Confession: I finally broke down and bought a TV seven months ago. It was mid-summer and a certain show was debuting that night. Not wanting to crash and repeatedly “borrow” a neighbor or friend’s TV, I went out and bought a discount display model. It’s been a great seven months and I’m so glad I was able to see a show live in the studio audience as we biked down the California coast this past summer.
Not to mention in the last few weeks he’s been a great entertaining distraction from the recent disaster in Haiti. However, every single night he made a polite reminder to the situation and that what they do at the studio is just funny-business while there is a real world out there that is truly suffering, pointing viewers to stillerstong.org and hopeforhaitinow.org.
I’ve always loved this guy’s comedy and wit, along with his class and perspective on life that has become more and more apparent as his career continues in the public spotlight. His farewell speech last night was no exception:
“All I ask of you is one thing: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism — it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”
Also, watching them play out their last show with Free Bird, in pure performing joy, made me want to dust off that guitar in the corner of the room. There’s just something inherently fulfilling about creating music — if only there was time.
And so goes my latest and probably last stint on air – AM talk radio, that is. This past week we were invited into the basement studio to give a go on sharing about our experience in Haiti. I’m not sure of how they edited it, but I am sure that it will include the awkward feeling of hearing your own voice on a recording.
HealthLink on Air will be aired this Sunday at 9 am on 570 WSYR AM radio. The show is also streamed live at www.570wsyr.com. The interviews will also be available on www.upstate.edu/healthlinkonair
I’m once again back in a library study-room, trying to get back into a rythym. Marvinia’s working through some POM lectures and I’m working on my case write-up. I brought along some homemade haitian hot chocolate which I once again failed to cook up properly. Ha. Nevertheless, it’s been a few days now and after some initial shock, processing, and rallying of support and awareness, I’m finding myself wanting to forget a little and find a distraction — then the sight of the green paint at the General Hospital surfaces again on the news and brings it all back.
December 29, 2009:
Unloading supplies at the General Hospital.
January 14, 2010:
General Hospital turned into a morgue
Staying aware with the news doesn’t seem to help either, getting only worse and worse, confirming our initial fears and gut reaction to the words “earthquake” and “haiti” in the same text message someone sent us Tuesday afternoon. Death is everywhere.
Suffering and desperation are adding on too. The bags of water we bought for 1 Haitian Gourde now cost 15. People are willing to pull a knife on someone in order to get money to feed their family via the now expensive black market. Seeing this immediate need, Claudel decided to take that experience and be proactive in it — buying food this morning and giving it out to his neighbors.
Accepting our mortality leads to a more fulfilling life, but certainly doesn’t take away the sting of a void when others pass-on. Frankly, we miss them on so many different levels. And when an entire people are suffering, it’s not much different. On a personal level, I try to celebrate and remember the positive attributes and qualities from before the now present depressing situation.
Sigh, if only I could listen to my own words of encouragement better and “do whatever you feel you can or is appropriate — donate money to MSF or UNICEF, reach out to friends who are among the many waiting to contact their family, friends, and loved ones, or simply focus on our studies and work here so that we too can be better prepared to help when future disasters arise.“
Reading the breaking headlines about the earthquake/tsunami in Haiti has been a shock. We were just in Port au Prince’s General Hospital weeks ago and witnessed and worked in some of it’s desperate and short-supplied conditions.
I can only imagine the conditions the doctors, nurses, and staff are faced with now. We met far too many of these incredible people, which we’d call “rock stars” for their intelligence and effort in the face of the tough conditions they faced each and every day. Meet just a few:
Supplies are low or non-existent, hours are long, and the need is great. The recent natural disaster has surely overwhelmed the fragile health care system. There is no ambulance service, fire department or disaster care that many of us are fortunate to have. I saw one “ambulance” while there for two weeks, and it was a land cruiser from Doctors Without Borders. Please consider donating to an NGO such as the IFRC, UNICEF, or MSF. They are already on location and will likely play a crucial role in the rapid response of days to come.
It’s only been a week since returning from Haiti and it already feels like forever thanks to the many degrees on the thermometer dropped, notes on lectures taken, and cups of coffee brewed. Landing in Syracuse, I understood for the first time why people could genuinely and repeatedly complain about the cold and blustery temperatures here in the winter –Christmas in Haiti’s balmy 90-degrees was just fine with me.
The adjustment didn’t take long though, as I soon shoveled out my driveway and de-iced my car for the drive to the family farm to see my newborn niece. Also, back once again in Syracuse continuing with classes, study-breaks have a new element of adventure as Chaco pulls her foolish owner on skis.
The most memorable time of my two week visit to Haiti has no pictures, and rightfully so. One afternoon after visiting an orphanage in the morning we went to a nutrition center run where over a hundred severely malnourished children waited in cribs as a staff of volunteers and nuns rotated through a day of constant feedings and diaper changes in hopes of getting the children back into a life of thriving energy and curiosity that we all enjoyed. The rooms were surprisingly quiet as crying in hunger or stress was too tiresome.
No cameras are allowed as the center opens to the public for two hours each afternoon, not for tourism, but for help in giving the children something they desperately need, caring contact and attention. Many, if not most suffered from reactive attachment disorder, couldn’t hold eye contact, etc. It was striking and unforgettable.
As I approached Rose’s crib, she soon understood what was happening as I helped her to her feet — stretching out her arms. Soon glued to my chest, she found the plastic flowers hanging from the ceiling to be hilarious as she reached for them, not wanting to let go. Soon afterwards she was deep asleep, arms occasionally twitching. And just like that we spent the next two hours, walking slowly around the floor and later finding out the true relief of sitting in a chair when holding a child.
Too soon it was time to leave and I foolishly imagined a perfected and supported transfer of the sleeping Rose back to her crib — such was not the case. Not even an inch from my now sweated shirt, she awoke from her sleep and instantly cried. Having no other choice, I had to leave her in her crib, taking only the solace that she had enough energy to muster up an loud and emotional wail.
I learned later that week from a spotty internet connection that on that same Monday my sister was holding a new baby girl of her own, Anya Elizabeth, and too feeling the rise and fall of an other’s chest while breathing.
Suddenly I wanted to be in more that one place at the same time.
The week following Christmas we joined a group in Port au Prince who was traveling to several orphanages in Port au Prince. We were told that Haiti has approximately 200 registered orphanages and a few hundred more off the record. Often struggling for food and money, this group’s goal is to visit, bring some cheer and a needed boost of food to finish out a week or month.
I’ve found that most trips have a hallmark unpredicted event that makes everything worth it. Ours was Dr Olivier Calixte, a young doctor that just completed his residency and was supposed to be taking his vacation before starting his year of service at l’Hopital General in January. He welcomed us that previous week at the hospital and wanted to come along to our later visits to the orphanages. Now we had an intelligent Haitian doctor at our side to give kids their checkups, spot some serious cases of malaria and other disease, arranging for their admittance to the hospital.
Once the physicals were completed, out of the suitcase came the pajamas that many donated in holiday spirit back home.
Funny, no one asked at airport security why I was travelling with 67 sets of pajamas, a third of them sporting sponge bob.
On the weekend we visited Claudy’s home village, a moderate 2-hour drive north of Port au Prince — road conditions varied as they always do. Thankfully we had a 4×4 as did everyone else. Getting out of the city was beautiful as we often had a coastal view of the mountains meeting the Caribbean. Modified school buses cruised by with their loud horns and paint jobs, facilitating inter-city travel.
Once in St Marc, or the small village outside of it for that matter, we met a childhood friend of Claudy who has since become a doctor in Haiti and uses his salary to run a weekend clinic in their hometown farming village. This weekend, however, we had free medications to fill a month’s worth of doses, paid for by donations collected prior to our trip.
We saw close to 200 people, assisting him in taking vital signs, measuring blood glucose levels, and learning first-hand the pharmacological treatment of common maladies in the area (ranging from osteoarthritis to hypertension to parasitic infections). Resources were limited and we soon understood a new framework of assessment and therapy choices when there is no lab, microscope, or x-ray available.
After a long day that ran 3-hours overtime, we swam away the weariness at the beach and enjoyed an impromptu joy ride in a passing fisherman’s boat.
No worries: big boat + small motor = little chance of capsizing
I mentioned the conditions at the General Hospital in my previous and sole post from when I was on the ground in Haiti. What happened since then was our visit at the end of the week with the donated supplies from Upstate University Hospital.
Most of our suitcases looked like this one, taking advantage of the old 2-checked-bags policy from when we originally purchased our plane tickets. The generous mass of supplies ranging from surgical kits to gloves was divided and placed directly into the inventory of 6 departments at L’Hopital General: pediatrics, orthopedic surgery, general surgery, anesthesiology, emergency, and urology. Thanks to all, for a desperate need was relieved.
One thing I really appreciated about Haiti was its mountainous terrain. Half of our nights were spend up on a mountain ridge over looking the city of Port au Prince.
Uncle Jackie gave us a good deal, a monstrous akita dog, Mack, to keep us company. I forgot to let him out one morning and later that day he tore off some of the trim around the door and bit dents into the door knob. Yikes. A gentle giant though, even if he always gets his way.
I miss the temperate fresh air from the balcony. It was always a relief to get some rest up there away from the city (and roosters).