More ponderings from Haiti

Today I find myself sitting for hours – (in a lobby ruled by a no nonsense receptionist) at the Red Cross to donate blood – an apparently infamously looooong process here … And i find myself with an not all-together unfamiliar combination of extreme tiredness and antsiness as I wait my turn. Thank God for books and good company. As with any country, they find themselves with a severe shortage of blood products, so I’m quite happy to be here as my lack of blood donations has been causing me pangs of guilt for the last few years.

So some continuing reflections on Haiti and my time here. What is sinking in with more mental clarity is what a third world country really MEANS: it means that people DIE of what is easily curable or preventable in our modern cultures; it means that we can do NOTHING for these people because of lack of resources – medicines, tests, staff, facilities; it means that there is such a lack of infrastructure – from a good police force to structured street signs and rules – also resulting in so many tragic, needless deaths and impairments. We have seen gunshot wounds, way too many traumas from motor vehicle accidents – kids getting hit by vans, etc. Horrible. It also means that so many of the government run organizations that we all complain about so much (usually for good reasons, true) – like OSHA or the FDA, etc. – are not there to make sure people’s work environments are safe or food and medical standards upheld.

The following is Jean Louis’ story, which just helped to reinforce my ruminations. Yesterday I dropped by the spinal cord ward to visit with some of the paralyzed patients. One of the beds holds a charming, funny, bright-eyed 20 year kid. His story: he was a car mechanic working underneath a car when the jack broke, pinning him underneath, rendering him a paraplegic. He was taken to two hospitals but was not admitted; went home where he developed a large bedsore which became so infected, necrotic with the odor so bad that he finally told his family just to leave him out in the yard to die. All his family but his mother abandoned him. A neighbor actually came over one day to investigate what the foul odor was and found Jean Louis and took him to Port-au-Prince where the first three hospitals refused to admit him. Eventually General Hospital accepted him and debrided his wound only allowing it to again become infected for lack of care. They told him they could do nothing more for him and gave him a forced departure date. Fortunately, some friends made arrangements for him to be transferred to Bernard Mevs, where the plan is for him to become stabilized and transfer to a long-term rehab & wound care facility. He is happy here and being well-taken care of. His mother cried and prayed every day and had lost all hope. Now she says “…for the grace of God I have my son now.” Jean Louis wants to go to school and start a business.

So, I guess that it always sounds so cliche’ to say that we take so much for granted and I’m not sure that it’s always true except that it IS I think, speaking generally. Not purposefully blind or ungrateful, for sure, but how could you NOT take any blessing for granted till you either go through tragedy or near-tragedy or somehow, by GRACE have your eyes opened? I’ve been trying for a while and training myself to NOTICE beauty, to appreciate a hot shower, to tell people I love them but I also complain a lot, ignore people, walk past beauty, waste so much food and water and resources.

Anyway, here I am again, hours later: blood has been donated – (that was a bad-ass sized needle!) and we just got back from a lovely evening at a couple of the staff members apartments – way up on a huge hill that overlooks the whole city. Some good conversations and nice time with the staff and team. It was a really nice break and chance to see some more of the city as we’re not allowed to do any of the touristy things. There’s never really getting away though – we got a call while we were there that an American had just come in with crushing chest pain and needed to be flighted into the states asap. And away we go….lol. Good night, all! Continuing to process…I like this quote I saw recently by Tolstoy: “True life is lived when tiny changes occur.” Here’s to the courage to change what we can – whether it’s tiny or large.

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