Thursday, January 31, 2013

What it looks like

I wonder what it feels like to be living in a body that is dying?
To be 26- my same age- and sit and be told by a nurse that she thinks your body is done. 
I cannot tell you what it feels like, but I can tell you what it looks like.

Everything looks like it takes so much effort.
Eyes are held open by willpower more than physical strength. 
The glassy look they carry.
Breathing- something that usually happens without thought- has turned into such effort. Every muscle in the neck, shoulders, & chest being used to support this now difficult task.
The highest reading we could get on the pulse ox was 82. On my finger, it reads 98.
Hands that cannot hold a piece of paper. Feet that can bear no weight.
Extremities that are ice cold, no sign of life.
To know a Mom who sits with her son wants to do something, but she too knows. She asks that we not give him any shots because it will only add to the pain.
A blood pressure so low that it is unheard of in an adult.
Pain. Dehydration. Exhaustion.
Pulling in air, hoping that the oxygen will bring some relief.

We send him to go get blood work done. We lay hands on him & pray for him. But in his current status, my mind tells me that he's got a few days, maybe less. 
So the very next morning we wait for our very sick friend to show up at clinic. 8 o'clock passes, the time he was supposed to come. Okay, this is Haiti. 9 o'clock comes & goes. Something is wrong. He only lives 2 streets over. Off go two co-workers & friends to his address. No more than 5 minutes later, they return. "Your suspicion was right."
Man, sometimes I hate being right. 

"So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light
Cause oh it gave me such a fright
But I will hold on with all of my might
Just promise me that we'll be alright."
-Ghosts That We Knew-
Mumford & Sons

Friday, January 25, 2013

Just another day

Thursday seemed like just another day. I had hopped out of clinic early to go downtown with Rusty to get a paper renewed so that we could continue to visit the prison. Ran down to the market to grab stuff for dinner. And then headed back to clinic to do a respiratory treatment for a wheezy little boy. Little did I know what would greet me as I walked in the door. 
I walked in to find our staff & Lala holding pressure on the bloody head of a friend. There was blood everywhere & a lot of it. It's funny because, as a medical person, there must be some switch that is put in your brain. For situations like this one, the switch is flipped & you hop into Go-Mode. And Go-Mode for me means that I get almost eerily calm & get to work. So I just hit one injury at a time, making large, deep sutures to simply stop things from bleeding. There were three spots that were bleeding pretty profusely, so those were my focuses. About 45 minutes in, my nursing partner-in-crime popped into clinic & went to work on the other side of his head. While I may be the "trauma surgeon", Keziah is definitely the "plastic surgeon" part of our duo. So I make the bleeding stop, she makes things look pretty. Of course, this whole time we are forcing him to talk, making sure that he stays awake. Irritating him by making him tell stories- anything to keep him awake.

So after giving him a liter of IV fluids, placing multiple sutures, making him drink a Coke, & putting him in the shower with Rusty, we bleached the clinic floor & I finally saw the little boy who needed a respiratory treatment. As I made my way home, I had that thought of "How did I get here?" A reminder of what it looks like to live, work, & have friends here.

"Take your face out of your hands
And clear your eyes
You have a right to your dream
And don't be denied.
I believe in a better way.
I believer in a better way."
Better Way- Ben Harper

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Every once in awhile, you just need to build a tent indoors. Good for the soul.
"A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men."
-Roald Dahl

Saturday, January 19, 2013


One of the joys of clinic is that you never know who is going to step through the door. What you will see next. And Tuesday was just such a day. I had stepped out of clinic and saw a teenage boy sitting outside with a towel covering his hand. I asked one of our nursing assistants to get him inside & make him a file. By the time I came back inside, his hand was uncovered & his file made. I was able to really look at his hand for the first time. And his hand was huge. HUGE. Clearly he had a large pocket of pus inside the palm of his hand. But it looked different, oddly shaped, & unusually large. So I cleaned the outside and proceeded to open the swollen part with a needle. At first there was only a little bit of blood. And then pus- OH PUS. The most pus I have ever drained out of anything in a single visit. Easily 50 ml of pus. And my poor patient, he was such a champ.
First viewing
His hand is so much smaller and healing beautifully. And this teenage boy is hilarious. He sits and jokes with me as I drain his wound & change his bandage. Sometimes friends come from pus filled hands.
Bieber's continued presence in our house.
"A Christian is one who points at Christ and says, 'I can't prove a thing, but there's something about his eyes and his voice. There's something about the way he carries his head, his hands, the way he carries his cross- the way he carries me.'"
-Frederick Buechner

Sunday, January 13, 2013

One Man's Trash

Last week, Mama Kathy & I had a date. A date to head into Jubilee, pass the school & clinic, and go romping through the dump. This (shockingly) is something that I had not done. We were inspired by watching Waste Land. And all signs were pointing to going to sift through the trash looking for treasures. One of the things I love about Mama K is her artistic spirit & eye (checkout 2nd Story Goods). I, however, have an artistic moment about once a year. She was looking for larger items while I was thinking small. So we headed out & sifted through the trash. 

We attracted some attention of the kids already sifting through the items, and they joined us, walking and pointing things out. I leaned down to pick up some glass, & I saw something incredible. Jubilee sits on a salt flat so things grow very sparcely. But here, growing amongst the trash, was a tiny little plant. So the kids helped us push away the trash surrounding it and built is a small can barrier. Tiny bit of hope growing amongst the rejected things.

The uses of Justin Bieber Duct Tape- removing fiberglass from your arm.
"Why sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Thursday, January 10, 2013

One Year

Today marks my one year mark in Gonaives. One year.

Making friends. Walking with people as they heal. Learning a new language. Getting wet kisses from my rottweiler. Earning my permanent Chaco tan. Learning more & more of community. Teaching staff at clinic. Reading by headlamp. Eating by candlelight. So joyful to start another year.
Updated Marley picture!
She loves her grandma.
Practicing walking in clinic with Nurse Kez.
"I'd rather want everything and have nothing, then have everything and want nothing. Because at least when you want something your life has a meaning: it's worthwhile."
-Vik Muniz-
Waste Land

Monday, January 7, 2013


A few years ago, I saw this short film at the Utah Arts Festival:

The many uses of Justin Bieber Duct Tape- labeling moto keys to tell them apart.
"Never say never."
-Justin Bieber-

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Nothing is too much trouble

While I was in Salt Lake City, it was requested that I make Haitian food. But one of the funny things about living here is that when I want Haitian food, I go buy it off the street. And they do it so well: Haitian spaghetti, street chicken, rice & bean sauce, juice, & fried goodness.

I have gone to eat twice with neighbors, & twice I was made homemade juice. It's so delicious- especially with some ice on a hot day. I was telling a friend in Jubilee that I wanted to learn how to make it & she said she would teach me. So a few days ago, I went with Katie (check out her blog!) to our friend's house and made juice. We used oranges, a grapefruit-type fruit, & passion fruit. She was so patient in her teaching, laughed at our hesitancies, & we were invited to eat dinner with their family.

Their house was recently painted & is beautiful- inside & out. Everyone, and I really do mean EVERYONE, in Haiti does deep cleaning on December 31st. It was insanely clean. So as I sat and ate with them, I thought just how homey it was. Inside and out. A 2 room house with a family of 6, no indoor plumbing, & I thought of just how much this felt like a blessing. Community. Giving and receiving. Talking and listening. Laughing and telling stories. Being invited to eat with people in Jubilee is rare. Very rare. This was a perfect way to ring in the New Year.

"Nothing is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should."
-Julia Child-
My Life in France