Friday, February 12, 2010


Mrs. Ackerman's PreK-1st graders make Valentines on Thursday. We did not have school today, February 12, because today has been declared the first of three National Days of Prayer. Haitians are fasting for 30 hours- from 6 am this morning to 12 noon on Saturday. And believe me, they are out in force in church. This morning we went to a hospital to serve, and they had just a handful of patients- anyone who can be is in church. We woke right at 6 am because the church outside our window (just across the street, over the school's perimeter wall) started with prayer and singing at top volume. They were still worshiping at 12:45 when we had returned from the hospital. We heard them on the drive to the hospital, and we heard them while at the hospital- different congregations, blanketing Haiti in hymns. 

Last night we celebrated Ben's birthday! Ben wants to wait to celebrate his birthday until we get to Santo Domingo, but I wanted to have cake and candles before everyone started leaving town- the majority of our students and staff are taking a few days of R&R, whether in Haiti, in the Dominican Republic, or in the States (lots of people heading to Miami).
We even scrounged up Funfetti cake and sprinkles! I sneakily bought birthday candles about 10 days ago when we went to the grocery store last. We only had 24 candles, but that was just fine- we're all a few short these days here in Haiti:)
Ben made his prettiest face for the camera- he just LOVES it when I make him take lots of photos!
Haiti's hottest relief worker 2010!
 Earlier this week, something clicked in my brain. The non-profit I worked for in Dallas before coming to Haiti had absorbed an adoption agency about a year ago. I knew that adoption agency worked in Haiti with a place called Hope Orphanage, which was associated with Hope Hospital. I also knew that my new roommate here, Jamie, was working as a translator every day for the last month with German doctors from Humedica (a German non-profit) at a place called Hopital Espoir.  It took all this time to make the translation- Hopital Espoir is Hope Hospital! So I had to go see the work there. Today we had no school, so B and I jumped in the back of the truck and headed to Espoir with Humedica.
Hopital Espoir was swamped after the quake. They have a fair number of supplies now. There is no air conditioning, and the entire place smells like wet concrete and bodies. There are several patients in each room, with an additional handful of family members sleeping all around them.
This is what I mean by "degaje". No traction? Broken lower leg bone? Make it work with rags and a spare concrete brick. Believe me, there are plenty of spare bricks around these days. I worked with a German pediatric nurse (and current med student) named Saskia to change all the dressings in the pediatric rooms in addition to one room of two middle-aged women. One woman had a serious head injury (healing well), a serious calf/ankle wound (not healing so well- waiting for a skin graft machine to try to save her leg), and a left arm that was amputated above the elbow. Changing the dressing for that amputation was something else- just skin stretched together and stapled into a stump. It's healing well, but the poor woman looked utterly miserable. Her roommate, a rather large 50-ish woman wearing only a hot pink lacy top, suffered a femur fracture and had an external fixator. Cleaning and re-bandaging all the points of entry for the external fixator was quite a trick, and also very time-consuming- or, at least, it seemed to take a very long time because I was holding up her leg in the air. One little boy had an external fixator for a femur fracture, and another German doctor told me this was a revised fixation- he came into the hospital having already been treated elsewhere, but when they did an xray the bone had been set incorrectly. He must have been in so much pain. His name was Brice, which his mother pronounced "Breece".
At what point the German leader called for "break time". We all filed down into the basement of Espoir, where I saw this bulletin board. A break room had been set up with coffee, white bread, and peanut butter. They also were making a kind of juice out of Grenadine syrup mixed with water?! Strange, but tasty!
 We walked back upstairs through this makeshift kitchen. From what I observed this morning, the patients are getting "soda crackers" (similar to Saltines) and a Dixie-cup-sized drink of milk.
 This crack is the dividing line between the two parts of the hospital- where they think is safe to go, and where they think it's not safe to go. They watch this crack grow every day- you can see the piece of tape marking where it originally started. In the background the Humedica head nurse works the pharmacy.
This mama was lying behind the check-in desk with her baby. Mama is on crutches and has suffered a leg injury- how will she hold the baby and get around?
This woman was in the middle of labor, pacing the hallways. She was dilated to 6 centimeters, and the OBGYN, Laura, (who did Teach for America in Houston before med school) told me that I could help with the delivery if I would stay a few more hours. I was so disappointed that our team left at lunchtime and I had to go to catch my ride. Lord, I want to help deliver a baby someday! Please let it happen!
The pediatric ward. I had spent quite some time with infected wounds in my face, so I gave myself a reward....
Meet Christie
And Christelle. They are twins. They were born ten days before the quake. On Christelle's chart, you can read a doctor's handwriting: "Twin. Mother died at birth".
This is little Jedna. Jedna's parents were both killed in the quake. She has pneumonia- there is no sound that breaks the heart like a racking-hacking-respiratory-infection-cough-sound coming from a teeny infant. She also has a nasty case of scabies.
Saskia examines and loves on little Jedna. It was fun to get to know Saskia. Humedica is an all-volunteer crisis response group of doctors. You sign up, then they call you when an emergency happens, and you either jump on the plane or say "keep me on the list, maybe next time". Saskia has been to Kenya, Somalia, India, and about four other places with Humedica. We talked about her hometown, near Cologne. We also talked about how our grandmothers feel about us being in Haiti. Some things translate cultures:)
Me and Jedna.
Holding Christelle.
Mom, calm down :)
Little Christelle. The government, under pressure from major aid groups like Unicef, has shut down any new adoptions of Haitian orphans, saying that a long time needs to go by to re-unite children with families. That's great. However, when you see three tiny infants like these, whose parents are documented as dead by hospital staff, you wonder- do they benefit from this policy? Jedna, Christie, and Christelle need mamas. They need homes, and Vacation Bible Schools, and grandmothers, and tricycles, and Easter egg hunts, and photo albums, and little pink bedrooms. Pray for wisdom for the whole adoption circus- wisdom for the NGO's, wisdom for the government, wisdom for adoptive families, and mercy, MERCY, for the orphans.
Saskia feeding Christie.
Hope Hospital. Apparently, at one point the founder, Gladys, got a hook up with Oprah, and that's where the funding for this place originally came from. 
You can see the German and Humedica flags hanging outside Espoir.
Back on campus. The Army is letting our relief center use a couple of their tents, and the Aruban Red Cross is bunking in this one.

B and K Update:
We are headed to Santo Domingo tomorrow morning to spend a few days of R&R. We're jumping on a bus and looking for de-compression time. It'll be quite an adventure. Prayers for our souls to find refreshment and rest. Prayers, as always, for Haiti.



  1. Praying for a much deserved and needed time of R&R for both of you! Happy birthday Ben!

  2. Katie - If you really want to help deliver a baby, ask Dad (John A.) to take you along to Heartline sometime when he goes (once you're back in town of course)... they have been delivering babies like every single day! ("Animal" and Beth McHoul's clinic) - I am sure you would get your fix there. :)

  3. I could have a spare bedroom done up in pink with three little cribs in no time! VBS and Easter Egg hunts are my specialties :) Just say the word and I'll start preparing.......

    Have a wonderful time in the DR. Love you both. Mom

  4. They NEED to bond with someone. Seeing them makes my heart ache.



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