Monday, February 15, 2010

Wrapping it up

It's been eleven days since I left Port-au-Prince; ten days since I arrived home. Plenty of time to reflect on my time in Haiti, right?

Probably not. I don't think that I'll be able to digest the entire experience for quite some time. Compounding my disorientation (it really feels as though Haiti is on a different planet, on the other side of a time warp) was Mom's death. Sometimes I start crying for no reason. Other times, I know the reason: there is so much to be sad about, both in my life and in Haiti. But still, there is much to do and much to be glad about.

There are a few things that I'd like to share with you, before I close out this blog. One is a series of articles published in the Valley News, in New Hampshire. Here's a link: If you follow the link to the article titled "Building Trust," you'll learn more about the clinic in Bolosse. Many thanks to Gregory Trotter and Jason Johns for this eloquent, insightful series. (Does anyone know how to recommend someone for a Pulitzer prize?)

There is another group of nurses from Allegheny General Hospital leaving for Haiti in two days. A huge part of me envies them; it would be wonderful to go back. But for right now, my family needs me (I like to think) and I need to spend more time recovering from the trip, and from the loss of my mother while I was gone.

I'd like to thank you all for following along on my journey. I always felt as though I had a cloak of prayer and friendship around me; I know that was you, keeping me in your thoughts.

Please, pray for Haiti.

Love you all,

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sad news

Good morning, friends.

I am now in Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic. John and I expect to be home in Pittsburgh by 5PM or so.

I wanted to let you all know that I received word of my mother´s death yesterday. She was 93 and though she had been spry for much of the past few years, I knew that she was very tired. There may have even been a part of me that knew I would never see her again.

Before I left for Haiti, I told her that I loved her, but did not tell her of my plan to go to Haiti. She would have worried too much. And while I was gone, whenever she asked my sisters, ¨Where is Cece¨they always replied that I was at work. Which was true.

So, I leave for home with personal sadness. And though my loss is painful, I can´t help but think of those in Haiti who have lost all... family members to whom they never said farewell... children, parents, siblings. I had Mom for a long time, and she was wonderful.

I will post again from home, and wrap up this blog, when I can. Maybe next week.

Love you all,

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Hi all! John and I will be heading out today. The initial plan was to have us on a flight out of Port au Prince to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic earlier this morning. Now, we are waiting at the hotel till about 12:30, at which time we fly (helicopter, I think) to Santo Domingo.

We will stay overnight there, and fly home tomorrow. Fred and Stephanie, we don't have specific flight info yet but I'm sure we'll be able to find a computer in Santo Domingo and will update you tonight. Sure would be nice if we had warm coats waiting at the airport! And Fred.... shoes and socks please!

We love all of you who have been following our travels. I plan to blog more tonight, and after I get home.

Much love, and thanks for your prayers and support,

Cece and John

Monday, February 1, 2010

To Stephanie

Hi Steph I miss you and love you very much. I hope everyone is okay at home. Is Kiwi taking her pills for you. Do you think Macy will recognize me when I get home. We are supposed to fly to santidomingo on Wednesday have not got word yet when we leave fromthere if it will be Wednesday or thursday. I have been well and actually feel recharged after a couple of days out of the wards. I have been working post op. I will let yu know as soon as I have an arrival time in Pittsburgh. As you know how I type I am not going to say any more I need to shower and attend team meeting.

Last pics for today

I love this picture. This is one of my roommates, Simone, with Dr. Mike, a pediatrician from the Baltimore area (I think). Since there are still IMC volunteers sleeping on mattresses in the conference center, those of us with rooms share the showers. Dr. Mike is a nightly visitor, and a delightful guest when he comes to call. Here's a guy in a Tommy Maddox Steelers jersey on the streets of Port-au-Prince. I've been on the lookout for someone wearing Steelers gear and knew that I'd eventually spot something. People here wear anything appropriate and serviceable. (I've even seen a lacrosse jersey, Dan!) And always, always when they come to clinic, the children are dressed as if they are going to church, in their Sunday best.

The clinic was closed on Sunday (yesterday) so that the staff could have a well-deserved day of rest. We delivered supplies anyway, just to see what was happening in the neighborhood. I took Dr. Bindy with me on a whim; this was her first visit to Bolosse. While we were there, a gentleman asked us to look at a sick baby. The sight of this severely malnourished child is one that I will never forget.

We took the woman and four of her children to University Hospital, where Concern had just that very day opened a center for supplemental feeding. Here is Bindy, holding a 2-year-old girl who is not only malnourished, but has been blind from birth.

This is the last image for today, the one that burdens my heart more than anything else I have seen in Haiti. It is the 3-month-old boy who we brought from Bolosse to the Concern feeding center. He weighs about four pounds.

My heart is heavy, and I am tired, and it is almost time to come home. I have one more day here; I think we leave on Wednesday. But right now it is very cloudy and windy; it looks like a storm is brewing. And when it comes... and it will come... where will they all go, those who sleep in tents made of thin sheets, whose floor is the earth, or who sleep on the streets because they are afraid their houses will collapse upon them?
Pray for Haiti.

Just a few more

This is a lovely Catholic church which has been on the campus of University Hospital for years. My roommate Nicole, who was born at the Hospital, was baptized here. It is no longer safe to enter, thanks to the earthquake. But this was the scene last Sunday morning as worshippers gathered to pray. We saw similar scenes as we drove to Bolosse that morning: makeshift churches on street corners and in alleys, with people gathered together to worship. Directly across the street from the church, this is all that remains of a nursing school. I am told that there are at least 50 bodies in the rubble. This breaks my heart, as does nearly everything I see here.

The woman in the wheelchair is the sister of Dady, a Bolosse native who speaks pretty fluent English. She has been paralyzed for many years "from a fever;" she is now 32, and depends on Dady for her daily needs. (That's Dady standing next to me, in the striped shirt.) I am going to try to find her a decent wheel chair before I leave, but that will probably be difficult; all wheelchairs are probably spoken for by the new amputees. And where will all the leg prostheses come from? So many are needed just at our hospital; and I understand there are countless new amputees all over the affected region.

Here, there is some semblance of normalcy: men play cards in the street in Bolosse, laughing and talking. There are a few active daily dominoes games that I see whenever I walk through the neighborhood surrounding our clinic, but I can't convince any one of them to deal me in. No doubt they have heard of my prowess at dominoes, and fear me.

Here is the current clinic staf at Bolosse. That's Lylie, the de facto mayor of Bolosse, on the far left. When she talks, believe you me, people listen. For now, everyone is a volunteer at the clinic, but IMC will be interviewing soon, and will hire six nurses to be the full-time staff. I hope I'm gone by then; I can't bear seeing the faces of the nurses and other volunteers who won't be offered jobs. It will break their hearts; they are desperate to work. And they have all worked hard to get this clinic up and running.

A few more pics

So, after a long hot day, sometimes a beer is a good thing. This is me with Diana, a doc from the midwest, celebrating the fact that the price of beer has gone down from $7 to $4. (I guess we poor medical people weren't as willing to buy pricey beer like the CNN and FOX crews were.) And to me, sometimes it feels very strange indeed, that the people of Haiti have nothing and I'm worried about the price of beer and whether it's cold enough. But I have learned that I need to disconnect myself at times from the things I am seeing and doing in Haiti; they will stay with me always, but they can't stay as a burden on my shoulders. Kind of like my flight nursing job: I have compassion for my patients, but can't take them all home with me. It's a self-preservation thing. Sorry this one's sideways. I taught Shiloh how to make glove balloons for the little kids at the clinic. He is now one popular guy!

There is water on the streets in many places, even almost 3 weeks after the earthquake. Drivers are extremely cautious in these areas; until the water recedes (which I think will happen when the water mains are repaired) there is no way of telling what kind of hole they might inadvertently drive into. (Hey, is that Freddie driving by in the black Jeep Cherokee???)

We walked through a desperately poor area in the lower portion of Bolosse called Cite du Soleil. Its name is about the only pretty thing in this area. Most of the residents live in metal shanties. Here, Shiloh looks out towards the port. The structures on stilts are the latrines. You can see a few small children in the photo on the right. Nearly every child I have met here has been friendly and curious about my white skin.

Until just a few days ago, this one faucet in Bolosse served about 5000 people. The water is not potable, and the faucet was only turned on for a few hours each day. Now, Oxfam has placed a water buffalo with several faucets and potable water near this site.