Posts Tagged ‘Haiti’
Posted on March 8th, 2010 by admin. Filed under Haiti.
First it was Wyclef Jean & now they are attacking Sean Penn — why do the media love to attack celebrities who do charity work? Is it simply that no good deed go unpunished? Sean Penn & Wyclef have been putting their money where there mouth is for years- not just when it’s fashionable.
While in PAP i met an evangelical minister from Texas- he started complaining to me: “Why do the media attack Wyclef? I saw him with my own eyes, picking up dead bodies!!” Hey, great point. He went on to say that he has not seen the Red Cross once. And that it was starting to piss him off. A conservative evangelical minister from Texas.
Afterwards a group of about 10 of us gathered around him- not b/c of his movies, but because of his charity work & activism. He looked tired and worn- it was clear that he had been working round the clock — for the past month. Sean gently and humbly told us of the work he and his group J/P HRO had been doing and how he just could not bring himself to leave after what he had seen- every single one of us knew exactly what he meant. The man is driven by his heart right now- not dollar signs or fame. So why must the press attack him? Let’s even pretend for a moment that he was doing it for fame (which I do not believe he is) then in the grand scheme of things, does it really matter? Should we continue to wait around for the government to do something rather than let SP?
There’s no shortage of NGOs in Port au Prince right now- the streets are clogged with SUVs inching along- all with various NGO banners accross them. Oxfam, Doctors WIthout Borders, Catholic Charities, etc- they are all there… but one big group was surprisingly absent, from my view at least. I gave them the benefit of the doubt but once again, on my second trip they were nowhere to be found.. and i was not the only one to feel that way. Why does the media not attack Red Cross who gained the most money rather than the humanitarians who also happen to be celebrities? A few days ago, Red Cross distributed 5000 tarps in Port au Prince- their “biggest distribution” yet. . Wyclef is picking up bodies with his bare hands & Sean Penn has built refugee camps- but the Red Cross: 5000 tarps. Really?
I finally saw the Red Cross. It was at a mental health meeting at the UN. I spoke about what we were doing at the hospital- afterwards the Red Cross lady stopped me to ask “what do you think the needs of Haiti are?” She went on to say that they are still assessing the situation. I told her how horrible it was to discharge patients onto the street… how they all had no where to go – most without even a simple thing like tarp to protect them from the elements. What we need are refugee camps, YESTERDAY, and housing that can withstand the fast approaching rainy season & soon thereafter hurricane season. I explained that i was not the expert. I arranged a meeting for her with my boss, the head of the UM hospital, but she cancelled last minute and once again asked me on email to answer the same question that i had already verbally answered the day before.
(I wanted to say: read the writing on the wall, lady..)
If you wonder the same about the Red Cross, here is some advice from a friend who shares my frustration:
“We need your help…..please continue to work on your own endeavors to solve this problem, however please help us lean on the Red Cross. Please call your local chapter and speak with the CEO. Leave a message daily until he/she calls you back.
Call DC HQ (don’t fall for the 800-get-info routine- they don’t know). Ask them for information regarding distribution of essential items in Haiti. Tell them that you work with locals that are homeless, tell them that you discharge patients with newly amputated limbs to a street corner filled with rubble. Tell them you want information to give to these people stating where they can collect a tent, tarp. Demand an answer regarding supply distribution and fund distribution. This should be public information.
The estimated population of Haiti is 9.7 million
Below article states 2.2 billion raised
My elementary math equation from # of people and $ raised, appears that everyone could have a tent….actually, everyone could have had a tent by now.
Google “red cross criticism” – call a local reporter in your area that has reported on this.
Also, Starbucks is taking customer donations and matching them. What do they do with combined donations? Turn it over to the Red Cross. Where is this money? There are other major corporations that are doing the same. Call them.”
Posted on March 8th, 2010 by admin. Filed under Haiti.
I rarely leave the tent hospital- maybe to go to a clinic or to the UN, but this time a friend took a few of us for a drive through the center of town “just to see it.” It was not different from what you see on TV, but to see the destruction 1st hand- after some time had passed- I could hardly imagine how anyone survived. Yet somehow life carries on. People sold fruit and rice out of bags at a “market”, and other industrious people were collecting metals from the rubble and cars that were destroyed in the quake. On the road side CDs, phones, champagne (?), radios, watches, shoes, etc- were up for sale. Rudimentary “tent cities” are everywhere- not sure how any of those can withstand even a light rain though, nevermind the rainy season. Near the UN tourist trinkets and art work are sold- Saw that as early as 2 weeks after the quake. At the recently re-opened airport necklace sellers are out in full force- giant smiles on their faces and jokes at hand.
Yes, ladies & gentlemen i hear you- you are asking: what about the mens of PAP, this round? Last time we were in awe of the dreamy Portuguese Bombeiros. But as we know they left Haiti- all that is left is a shell of their old camp which is now used as a triage center for our hospital-
So eventually we all had to accept the reality- start to lather and wash our own hair- and sigh loudly as we eat canned fruit straight from a can- no rum drizzled atop by a muscular Adonis type. the suffering!!!! Enter: the Argentine Army…
YEs, ladies- it’s true. All a girl has to do is leave San Francisco to be treated like the goddess that we all are by handsome adorable sweet men from all sorts of different countries. But how do these gorgeous Argentine soldiers stack up in comparison to the Bombeiros??
As you an see: they are cute- but the sheer number is quite low (3 vs 30) add to that they do not have the sweet berets that the Portuguese wear. THey did come bearing their own Heineken- and yes it was cold, but no one spoon fed me or gave me a stylish flame resistant suit.
In the end they were a delicious diversion who tried their best- probably not smart to even attempt to compare them to 30 beret wearing elite force Bombeiros. However I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Argentines, and for a little while, received some extra special treatment. A memory never to be forgotten… in the midst of despair there is still life! Thank you for teaching me that.
Posted on March 7th, 2010 by admin. Filed under Haiti.
Last week there was so much death- but if Haiti has taught us North Americans anything- it is that we are fully alive- and to live while we are here. Being short handed at the camp many had to do things they never thought they would have to to accomodate death- bagging dead bodies, creating a respectful funeral, and tending to the tent morgue. We have a different relationship with death in America. Not saying that Hatians do not mourn, are not in deep grief etc- but they have had to deal with death much more than we have- or choose to. Because of that they are more enlightened and wise than us, in my opinion. In America we do anything to avoid death- cheat aging, etc-. We enable denial of a very basic and unavoidable sapect of life. Maybe instead we could simply embrace living more so that our days here are full and when it is time to go we do not regret and in fact we are tired and ready to go?
I have not had to deal with death hardly ever in my life. Sure grandparents passed on, and some of my students have died at the hands of guns… but i have never sat with someone as they were dying… until now. The other day i was completely shattered because my favorite patient ( i know- not supposed to have favorites but we all do!)- had a very bad prognosis. I sat with him as he went into near septic chock- annoyed with the doctors and nurses wondering why they could not do something more. I crossed the boundares- personalized it, and then went into denial. the doctors told me- this is it, lady! I am in Haiti to help the Hatians- not be a burden- so when i began to well up in tears i reprimanded myself: hold it together girl. I did a pretty good job of it until myself and 2 other counselors- 2 of religious faiths, sat with the patient’s family and said prayers with them. One of the counselors kindly came to console me- it was the first time i could not hold back the tears. I was embarrassed and felt the spoiled westerner- he is here for them- not me: I immediately directed him back to the dying patient’s family.
Later that night that rabbi/chaplain/funeral director/psychologist/counselor- as he called himself- came to tell me a story to enlighten me a bit on death. This was more the Hatian way- tell a story, say a prayer to understand the death- don’t try to talk someone to death- figuratively speaking- as we do in the States. He told me a long story about so many bible characters whose names are too long for me to even begin to remember them. WHat the story boiled down to was some bible character asked another: “How many days have you lived?” rather than “How old are you?” He explained that all that matters is how many days you have truly lived. A good friend of mine, Dr. Shea, was standing beside me at this point- she knows me from Iran… “Michelle you really have lived many days.” WHat she doesn’t know about me is that there are so so so many days- where I like many others- am waiting around for something to better to happen- some other time to come. The rabbi/chaplian/psych went on to say- “When you look into ___’s eyes- you can see that he has truly lived- many days. God is in his eyes.” He was right. Before this story was even told to me, i felt like i had a direct pipeline to god/divinity/grace when i looked into this patient’s eyes. I know it may sound strange, but i felt like he was trying to tell me something. He knew something that i do not know- that most of us do not know. Something that words can not explain or describe. All we can do is be present with it and not understand it.
Posted on February 23rd, 2010 by admin. Filed under Haiti.
warning: beat tired- hence lots of typos, non-linear thinking, etc-.
been doing alot of “social work” which i put into quotes here b/c this is hard to place or refer patients out when there is no place to go- the biggest of 3 options is the street. That has been frustrating & difficult- so i have been mixing in doing psych work/counseling. This morning as i was scrounging around for some morning coffee a nurse grabbed me- usually they just look at the masking tape on our chest that has our area of expertise written on in sharpie marker… “did you hear about our gun wound patient”? i had been sleeping when he came in so no i hadn’t.
In all the time i have worked at the tent hospital i have never entered the ICU- and surgery area which is clearly marked “do not enter”- until today. THere i met the man who changed my life- let’s just call him “Jean.” Jean is a chaufer for one of the big NGOs here. LAst nite he went all day w/out eating… he went out to get something late nite in the NGO SUV when a man tried to car jack him. Jean ignored the man and tried to keep driving- but he was shot in the upper spine. he lost control of his car b/c the result of the gunshot is that he is now paralyzed- he careened into a pedestrian, who is now also in the ICU- about 3 feet from where Jean lay. After both victims were brought there, the other victim’s family came into to visit the pedestrian- he had to have his leg amputated and he still remains unconscious. the prognosis is not known but there is a real chance he may pass on. I was told by doctors that Jean was more concerned about the man who he hit than the fact that he is now parapalegic… he was concerend about the other man having his leg amputated- i have been told over & over that “In Haiti if you have a major handicap you are 3/4 dead.” Some ever choose to forgo amputation when they know that they face death instead. they prefer it. Jean cried as the other victims family looked at him deliberating on whether to amputate or not- they chose to do it.
I had no idea if i could do anything to help Jean- this is out of my league. I did the best i could to just be there for him- hold his hand, validate his feelings and tell him over & over that the other victim’s situation is not his fault. WHat made it hard/extra painful was that Jean was full of grace and poise even though his life would never be the same. He acted less upset than i would if an airline charged me a change fee- if i could have an ounce of Jean’s patience I would be a much better woman. I held his hand, that he coudl not move, as he thanked me- even though i do not think that i really did anything for him. Jean told me that he wanted me to come see him and meet his wife sometime when he is out of the hospital. He spoke good English since he is used to driving many international NGO workers. He is 55 has salt & peper hair and a face of an angle b/c he is one.
I am not a religious woman, but i believe in speaking people’s culture when in Haiti- many here are very religious & because of their dire situation they of course look to faith for hope, and some sense of reason. I called a female AMerican Catholic CHapplian over to pray over Jean. As she put her hands on him, and asked the grace of god to intervene and to work through the doctor and people working on Jean’s case, Jean repeated her words. When she asked God to stop his suffering i almost lost it. LIke last time i was here i had to choke down tears to continue functioning. First time around, I pressed through a few days of that & as a consequence never cried since. I thought i could handle most things now- but this again brought me up against a wall of tears. As the catholic chaplains spoke i cleared my eyes of tears, held Jean’s hand and truly prayed for him.
I do not know why bad things happen to good people. there is no reason or karma in this word. Jean is one of the most graceful polite people i have met in my life- and now he is paralyzed. I learned from his family that Jean is a hard working, and has always had a pleasant kind peacful tempermant even when he was little. I wish i had a fraction of his tempermant. I wish i had some his patience. Is it b/c i grew up in such an easy world and he grew up in such a hard one where nothing is a given? One moment and your life can change so much. SOme people who are selfish/greedy are rewarded for it- others who are good do not get good in return. I do not understand. It is something i grapple with constantly- Haiti makes me hyper aware of his. I could cry all day but we all have to carry on with the job we came here to do. I can cry later- i think.
Jean has woken me up- changed my life 4ever- i will try not to be such a brat- try not to control that things go my own way- try to be more relaxed- and appreciate all the things i do have more- including my youth, family & health.
Posted on February 19th, 2010 by admin. Filed under Haiti.
Unlike many in the States- if you give your average Hatian an opportunity to learn they take it, cherish it, and make the absolute most of it. I worked as a PT technician w/ a U of Miami team one rare day when were well staffed w/ PTs at the tent hospital. With our extra hands we decided to do follow up with some of the patients we had discharged to smaller clinics.. unfortunately the reality in these small clinics was that there were not docs, nurses, PTs or even cots for that matter….
A Hatian woman told me that most Hatians believe if you are sick or injured you should lay in bed & wait to heal- THat is counter to what PT is- and for many who suffered severe crush injuries, amputations, and broken bones, we knew we had to go out & educate that moving is in fact good for you- as long as it is done intelligently. At one clinic (pictured here) we had a woman go from a wheel chair to walking w/ a walker within 20 minutes with a PT from UM! She glowed as she walked- and seemed like she had just gotten her life back. It was empowering and gave me the chills to witness such a wonderful thing. It brought tears to my eyes- but like many times that week i bit them back. I worked with a school teacher that was lying on the floor in a tent the past week- i made her do some exercises that the PTs prescribed to her. She really hated it at first but with some animated enthusiasm and encourgaement (via translator) I got her up & walking with just 1 crutch- broken arm & all. Here she is calling her family to let them know the news afterwards:
When in a disaster area we all have to be extremely resourceful… not jsut with our professions but with supplies. The lead PT (a genius I might add) created a contraption with a Bally’s exercise club stretch cord, so that this sweet little 10 year old could slowly get some muscle control back -and again be able to do basic things like eat with his right arm. I was constantly struck by how much good came out of such little time and resources. I work as a psychologist: the mind- mental issues- things take a long time to change- but with PT- we saw instant results. Just a little bit of education brought so much joy. Ontop of that a few outgoing onlookers started imitating what we were doing- we began to train them in some PT basics so that after we were gone, they could step in to help. Again, the glow and joy that i saw from these poeple- to have a skill that was useful and could help- most have never had access to education- it again hit the point home that we have so much opportunity in the states that we take for granted. This was one of the most incredible days of my life. I am not expressing it too well here, but i will never ever forget this day- it warmed my heart and made me want to cry tears of joy.
Michelle May a nurse is trying to set me up with a doc- he has a fauxhawk & wears cowboy boots- do i do it?
Laticia Erving likes this.
I live in San Francisco- for those of you are not familiar, there is a dire shortage of men here who are, shall i say, real men… ones who treat ladies well, are hard working, responsible, mature, & well mannered…. enter: the Portuguese Bombeiros.
One night at the tent hospital in Port au Prince, I was fast asleep after an exhausting but rewarding day (would have it no other way). Had my earplugs in as i always do when i sleep in the same tent with over 200 people. Felt a tug on my leg- it was friend, Holly: “want to go to the Portuguese tent?” I had been interviewed by a Portuguese journalist earlier that day- he mentioned that i should come to their camp for a shower, good food and a beer. I jumped out of my cot at Holly’s invitation, slipped on my shoes, took out my earplugs, and grabbed a cute purse of mine which had only laid in the hay underneath my cot up until that point- we were offf…
One might say, what the hell were you doing thinking about frivolous things such as a handsome men’s dimples, or self-clean toilets when most Haitians live a life of misery. You are right- if it had not been me indulging i could see myself judging my actions- clearly jealous of such a person. Thing is- to distract oneself by beauty- it is natural- in a disaster we all have to let off steam. It had been 4 intense days up until that point- never having left the hospital even. When i arrived to their camp the Bombeiros offered me the moon: fruit salad with rum drizzled ontop, heineken beer (cold!!), croissants & cheese, my very own flame repellant white suit, commemorative pins, T-shirts, a non-stinky toilet, scalp massage & …..(gasp!!) they washed my hair!!! I had not been able to up until that point- with 200+ employees of the camp plus who knows how many patients & their families we often ran out of water. One of the lead Bombeiros got out a solar heated water & washed away…..
Let’s face it: i love the Bombeiros- they are handsome, sweet, attentive, and do good for the world- they set up a tent camp in PAP’s biggest stadium. They have responded to many a natural disaster including Iran’s earthquake in Bam in 2003. THey are the cream of the crop- an elite bunch- called the yellow canaries. Cute- their name matches their trousers. They even chivalrously came to wish me off at the PAP airport- one came back personally with yet another gift- a t-shirt that was size small- “your size” (clearly knows the way to my heart)
Thank you, reader- and thank you Bombeiros- for letting me indulge in some stress relief. Please don’t judge me.
I promise to go to Lisboa soon!
Posted on February 5th, 2010 by admin. Filed under Haiti.
One day’s at Project medishare I was assisting a doctor & nurse team, when a woman came in with a little boy clinging to her, like a baby. The woman was a white American lady who lives in the DOminican Republic- she explained that she was in town visiting her friends at their mission when a motorcycle taxi dropped off a little Hatian boy at their front door & sped off. When they opened the gate he was shaking and curled in a ball. The little boy clung to her as she told the story- he buried his face into her neck and chest- she had flimsy towel seperating her skin from his- his skin was covered in what looked like old burns. His face was badly damaged- puss and a severe eye infection- to put it mildly. The little guy was in so much pain. It was clear that this woman really cared for him. He was an urgent patient and the doctors and nurse attended to him immediately. It was interesting to watch how various doctors of various specialities viewed him. First they thought that he had burns- then they got an infectious disease doc over – he declared that it was a rare case of meningitis- one that i cannot even pronounce- meningacaca or something like that (i always clarified “I am not a medical person!”). We then all then had to take cipro and put on masks. She told us that the poor little guy was restless and hardly slept the nite before- would not leave from being held like a baby- she stayed up with him. He appeared badly malnourished and frightened. We needed to get some nourishment into him, but to even put his hospital band on his tiny little ankle appeared to be very painful for him- he squirmed and tried to rip it off. A nurse gave him a sedation so that we could get an IV into him. When he first came in they thought he was 6 years old because he was so small- but once he calmed and was able to lay down we realized he was older. He slept- and the woman who was helping him finally got to call her family- take a cipro herself- and could better tell us the rest of his story. Out of all the patients i came in contact with he was the one who tugged at my heart the most- he was in so much pain and could not even see out of one of his eyes as it was pussed and scabbed over. We did not have an ophtho in the house who could do any eye exam or surgery on him. I was told that maybe the US military would airlift him to the US Comfort- a 1000 bed ship hospital. I raced outside and found a man in grey and black camoflage that i recognized from the day befroe when a different patient went to the US Comfort. I pled with him- he came to look at him. A hospital admin told me that our little guy- who had no name- was better served here than the Comfort- maybe an optho would show up here in the next days- she was pretty certain there was not an ophtho on the US Comfort. I cleaned the missionary lady and her clothes off with alcohol wipes (blood had fallen)- was an honor to serve someone who had been so selfless. She had had him so close to her for so long & now we knew he had menigitis, so that was not good news for her- but she did not seem to care- she was still so worried about him. Her and i chatted- both so sad that they would not be taking him to the Comfort. We brainstormed more ideas- she would go with him to Miami- i ran out to the communcation tent & ran our idea by the military guy & the hospital admin. Unfortunatly noone is allowed to take a child out without a relative- which makes sense- and this guy is clearly an orphan- probably was before the quake. he has been in rough shape for some time- it was obvious. He probably had been living on the streets for sometime. WHo knows how he got the burns- or when he got the menigitis. Discouraged, we sat by his bed as he slept. A mother came in with her four month old baby who looked more like a preemie fresh from the woumb- the doctor I was working at & I tended to her- got IVs in her. An OR doc told me that they could probably use my psych skills then because the baby was likely not going to make it- they told the mom this possibility already. Mom looked dazed as she squatted next to the cot we put her daughter on. I kept running between the mom of the baby- and the missionary lady with our little friend. “What about if i get a friend in Miami who is willing to adopt him so that he can go to Miami for care?” she asked- many many were going to Miami to have treatment- just for the day. I raced to find the military dude & hospital admin agan. THey did not think our idea was as crazy as we thought. “That may be a possibility.” I went into tell my friend- she started calling Miami- to ask a friend if hs would adopt a child & see that he get care at the hospital in MIami. Just then 3 guys in military fatigues and helmets came in- AIr Force- they looked closer at our little guy- had a few conversations with the admin & black/grey fatigues- he said ”We think we can take him to the comfort- WE HAVE AN OPHTHO.” I wanted to jump up and down with joy- got so involved as if i was their social worker. “10 minutes” they said and left- i went back to check in on baby and mom. Baby was miraculously looking better already. Mom said that this was the best baby had looked like in a long time- she still looked dazed and disconnected. I asked the doctor how it was looking… He looked at me with his glasses all the way down his nose- “I think she is going to make it” as he was putting on another set of new rubber gloves tending to a patient who had giant pins in her leg to reset it. Raced back to my friend- exchanged lovelies and emails- “Do you have wings?” she asked me. THat was maybe the nicest thing anyone has said to me in a long time.
- Some photos from Misrata… stories to follow.
- The Boat to Misrata (Libya): Men’s quarters vs. Women’s quarters
- Why I had to visit Misrata (Libya).
- Greetings from Benghazi, Libya
- Just another day in Cairo…