Monday, February 22, 2010


For the last six months, I have been doing some research into the lives of those who were U.S. Prisoners of War in the Philippines during World War II. Many of them were survivors of the notorious Bataan Death March. They were subjected to starvation and malnutrition and the vitamin-deficiency diseases these conditions produce, including beriberi, scurvy and pellagra. Drinking dirty water led to dysentery. They were plagued by malaria, diphtheria outbreaks, and skin disorders. Their living conditions were substandard. As the United States concentrated on the European theater, they felt forgotten and abandoned. Some of them lost hope of ever being freed though for others, it was hope that kept them alive.

Their are obvious differences, but as I continue to read about these brave and resilient men, I am reminded of the Haitians. Not all of their problems are the same, but the Haitians suffer from many of the same hardships that the American POWs did. Even before the earthquake, parts of Haiti reminded me of POW camps. Poor Haitians are trapped in Haiti; other countries don't want them. Sometimes they sneak across the border and work as illegals in the Dominican Republic or take to the ocean in their makeshift boats. Once in awhile, a U.S. POW would escape.

I think for a long time, Haiti was a forgotten place, its people's sufferings unknown to others or ignored. At least for awhile, that has changed. And like the U.S. POWs, the Haitians don't give up. But also like the POWs, they need help. Let's give it to them in full measure.

The above picture was taken by Port-au-Prince resident Karen Bultje.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Live From Haiti?

It's been three years since I've actually been Live From Haiti. Hard to believe. Three years ago yesterday John and I flew home from Port-au-Prince with our son Luke after a seven-month sojourn in Haiti waiting for his adoption to finalize.

Despite my absence from our second home, I've been able to report on the good work other people, mainly my husband John, have been doing there. I've also been able to report on our Haitian Hearts patients.

Everyone knows a little more about Haiti than they did two months ago. I wonder how many times the word Haiti has been uttered in January and February? More than all the years previous combined, I bet. I hope the attention will amount to some positive lasting changes for Haiti.

In the meantime, we'll keep writing and trying to help Haitians as we can. Here is an article about Haitian Hearts and here is an article about how John has influenced one young man making a difference for Haiti. And one of these days, I'll really be Live From Haiti again.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Marie Myrtha Amazan: Rest In Peace

We received some sad news the other day. One of our patients, beautiful Marie Amazan died. We don't think her death was directly related to the earthquake, but we aren't sure. It didn't help, that is for sure.

Marie's fiance Junior had been reporting to us that she hadn't been feeling well. A day or so before she died, she went into some kind of a coma. She had lost her medicines in the earthquake, and that could have been a contributing factor.

Marie was operated on by the superlative surgeon, Dr. Bryan Foy at Provena St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, Illinois. Dr. Foy has operated on a number of our Haitian Hearts' patients who have had complex heart problems. They have all done very well post-surgically.

We mourn the loss of Marie. We know that she would want us to keep on working for others in Haiti who have similar problems. We will.
Pictured above are Marie and her friend Anita

Sunday, February 07, 2010


Our cousin is home from Haiti now. It seems like most of the teams go down for a week or at most two. I know of other teams going and hopefully this will continue for a long time. When you read the post below, you better understand why a week is about as much as a first worlder can take.

Another long, busy day in surgery full of fracture repairs and wound
debridement. The smell of the 3 week old wounds is overwhelming.
Poor sanitization conditions combined with long hot days spent in
crowded tents with little to no ventilation. Thank heavens for Vicks

I left the hospital around 8pm to return to camp. We now have running
water! I immediately headed straight for a shower, which really
consists of bathtub and garden hose pulled through the bathroom
window. It's freezing cold, but I can't wait to "come clean" of
today. I yell for someone outside to "turn on the hose!" and not
more than 2 minutes later hear a voice outside running down the alley
& coming toward the clinic. A nurse from the hospital pounds on the
door of the clinic for me to "come quick" to the hospital..."a stat c-
section". Still soaking wet, I throw on scrubs, call for Sandra (the
other anesthetist; & native Haitian), and we follow her back to the

We quickly gather whatever supplies we can find through all of the
mess of medical equipment just shipped in (thank you to all who
donated!). Turns out there are in fact 2 c-sections, but only one
surgeon. The most critical goes first: umbilical cord wrapped around
the baby's neck. Spinal block and within 4 minutes the baby is pulled
out, blue, completly limp, and lifeless. It was then that we realized
that there was no one available to take care of the baby, who is
cyanotic and silent. The surgeon continues to suture, while I leave
mom to help the baby ("patient abandonment" and illegal in the
US)...not to metion the fact that I know extremely little about labor
& delivery nursing! ...desparate times. Sandra takes over care of
mom, while I attempt to stimulate and suction the baby. Yes... I am
screaming for help the entire time. A Canadian ER doctor hears me
and comes to the rescue. Together we stimulate and suction large
amounts of aspirated meconium, and soon....crying. The most
beautiful sound in the world!

Sandra and I must quickly get ready for the 2nd c/sec. I wheel the
last newborn into the room with us. Again, there are so many things
wrong about the conditions we must work under, but we must just adapt
and adjust to what we have. There is no NICU. New babies and moms
get sent back outside to the yard (literally) just after delivering.
This baby was no where near stable enough to be left unattended.

Sandra & I were gettig ready to do a spinal block on the next mom when
a code was called on a baby that had been rushed into the hospital
from the "tent village". She just cried and pleaded (in Creole) to
help her baby. The infant was intubated and coded for over 20
minutes before time of death was called. I completely broke down. I
tried to hide behind my glasses ad mask as I cried right there on
front of everyone. It was unbearable. And even still, after
experiencing such heartache, I had to return to the OR to finish the
last c-section. I'm thankful I stayed. A difficult and cold as it
felt at the time, I needed a "happy ending". I got just that. One
loud, crying, healthy baby. As 2 new lives were brought into the
world tonight, one was taken away. A harsh and unjust life.

The hardest part about tonight was wondering and question to myself,
"what if?" ; "what if this baby had been in the US?". ...same baby,
same illness, only with better medical access. Would the outcome
have been the same?". I heavily doubt it. That's what makes it so
hard...wondering why some are so fortunate and priviledged, just by
the geographical location in which we have been born; while others are
born into nothing. It's just seems so unfair.