Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Journal from Haiti trip

Tuesday, March 30, 2010 at 7:57pm Edit Note Delete
I am a decent writer but I have a hard time putting down in words my week in Haiti. So, this will be more of a stream of consciousness.

Sunday: Had spent the night in a Miami hotel, up at 5 a.m., lost 2 hours with time change and daylight savings. Feeling tired until saw SJ, Brad and David who had just drove all night from Nashville to Miami to catch a flight…my poor sleep in a Courtyard by Marriot was looking pretty sweet bout then. Flew into Port Au Prince and on descent really captured the devestation more then any time during the trip. Customs was chaos, essentially ushered to a warehouse where bags were being chucked left and right and people scrambling everywhere. Thought we got all our bags when we were “helped” by some native Haitians without bags to our transportation…this consisted of me pushing the cart with bags on them and the two gentlemen putting their hand on the bag to steady it. Got to our Tap Tap (big truck that you hang off and pray for your life in…until you realize its about a safe as a babies crib), children begging for food, water, gum, anything. Somber scene off the bat. Bartered for a shirt, feeling pretty good about myself that I got the merchant from 20 to 5. Waiting in a parking lot about 3 hours for more GCOM folks. Drive up mountain about 2 hours to the orphanage, beautiful, sad, eye opening images. Set up tent on concrete driveway. Good food. Church revival: different, cool. Long. Slept pretty well until about 5 when the rooster let me know it was time to get going…I tried to hit snooze and the rooster gave me a love peck through my tent…true story.

Monday: Breakfast. Prayer. Load up Tap Tap and head out. Tent City: no way to live. People lining up to be seen. Saw a couple hundred patients. Triage and pharmacy were awesome. Used my instincts and had no charts to fill out or insurance claims to file correctly, just me and the patient and a smile. Felt good. I felt needed and appreciated. Good friend Olmstead struck up a tee ball game with children after clinic…what a great energy and vibe he has. SJ got dehydrated, not sure why after 50 hours of no sleep and travel. Drove home.

Tuesday: Clinic was frustrating as we forgot the med bag, but made due with what we had. Hot. After clinic played basketball with some young Haitian men, held my own but a couple things are clear: white men still can’t jump, I’m feeling older. Banter in the game was in French Creole but sounded a lot like trash talk in the States. Drive back really sunk in about devastation the country endoured, also that the people are getting lives back together, working hard and smiling while doing it. Wondered out loud if US could endour something of scale…would like to think so but after Katrina I kind of wonder. Also took into consideration that no civil unrest was noted despite really no infrastructure of law. Interesting mix of people in our group. I have never been a “religious” person and have never called myself a Christian but I am quite confident I saw the true merit of what it takes to call oneself a Christian in the folks that accompanied me in and out of the tent cities.

Wednesday: Long hard day. Some unrest from men of village d/t previous group apparently charging for medical services. After much arguing we got to work. Quick comment about David: young and energetic with an old soul. A wonderful person. Quick thought about Brad: I will be attending his church upon arrival home (this should say it all!), allows folks to come to him (as I did many times) on their terms which I appreciate. Just a very insightful, faith filled, hard working man. Quick thought on SJ: wise beyond years, silent strength, motherly, purpose driven, funny. What really struck me about SJ was her behind the scenes efficiency in the task at hand, most people don’t know and she certainly wouldn’t brag about but she is probably the finest nurse both skill and compassion wise that I have ever encountered. Quick thought about Brent: ALABAMA! Quick thought about Andrew: great student and will be a fabulous doctor…oh yeah Bon Swa Goat. Someone I would like to get to know better: Denny because of his unwavering faith…quite impressive. Olmstead: I could go on for days about. I have known him for many years but his energy and compassion was overwhelming, for instance he spotted a class in session behind a wall at a tent city and gave them all the money he had on person. Anyone who knows Olmstead is better for it. It is impossible to relay my love and respect with any literary merit so I won’t try. Today in clinic nearly broke me emotionally as I had a 2-3 year old patient that had a full leg/hip cast made out of plaster, we didn’t have a cast saw so I tried in vain to remove with scissors, needle nose pliers and whatever I could get my hands on. Bobby let us know that we had to leave as “Port Au Prince is not a place to be after dark”. I was close to tears in the back of the tap tap, but we decided to bring the child and try to find a hospital. We found one that was a “for profit” hospital and seemed deserted. Brought the child in and was miraculously able to track down a cast saw, cut it off and freed that poor child from stunt growth or worse. I’m not sure I have ever felt such extreme polar emotions in one day. Love my translator, just saying. Oh yeah, Pastor Ronald is awesome.

Thursday: 4 hour ride to city on the coast. Hadn’t seen care in quite a while. Amazing to see the different topography of the country as we went from mountains to desert with cactus. Clinic was a daze. Ride home was beautiful. I'm not sure if it was this day or not as I was moving toward delirium but while hanging off the back of the tap tap I saw a wedding ceremony in which a tall beautiful Haitian woman was dressed in the most elegant long white wedding dress, the church was standing with crushed buildings all around it. Was too fast to document so it will live in my head and I'm grateful for it. Rain came. Tent wet. Still slept pretty well.

Friday: “day off”. Toured Port Au Prince: chapel was very sad, many people milling around looking for answers with vacant stares. Kids with no clothes or food. Bodies still buried under the ruble in the church, decomposing odor still present, quite sad. President’s palace like a scene from a movie, just demolished. Saw a voodoo priest and was glad not to catch his stare. Drove to orphanage near PAP, tons of beautiful kids including a little boy named Jameson (my sons name) who had a hard time walking, broke my heart. And “Lil Blue” who walked up to me and I held him and didn’t want to let go. The physically disabled wing of the orphanage was a little too much for me, couldn’t stay long. Oh yeah, earlier that day our truck was in the midst of an angry mob of a hundred Haitians looking to free from jail one of their comrades that they felt was wrongly jailed, when Pastor Ronald (one of the coolest cats on earth) yelled “all whites get into the tap tap now!” I was sure we were in trouble. We also got pulled over by the cops and a few almost went to jail, Brad threw down a prayer and in 2 minutes we were freed, good job Brad.

Saturday: One more day of clinic near the airport. Left it all on the field so to speak. I feel I probably saw 200-300 patients that day and we ran out of medication, supplies and food. Great scene driving out of the tent city entrance in which multiple children ran after us smiling and saying goodbye in French Creole. reality was setting in as I was heading to the airport. I was gonna miss this country more then anticipated. Cannot wait to come back. I encourage anyone who reads this to consider the trip as I am confident I got more out of it then the Haitian people.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Wanted to point out that the majority of volunteers that I met in Haiti were from the state of Tennessee.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


I was recently part of a disaster relief team in Haiti. I could not have imagined the effects this trip would have on my life. I journaled a lot while there and will share those journal entries with you over the next several posts to this site. Please check back often to see the updates.
To the right you will see a photo of me and "Little Blue". I experienced an overwhelming desire to help; help in a way that would stretch my heart beyond it's preconceived limits. I wanted to do so much more. This trip, that at first had seemed slightly daunting, quickly became less about me and what I was giving and became completely consumed with what the people of Haiti needed and deserved as human beings. "Little Blue" was just one of the many who effortlessly worked their way into my heart and will remain there forever.