haiti

Recent article hitting close to home, (refer to Haiti trip earlier this year):
How Far Do You Go? Intensive Care in a Resource-Poor Setting — NEJM

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Haiti Medical Missions — Day 5 placeholder

Seriously cannot believe this week is over already. It was so hard saying our goodbyes to our translators and DR coworkers at the end of our morning clinic on Friday. Amongst gift exchanging, there were hugs, tears and email/fb sharing. By the time we left New Life Church, it was around 1pm–we had to immediately pack up, drive 2hrs to the Haitian border, customs, then 5 hours to our hotel in the DR. Praise God–the border crossing yesterday from Haiti to the DR was smooth! 
 Pictures and updates, including reflections, to come. Didn’t have internet yesterday so wasn’t able to update; but stay posted! Now, need to get some shut-eye before an early flight back to the US (!) tomorrow morning. Please pray for safe travels–almost half our team is leaving tomorrow morning!

Haiti Medical Missions — Clinic Day 4


Ta fidélité est grande
Ta fidélité est incompatable
Nul n’est comme toi, 
Oh Seigneur
Grande est ta fidélité

–Haitian worship song

Today was our last full day of clinic! We were united once again with an (almost) full staff of providers (except for Steve, Rick and Bill), and saw, treated and prayed for about 260 patients, including several who had cyst/mass removals. Though we saw some cool cases in clinic (like a staph carbuncle! and classic presentations of juvenile diabetes, sickle cell anemia, and rheumatoid arthritis; apparently sickle cell is called ‘anemia falciprum’ in Haiti), the highlight of the day was just after 4:30pm, when we closed clinic and went downstairs to join the members of New Life Church (the church we are working at). 

To be able to worship God with our DR coworkers, worship with the members of New Life and worship in three different languages during New Life’s worship service–words cannot describe how surreal it felt. We got a glimpse of the powerful cross-cultural worship on Tuesday, but tonight we also worshiped with some of the people who we treated downstairs! It was so incredibly awesome to hear the voices of Dominicans, Haitians and Americans reverberating throughout the small fellowship hall. It was a wonderful reminder that God’s love has absolutely NO barriers, be it language, race, or otherwise. In Christ, we were not (at least) 5 different ethnicities—we were ALL God’s beloved children. As the pastor pointed out, it was a glimpse of what we can look forward to in Heaven–all the nations worshiping together as ONE. Plus, the Haitians were so active about their worship! From belting out notes to dancing in place, their worship was enough to make ME feel like I was worshipping through watching them (if that makes any sense at all) 🙂

The experience reminded me of a patient I talked to who we’ll call Jean. When asked whether she knew about Christ, Jean said yes, but further questioning revealed that though she wanted to accept Christ, she was afraid to…because she didn’t have any clothes to wear to church. My translator, Rolder, and I were extremely touched. We immediately explained to her God’s unconditional love. After all…when Jesus came down on earth, He did not go to the rich and healthy, but to the sick. In God’s eyes, all of us are imperfect. The beauty of the gospel is that if we believe in Jesus, we are covered by His perfection. We are beautiful in God’s eyes; we can receive Christ regardless of our circumstances. As we explained this to Jean, tears filled her eyes (and mine). Oh, praise the Lord… Jean ended up receiving the Lord today. Please pray that she’ll get involved with a church and sustain her faith! 


Speaking of interviewing, yesterday was my first day somewhat interviewing patients on my own, with Don acting as my ‘attending’. Don is one of the quickest thinkers I know. I had shadowed on Monday and Tuesday and had an idea of how to interview for the common complaints we had, but to be able to think on the spot for a differential diagnosis, especially for something you haven’t seen, is a whole other ballpark. Though it was a bit intimidating, Don and the other doctors were a GREAT help. Big shout out to them for letting me and Summer interview patients!

Yesterday’s experience helped me feel a lot more comfortable interviewing and praying with patients today. Additionally, I am blessed with some awesome translators (on both days) who were SO eager to share the gospel with our patients who were willing to hear! Their passion definitely encouraged me to be more bold about sharing with patients too. My translator today was this linguistic genius who found out I knew Chinese, so we ended up spending a lot of our breaks with me teaching him Chinese words haha. Got to admit–he’s really good! xD

Can’t believe the week’s almost over already!! A couple other scattered thoughts:

1. I’m surprised at how much Creole I can understand during the interviews! Though I could NEVER stand alone with a patient, I’ve been able to catch words now and then as the patients explained their complaints. It is true that Creole is a lot like French, so praise God I was able to come with a French background. I actually got a patient today who knew a little English (!), and it was funny because then I got confused about how I should ask him things and whether I should use my translator (since he could understand some words I said, but not all) and we ended up just using the translator haha. 

2. One thing I think God has been teaching me on this trip is how to be humble. I am surrounded by such incredible, yet SUPER humble people. Their talent and genius is evident in their actions; not by lofty words. I need to learn from these people. God, please help me make walking in humility come naturally; help me make it my identity. 

3. We were supposed to bring gifts for our translators, and one of our team members, Darcy, made a calendar with GORGEOUS landscape pictures she took around her home in Oregon. It looked straight out of a professional, published calendar!!! Adding to my bucket list: a visit to Oregon 🙂


Tomorrow we’ll have clinic until 11am, then leave for DR. Please keep our border crossing in your prayers, for no flooding, delays, or recalcitrant officials!

Other prayer requests:

For the people we saw today, especially those who prayed to receive Christ—that they can keep their hope in Christ and get plugged into a church or community here.

For our team member Dave, who will be leaving tomorrow afternoon from Port-au-Prince  to return to the states.

For the people at the Church, that they will be equipped and have the strength to continue nourishing the surrounding community.

I shall leave you with some pictures of clinic and our amazing worship tonight 🙂 

The massive patient line


Ex of a staph carbuncle + scabies infection in a 4 yo child


New mother with a 3mo baby. SO PRECIOUS!!! ❤


Our ‘waiting area’
Summer and I with our ‘attending’, Don,
and translators (Descolines and Rolder) xD
worship with the haitian church!






Haiti Medical Missions — Clinic Day 3

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? …It is God who justifies… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

–Romans 8:32-39

 
A view of what our patient population has become
Photo credit: Don, on Darcy’s cam 😛
 
Today’s day was a ton of firsts. The first time our team separated since arriving in Haiti. The first time our students spoke up to share during our nighttime devotion, which was SUCH an encouragement. The first time several people who had no idea about Christ, were able to experience Christ in their lives. In a trip such as ours to a country with as much of a destructive loss as Haiti, it’s still easy to get discouraged by small things, small setbacks, small roadblocks in our attempts to help the people here. As one of our students, Emmy, got to share during our fellowship tonight, it is so easy to get overwhelmed by the things we want to, but can’t do to try to alleviate the incredible poverty. Yet God is at work. And something we have to remember over and over again is this… if our God is with us, what could EVER stop us?
 
With almost half our providers going to the orphanage, Steve and Rick heading off to scout a potential future ministry site and a half staff remaining at clinic, it was hard to know what to expect today. There were a couple of discouraging moments to start off: one of our members felt sick and had to take the day off. The people at the orphanage were at a shortage of translators, so for a good two hours (at least), they couldn’t communicate with the kids. There was a lack of water at the orphanage. However, God had a plan to use those setbacks to create one of the most powerful sharing nights on the trip so far. By the end of the night, there was hardly a dry eye to be found.
 
One of our children’s ministry leaders, Emmy, was the first to share about her reaction to Haiti as a result of today. And God used some of the setbacks at the orphanage to stir a change in her heart. Because the providers were so overwhelmed at the orphanage, Emmy was able to fully experience just how helpless she was to help these people.  The need is too great. But what we can do is share the gospel, and that is one of the best and most wonderful thing we can do for these people. This set off a cascade of similar feelings and stories from providers and non-providers alike, and we all were led to share stories of finding beauty in brokenness.
 
Another example of God at work was the fact that today was overwhelming for both the physicians at the orphanage and the physicians at the clinic alike, but because of the large patient to provider ratio, our students were able to see patients on their own, pray with patients on their own, and even bring to Christ some of the patients on their own (with a referral to the pastor afterwards : )) To see God change not only the lives of the Haitians, but also the lives of our team members…this was a powerful encouragement, to both the first-timers and the more seasoned people on this trip.
 
It always amazes me the extreme passion and richness these people, who are down to sometimes close  to nothing, have for Christ. The hunger they have for knowing Him, for relying on His provision and for giving them hope of a beautiful, amazing life in Paradise after death. At least 5 people heard about the gospel and prayed to receive Christ today, truly by God’s grace alone. And then there are their stories. A small sampling:
 
  1. Marc saw a women who excitedly proclaimed God had come to her in a dream after 7 days of fervent prayer and said to her that she would be healed of her years of suffering from cystic lesions on her skin that very day. And God led her to our clinic. When Marc performed the procedure for her, she kept exclaiming how God had answered her prayers. It caught Marc a bit off guard, but it just goes to show how God uses us, even when we least expect it, to carry out his will!
  2. One of Keith’s patients came in with an ulcer on his hand. When asked if he knew Christ, he said ’yes’, hesistantly. Further questioning revealed that his mom was sick; went to a witch doctor who ‘treated’ her, and she died 4 months later. Because of that, he wanted to believe in Christ, but didn’t think he was ready for it completely. After they went through the Evangecube though, he wanted to accept Christ right then and there. As Keith shared, God let this guy turn a small wound into a large one in order to bring him to clinic in order to receive Christ. Reminder: we cheat God a lot by NOT sharing with our patients.
  3. Cody’s story: He got a chance to talk to one of our Dominican team members today. Slowly, he learned her mother died early of breast cancer; she was raised by her father until 13, when he raped her, multiple times, until she coudn’t handle it and ran away. She had nobody to love her; nobody to take care of her. She also has breast cancer and just went through chemo. Yet despite all that, she was here in Haiti to share the gospel. Wow. It’s a reminder that every time you spread the gospel, the gospel message is not limited only for these people; it has the opportunity to be shared with their children, with their children’s children, and on and on. Forever.
 
And I could go on forever…

To top it off, Matt shared a devotional with us today on the story of how Jesus feeds the 5000. It was eerily cool how closely it tied into the feelings of our crew tonight. In the classic story, Jesus takes 5 loaves of bread and some fish from a small child and uses it to feed the 5000. The disciples doubted; they were skeptical at the meager offering and exclaimed not even months and months of wages could feed that many people. Yet as they distributed the bread, God multiplied it, and at the end they even had leftovers. In the same way, our role is like the small child. We are also merely humans on this earth who can only contribute a meager offering in comparison to the overwhelming need that is present. However, as long as we obey, God can use our tiny contribution for His glory.
 
It is crazy how only one week has passed, but we’ve seen more than 600 patients. More importantly, we’ve been able to see a total of at least 10 people hear and accept Christ into their lives for the first time. How amazing is God’s provision!  Some prayer requests as we finish up this week:
  1. For one of Dave’s patients today who came in looking really sick, with ascites, pitting edema, rectal prolapse and anemia and who he sent to the hospital. That she will get the care she needs and be nursed to health.
  2. For the people who prayed to receive Christ today—that they will thirst to learn more about him and get involved in a church/supportive community of believers in Haiti
  3. For our patients today, that they will be healed of their sickness; that the medications we gave them will run their course
  4. For Bill and Steve, who are still at the other site and will join us again tomorrow afternoon
  5. For the church service at New Life tomorrow, as we get the priviledge to worship with the congregation there!
  6. For our team members, that we will remain healthy (the one who fell sick today is much better after a day of rest!) and continue to be moved by the Spirit to carry out God’s will here!

Haiti Medical Missions — Clinic Day 2

…be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ 
loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 
–Ephesians 5:1-2

Today’s clinic was definitely a lesson in being, and sharing, God’s love with our patients. I was paired with Matt, a family medicine resident from Canada. INCREDIBLY compassionate, Matt wasn’t thinking about how many patients he could see in one day; he focused on how many lives he could get to know. It was SUCH an encouragement to work with him. To see his love for God poured out in his love for the Haitian people… he not only prayed for the patients, he asked them specifically what he could pray for them about. That opened the doors to the stories of our patients, whose social status ranged from the poor to the middle class; whose professions ranged from roadside merchants to motivated students, to even members of the church worship team. One patient was an adolescent mechanic who wanted treatment for his acne–it was funny seeing how the confidence problem (with appearance during adolescence) is an issue EVERYWHERE xD Another patient had actually come last year too, and told us of the doctor who treated her then–she wanted to go thank him and saw that he was here this year! The chances that she would come back and that the doctor would also come back–wow.  Definitely got to learn bedside manners from Matt. Getting to know patients and hearing everyone’s unique story–that’s why I went into medicine. And thanks to Matt, I was shown how to open doors to making that connection today 🙂

Today was also an amazing testimony of how God puts certain thoughts into our minds for a reason, and how he uses us to carry out His will. The story:
Last year, a 10 yo boy, M, came to the GHO clinic with bad asthma to get treated. He left quite an impression on the missions team with his vibrance and love for Christ. Not only did he get excited when he saw that the team was using the Evangecube (a little nifty thing our team is using to share the gospel), he wanted to pray for the team (instead of vice versa!). He left such an impression on Matt that God put him in Matt’s mind this year. Matt just got a feeling, before he came on this trip again, that he should get a Bible for M in Creole and give it to him, perchance he saw him again. And by God’s provision, Matt saw M when he was walking down the street on one of our breaks! The joy on M’s face when Matt presented the Bible to him was simply…beautiful. It just goes to show–God works in such mysterious, but amazing ways. Praise the Lord!  
M and Matt
On top of that, when we were about to leave clinic for the day, Matt saw M again. In just a little over an hour, the young man had drawn this:

WOW. I was literally blown away. The talent and love that kid has for God–I think Matt is right. God has a plan for M–a plan we can only pray about. SUCH an encouragement! 

We ended up seeing 275 patients today, very close to our planned 300. A team from Canada actually came and helped out with the pharmacy and kids ministry downstairs, and their willingness to serve and share lifted our team’s spirits greatly.

Some more pictures from clinic today:
Our bus was blocked from the road by a parked car, so we walked like about a block to the clinic today.
No biggy–it let me take these pictures 🙂
+managed to get an outside view of the chuch we’re working in.
The doctors and providers are on the top floor (where you see the wood paneling) 

                                             

One of patients came in with a lipoma on his back that we excised out 
  Our fearless leader (Rick) at work

Here are the faces of our medical providers (+ our awesome translators +/- students who worked with them)!


   







My team! Matt was SUCH a blessing to work with 
THIS KID. He was SO CUTE, and everytime I smiled at him, he smiled back!! *MELTS*
The other of two procedures we performed that day (first was the lipoma).
This was a cyst in the guy’s eyebrow o_O

The most amazing part of the day was when we were cleaning up to go home, the church decided to break out into worship! And they were singing songs from artists like Chris Tomlin and Hillsong–except in Creole!! We had a good 30some minutes of just awesome, uplifting worship. It’s just another reminder of the incredible unity amongst believers of a God that is greater than ourselves, but who loves each and everyone of His children just the same. 🙂

The church’s band had a full out BAND, with guitar, keyboards, drums! They were awesome!
Worshiping in Creole




 And then it was back home, finally.



Today was a longer day than yesterday, but I felt more refreshed today than I had yesterday. Just seeing God work through everyone here–please just pray that He continues letting us be vessels for him, that we continue getting to know people here, and that He will use us to show people His love and bring hope to people through Him. Also, our team is splitting up tomorrow–5 members are going to a local orphanage to treat kids there; 2 are going to scout out another missions site, and the rest of us will be manning the clinic. Less doctors means us upper year students get to see patients on our own (!!). So please pray for guidance and provision for me and the other students tomorrow–that we will have strength to work the whole day; that we’ll be able to connect with our translators; that we’ll be able to help treat these patients. It’s going to be a crazy day tomorrow!


❤ Sharon

Haiti Medical Missions — Clinic Day 1!

And so the week of clinic begins! We started off the morning with breakfast and a devotional–a reminder that we are on this trip not to make waves, but to show the love of Christ to the people of Haiti. Then it was grabbing supplies, headcounting, and off to clinic! On our way there, I snapped some shots of the neighborhood we were treating. What astounded me most were the brilliant colors 


The signs of things are painted right on the wall
(which is actually pretty efficient, if you ask me :P)

Everyone here carries things on their heads

This is the road leading up to our clinic site. The thing on the L is a giant sewage/garbage dump. 

People live on top of this sewage dump 😦

A nicer part of Port au Prince

This is the street where our clinic (held at a church) is located

washing clothes on a rooftop
Tin rooftops. On the lower L is our bus!

Our base was a church with two floors; the triage team, children and pharmacy were downstairs; the medical teams were upstairs. There were a TON of kids! 

When we got there, people were already waiting outside 

The set up of our clinic

Most of us saw families at a time

The dentist at work!

ADORABLE KID

We also gave away reading glasses 

A glimpse of the kids ministry downstairs

Triage 

Our pharmacy


Got to saw–the kids LOVED taking pictures. The kids in these next photos could NOT stop hounding me for pics xD




Some things I learned: 

1) People throw trash in piles on the side of streets, making these massive mounds, and at certain times in the week, a truck goes around picking all of it up. This translates into some days being super smelly; other days being super clean. 
2) The main form of transportation in Haiti is via vans, trucks or tap-taps (aka extremely vibrant trucks with a cage-like back for people to sit in).
3) There are people whose living situation consists of a makeshift tent, in the midst of garbage 😦
4) People carry a lot of things on their heads


In total, we saw about 200 patients today. Saw a lot of headaches, dehydration, vaginal infections, insomnia and fungal infections–with the conditions they live in, who can blame them? I realized the true limitation of the care we can give is our medication list. But God has been good, and we’ve been able to pray with all our patients. A lot of them do believe in Jesus, so that is definitely encouraging. Aiming for 300 tomorrow! 

Prayer Requests:
-energy and health of our team
-the ability and strength to handle–and minister–to more patients tomorrow
-the people we treated today–that God will watch over them and heal them both physicially an spiritually.

Haiti Medical Missions–Arrival

It is so surreal to think that just two…TWO days ago, I was freaking out about my Step 1 exam in Philadelphia. Just ONE day ago, I was celebrating the beautiful wedding of one of my fellow med school classmates (and sisters in Christ :)). Less than 24 hours ago, I was boarding a plane in the middle of the night, en route to Haiti. And now, after a 6 hr layover, a delayed flight, baggage delays and a missed-ride scare, our team (all 30 of us!) are together in Port-au-Prince!


(Part of the surreal-ness is that in the past 72 hours I think I’ve gotten like a total of 8 hours of sleep, which makes every little emotion so much more heightened ^__^’ Still…We haven’t really gone into Port au Prince either, so that is part of the surreal-ness too. Hopefully I’ll be able to recover some tonight–a full day of clinic is in store tomorrow!)

Today was a bunch of ups and downs; highs and lows, but reminders that God is incredible and providing. Examples:
1. J, another medical student on the team, couldn’t join the Haiti team yesterday so had to travel with us today. It turned out to be an INCREDIBLE blessing in disguise, because he had gone on this trip last year!  That meant he knew who to look for when we got to Haiti, where to go, etc. Without him, me and T would have been totally lost haha. Thank God!

2. Our delayed flight to Haiti was all the more nerve wracking because they just sat us on the plane for about an hour at Miami, with no updates on how much longer the wait was going to be, before we finally were cleared for takeoff. The whole time, we were worried that the people meeting us in Port au Prince would not know about the delay and therefore worry about us, throwing everything off. Through my anxiety though, God kept reminding me to just depend on Him, that He is in charge, and that there is NO reason for me to worry. And things were fine in the end. Thank you God for that much needed reminder 🙂

Tonight, I finally was able to meet the rest of my team in person. Everyone seems  really nice and friendly so far, especially the doctors! When they all found out I was interested in oncology, everyone immediately pointed me to Dr. S, who is a private practice oncologist in GA haha. It’s such an encouragement to see him serve outside his clinic. I hope I can leave a good impression!


My impression so far: Everyone comes with such incredible and diverse stories. The experience of our team members ranges from first time medical-missions-trippers (like me) to people who have gone on medical missions all OVER the world, from Bolivia to Kenya. The people who are hosting us in Haiti are true Haitians and don’t speak a lot of English, but they are very hospitable (and cook awesome food! xD). I also found out we’ll be working with some Dominican Republic doctors too. One of the doctors is a pediatric cardiologist who did rotations at Columbia and Mexico–really cool!

Some things on my mind:
1. Being the person who ALWAYS gets mosquito bites, please pray that the mosquitoes that DO bite me do not give me malaria D: I’m drenching myself in bug spray at every moment I can get (and also drenched in sweat haha–it is HOT here!)

2. Our flight to Haiti from Miami was almost ALL full of people there for volunteer work or ministry. And it makes sense; Haiti is a broken place that needs a lot of help. But part of me feels weird about that…why? I think part of it is the question of whether sometimes we do more harm than good when we try to be altruistic in a third world country. When planeloads of people are going to Haiti to ‘help’, but all only for the short term, is it really helping? I feel like it becomes a delicate balance when parts of Haiti start DEPENDING on these short term missions teams to patch up their city, instead of Haiti itself trying to improve its infrastructure from within…

Conclusive thought: People should NEVER go into short term missions with the aim of ‘improving’, or with some sense of self entitlement–that we’re ‘better off’ than the people of this country; they ‘need’ our help, and we get glory for being altruistic. I think the goal of short term missions is two fold–to be able to help a culture, but also be able to LEARN from that culture–so that you are able to expand your own perspectives. Otherwise, we could all just do volunteer work at home, in the US. While we are definitely better off, with a government that thankfully is not as corrupt as Haiti’s, there is still a tremendous need for repair in some parts of the US too. The difference between a volunteer trip to another [developing] country and a volunteer trip within the US is the interaction with another culture. I think this in and of itself is very invaluable–the more people know about other cultures, the more we can understand and accept the differences that exist in this world, and the more we can all tolerate–and ultimately LOVE–each other.

Anyways, time to sign out for the night. After dinner, we packed at LEAST 1000 packets of ibuprofen, acetominophen, ranitidine, multivitamins, fluconazole, and pediatric drugs. Will update with clinic news tomorrow!! Please pray for the health of our team, a relatively smooth clinic, energy and team communication! We will be working out of a church, using their rooms as clinic rooms and triaging downstairs.

<3Sharon