The Road Back to Haiti | Part 1

On May 4th, Rob Vande Lune, missionary serving at Children of the Promise, had an accident that shook his family’s future in Haiti. Having to leave the country immediately because of medical reasons, Rob and his family of 6 began a journey of recovery for an undetermined about of time. Time his family would not be in the country serving in a place they all love so much.  Rob has blogged about the first half of his experience and his reflections of the past 5 1/2 weeks.

“Part I is a lot of details of what happened in semi day-to-day fashion.  Part II is soon to follow and will be more reflection on the past 5 weeks of this journey as we have seen God’s hand continuously, but also as we have had to wrestle with the difficult things of this storm in this season.

The late afternoon of Sunday, May 4 will be a date that will forever be etched in the memories of our household as one pan of cooking oil catching fire and then “exploding” with a little water added, thus causing second degree burns on my right hand and both feet would send us scrambling to get back to the United States for treatment.

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The kitchen ceiling after “explosion” 

Right after getting burned, Erin had me jump in the shower under cold water to provide the most relief as possible on the burned areas.  After about 15 minutes in the shower I got out so Erin and Sylvia, a volunteer nurse at COTP at the time, could assess the damage and see what needed to happen.  As they looked at my right foot and the darkness of the burn along with the lack of feeling in my foot, the realization was made that I was going to need to get out of Haiti quickly to seek medical attention elsewhere.

Erin began contacting our insurance, which determined that I needed to be assessed by legit doctors in the Dominican Republic so they wanted to fly me by helicopter at 8am the next morning to Santo Domingo.  This obviously didn’t make a ton of sense to us since with just another 30 to 45 minutes I could have been in the States.  We didn’t care to go the DR route because it meant another language, culture and things that in this situation that we weren’t ready for.  Nick talked to the director at Milot/Crudem to see what doctors were around for the week and we were in luck because there were 2 physicians- an OBGYN and pediatric surgeon- not exactly burn experts but they were what the insurance wanted to get verification from that I needed to the States.  So, at 9:30pm Nick, Sylvia and myself got into the Jeep and took off for Milot.  It took stopping at Crudem and then having a doctor to agree to come over to Milot to see me “officially” so that he could then report to the insurance of his opinion that I needed to get to the States and not the DR.  By the time this all finally happened it was right at midnight and the only person left on the call for the insurance medical team was a nurse tech and needless to say she didn’t have the authority or power to overturn the helicopter plan.

We got out of Milot around 1am and were back at COTP by 1:30am.  On the ride back a new plan was made between us which involved us finding our own tickets for first thing out or available in the morning to Florida.  As soon as we got back to COTP Nick and I were on-line looking to see what was available.  Lots of seats on an 8:55am JetBlue flight to Ft. Lauderdale but I wasn’t having any luck with Tortug or Sunrise from CAP to PAP.  I was only getting 1 seat available.  Nick got onto the Sunrise site and on his first try was able to book 7 seats for 6:50am.  Pretty crazy that we were going to be getting on an airplane within 5 hours and be in the States in the next 9 hours.  Erin worked feverishly with the few hours she had left to get six suitcases packed with as much stuff as she could because we had no idea how long we were going to be gone for.  Karys had a hard time sleeping and so she helped Erin for 3 hours getting things packed.  I remember just dozing off and on on the couch.

The next 15-plus days all ran together from one thing to the next.  At the University of Miami/Jackson Hospital there was the following:

  • Initial ER visit on May 5
  • Burn clinic appointment on May 6 with a follow-up for May 9
  • May 7 was admission to burn unit for infection thru general ER (longest day ever as it took 12-plus hours to get me admitted and into a room!)
  • May 7-12 was spent in the burn unit at Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Hospital part of the University of Miami health system.
  • Friday, May 9 was Gracie’s golden birthday.  We were supposed to be at the beach for the day celebrating and laughing together.  Instead, I was in a hospital bed unable to get up and be mobile.  Erin brought all the kids by later that day for the second day in a row.  We had made plans for them to get back to family via friends visiting Orlando that were flying out on Saturday.  I got to see Gracie for her birthday but also had to say goodbye to our kiddos for an undetermined amount of time as we didn’t know plans yet at this point.
  • Sunday, May 11 the doctor said he could give us a window to get up North, closer to family and a support network.  This is when we chose to travel to Des Moines on Monday May 12 and then set-up an appointment at the University of Iowa burn unit for Tuesday, May 13.
  • We took flights on May 12 from Miami to Charlotte to Des Moines.  That was a long day of travel for me and much more difficult than the initial travel day from Haiti to Florida.

I must sidetrack here a bit because we had a great support network right away for our time in Florida.  First, Nick Stolberg who helped our family get stateside and made sure we were set-up before returning.  Second, Erin’s sister Megan who landed in Ft. Lauderdale Monday night only 7 hours after we did.  She was our go-to until Saturday to help watch the kiddos so Erin could be with me as much as possible.  Little did we know at the time how valuable this was going to be once I was admitted on Wednesday.  Third, the Mitchell family of Paul, Kelsey and Lola who opened their home up to us stay as long as we needed it.  We stayed their Monday night with our crew of 8 and Kelsey was in regular contact with Erin checking to see if we needed anything.  Fourth, my mom who decided to come down from Thursday to Saturday, which was a blessing so Erin could have fun celebrating Gracie’s birthday and safely get the kids to Orlando on Saturday for their flights.  Which brings me to the Brenneman family, good friends of ours from Orange City, who were vacationing with Pat’s extended family for the week.  They agreed to help get the kids back to Omaha and then up to Sioux City where they would meet up with Grandpa and Grandma Goeman and Uncle Taylor.  What a huge blessing and God-orchestrated timing to be able to get them up to family in the Midwest! At the University of Iowa there was the following: – Monday, May 12 we spent the night in Ankeny, IA at my mom and step-dad’s house.

  • Tuesday, May 13 we had my appointment in Iowa City at U of Iowa.  Luckily, Erin remembered to throw in a suitcase at the last minute just in case they decided to admit us.  Within 15 minutes of the nurse taking off the dressings and looking at the burns she said that I would probably be admitted and within getting into a room the decision was made that I would be on the surgery schedule for Friday, May 16 for graft on my right foot.
  • I was started on two antibiotics to make sure that I had no hint of infection, especially going into surgery.  The bummer was that they weren’t compatible with each other so it meant two IV’s.  One had Zosyn going through it which was painless.  The second had Vancomyocin going through it which burned and actually wrecked my vein and the IV after about every 2-3 doses.  This of course meant more IV’s.  I think between Tuesday, May 13 and Friday, May 16, the day I had surgery, I had between 8-10 IV’s . . . not fun!
  • I was blessed by having some visitors stop by.  Bruce Schutt, a great friend from Orange City stopped by on Wednesday, May 14 as he said he just happened to be in the area.  He also brought some great scotcheroo bars that his daughter Jadeyn made the night before.  We also received a package via a NWC student from the Nessa’s, also friends from Orange City, which contained an ample supply of games and goodies.  There was even a gift card to the coffee shop downstairs for Erin to get her “real” coffee each morning.  What great blessings!
  • Friday, May 16 was my surgery day which meant that I didn’t eat or drink anything the night before starting at about 9pm.  The bummer was that I wasn’t scheduled until 1:45pm Friday afternoon if everything held schedule.  I was third in line for the day.  At about 1:15pm the crew came and got me to take me from the 8th floor down to the 5th floor where surgeries happen.  I remember loosing count of operating rooms at about 12 but do remember seeing that my room was in the 20’s.  The place was absolutely huge!
  • Erin would tell me to skip this part of the story, but I can’t help myself!  As I was slid over to the operating table, Heather, the nurse anesthetist that talked to me in prep started informing me of the 2 meds that she would be injecting to help me sleep.  She looked at the 2 IV’s in my left arm and chose the one that had had Vancomyocin going through it.  I asked her not to use that IV as I could tell it was almost done and close to infiltrating.  She said it looked like the better of the 2 sites and as she pushed the first med I could feel the burn not going into my vein but filling my arm around the IV site.  I told her that I didn’t think it was going in but she proceeded stating that everything looked good.  She then took the second med and explained that this is the one that would made me sleepy and that I should take keep breaths into the oxygen mask and begin to count backwards from 20.  I again could feel me arm begin to fill up with the med and I informed that I definitely was not getting sleepy.  At that moment the anesthesiologist walked in and immediately saw that the IV/vein had infiltrated and began to push the med through my good IV.  The next thing I knew I was in the recovery room shaking from the pain of the operation but also noticing that both IV’s were gone from my left arm and that I had a new IV in the top of my right hand.  My left arm from my elbow to my wrist looked like a blown up bratwurst and even had some blisters on the top and bottom from where fluid needed to release!
  • The surgery only took about 75 minutes and it took me about 45 minutes to wake up.  From 4pm to about 5:30pm the nurses were working hard to get on top of my pain as they could tell I was quite uncomfortable.  Finally, at about 5:45pm I was back up in my room with a 4in x 10in slice of skin missing from my upper right thigh that had now been placed on my right foot over my deep 2nd degree burn.  I also had a small spot on my left foot about the size of silver dollar that the doctor decided to graft as well.
  • The pain for the first 6-12 hours was intense and it took a while to get on top of but the doctors finally agreed to give me a pain pump that I could click every 10 minutes if I needed it to give me some pain killers.  Erin knew I was so uncomfortable and wanted me to get some sleep that she actually stayed awake until about 2:30am “pushing” the button for me so I wouldn’t wake up being “behind” on the pain and miserable.
  • Each day after surgery got significantly better and by Sunday I was no longer even using the pain pump and was just taking some oral pain meds.
  • My dad and step-mom stopped by on Saturday night for a visit and then on Sunday my brother and sister-in-law along with my grandma and aunt stopped by.  I had asked my brother to bring his hair clippers for an in-room buzz and he gratefully obliged.  I sat in the wheelchair next to my bed, he cut my hair and then even wheeled me to the sink to wash it up as I hung my head over the back of the wheelchair and into the sink.  We then went on a ride in the wheelchair and even got outside on the 8th floor sitting garden/veranda, my first time out of room since Thursday (besides surgery) and my first time outside since entering the hospital.  It was just what the doctor ordered for a Sunday afternoon of recovery!  Erin even had the opportunity to get out and go for a little jog with my sister-in-law, who had brought her running clothes along.
  • Monday quickly passed and we were both highly anticipating Tuesday as we knew that this was day 4 after surgery and the day that the grafts would be seen for the first time by all.  I knew something was up for the morning when my new nurse was pushing some extra pain meds and even gave me a little bit of versed (helps blur memory or forget things).  Before I knew it I was on a stainless steel gurney with a pool mat to lay on and plastic covering everything . . . I was headed to the burn washroom to get cleaned up and to take the dressings off.  Up to this point I had avoided the burn washroom because I didn’t need to have my burns debreeded each day as that had already been done in Florida.  Simply put the washroom is a rough place as there are several curtained stations where you can hear other people in pain as they are getting there burns or wounds cleaned.  I had the luxury of using a small private shower room since I had a less percentage of burns and could wash myself.  All that being said, there I was sitting in the first stall getting rinsed off with Erin’s help before they took the bandages off.  Pretty soon though my nurse returned and grabbed a small tool that resembled pliers and began pulling out staples on my right foot around my graft.  I quit counting after about 8-10 staples and we did take a couple of breaks before getting all 24 pulled out, but then it was done and I could finally look at my foot.  It looked weird but it looked good.  The whole doctor team (freshman, JV and varsity) all came in to have a look and agreed in unison that it couldn’t have looked better.
  • I was wheeled back to the room and quickly had a PA and another nurse there ready to cover my graft on my right foot with what they called a modified una boot.  Basically a soft cast that protected my graft yet still gave me flexion to walk.
  • As soon as this was completed, Andy, the physical therapist, was in to see what I could do.  Up to this point I had only tried to stand up on Saturday, the day after surgery, and it absolutely was intolerable, so I was excited to see what was going to happen pain-wise when I tried to walk again.  At first I had a walker and walked awkwardly about 20 yards out my room and down the hall to the PT therapy room.  I think it was more awkward because I didn’t know how to use a walker.  Andy had me do a set of stairs up and down because he knew the homes I would be at for recovery would have stairs.  As soon as I completed the steps test I he showed me how to use a cain that had been adjusted for my height instead of the walker.  Erin laughed as I tried to use it out the PT door and I finally looked at Andy and handed him the cain and asked if it was alright if we just went for a walk around the unit without any help but the wall rail if I needed.  It felt good to walk, something I hadn’t done since my time in Florida, especially with significantly less pain.  I walked all the halls of the floor and Andy said from a PT perspective I could go home and that’s just what the doctors wanted to hear as well.  So after 13 days in hospitals I was finally getting out!
  • The next week was spent continuing to recover at my brother and sister-in-law’s house in Pella.  I was ordered to still be a couch potato and not get too adventurous with new protective boot.  As I discovered, the 13 days in hospitals didn’t make me too adventurous as my energy level had been sapped and simply trying to go up town for an hour to get frozen yogurt was about enough of an outing for me.  Between trying to get across the street in time as I moved at a snail’s pace and running into people that knew of what was happening and talking, going out would quickly over stimulate me and tire me out.  That week in Pella we still had no kids with us and the week began to get long as life definitely wasn’t normal without them.
  • On Tuesday, May 27 we returned to Iowa City for my one week check-up and the first question we had wasn’t how did it look but when did we have to come back again.  They gave us 2 weeks until our next appointment on June 10.  We asked for June 12 since June 10 was going to be Toby’s 3rd birthday.  This solidified that after the appointment we knew for sure that we were headed to South Dakota yet that afternoon and evening and would be there for Addy’s 5th birthday the next day!

The past 2 weeks have been spent resting/gaining energy, caring for the skin grafts and donor site along with re-orienting to being together as a family after 17 days of being a part.  We’ve also had the privilege to connect with family and friends that we definitely hadn’t planned on seeing over a month ago.  As I write this we are preparing to transition back down to Central Iowa for my second follow-up appointment on Thursday, June 12, which will be one day shy of 4 weeks since I had surgery.  We remain hopeful and optimistic of another good report from the doctors.  Personally I’m also hoping that they say we don’t need to return for anymore follow-up’s and only need to consult via phone if something changes with my graft!

Part II coming soon…”

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Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

This post is shared by Tori Rayle from her blog, Tori’s Stories.

 

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Last night I was reading a book that related earthly adoption to God’s adoption of us. I’m not sure I agree with that. Yes, 1 John 3:1 says “See what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” I wholeheartedly agree that I am a child of God and he is my father, but I also believe this was true before my earthly parents even thought of me.

May 2013 Formals-253-2But, this viewpoint got me thinking. You may believe the same way this book does and that is totally fine, I know I do not have all the answers. From now on, we will not be thinking the way I think, but rather the way the author of this book does.

As soon as we accept God into our hearts he becomes our dad. He has adopted us. It doesn’t matter who we are, what we’ve done, what we are capable of doing, or where we came from: we are His children. He accepts us as we are no matter what.

March 2013 Photo 054We are each special in our own way and we are very needy. We need to be forgiven, we need to be constantly redirected and taught lessons, we need to learn to walk, to eat, to tone our spiritual muscles. We take a lot of work. We take a lot of work the rest of our lives. We will never have it all figured out. But yet God still takes us with open arms and loves us as his own.

July Formals 2013-963Here at COTP alone we have fifteen children with various special needs waiting for families. They are not matched and have no one anticipating their arrival into their homes. One has been waiting here for over five years. There are countless more across the globe.

If you spend a few minutes with these children you will fall in love. Most of them are immobile and cannot communicate like someone their age should be able to, but they are full of life. They love touch, to be tickled, to be held, to laugh, and to love. They are always putting a smile on our faces by just being their cute little selves. They love unconditionally and need a family to love them unconditionally the rest of their lives.

I wish I could post the sound of their laughter, I wish there was some way I could share the way they cuddle on here, I wish you could get the chance to know them like we do. I wish you could see the way they love, I wish you could see their smiles when their favorite nanny interacts with them, I wish I could portray them for who they really are.

IMG_5750John 9:1-3 says “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Powerful. Our Father is definitely displayed through each of these children. He’s displayed through each of our kids but it’s in a way that is explainable through our children with special needs.

We have recently been able to send our children to physical therapy so they can learn to use their muscles in the proper way and we have seen great progress. Tense, hard to move muscles are looser and limp ones now have more tone. As a result of this therapy (and continued work here) we have one learning to walk, another so close to sitting by himself, a few with open, relaxed hands (where tight muscles used to be constantly clenched), and regular exercises for them to do more often.

IMG_5462After a few months of sending them to therapy we had a therapist come here to do the therapy one afternoon a week. Now we have an international staff member (me) and a Haitian staff member learning, assessing, and deciding what therapy is best for us to give our children every day. With the help of visiting therapists we have also developed a therapy program that our visitors do with our kids everyday. We now have two children learning to walk (and the one talked about in the previous paragraph is now home with his forever family), a few close to sitting by themselves, a few with more relaxed hands, some with better eye contact, and several working on better head control.

Psalm 139 talks about how we are fearfully and wonderfully made. God knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. He didn’t say that to just those of us who are “normal”. He created each and every person on this earth with a purpose. He knew what he was doing when he created these kids. He also created family units and he desires children to grow up in them.

IMG_5256We love these kids so much, but when we see what therapy does and how much they love interaction, we desire so much more. We desire for them to be in a loving home with more attention and love. We long for them to have adequate medical care, the best therapy they can get, and proper diagnoses. We want them to be in the best environment so they can thrive. They have so much potential, would you consider bringing one of these little cuties into your home?

We have full confidence that here is not the best place for these incredible children to grow up. They are loved, but they are not thriving. They are not in a family. We know their general diagnoses, but do not know anything in depth because there is no place to go here that is qualified to do so. We often wonder what is best for our kids, but without knowing their individual makeup we are at a loss. We do what we can and aid them in improving their lives as well as administering any needed medicine, but it’s just not enough.

IMG_4761Doesn’t adoption cost a lot? Won’t it cost a lot for the ongoing care of a child like this? Yes adoptions cost a lot-too much. But, rates are reduced for special needs children. There are grants you can get for adoption in general and even more available for the adoption of special needs children. There is help available. Some of our children even have money already collected in an account through another organization that helps adopt special needs children. If God is calling you to do this, He will not leave out any detail. He has a plan and a way for the money to surface. He doesn’t promise it will be easy and I’m sure it will take a lot of trust, but He will see you through. He always does.

But, won’t it be hard?  Yes, it will be hard and it sure will change your life as you know it. You will be stretched and challenged (but you are in any adoption—you are in any parenting situation). Your life will be changed by this little one.

IMG_5637Luke 14:12-14 says “He said also to the man who had invited him, ‘When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast,invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” You will be blessed. There is no doubt in my mind.

DSC_9948They will put a smile on your face each and every day. They will show you unconditional love like so many of us fail to do. They will teach you a lot. You will rejoice in their little triumphs just as much as you would rejoice in any child’s triumphs. They will teach you how to slow down and just enjoy the pure bliss of living. They will teach you how to find joy in the little things that we all take for granted. They will show you Jesus in ways you never knew existed.

May 2013 Formals-523-2Your other children and the people your family interacts with will have changed perspectives. They will learn how to love those that appear different. They will fall in love with your little e one. They will be stretched and challenged. Their hearts will be open to a whole new population.

Exodus 4:11 says “Then the LORD said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? I love that God not only allows special needs, he thought them up and planned them out, even if we can’t understand why. His purposes are always far greater than we can understand. Sometimes they seem to make sense and other times they don’t.

Monel copyThe other night I was holding a child and praying so hard that his family would find him. I could feel God hearing my prayers, letting me know that he loved that child more than I did. I felt him telling me he had plans for that child–plans to prosper and not to harm him. I know God holds these children in his hands and near and dear to his heart, but I can’t help but to continue to pray for these kids to have families to call their own. Can you make that wait (for them and us) a little shorter?

Please prayerfully consider if adoption is right for your family. Prayerfully consider if a special needs child would make your life better (not easier, but better). Prayerfully consider how you can help a child find a forever family—making a little one yours, advocating, telling a friend, raising money, donating money, praying, or something we haven’t even thought of. If you cannot adopt for whatever reason at this time, pray. Pray that these children get to join a family soon, that they know they are loved, for the funds to surface, for obedient parents to find them, for them in general. There are ways you can donate to help the cost of adoptions for those that are in a position to do so (if you want more details let me know).

These kids need families!

P.S. Here is a link to an organization that helps adopt children with special needs. On this particular link our kids are all of the ones without pictures (we are not allowed to photo list our kids) http://reecesrainbow.org/?s=H-C.

DSC_0276These children deserve families. They deserve access to the best. They deserve to thrive. God has accepted us into his family which allowed us access to the best and has allowed us to thrive. Yes, I whole heartedly believe God has already accepted them with open arms, but being able to experience a portion of that feeling tangibly on earth is something everyone should get to experience.

Children of the Promise has given explicit permission for the posting of photos on this site. Photos taken of children in the care of Children of the Promise are not to be posted publicly without explicit permission given by Children of the Promise. 

A Heavenly After

This post is re-blogged from Jenna Clements’ blog, Overseas. 

Let’s be honest, we all love those before and after photos that so clearly show a child’s full transform from skin and bones to a chubby healthy baby.  The more dramatic the greater joy it brings! We love to see babies recover. It’s the reason we do what we do! I love when I can find the first photo taken of a child newly admitted and then 3 months later take a new picture and put the two side to side. I love seeing as the number of “likes” on the COTP’s Facebook page grow from 20 to 246.

Here is an example of the most recent before/after photo…

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Having a dramatically different before and after picture automatically shows that child as a miracle; showing how far they have come and sharing their healthy beautiful smiles with those lucky enough to see them. Sometimes we forget how fragile some of the babies are that come into the care at COTP. Their progress is gradual and sometimes it isn’t until we look back at the beginning that we can so obviously see the difference. Nothing speaks louder about the work here than a photo tangibly showing the progress a child makes in our care.

However, there are some after photos that are shared only with One. God is the lucky holder of those after photos.

Podelandine was brought to us by her father. Podelandine had kwashiorkor, a severe protein malnutrition, her legs, feet, around her mouth and ears were full of open sores because of the severity of her malnourishment.  Her father, having just lost his wife 8 days prior, knew he had to bring her because she was getting worse. Not knowing about COTP until just a few days before, he had no other place to go earlier for help.  Once hearing about COTP he quickly showed up at our gate asking for help for his daughter. She was admitted on April 8th, her 1st birthday.

Because of the sores covering her legs and feet, it was a struggle to find an appropriate picture to share on the COTP’s Facebook page. Yes, people do need to be aware of the reality of some of these children, but there is a fine line between showing the reality and having it posted publicly on Facebook for anyone to see without their choosing.  Because of this, the decision was made to not show this picture of Podelandin on Facebook. I am choosing to share this photo with you now because I want you to be able to see the reality and see her precious father who loved her so sweetly.

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Usually it takes a few days after a child is admitted to get a photo put up on Facebook, so because of this, I figured I would wait until we could get a more appropriate photo of Podelandin to post on Facebook. However, she passed away before I had the chance to let our followers on Facebook even know she existed in our care. Part of me can’t help but feel a little like I let those people down.

I only spent a few minutes with the sweet girl. As I was looking at her I couldn’t stop thinking about how beautiful she was. Something about her caught my heart. Those were the only two minutes I got to share with her.

So Podelandin didn’t get her famous before and after picture on Facebook. But what she got was better. She got to run into her Father’s arms in Heaven and be forever Heavenly healed. And that’s what gives me more Joy than any ‘after’ picture I could have taken of her.

An Introduction

The following post is re-blogged from Kerry Nutting’s blog, Of Being Occupied by Christ.  Kerry is the international nurse serving in Haiti. 

“I want you to meet someone.  Well, there are MANY people here who I would love you all to meet, but I’ll start with her: She’s my co-worker, student, teacher, sidekick, encourager, collaborator, teammate…and friend. Meet Dieulene, the Haitian nurse that works alongside me at Children of the Promise!   IMG_8750IMG_8932

Hired shortly after I arrived in Haiti, we’ve worked side-by-side for about 5 months.  To say she is a valuable asset to this team is an understatement. Working 6 days a week, she is the first person to open the Pharmacy each morning and begin the morning routine: preparing breakfast for one of our special needs kiddos who is on a tube feeding, administering medications, beginning therapy and addressing immediate needs. I arrive to the pharmacy shortly after her and always look forward to her greeting.  During the day, as health situations arise either amongst our own kiddos or visiting community members through our gate, it’s ood to be able to collaborate with her and work side-by-side with her.  And not only on health matters, but also in cultural and language situations.  She is ever so patient when I ask her to translate something for me, and is equally encouraging when I effectively communicate something in Creole to a patient.  She is also occasionally a little mischievous when I ask her to say something in Creole for me and she looks at me with a smirk in her eye and says, “No, you know how to say that!”

One of the amazing aspects of Children of the Promise as an organization is the number of Haitians that are employed here. I’ve been privileged and blessed by this opportunity to work alongside Dieulene.

Enjoy this little video that was recently made outlining a portion of what she does here.”

A Little Snippet

“Another little boy with special needs came in for a check up. I didn’t take his picture. It’s hard. I want to share with you, but I also didn’t want to share a picture of him just for shock value. His mom brought him in and he was all smiles. He couldn’t walk. His mom carried him here. We put him on the scale and he weighed 25 pounds. Ten years old. 25 pounds.Most American babies weigh that around their first birthday. I have a ten year old. He weighs 80 pounds and he is strong and lean. I don’t know what to do with that paradox. But, I have to do something.

And friends, you could tell by interacting with him, he was LOVED. His family just needed help. He has already gained five pounds on Medika Mamba since starting the program in the fall.”

Read the rest at… “That Cheesy Starfish Story” blog!

Stories Told

For volunteers, the “missions trip” to Haiti begins before stepping onto the plane. God doesn’t save His glory and power for the week or month that you are “serving”. God works in the months and days leading up to the trip and after the trip.  The story of how one is called to visit Haiti speaks powerfully into each others lives. It is those who visit who then hold the responsibility to share these stories.  Sarah Thacker has taken that responsibility and ran with it.

Sarah is an adoptive mother for a sweet boy born in Haiti.  After the earthquake in 2010, Sarah flew to Haiti to pick up her little boy in Port au Prince. After a whirlwind of a trip due to the post-earthquake state the country was in, Sarah returned to America with her son in hand.

Since her trip to pick up her son, Sarah has not returned to Haiti or seen the place her son spent his first years  – at Children of the Promise.  Until now.

Sarah is currently back in Haiti with a group made of up her husband, daughter, family, and close friends. Although a short trip, the group arrived late Tuesday and leaves Monday morning, the stories of a few days can be very powerful. And Sarah wants to tell these stories.

Sarah is partnering with COTP in a first ever “live blogging” from a volunteer standpoint. Sarah created a blog, “That Cheesy Starfish Story”.  On this blog, she will be sharing her thoughts and stories of while they are here in Haiti and continuing after they leave. Please partner with her and hear the stories of the week.

Here is a little glimpse…

“Haiti. Truthfully, I didn’t love Haiti on my first trip four years ago. In fact, I feel there was a promise I made to myself to never leave U.S. soil again.  I LOVED my son and I wanted to love Haiti for his sake. I’ve grown to love Haiti as I’ve advocated for it on behalf of its children. And I’m so glad that I broke that promise to myself and that we are all here!” read more.

This is Joy

Re-blogged from Kerry Nutting’s blog Of Being Occupied By Christ.

I was recently asked, “What about being at COTP brings you joy?”

Though put on the spot with the question, it was not hard for me to answer: One of things that brings me greatest joy here in my position at Children of the Promise is the opportunity I get to watch healing take place.

In January, we admitted a little girl – I’ll call her “Ella”  Though not as severely malnourished as some of the kiddos I’ve seen, Ella was visibly malnourished and dehydrated. Her daddy brought her to us out of concern because he knew she was doing poorly. Also, his wife, Ella’s mom, was really sick and in the hospital. He needed to go to the hospital to be with her and was worried that Ella would not be cared for well while he was away. So he brought her to us.

Thus began this story of healing.

Myself and a few of the other staff here took turns spending the night with Ella, waking her up at intervals throughout the night to feed her so that she would get enough fluids and calories to curb her
malnutrition and dehydration. As expected with most of our malnoursihed admits, she battled diarrhea and vomiting for a few days while her body readjusted to having a regular intake of nutrition. Before long, she was gaining weight and charming us all with her contagious smile and giggles. She moved into a room with other kiddos and nannies and continued to thrive. Health wise, within a few weeks, she was back on track. But as with most of our short-term admit kiddos, now came the task of discerning when would be the best time to reunite her with her family to ensure that she would continue to thrive.

By her dad’s description, I was skeptical that Ella’s mom would recover. His symptom report of “swollen legs, chest pain and on oxygen” sounded to me like some form of heart failure or kidney failure. Weekly, when he came to visit Ella, he brought me pharmacy prescriptions that he didn’t have the money to buy.  I gave him what I had on hand in our pharmacy and supplied him with money to get the rest. That’s one thing about the health care system here – before any health services or meds are given, they have to be purchased. So,if a patient needs an IV, whoever is with the patient must go to the pharmacy and buy the supplies and fluids needed and bring them back to the doctor to be used.

One day, dad showed up with a pile of orders requiring payment, which included tests (Xray, CT scan) and meds that added up to a pretty healthy sum of money…not outrageous, by any means, but definitely pushing the limits of our monthly community-aid budget. As I pondered how involved we were going to be able to become in this familiy’s financial needs, I kind of had my own internal crisis, a battle of reason, if you will.  Looking at the tests and the cost, I had to be realistic…would any of this make any differece? If I give him all this money, will it save her? Is she just going to pass away anyway? In which case, should the money be saved for the next person who will come to our gate asking for money who is not as critical as her?

As I talked this out with Erin, my fellow nurse who has lived here for close to 1 1/2 years, she said something to the affect of, “you have arrived.” Not necessarily a desirable place to have arrived to, but the place where, as a nurse in a third world country, I was weighing the possibilites and outcomes and deciding what would be the best use of our resources. What was realistic. How should we help? I decided that, before giving him the money, I needed to go and see Ella’s mom for myself. If she was as bad as I imagined, and on death’s doorstep (for lack of a better way to put it), I would then progress with the complicated conversation of encouraging that comfort measures be taken in preparing for her to pass away. But if it seemed as though the tests and meds could improve her condition and bring her home, then we were willing to invest in that. Again, I realize how horrible and raw that sounds, but that’s what it came down to.

Two things I’ve realized about my occasional thought process since being here:
1) I’ve become more skeptical. Appropriate or not, I am. In this story, I couldn’t help but wonder if Ella’s mom really was sick…or was this a really well acted ploy to get money from us?  But dad seemed truly genuine, plus he had legit prescriptions from the hospital, so I pushed that out of my mind.
2) I sometimes just see the medical cases and forget the personal lives behind them.  I think this can be true in many areas of occupation, not just medical, and not just in a third-world environment. I hand out the treatments, share medical advice and give directions and neglect to take in to account that they are someone’s loved one.  In this case, as I was rationalizing whether or not to give dad more money, I stopped to remember, “This is his wife. This is Ella’s mom. If she died, it would change their lives forever.”

Dad was very excited to hear that I would accompany him back to the hospital. I got a moto-taxi and made the familiar 30 minute trek to the hospital. Then I followed dad to her bedside. It was so special to meet Ella’s mom. First of all, the pure fact that Ella had both parents suddenly hit me.  Most of the time, kiddos are brought to us by grandma, aunt or sibling because mom was dead and dad may or may not be in the picture. Or dad brought them in because mom had fled and was nowhere to be found. But here, I was standing before two parents, mom and dad, who loved Ella dearly. Mom was beautiful.  Even though visibly sick, she was sitting up, smiling, and asking about Ella. Fortunately, I had thought to bring my camera with me and I had some pictures of Ella on it. She teared up as I showed her pictures of her daughter, and thanked me over and over again for taking care of her. Then, in my limited Creole, I asked about her health. Where was her pain? How was her breathing? All the while knowing that, even in America, heart failure/kidney failure (still not entirely sure what she had) was difficult to manage.

As I ended my time with them, I told them we were praying for her and then I held her hand and prayed for her (in English). I kissed her cheek, dad hugged me, and I handed him the money from COTP that he needed to cover the physician orders and pharmacy scripts. This momma needed to get better. She was going to get better.

A week or two later, I was at the hospital again for other reasons, but was able to go and visit her again. I had printed a picture of Ella to give to her. Printed pictures are a rare treasure here – she was overjoyed. I prayed with her again, and on the way out, pleaded with God to make her well and able to go home soon.

Praise the Lord, this past tuesday, I got to witness this story come full circle. Like my response to the question, this is what brings me joy: Seeing mom and dad walking together toward the pharmacy to pick up their daughter together; Seeing their faces light up at the sight of their beautiful, chubby little girl; Gathering in the pharmacy together – Haitian nannies and international staff – to sing and pray over them and say our goodbyes to Ella; Sending them home with a giant bag of supplies – diapers, wipes, formula, toys, clothes – to help in the initial days; Knowing that their family was restored.

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Not all of the stories end like this. Some kids in our care are brought to us because no one wants to care for them, so we counsel them through the process of filing for abandonment. Some were found abandoned in the streets and brought to us. Some are true orphans, no father or mother, and other extended family members simply do not have the resources to care for them. But while they are here, we love them as our own as we wait for their family – through adoption – to come and take them home, too.

-Kerry Nutting