On October 24, 2014, my husband and I left the country. For me, it was the first time I had flown to another country, and the first time to really be out of my element. Our destination was Haiti, which you knew already, and we didn’t really know what we were getting into. We went with a group called FAME International, that is centered in Indianapolis, IN. My mother-in-law had been to Haiti multiple times with FAME and was the one who originally encouraged me to come on this trip. I am so thankful that she did!
Our group consisted of one doctor, three nurses, one surgery technician, one nursing home chaplain, one seasoned mission-tripper, and two people with no medical experience at all *hint: those two inexperienced people are Caleb and I* This is a smaller group, just nine people, than usually goes on these trips, but I thought it was the perfect size. I generally am intimidated by large groups of people, especially if they all know what to do and I don’t! These people that were skillfully brought together by God’s hand helped me see that even though I didn’t have much experience in medicine, I can still bring my talents to a team and we all benefit. Thankfully, I am a quick learner. I was able to move around during our clinic days and gain little bits of each station as the week went on.
During the week days, we set up medical clinics. The first two days, we set up beneath the compound we stayed at in Fond-Parisien where there was a hospital. The next three days, we went out into to different locations and set up there. These were all around an hour to an hour and a half away. We travelled by van and all our medicines were in suitcases in another vehicle that also transported our wonderful translators. Each day we would get up, eat breakfast, and have devotions together as a team. Then we would get ready for the day, placing people in their stations. Obviously, doc was in the Provider station… :) The other stations were: Triage, Education, and Pharmacy. A nurse needed to be present in the Pharmacy at all times, and the other two would kind of float around and help as needed.
The first station people went through was Triage. This is where we could check their blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and ask them what their chief complaints were. I was at this station for two days, and learned how to listen for a child’s heart beat. This was much harder than I anticipated because I didn’t realize their hearts beat so much faster than adults! Plus, if it was an upset baby, they might be screaming, and that made it basically impossible to hear their heart. As I asked the interpreters to ask the patient what was wrong, what brought them to the clinic today, it made me sad to hear so many of them complain about heart troubles or having fevers. I don’t know if there just weren’t other Haitian words to describe the specific ailment, but the top two complaints over the entire week of clinics were fever and vaginal infection. This was a little scary because some of the girls were so young, like 13 or so, to be having troubles like that! I hope that many of them were able to be helped, and that what we gave them was enough to get them through whatever they were dealing with.
After people got done Traige-ing, they would wait until the doctor could see them in the Provider station. We had our American doctor and a Haitian doctor who were able to see people. When they had been diagnosed, they would head over to the Education station. On the first day, I started out in the Education station. This is where we taught the Haitian patients about oral rehydration, and why it was so important to keep your body hydrated. We taught them that diarrhea can cause your body to lose lots of water, and to keep their children as healthy as possible. This is also where we would teach them about Jesus, and how He is the Living Water…The refreshment of our souls, and how we need Him to keep our Spiritual lives healthy. It was cool to see people respond to what we said, through our interpreters. After we taught them all of this, we helped them make their own oral rehydration solution out of salt and sugar. All they needed to do (whenever they might need it) is add clean drinking water! Caleb worked at this station during the last three days. When I asked him what he liked best and learned from this station, he said, “It was interesting tying oral rehydration into Jesus being the living water. But as the week went on, it made more sense on how they both were tied together. I liked that I was able to share the Gospel with people” (Caleb Hunter, 2014). He excelled in this station because I know he loves to teach, especially if it is about His first love, Jesus!
Once educated, the patients would come to the Pharmacy and wait until their name was called. Then a nurse, with the help of an interpreter, would explain each medication, how and when to use it, and thank them for visiting the clinic. I was in the Pharmacy for the last two days, learning what different medications were for and where they were located. We had a different suitcase for different kinds of medicine. For instance, one piece of luggage held all the antibiotics, one had pain medicines, and another had vitamins. Caleb’s mother worked in this station every day, I think. She was very fast to find medicines and also helped me understand how the whole process worked. She was definitely skilled in this area! Caleb worked in the Pharmacy for two days, as well. I think he liked to work with his mom, especially since we had not seen any of his family for a few months.
That basically sums up what happened on clinic days, which we did for five days. This was an awesome experience, to work with people who were trained medically and enjoyed helping people in the physical realm. Though I am not particularly passionate about medicine or things like that, I am so glad that I went and was able to learn about these things. It to see everyone working so hard, and noticing the little things that we all did to help the day run more smoothly, like taking lunch breaks, or making a sort of assembly line to get the prescription to the Pharmacy and things like that. We all worked together really well and meshed nicely as a team.
On Sunday (day two), after we had been sorting medicine for a few hours, we were notified that there was a school soccer game in an hour or so. Two other team members, Caleb, and I decided to go. Me and the other woman were able to ride in a jeep, but Caleb and the other man rode the school bus, packed with the Haitian children who were playing that day. It was on this bus that Caleb met a man who was from England, teaching English in one of the Haitian schools! They instantly connected because Caleb spent six months teaching English in Brazil during 2011. I really enjoyed watching them interact because there are not very many people who can relate to Caleb in this way. I know that he has so much to share, but does not always know what to say, or what will connect with whoever he is talking to. The soccer game was fun, but we didn’t really know which team won…It didn’t matter a whole lot to us because it was just fun to watch the kids play!
We also went to church on Sunday, and that was definitely an interesting experience. It was pretty much all in French/Creole, except the sermon was translated by one of the pastors. The service lasted around two and a half hours, was very loud, and very hot! A few cool things that did happen that we were able to connect with: the doxology, Happy Birthday’s, and they recognized our team. After church, we were given a tour of the Haitian Christian Mission compound and school that we were being housed at. Apparently they had been doing a lot of work, because some members of the team were impressed with the conditions of certain areas in the compound.
I think it may have been Monday or Tuesday after the clinic when we got to go visit an orphanage. There were 12 children, the oldest was 14 (I think) and the youngest was a baby (not sure how old). When we arrived, the kids were apprehensive at first, but then they saw George, who lives at the HCM compound and were excited! We went in the house single file and the boys wanted high fives, and the girls wanted kisses on the cheek! So adorable! We were able to talk to the oldest and found out that he played basketball and had won a medal of some sort! He was proud to tell us this, and I was excited for him.
On another day, we visited a cluster of homes up on the mountain where two of our translators lived. There were so many little boys and girls there and they all wanted to play! One little guy who was probably six or seven years old would grab my hand and place it on top of his head and just walk around like that! I don’t really know why, but he sure was happy! Many of the youngsters were interested in the watches that most of the team members wore, and actually tried to take them off our wrists. No, no, little one! There was one little girl, probably four years old or so, who ran around with all the boys and was intrigued by a bracelet that I was wearing, so I tied it on her wrist and she was absolutely delighted! Caleb mentioned, “it was really cool to see where our translators lived, and connect with them on a personal level throughout the week”. I would have to agree. It wasn’t like they were just random people that we didn’t see once the clinic was over. We saw them at meal times, and visited some of their houses and met their children! We realized that they had lives and families, too, that we can’t just assume people are one way because of their occupation, but that their personalities are genuine and that they love their wives and children, just like we would!
There is entirely no way that I could recap my trip to Haiti in just one blog post, but I did want to give a little update…Plus I feel like I have been a little M.I.A. lately. That could partly be due to the fact that both Caleb and I have been battling sickness since arriving back in the States. Anyway, I also wanted to share some pictures with you! Caleb took most, if not all, of these photos, but gave me permission to share :)
Again, thank you for reading this post! I know it’s a lot of words and a lot of pictures, but even this amount doesn’t cover it all! Thank you to all of you who supported Caleb and I financially, and through prayer! We are incredibly thankful for your graciousness!
Talk to you soon! -Megan