My sister and brother-in-law are medical heros in Haiti

Hi, everybody, I got this email today from my Registered Nurse sister Marilyn and her M.D. husband Jerry, writing from Haiti.  They are incredible people.

Dear Friends and Family,

We have been in Haut-Limbe for 6 days. When we arrived last Monday in Cap Haitian it was overcast, with that characteristic background smoky aroma of trees being converted to charcoal. We were picked up by Dr Steve and Nancy James and drove through the city by the harbor.

These are the main changes I notice since we were here 10 years ago: so many more people, lots of motorcycles, lots of cell phones and ipods. Many more people speak English. Far fewer are surprised to see white people. The roads are very much worse, the buses bringing refugees from PortauPrince are covered with dust long before getting up here. It was a jolting ride in the clinic truck just to get to this compound.

We are living in a guest house at the Christian University of North Haiti. Very close by is the Eben-Ezer Clinic we walk to, which is adding on an overnight short stay facility, funded and built by a church in Canada. It’s the rainy season so the road, part cement part cobblestone part dirt is really muddy. The many motorcycle taxis zip by in both directions, lots of honking and big startle effect. The road is lined with entrepreneurs, selling candy, cooked food, clothing. I am happy to say there are several goats I greet along the way. (Marilyn has a dairy goat farm)

The University people have taken in orphans from the earthquake. One of our best translators, Emma, is now raising her deceased sister’s 4 month old baby. Of course she is incredibly cute.

There are a dozen volunteers at the clinic: nurses, nurse practitioners, PA.s, doctors, and medical students. We are seeing the ongoing illnesses people have whether there is an earthquake or not. Diabetes, heart disease, and malaria and typhoid. Lots of  infections secondary to injuries, even gangrene. Unusual cases like a child with an external heart, covered by a thin membrane (5 years old,  Emerson likes to play soccer; he has a protective vest); neurofibromatosis (elephant man), typhus, polio.

The three of us are working in the clinic so Steve can take care of the huge job of managing the many boxes of somewhat random donations of mostly useful medical supplies. He is carrying these supplies out to really remote tiny clinics. He is also going down to Port about once a week to work with the shift there to setting up permanent replacement clinics as the process of rebuilding has begun in the outlying towns that are even closer to the epicenter.

Emily has been seeing patients and teaching the medical students, who have a big respect for the practical uses of PAs. The students are 2nd year: all books, no patient contact till this Spring Break. She is picking up Creole faster than Jerry and I, though we’ve had it before (long ago). She would like to be even busier.

Steve gets constant phone calls and Nancy is managing the onslaught of about 900 emails a day, mostly from people asking what they can send. The very biggest problem is the need for a long term organization person, to do finances, supplies, interface with donors, NGOs, other hospitals and clinics and with Haitian officials.

Jerry is going to write an updatable letter for Steve that he can send out in a mass email, with a paragraph on the current situation, a list of the most needed medicines or supplies (we just ran out of scabies medicine, HCTZ…an effective cheap blood pressure medicine, zantac). On the other hand, very expensive rarely used meds such as Zofran for nausea he will be sending to the big hospital in Cap Haitien.

Steve would like me to take on the job of getting the cabinets in each consulting room at the clinic organized. They all have miscellaneous….this is how my own kitchen drawers are “organized”…so it will take a real change of character on my part……
I know this chaos is making him crazy, though it’s not the most thrilling nursing job. So it is remembering to just chop wood and carry water. And it’s what he needs the most. You cannot believe the mountains of supplies that need to be inventoried and put away. I thought the greatest need would be medical but now organizational and planning skills are coming to the forefront as the rebuilding begins.

It is very energizing to be around all these Haitian young people, working in the clinic, serving on the board, teaching in the schools, translating for us. The 2 Haitien doctors who are always here, as the volunteers come and go, are just super. The nursing staff is also great. It’s a pleasure to work in the clinic every day as everyone pulls together under the load.

Jerry and Emily will go to PortauPrince with Steve on Monday. I’ll stay here to do consulting with patients and help orient a whole new group of volunteers arriving from Canada on Wednesday.

It’s so rainy it’s almost chilly!

More soon,
brighten the corner where you are



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