. Very neat!! (Now don’t go put on honey on your wounds that need a doctor’s attention.
The Merlin and IFM doctors and nurses were very willing to share their vast store of experience and knowledge. I enjoyed learning from them.
Since I have been home, I have been asked "what was the "goriest" thing you saw?" I really didn’t see anything that was "gory". Remember, I was there over a month after the earthquake. By this time, the "gory" stuff had been taken care of or the people had passed away. I did see some x–rays of closed fractures that hadn’t been set and were healing wrong.
Friday night I found out that my flight for the next afternoon with Spirit was canceled. That same evening I was able to buy a ticket with American Airlines for the next afternoon. Even though it was expensive buying it at the last minute, I felt like God provided, because I wasn’t going to have to spend the night in Miami airport.
Saturday morning we headed into town again. I was able to be at the clinic for 1 hr before I had to leave for the airport. I met a delightful older lady who needed a dressing change. I was looking for an old dressing on her legs or arms. She could tell I was puzzled so she pointed to her head that was wrapped with gauze. Ohhhhh… now I see… The dear lady had a head wound that had been stapled and stitched shut. It healed very nicely and it was time for the staples and stitches to come out. I carefully took each of the staples out. Juanita showed me how to take the stitches out. I took a couple out and it was time for me to leave.
It was hard to say good–by to my new friends!!!! At the Port–au–Prince airport I met Americans from all over leaving after helping with many different organizations. It was so neat. I met two nurses from Los Angeles. I met three engineers from Texas. I met an anesthiologist, doctors and nurses from Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is a small world when you are serving the Lord!! Our 1:15pm flight was on time and the air conditioning felt good.
I had several hours to blow in Miami until my 9:30pm flight. I wasn’t ready to leave Haiti, but it was good to see my parents and Landen when I finally arrived in Chicago at 12:40am Sunday morning. The trip was short, but it impacted me in a big way.
We can’t all go to Haiti and serve God there. We can all do something to impact the people there. We all can pray for the Haitians, aid organizations, and the government. The staff of the missions that were there over the time of the earthquake, experienced and saw a lot of extremely heartbreaking situations. Pray that not only their physical needs would be met, but also their emotional and spiritual needs. Pray that God continues to bring people to Himself. If you are able to, there are many organizations that need money to provide aid. And if God calls you to go, obey.
Thanks so much for your prayers and support!!!