Sunday, March 7, 2010

Getting Haiti Back on Its Feet: Jason

The best part of having not evacuated from Port-au-Prince after the earthquake on January 12th is that I have been able to meet and see in action some of the most remarkable people in these last two months. I think I have done a good job telling our story and a decent job of telling the story of what is happening in PAP, but I would admit I have not done a good job telling the stories of these men and women. I am just a teacher, but these people are saving lives. With all the free time I have, I would like to tell their stories. Here is one.

I do not know how to fix Haiti. I have heard a lot of the ideas and I have some myself, but I'm unsure if they will work. The long-term needs are so big and systemic. Some are pretty obvious- housing and education. One other makes sense only if you have walked through a PAP hospital in the last two months: the need for prosthetics. If the world does not want tens of thousands of 1-legged beggars in Haiti, then we're going to need lots of prosthetic legs. Enter Jason.

Jason is on his third trip here.  He works with a group called No Boundaries that provides limbs for amputee victims. We have hundreds, maybe thousands, of aid orgs in Haiti, but of everyone I have talked to, Jason and No Boundaries are the only ones doing prostheses. I bribed Jason with a Cuban cigar and made plans to tag along on Sunday when he went to a hospital to measure amputee patients for limbs.

2 hours. 1 Hospital. 8 people to measure. Neat.

The first two measurements were relatively uneventful. I mean, as uneventful as measuring someone's left leg so you can make a replica of the right is. And, as uneventful as doing it in a camping tent because the hospital is full can be. Okay, so it was still pretty eventful.
The third measurement, however, was an emotional kick in the gut. Ruben, age 4, was missing one leg. He sat quietly in the tent he shared with six other patients, coloring on his mattress. Jason and his interpreter talked to the mother, and then Jason squatted to start examining Ruben's stump.
Ruben was pretty good-natured until they started looking at his wound. The wounds have to heal correctly for the prosthetic to fit, so Jason had to get pretty personal with this kid. Little buddy didn't like that.
I need to be real. After watching Ruben getting measured, I really started to ache for the kid. He was the youngest person in his hospital tent. He cried when anyone touched his wound. It was necessary to pull his shorts down to measure then full length of his good leg. So this 4 year old is standing in front of roughly 15 people, all strangers but his mother, naked from the waist down. It was tough. I wanted to cry for him. When Jason and his translator were done, we walked to another tent. Jason's translator, Alf, said, "It is hard, working with the kids. So sad." I know Alf to be a very energetic and eager young man who wants to help his country and his people. He has worked everywhere that the Quisqueya Crisis Relief Center has sent teams. When Alf says something is hard and sad, he says so with more knowledge and experience than I can put into words or that you could imagine.

Jason and Alf went into the next tent. It was too crowded for one more, so I walked around outside. I was secretly thankful for some time not staring at a scarred piece of flesh that ended where a thigh or shin should have been. I thought about Quincy, the 5-year-old nephew of one of our cafeteria workers who we treated the night of the quake and was in traction for a femur fracture for a few weeks. This could have been him if he had not received adequate care.

It was very difficult to look around this hospital. They are doing they best they can, but its just not at a standard that should be acceptable.
Chicken and roosters roamed the grounds. Rocks created tension to hold the tents up. Tent support ropes doubled as clothes lines. Some might see a quaint resourcefulness in this. I see poverty. However, there are people like Jason and organizations like No Boundaries that are doing their best to get Haiti back on their feet. Jason will be working for a few more weeks to measure, make and fit people with prosthetic legs I hope to have more images as they occur.

Here are some of their videos.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks Ben. That was hard but good to read. I already am becoming complacent, and need to hear about individual souls like Ruben (who I could absolutely relate to, since I'm sure he is not unlike my three boys) to snap me back to the reality of the situation there. And to compel me even more to pray, to act, and to not forget.



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