Saturday, January 30, 2010

To Stephanie from Haiti

We are still mostly working in the dark with no running water. Working in three languages english french and spanish. We our transitioning care to Haitians. Yesterday I had a wonderful haitian nurse Ananille she did and charted today the one nurse showed up for about an hour and then I did not see her again. At the start of the day due to team transitons and other non IMC nurses that were there yesterday and did not show up today as expected In the morning I was the only nurse for several hours for 50 patients.Relief showed up by around, ten when two nurses from another volunteer group arrived. The Haitins and brazilians were there earlier but it is not the same. Dr Joe from Brazil I have great respect for he has come baack three days in a row. In the ward no one but Rick Rn, Dr Ian, and Julie Rn has taken it longer. I want to give an accolade for Rick and Julie RN and Drs Henry and Ian. I will never forget our first days in the ward. Here Iam RN, supply, maintainence, transort, IV team, and pharmacy in three maybe more languages I refuse to pick up meds labeled in chinese, and bed controlToday relief arrived in two volunteer nurses and there creole american interperter from Utah. they saved me. I was ready to slash my throat. I choked back tears and was speechless when they asked me what they wanted to do. We got through the day. There is still little care at night. No matter what I say or tell you will convey the suffering in Haiti and the suffering and need that is going to exist for a very long time. John Z

Message for Fred

Hi Fred,

If you read this (and you'd better!) please respond and let me know how a few things are going at home:

1. Did Freddie's car insurance get paid?

2. Is Dan's trip to Snowshoe on or off? I'd kind of like something to look forward to.

3. Please don't forget to check the home email account. I just looked at it and there are like 123 unread messages. Most of them are unimportant, I'm sure, but some may need attention. Like that car insurance thing.

I'm feeling much better this afternoon and plan to be back in the saddle, so to speak, tomorrow morning.

And Tara, when you read this, you might want to give Uncle Fred a heads-up that I've written to him.... Thanks!

Love you all!


More pictures, and aftershock info

So I've been trying to add more images to my blog, and all I can read in the m-essage field is gobbledygook. But when I posted the blog, I see that the pics are there. So, by way of explanation, here is some of what you will see below (since now I'm back editing the message field and can't see the photos I've posted):

There is, indeed, beer here in Haiti. These cost us $7 each the first night we were her (we thought they were free; they had to chase us down to pay the tab when we left the restauruant).

The second photo is from the tour of the hospital on the day we arrived. I'll try to add more photos later.

I'll take my current difficulty with blogging as a message that I should go and sit by the pool a while. With my water.

But first, a brief word about aftershocks: We have had very few since I've been here in Port-au-Prince. Maybe 4 or 5, all of them mild. Word rom the countryside is quite different, though; they have more frequent and stronger aftershocks. It will be OK with me if I don't experience an earthquake again. Ever.

It's now 1:03 PM and the electricity has just shut off. Time to take a break.

Love you all
and please,
Pray for Haiti.

My days here

At Fred's suggestion, I'm going to tell you a little bit about how each day goes here. There is some variation of course, but the days have taken on a rhythm that is actually kind of reassuring; routine amidst the chaos is a necessity, I think, for survival.

Every day starts around 5:35 AM. That's when the power (which turns off at midnight) comes back on, the a/c kicks on, and I wake. Dress, eat a quick breakfast (sometimes a cereal bar; other times, pbj on crackers, but always some sort of protein and a tangerine from the restaurant's breakfast buffet. I told you we were treated well here!) The bus loads at 7AM and we head to the hospital to begin the day's work.

For those on the team who are working at the hospital, they go to their usual posts. John heads into the medical ward where, after just one week, he's the "old-timer" among the nurses. And Stephanie, I think that John has chosen about the toughest job on the hospital's campus. It's dark and depressing in there, and the nicest thing I can say about the medical attention these places receive is that it's very inconsistent. But the nursing care, especially that care given by the IMC nurses working there, has been far better than the patients could ever have hoped for. There are some inconsistencies from one NGO's providers to the next; but that is all John's story and I will leave it to him to tell.

For those of us who have been assigned to the mobile clinics, we begin our day by digging for supplies. Literally. The walls of the IMC office (the "ping-pong room" if you've read my earlier posts) are lined with big cardboard boxes full of disaster supplies. Some contain medical instruments, others have IV supplies or needles and syringes. Most have already been opened and "looted" by IMC nurses and doctors, taken for their clinics or for use in the hospital. But you've hit the jackpot if you open a box full of pills! Most in demand at the clinics are vitamins and iron, antibiotics, anti-hypertensives, anything to treat gastric distress, and pain meds such as Tylenol or paracetamol, a Tylenol equivalent which is commonly used here. We mobile clinic nurses load up our personal cardboard boxes with any meds we think we can use, and supplies to clean wounds or change dressings, and then jealously guard each stash from looting by other mobile clinic nurses! No, just kidding really, we are quite respectful of each other's boxes and I wouldn't dream of snitching from my friends' supplies. Anything we don't find in the boxes, we may (or may not) find in one of two nearby pharmacies, where we may (or may not) find someone willing to locate what we need.

Once the drivers arrive with the vans, we each head out to our respective clinics with our interpreters. (I will write more about my clinic in Bolosse in a separate blog entry.) It takes me about 15 minutes, depending on traffic, to get to Bolosse; but some of the clinics are as much as an hour's drive away.

Clinic days are generally spent examining and treating displaced Haitians who have no other access to medical care. From talking to my friends, the character of each clinic is greatly different from the others. Some are situated under trees; some crews have to climb a steep hillside carrying their supply boxes to set up the clinic under sheets to be used for shade.The Bolosse clinic is located in a school building (didn't I get lucky!). The practitioners (doctors and nurses) who staff each clinic see between 100 to 260 patients each day. Mostly this is primary care: coughs, colds, diarrhea (a LOT of diarrhea). And every once in a while, someone comes in with a severe illnes, or even an untreated injury from the initial earthquake. Very ill or injured patients are taken to the University Hospital for care.

We are expected to return to the IMC office at University Hospital in time to catch a 5 PM shuttle back to the hotel. This is pretty critical; no one is to be left in the hospital unaccounted-for, and unless working the night shift no one is left there in the dark, ever. (I haven't volunteered for night shift, and neither has John.) We take the shuttle back to the hotel, where we find the power and water non-functional till about 7 PM. We debrief with IMC's administration for an hour or so; by then, the power and water are back, and we shower before dinner if we can. Many of the volunteers are still sleeping in the conference center, or "ballroom" as I described it in an earlier post; these folks have to ask someone in a hotel room or suite (such as mine) to shower there. Last night the shower line for our room didn't clear out until about 10 PM, at which time a pediatrician new to Haiti showed up. "Sure, come on in and get clean" we always say.

Dinner is at 8 PM, buffet-style at the hotel. The food has been pretty good; I don't think that's what made me sick yesterday. After dinner, many of the (younger) volunteers head to the bar for a nightcap or just some down time. This is when I try to borrow a computer or Blackberry, to update my blog or email Fred or Tara.

10 PM sees me in my room, journaling and laughing and talking with my roommates, Simone and Nicole. They are both originally from Haiti, and are a delight to be around. This is where my Creole (scant though it may be) is corrected and polished. By 10:30 it's lights out; at midnight the power goes out and, God willing, there is no pool-side party hosted by a news team to keep us awake.

And at 5:35, the power comes back on, and we start all over again.

Message for Stephanie

Hi Stephanie,

First of all, let me say a big "thank you" for loaning John to the relief effort in Haiti. He's a great travelling companion, and has looked in on me as I recover from my bout of ickiness.

John is worried about you, and worried that you are worrying too much. Oy, the worries! But please have faith that we are all looking out for each other here. Never for a minute have I felt unsafe, and I think that John feels the same way.

John will probably be back from the hospital around 5:30 tonight. He's going to find me as soon as he gets here, and have some quality time with this laptop before it goes back to Marie. So look for a message from him later today.


Random things

Just a few random things I've been wanting to blog about since I've been here:

I'm not bringing my sneakers home. They've been places that I couldn't even describe. Including the locked "VIP" toilet in Bolosse. If that was the clean toilet, then I can't imagine the general-use toilets. So, Fred, I will be wearing my sandals when I come home. It would be nice if someone brought me socks and shoes. And a warm coat to wear in Pittsburgh. It's another sunny, hot day here but I understand that things may be different back home.

No make-up for me? No problem! I'll admit to missing my mascara a bit, but the folks here are used to seeing me bare-faced. And my Haitian friends don't seem to mind a bit.

If at any point you have donated to the relief efforts in Haiti, trust that your donation will get here. Every day, more boxes of supplies show up at the hospital, and I know that I barely see the tip of the iceberg: I have no idea how many NGOs (non-government operations) have established centers in Haiti. But interesting things arrive now and then, such as the dozens of canvas bags stuffed with hygiene supplies (towels, soap, feminine products, shampoo, wash basin) that were at IMC quarters yesterday. I took a few bags (they are quite large) to the Bolosse clinic. So, to the anonymous people of the world who are gathering whatever you can to help here... school children, churches, civic organizations... please know that every tiny bit that you send is appreciated by the Haitians.

The hotel where we are staying is actually quite nice, and in better days, it would have been pretty expensive. It may be expensive now, I don't know because IMC is paying for our time here. But it's the kind of place where I would choose to stay if I was in Haiti on vacation. The rooms are spacious and clean; there is a nice, cool pool (my balcony overlooks this area), there is a tasty buffet every night (though I still can't bring myself to try goat; I've gone vegan several nights) with great desserts including plantain, and the air conditiner works great. When the power is on. At some point during the day, the power will shut off; I don't know exactly when that is, but I will find out today, since I'm hanging around. The power stays off till around 7PM, when it's getting dark. Then the a/c comes back on, and the water runs again. That's right, the water is off when the power is off. I'm told that there is a cistern or reservoir here, and to get water into the hotel it has to be pumped in; pumps need power, so no power, no water. The power stays on until midnight; then it's off until 5:35 each morning.

I will always regret that IMC decided not to establish a clinic at Grand Ravine. This place is so desperate for help, and too remote from the city for its residents to come down to a clinic or hospital. But the feeling is that it is too unsecure; we learned that this is the area that the jail's residents fled to, after the earthquake. And there is absolutely no police presence or monitoring there. In retrospect, it makes sense that IMC is looking out for our safety; but what about the residents of Grand Ravine? I heard last night that another NGO will be holding a clinic there, once a week. That is something, but not nearly enough. And there are countless unserved areas like Grand Ravine, which will possibly never see help.

So there is my paradox: I sit in air-conditioned comfort at a hotel, my biggest worry today is that I will lose power for this laptop, and the people of Haiti go without food, water, vaccinations for their children, decent primary care. How can I complain? I hope, once I get home, to never complain about my circumstances again.

Pray for Haiti.
So maybe you're wondering why I'm taking the day off. If you're not, then just go ahead and navigate away from this; but if you want to hear a semi-interesting story, read on:

At the helm at IMC, running the hospital as best he can since about 24 hours after the earthquake, is a man I knew (only from a distance) as Dr. Paul. He was part of our nightly briefing at the hotel, and seemed to have a lot of insight into the organization at University Hospital (such as it is).

I didn't get a chance to meet Dr. Paul until the day before yesterday, when I returned from the Bolosse clinic to find him sitting in a chair in the IMC quarters (called the ping-pong room, because of the ping-pong table we use each morning to organize supplies and draw up the day's injectible antibiotics. More pics of that at another time.)

Anyway, there was Dr. Paul looking peaked. Actually, to look "peaked" he would've had to look a lot better; he looked like he was going to keel over, "going to ground" as we might say in the ED. I helped him onto a mat on the floor, started an IV, and hydrated the heck out of him. He didn't pee until after about 7 liters of IV fluid, and I think he received a total of 9 liters before he felt well enough to pull the IV. Here's Paul:
Then, I come to find out that Dr. Paul is actually Paul S. Auerbach, author of "Medicine for the Outdoors." Kind of a rock star in Emergency Medicine. Here's his book. He's promised me a signed copy once he gets back home to California. Paul left yesterday with the Stanford contingent. I hope to find anything he publishes on his initial experiences here. He told me a good bit about the first three days, which sound like pure hell. My experience here is quite mellow, compared to what the first wave of medical people found. So, what does this all have to do with me and why I'm sitting in my hotel room blogging when I should be out working at the Bolosse clinic or at the hospital?

Well, I was feeling pretty smug. I've been drinking several liters of water every day, and even though I don't go to the bathroom all day (Fred will confirm that this is MOST unusual for me) I've been thinking I was well hydrated and healthy. Until yesterday.

I'd completed my responsibilities in Bolosse and returned to IMC quarters (the same ping-pong room where I'd cared for Dr. Paul the day before) when one of the ED docs asked me to come and help there; they were swamped (they are seeing over 250 patients a day, including new trauma from gunshot wounds). I slammed down a quick lunch (chicken salad in a can from Wal-Mart, half a bottle of water) and headed down the street to the ED tent. Within minutes of going inside, I started sweating profusely; everything got pretty dark, and the walls closed in. I thought it was a bout of claustrophobia; I apologized to the ED doc, and beat feet back to the ping-pong room. I was sitting on a disaster-relief box when another doc, Heather, found me a short time later. Before I knew it, I was on a mat on the floor... getting IV fluid... Zofran for nausea, D50 (dextrose) in my IV, and feeling like I was going to pass out. I never did faint, but boy did I feel awful. After over 4 liters of fluid IV, I finally peed and was able to drink water.

It was the general consensus that I should take today off, and frankly, they were right. I'm almost fully recovered today, but if I'd had to head back out into the Haiti sun again, I would be worse off than I was yesterday. So here I sit, in the air conditioning of my room, drinking water and blogging on Marie's computer. For this day, I am grateful. Yet I worry about the countless numbers in Haiti who have little shade and no water. Tomorrow, I go back to work.

In the "turnabout is fair play" department, here I am on the floor in a supply room at IMC quarters. The guy with me is Brian, a flight nurse from Colorado. He's the one you want to have start your IV if you're ever on the floor in a third-world country.

Don't worry about me.... I feel well, and I was cared for by the best doctors in Haiti! I will always carry them in my heart, and I respect the work they are doing for Haiti, more than words can say.

Pictures! (I hope)

Sorry if these pictures are out of order... or sideways! I don't have the hang of this computer, or blogging. Hey, I'm doing the best that I can! This is me with my interpreter, Shiloh, on the street in Bolosse. Bolosse is about 1/2 mile from University Hospital, where IMC is headquartered and where the inpatient units are. Shiloh grew up in Bolosse and so he knows the area well, and is also well-known there. He is 25 years old, and his mother died of some disease many years ago. His father was killed in an accident. He and his sister survived the earthquake, and their house is still standing. But like all Haitians affected by the quake, they sleep outdoors every night. The government is telling them (on radio and TV) to sleep outside, away from buildings, for at least a month. This is probably very good advice, since many buildings which appear sound actually have structural damage and occasionally one of them will collapse. I asked Shiloh when he thinks the people will be ready to sleep inside, and he answered, "Only God knows." So, by 7:30 each night, the streets are filled with people trying to sleep. It's very dark in the neighborhoods, as there is still no power. Shiloh's motto is "Each one for each one," which means that we all have to help each other in life. Not a bad motto. He was a student at a school for mechanics at one time, but had to quit because he could no longer afford to go. I feel totally safe wherever I go with Shiloh. I have no doubt that he would take a bullet for me; he is very protective. This is our group at O'Hare the morning of our departure for Haiti. L to R: John Ziegler (AGH RN in SICU, and SEIU member), Mary Choi (MD from Columbia University), Brian Crawford (ED MD from Colorado), Ayman Yassa (ED MD from Columbia), Bindy Crouch (family practice MD from NY, and SEIU member), Dan Tsze (Peds ED MD from Columbia), and Micaela "Mika" Godzich (family practice MD from Contra Costa); front, me and Nicole Victor (RN from Miami, grew up in Haiti, and SEIU member). Interestingly, Nicole (who is one of my roommates) was born at University Hospital and baptized in the Catholic Church which is on the grounds. The church was badly damaged in the quake and can no longer be used; we had been hoping to go to Mass there but that is not an option.
This is one of countless scenes we have seen since arriving. I know you've all seen countless images on the news; it's so sad to see them in person.

And one more, for now:

John and I share a beer at Harry Carey's restaurant in Chicago. We believe that this is the last cold beer we will have until we get home.

Good morning, all!

I'm taking the day off today, and have borrowed a laptop from Marie, one of the doctors here. A little about Marie: she is from Haiti, and is an infectious disease specialist in the US. (No, Stacy, I don't know where, but I will find out.) Marie left for the US after graduating from high school in Port-au-Prince, the city where we are working. She still has a house here, and her immediate family is okay, but as far as her extended family and friends go, she has no idea who has survived and who has perished. It is very hard on her, but Marie is doing her best to help her country. She is running a mobile clinic (similar to mine) in an area called Petionville. This is actually a country club and I hear that in better days that area is quite beautiful; but since the earthquake, many displaced persons have camped there (on the golf course and grounds of the country club) and they need medical care. Marie told me last night that the owners of the country club have expressed the desire to have the DPs (displaced persons) relocated so that they can try to get the club running again... but where will everyone go?

Rather than send one long blog today, I will be sending a series of short blogs. The internet is very unreliable here (especially once the CNN people get out of bed and log on) and one big message I composed a few nights ago just disappeared when I got kicked off. So look for more from me as the day goes on, and I will also try to send pictures.

Love to all,
and please keep praying for Haiti.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thursday 1/28

Quick blog on a different borrowed computer. This guy is a reporter with a friend of mine and he'll want it back very soon.

Important info first: All SEIU personnel that I know of are safe and working hard, but happily. I am rooming with Simone and Nicole; John is well (he got your message, Stephanie, and loves you too!); Bindy got back from a 3 day trip to Jacmel and is in her glory, doing good public health work.

Gotta go. All is well; trust that we are taken care of. Keep praying for all who work with the ill and injured, and please, pray for Haiti.

Love to all,

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

PBS video

Here is the video Cece was talking about - very interesting! She is in the last minute or so, but I encourage you to watch it all.


Pray for Haiti.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Monday 1/26 frtle4om John

(A quick word from Cece before John starts... PBS did a piece, and I'm included on the tail end. was on telly tonight; tomorrow will be posted at Let me know how it looks! xo,Cece)

A litttle longer word from John. First in case I can't finish Steph I miss you and hope you are okay. I am sure macy misses me . Where has Kiwi been sleeping and how is every one else.
I have been working in for room medical surgical ward. Aptly calledthe ward. it has four rooms with no full walls rooms divided into areas by 3 foot walls. At one end there are windows but no glass bars and steel wire not screen. Our area has. the no running water or bathrooms . The lighting is two four foot flourescnts it is always dark for alot of work you need to wear a headlight. Luckily it has been sunny and without ran. It is getting better today we had four doctors and four nurses and some other volunteers and a couple of native nurses to care for our beds at capacity not counting the hall that is 64. Three days ago we had two doctors and three nurses. This morning when we got there our supplies had been raided and we were out of IV solution and had one box of gloves. not real cool with no running water. The Haitians amaze me. They are so resilent. I would give an example but it is late and I need to tog et to bed. I am sure CeCe has shown that before I have not seen her blog. So that is all for now.

Monday, January 25, 2010

p.s. - To Stacy Lane

Stacy - almost forgot.... I owe you an extra day of babysitting, as payment for the cipro. Needed it today. Though I really think it was the beef from last night's dinner, and not anything too gross. Anyway, thanks for making me bring my meds.


Day 5

Did I mention that I'll never do anything like this again unless I have a Blackberry or laptop? Sorry it's so long between posts but things are very busy and every night, everyone is trying to contact family. I've traded some favor to be named later with Doc Colleen for the use of your laptop. You may have seen her on CNN last week; she and a nurse named Gabrielle took care of a 5-year-old boy pulled from the rubble last Tues or Wed. I watched her story on TV at O'Hare airport waiting for my plane, then a few hours later I met both of them at IMC headquarters. By the way, the little boy is doing well; he came to have dinner tonight with Colleen and Gabrielle. What a cutie.

Stephanie, John says he loves you and misses you. He talks about you all the time and is worried about you. He has been working in the medical ward every day and will be bringing home some incredible stories. And he's journaling, too, so he captures the details.

As for me, the clinic in Bolosse is going very well. We usually open around 10 and run till 3:30, but we closed early today so that we could scout for other sites for mobile clinics. We visited the lower portion of Bolosse for the first time; it's close to the shore, but a pitiful site. Metal sheds; many collapsed buildings; unspeakable latrines. In the midst of this, laughing children want to hold my hand and touch my fair skin; a group of men plays cards; and across the street is a collapsed home where several family members died.

From there we traveled to an area called Grand Ravine which made lower Bolosse look like a picnic grove. We had to walk in because the road just narrows, then ends. The houses are perched on the steep hillsides and we had to climb to get anywhere. A local leader told us that the people of Grand Ravine have NEVER had medical care, even before the earthquake. We couldn't find a secure, undamaged structure to hold our clinic (although, frankly, we couldn't explore the entire area, it's too large). Dr. Brian and I will set up our clinic on a ledge... literally a ledge, outside of someone's home. We hope to find a tarp big enough to hang and provide shade, and any medical supplies we need, we'll have to backpack in and out every day. Hard work, but I'm ready to start. First back to Bolosse for one more clinic day there, and we will tell them that for a few days we'll be working in Grand Ravine, eventually I think to work every other day at each site.

On the way back from Grand Ravine, we stopped one last time in Bolosse to visit the wife of Samuel, one of the translators who has been helping in the clinic. She was injured in the initial earthquake and has been living on a mat on their porch since then... 2 weeks! She most likely has a pelvic fracture, but here there is not much to do about that. We took her some crutches, and with a little encouragement I had her crutch walking across the porch, non-weight bearing. I've done patient teaching in pretty strange places, but this takes the cake. I want her to try to walk twice a day... "Un matins, et soir." I'm picking up just a little Creole. I tried to teach them some Polish, but they just laughed.

Enough for now. We are safe, and happy to be doing this work.

To our friends and families: John and I love you all and thank you for your thoughts and prayers.

To Cathy: Can you please try to post the activity of the other SEIU nurses at St. Damien's? I tried to get a ride over but it's impossible.

To Tara: Thanks for facilitating communications. Tell KDKA that my phone will be out of town for a few days (the dr. who it belongs to is in Jacmel for a few days) and I will call you when I have access to a phone.

To Fred and the boys: Hope the house is still standing! Miss and love you all!

Pray for Haiti.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Saturday Night

Hello all, and greetings from the Hotel Plaza in Port au Prince. John and I have been busy, but at the end of every day we are exhilarated and glad to be here, of some use.

I have traded an unspecified amount of almonds to Dr. Jeff for a few minutes' use of his laptop; a good trade! It feels great to be able to communicate sort of directly with you.

With our work with the International Medical Corps, we have been based at the University Hospital. Every morning we take a 7AM shuttle to the office, have a debriefing, then go to our assignments. Generally we are on the bus back to the hotel by 5 or 5:30 PM; they prefer that we be safely en route by the time darkness falls. There are some generators at the hospital but those are for night-time surgery; the streets of the hospital compound are pitch black until dawn.

For the past few days John has been working in the Medical Unit at the hospital. Their patient type varies from chronic medical problems to acute problems such as severe dehydration, a gunshot wound to the head, and everything in between. One of the problems with this inpatient unit is that the Haitians have become terrified to stay in-doors, due to the initial earthquake and subsequent aftershocks. So many patients discharge themselves at night; sometimes they can be found in a wooded area across the street, sometimes they never return.

One word about aftershocks: the worst, a 6.0, occurred the day before we got here. All medical buildings were evacuated into the hot sun for most of the day. There have been 3 or 4 minor tremors since we've been here; two were very brief but one was enough to have people running for the doors. But by the time we got to the door, it was all over.

As for me, I have been part of a mobile medical clinic visiting Bolosse, which is a neighborhood a few blocks from here. Yesterday, Dr. Brian and I scouted the area with our translator, Shiloh. We met with Lylie, who has become the de facto leader of about 5000 people. I think she may have been skeptical about us at first, but we were able to set up a small area and see many children and adults yesterday. Some were with injuries from the earthquake who had not received medical attention yet; one was a soccer goalie (!) who'd twisted his ankle. Many febrile children, many with diarrhea, and a few we sent to the hospital for more advanced care. I went back Bolosse today with Dr. Brian and Dr. Dan, who is a pediatrician (YAY!) and we saw about 120 pts all together. The Drs. did the care, and I dispensed medication with several Haitian nurses. One of them, Marthe, is especially wonderful; she is teaching the less experienced nurses. We've also had a Haitian medical student join us; eventually, the medical care in these communities will be turned over to the Haitians, as it should be, and part of our job is making sure that they are prepared to take care of their clients.

Once our day's work is done and we return to the hotel, it's time to line up for a shower. (Boy, am I glad I cut my hair before I came! Though I do miss my mascara.) There is a debriefing every night with administrative personnel from IMC, and they try to provide us with the essentials we ask for: medications, extra personnel, whatever. At 8PM, dinner is served,buffet style, in a Tiki-bar type of bar/restaurant. Strange, huh? My translator Shiloh is sleeping on the street, literally, right now; and I'm sitting on the floor in a ballroom, blogging, with a full belly. And I had a cold beer with dinner, too! $7 for an El Presidente, which they tell me is highway robbery )

Enough for tonight. I have used up my almonds' worth of laptop time. I will try to write more in a few days. Meanwhile, pray not only for me and John, but for the many people who are here trying to help in any way.

And most of all, pray for Haiti.
Love you all,

"WORD without WORDS..."

It Cathy Stoddart from AGH, Cece asked me to add to the blog if we were in touch with the other AGH Nurses or SEIU nurses and Docs in Haiti. I will share information when they text.

Some of the information is coming through the four nurses who have traveled with them from SEIU Local 1991 in Florida, whom they had bonded with on the tarmac as they waited last Thursday to leave from Florida.

They tell us that this was an ordeal in and of itself, as they were told they had to have only 3 total pieces of luggage between the 8 of them," Combining your personals bonds a group" Ashley Scott told us. Danielle's luggage had already been lost by the airline from Pittsburgh. They ended up being able to take all of their belongings, I am told it was because of the groups unwavering determination.

It seems that the AGH nurses and the Florida nurses are assigned at St. Damien's hospital. Danielle Thompson from NICU, Tiffany Hamilton from MICU , and Ashley Scott from CCU from AGH are very tired.
I am told that they are all working the night shift.

They have been texting and we are told that they are sleeping inside (which is better than on the roof) but in the day it is deadly hot and noisy. They are in a secure compound and have about 3 hours of free time a day.

They had to hitch a ride from the airport with a transport. We gather that it was a difficult ride. It would have been their first look at the devastation in Haiti.

They have failed to tell us the kind of work they are doing in any detail which weighs on our minds, making us think that there are not words to described what they are seeing and doing......our nursing hero's.....

"Pray for all of the Nurses and Doctors"
"Pray for Haiti"

Friday, January 22, 2010

5,000 divided by 2.....

Heard from Cece this evening - I will post her text messages below, then give you my interpretation..

"Using borrowed phone to text. All is well, busy day."

"We started clinic in area with 5000 people and are only medical team there. Me and doc and translator. Wonderful people, many still with injuries, lots of sick kids. Tired but glad to be here. Missing some team members who were on another plane, is there any word?"

"Hotel even has pool, but not too clean. We live in luxury compared to others. Going to sleep now, love you all"

Utilizing Cece's skills, she and the doc (with the help of the translator) are in charge of setting up a clinic to determine treatment. Kind of like triage, I would imagine. If any of you reading this have insight in this, please feel free to post for the rest of us! This blog is not only about Cece, but also about awareness for Haiti and it's people, and the work going on there. After talking with Cathy (nurse at SEIU), we have found that 3 other nurses (who Cece asked about) are all safe at St. Damien's Hospital, working primarily with ICU kids and adults.

Will keep everyone updated as I learn more.

Pray for Cece.
Pray for Haiti!

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Just a quick update:

Fred got a call from Cece - they have arrived safely. There was a slight change in plans, and they are now staying in a secured hotel and working in a secured hospital (don't know the name of the hospital at this moment). Will let you know when I hear more.

Pray for Cece.
Pray for Haiti.

St. Damien Hospital

Here is a link to a news story done on the hospital Cece and the rest of the crew are going to:

Haiti Earthquake: Doctors Fight to Save Children - ABC News

I also found another site with photos from the hospital, showing the pain and devastation that has affected everyone.

Pray for Cece.
Pray for Haiti.

First Class

Many of you have already seen this, but last night WTAE did a story on the nurses from Allegheny General Hospital who have volunteered to go to Haiti - Cece being one of them! As one of the nurses said, "Every day is life or death, but (to be) in a profession that we are lucky enough to go overseas and help in such a horrible disaster is very fulfilling." Check it out:

I heard from Cece this morning - they boarded the plane around 7 am EST and were lucky enough to be moved to first class! I can't think of a better group of people who deserve it. There are a few in her group who have Blackberries, so hopefully we will get updates regularly.

Cece also found out a little more information about where they will be staying. They will be housed at St. Damian Hospital in Port au Prince. There is a Haitian nurse, Nicole, in their group whose family was blessed enough to escape harm and their home is intact.

Pray for Cece.
Pray for Haiti.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Good night!

I'm headed to bed. Tomorrow is almost here and there is much to do.

Cathy Stoddart from SEIU will occasionally be blogging for me and for John. Our group is expanding tomorrow; we received word tonight that three more AGH RNs will meet us in Haiti.

My niece Tara will also be blogging for me, if I can get word to her from Haiti.

I need to say this, loud and clear: This trip and this blog are not about me. This is about Haiti. If my words can somehow bring the situation to life for those in Pittsburgh and beyond, then I have achieved my goal.

I love you all.

Pray for Haiti.


ps - Fred, Freddie, Daniel: I am taking you all in my heart. Give the dog a treat from me. Clean the litter box now and again. And please, don't burn the house down! But if you do... get yourselves to safety. I want to see you all again soon.

A Prayer After the Earthquake in Haiti

(This prayer was written and copyrighted by Diana Macalintal, Dicoese of San Jose. It was distributed at St. Ferdinand Church, my parish, in Cranberry Twp. PA. Diana, I hope you don't mind if I reprint this; I'm acting on the belief that sometimes, it's better to seek forgiveness than ask permission. Sorry I don't have time for permission first.

Readers, these are ALL Diana's words, not mine; the typos, if any, are my fault. If you want to share or forward this prayer, please be sure to credit Diana. And Diana, if this causes a problem, have your diocese call my diocese and we'll work it out. In a few weeks. Meanwhile, I carry your prayer in my journal; we leave for Haiti tomorrow. Thank you for your beautiful words.)

Lord, at times such as this,
when we realize that the ground beneath our feet is not as solid as we had imagined,
we plead for your mercy.

As the things we have built crumble about us,
we know too well how small we truly are
on this ever-changing, ever-moving, fragile planet we call home.
Yet you have promised never to forget us.

Do not forget us now.

Today, so many people are afraid.
They wait in fear of the next tremor.
They hear the cries of the injured amid the rubble.
They roam the streets in shock at what they see.
And they fill the dusty air with wails of grief and the names of missing dead.

Comfort them, Lord, in this disaster.
Be their rock when the earth refuses to stand still,
and shelter them under your wings when homes no longer exist.

Embrace in your arms those who died so suddenly this day.
Consold the hearts of those who morun, and ease the pain of bodies on the brink of death.

Pierce, too, our hears with compassion, we who watch from afar,
as the poorest on this side of the earth find only misery upon misery.
Move us to act swiftly this day, to give generously every day,
to work for justice always, and to pray unceasingly for those without hope.

And once the shaking has ceased,
the images of destruction have stopped filling the news,
and our thoughts return to life's daily rumblings,
let us not forget that we are all your children and they, our brothers and sisters.
We are all the work of your hands.

For though the mountains leave their place and the hills be tossed to the ground,
your love shall never leave us, and your promise of peace will never be shaken.

Oour help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
Blessed be the name of the Lord, now and forever. Amen.


Posting from Chicago. We leave early in the AM, so I'll try to keep it brief. (HA!)

Some answers to some FAQs:

How did I find out about this? Through my union, SEIU, which put out a call for volunteers last week. They called me on Monday, 1/18, at which time I confirmed my availability and willingness.

Am I afraid? No. Excited, not afraid. A little panicky when it was time to pack, but no fear.

How can I protect myself from diseases? I've been doing it for years. It's called Universal Precautions. I've packed as many gloves and masks as I could carry and I have some really good anti-germy meds with me.

What if my stuff gets stolen? I'll worry about it then. My important stuff will be with me at all times.

What about everything that was donated, that I can't use? My family room is a mess. If you donated water, I couldn't bring it. I brought much of the food and baby wipes and camping gear and scrubs and toothpaste that was donated, and the $ that was donated went to purchase more. The things I couldn't bring (because of airline restrictions; I'm flying commercial, not on a charter freight like I originally thought) are sadly left at home. If you want anything back, call Fred and you are welcome to pick it up. Like bottled water, which is very expensive to transport. Food will likely be sent on a later flight unless you want it back. You are all so generous! Anything that I can't get to Haiti, if you don't want it back, will go to Gleaner's Food Pantry in Cranberry.

How can I help? Donate $ to a trusted charity. Red Cross, Brother's Brother, International Medical Corps, whatever. Do your homework and make sure that a large % of your donation will actually reach those in need, not going into some administrator's pocket. (Sorry to you administrators out there.)

How will Cece ever survive without mascara? No one really knows. It's never been tried. But really, this trip is about Haiti, not about me.

Why did you cut your hair? To make it easier in Haiti. Refer to the above answer: this trip is about Haiti, not about me.

What did you pack? Gosh. Deep breath. Baby wipes. Tiny towels that expand into big towels. Sleeping bag. Water purification tablets. My camera with 8gb of memory. New socks. Scrubs. Food for 3 days. Water purification system. (My traveling partner John has that. Thanks to SICU!) Gloves, face masks, personal medications. Shampoo. Portable shower. (Thanks, Fred!) Picture of my family. Stethoscope. Hand sanitizer. Candy for the kids. (Wish I brought more!) Sneakers. Watch. More hand sanitizer. Books including "Paris of the Appalachias" by Brian O'Neill, to remind me of where my roots are; and a seasonal missal from St. Ferdinand's Church in Cranberry. Sorry, Fr. Gallagher; but didn't think you'd mind. More, too numerous to mention, but all to keep me healthy and sane for two weeks.

Love you all!

Pray for Haiti.

Message from John Ziegler

(This is Cece typing for John. He says he is not a talker. He lies. He has lots of good things to say. Here he goes:)

I would like to thank all of my co workers in SICU including RNs, Respiratory Therapy, doctors, secretaries, NAs. The support you've shown brings tears to my eyes when I even think about it. I'll try to describe the feelings I've had as I prepare for this trip. A special thanks goes to Joe G. for organizing the donations. You are too cool.

On the 19th we were not sure that we were going to be going the next day. It was like sitting in an open cockpit with your parachute on, getting ready to jump. The anticipation was all but overwhelming. I was tearful as I shopped with the support that you've all given me. Late in the day, we were told we would not be flying out on the 20th. The feeling was of such a letdown from the high energy of the day.

This morning, we got the call that we were leaving and would be in Haiti by noon tomorrow. The feeling is that we are out the door and we're going to experience the joy of the free fall.

Thank you for your prayers and support. I love you all

Oh, and I would like to thank my brother-in-law who gave me his watch because I forgot mine. Stephanie, I will always love you.



I just heard from Cece. She is on her way to Chicago now, and will be leaving for Haiti at 4:30 am!! She even thinks she'll have enough time to shave her legs, and hopefully have a drink :)

Pray for Cece.
Pray for Haiti!

Departure news

I am waiting to hear my travel plans. I've been told that I will be travelling commercial to Chicago, spending the night there (hey John G, are ya home???) and then on to Haiti early tomorrow morning.

I have packed one checked bag, a carryon and a "personal bag" with hopefully everything I'll need. I only have to take food for 3 days, not two weeks as originally requested and I'll be sleeping indoors (they tell me) so we can skip the tents. Woo hoo! I'm no camper!

***A quick pause to thank Pauline for her packing skills; she taught me that there's ALWAYS more room. (Next time, Bali! I can pack much lighter!) Merci, Pauline!***

And on the subject of thanking, there are a few I absolutely HAVE to acknowledge:

Fred. Who, when I said to him Sunday night, "If they call, I'm going" said that he expected me to. Thank you for your encouragment and the belief that I have something to offer.

Freddie. Who located two Steelers lighters so I can adequately represent the 'burgh. Thank you!

Daniel. Who gathered a bag of Beanie Babies that I don't have room to take and from whom I could learn many lessons in patience and being kind to people. Thank you!

My siblings, Bonnie, Diane, Betty and John, who love me even if they don't understand me. And Michelle goes in that group.

The good folks at SEIU, including John Ziegler, who will be traveling with me; Valerie Tate and Mandy, who patiently answer my questions; and Cathy Stoddart, who got this all rolling.

My boss, Linda. Thanks for giving me the green light. And Judy Zedreck: see ya in Haiti, girl! Bring your workin' pants!

Many more too numerous to mention, but who include Freddie's anonymous friend from the web who filled my list last night, and the anonymous guy at Quaker Steak & Lube who handed Bob Mc. a $50 bill to pass along to me.

Will write more later. Love you all!

Pray for Haiti!


This is Tara, Cece's niece. I just got a text message from her stating that they are leaving tonight at 6:30 pm and she is in the process of filling out paperwork. I will continue to post messages as I receive them.

Pray for Cece.
Pray for Haiti.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


So it looks as though our departure will be delayed, for at least a day.

That's good, because now I'll have time to finish the laundry, pay my bills, pay Mom's bills, pack, and collect my thoughts.

That's bad, because the need in Haiti is so great.

But hey, the REALLY good news for YOU is that I'll have a little more time to blog about our preparations!

First things first, though. I'm off to Bunco. I need a little "girl time." Here's a photo from a Halloween bunco a few years ago. If you can't figure it out, I went as my dog, Malcolm. That's Lisa with me. Just off the boat from some cruise or other. Love ya, girl!

Love you all, in fact.

Pray for Haiti.

Stuff, and more stuff

My family room looks like a Walmart exploded, inside an LL Bean store, inside a grocery store, inside a medical supply house.

Very frustrating that we still don't have more info about flights, and even how much we can carry. Will supposedly have a conference call tonight.

Thank you all for thoughts, prayers and donations. I'm going to try to get organized now.

Love you all.

Pray for Haiti.

In between errands

I have just a minute at home; it's amazing, the errands to do and the limited time to do them. And yet, whatever I accomplish (or whatever I don't!), I get on a plane tomorrow.

Still no details about my flight yet. Will keep you updated.

(Tara... thank you for joining! I thought I'd be hollering into empty space.)

Some things that have happened since yesterday morning:

I prayed for a parking spot near my lawyer's office, so I could run in and sign the power of attorney papers for Mom. (If you know Washington Road in Mt. Lebanon, you know that prayer is about the only way to get a parking spot!) Well, a spot opened up directly in front of the office.

And then, last night, I counted my Nexium to see if I had enough to get through a 14-day trip. How many do you think I have? 14! Woo hoo! No MRE-induced heartburn for me!

Other little, amazing "coincidences" continue to occur. For the record, I don't believe in coincidence. (I highly recommend the book "When God Winks" by Squire D. Rushnell.)

And donations continue: Thank you to to all who have stepped up so far today (especially Stacy L.). Wish I could thank everyone; I don't want to forget anyone, so I probably won't list names but you know who you are!

Will write more later. Love you all.

Pray for Haiti.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Amazing people

I have some truly amazing friends.

At tonight's general meeting of the Seneca Valley Lacrosse Association, I had the opportunity to tell the group of my pending trip to Haiti. I gently (I hope!) asked for donations to support our trip and before the night was out, I had several cases of water in my home, a fistful of cash which I will use to buy supplies, and a big bag of waterless hand sanitizer as well as alcohol and other items. More to come tomorrow, including a tent and mats to sleep on.

There are no people like lacrosse people! Thank you all, friends!

And maybe there are people like lacrosse people... thank you to Diane and David for the donation of two cases MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). I guess there are good people everywhere...

Tomorrow, I shop. We need to take enough food and water for our length of stay. My shopping list includes peanut butter, tuna in bags, more hand sanitizer, more water. Whatever I can find at Giant Eagle and Costco to get me through the next two weeks, for it looks as though I will be gone at least that long.

Whatever we don't use on our trip will be left behind for those who follow us.

I can't share more details about the trip just yet, but will try to post additional messages before I go. And I am aware that once I get to Haiti, I may not be able to post at all. But I'll give it my best shot.

Do you want to help? First of all, I'm new at blogging. If you want to encourage me at all, respond to my post to let me know you're out there!

And if you STILL want to help, what is needed at this point are cash donations. The Red Cross and Doctors without Borders are two wonderful, reliable organizations. Also, two organizations which are supporting our trip are International Medical Corps ( and Partners in Health ( They could all use your support.

I love you all.

Please pray for Haiti.
This picture of me was taken on the Great Wall of China at Mutianyu, four years ago. I don't know if I'll be able to post pictures from Haiti, but I'll give it a shot. Ha ha.

Going to Haiti!

I don't know if anyone will ever read this, but here goes. I received a call today that I will be in the "first wave" of critical care nurses to go to Haiti for medical relief following their devastating hurricane. There may not be any internet access once I get there, but if there is, I will post updates whenever I can.

That's it for now... time to start gathering my stuff. Will share a packing list with you once I get it together.

Pray for Haiti.