Friday, September 24, 2010

Watch this

One of our doctors made this video.  It's awesome, even though he filmed the people doing files the 5 minutes during the whole two weeks I wasn't there!

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Facebook can be a really good thing.  John recently reconnected with his old college roommate, Jim.  Jim read John's posting about needing 3 people to drive the central Illinois people home from O'Hare last night.  Living in the Chicago area and having a free evening, Jim volunteered to be one of the drivers.  They caught up with each other and everyone got a ride home.

We all met up in the church parking lot and said our good-byes.  I met some amazing people over the last two weeks - some came home with us, others didn't.  I really can't wait to do that again.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Our last day in Haiti...

We worked a half day today, then shut down the clinic to do inventory for the November team.  We saw over 2500 patients and hopefully made a difference to a few of them. 

This is frustrating in SO many ways.  High blood pressure and diabetes is rampant down here.  We give them medication, but some don't understand that you have to take something every single day to fend off real illness.  Some live so far away, it's a 3 day walk just to get here - if they miss a clinic, they don't get their meds.  It's the same way for the 13 babies we put on a special diet during this clinic because of failure to thrive - some mothers will follow the program, some won't.  Even with all the frustration, I keep thinking that maybe one baby we help will grow up to do something to mend this broken country.

Then there are the patients that we can't do anything for.  They have to suffer here, but in their illnesses in the States would be easily treatable. 
Dr. Trainor

The boy with the broken femur never returned.

But, we saw our sponsored child, Danielson, and even got him to smile.  (He's a very serious young man.)  We saw some friend's sponsored kids too, and I'm happy to report that all of them are healthy, happy and doing well in school.

So now, we've said good-bye to all our interpreters, swam one more time at the beach, had our last beer at San-San's and played our last hands of eukre.  I will be glad to get home, but now I know why John loves it here so much.  I can't put my finger on it, but there is something about this place that really gets to you and pulls you in.  I can't wait to come back.
This is why we do what we do!!

John, working crowd control
Kathy and I, finding patient files

Me and Danielson

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I got a mani-pedi last night.

Neiva, one of the cooks, has a couple friends who does nails.  When Kate, our dentist, was here last March, they came to the clinic with three colors of polish.  She brought some more tools and colors for them this time.   A few of us supported the cause and sat outside on the porch, listened to it rain, sipped our Prestige, and got very pampered.  And then we had lobster for dinner, cooked in an open fire.

Mission trips should not be this fun.
John and his crowd control crew

Emil, cooking lobster

Monday, September 13, 2010


We had a really nice weekend.  Clinic was open for half the day on Saturday, and that afternoon we were taken to a beautiful beach, had lobster and a band played for us.  Then yesterday after a short worship service, most of us went for a drive around Jacmel.  I've been told that a lot of the rubble has been cleaned up from the earthquake, but many businesses are closed and it is a very depressed area.  We also went outside the city and drove past a "tent city."  I'm sure what is supposed to be temporary housing for these people will be permanent.  After that, we went to the hotel nearby and had rum punches and a wonderful dinner.  The yo-yo feelings after seeing the worst poverty and then enjoying a meal fit for a king - I can't begin to describe.

As far as we know, the boy I last wrote about did not go to the hospital.  His mother was told to wait for the doctors returning from the hospital in Jacmel (FOTOCH rents operating rooms at the hospital during clinics).  The rest of the doctors finished for the day and we closed up shop.  We checked our sources and heard that an orthopedic doctor was in town for the weekend.  But when we went to check on the boy, he and his mother were gone.  We were at least hoping to see him again today to reevaluate him and give him more meds.  I've seen a lot of pain, suffering and poverty over the last few days - but this one really gets to me.

at the beach

Dick and Barb Hammond - FOTCOH founders
One of the tent cities

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Hijinio and Holly with the boy

A mother carried her son into the clinic today.  The woman looked like she was in her late 50's and the boy looked to be around 12 years old.  It's hard to judge age in Haiti, especially since some of the Haitians don't even keep track of how old they are.  The son looked  like he could have weighed as much as his mother, and he was crying uncontrollably.  His knee was wrapped in a bandage.  We learned that a bolder had fallen on the boy - more than 3 days ago.  After the doctors examined him, they found that he had a broken femur. 

I tried to put myself in that mother's place - seeing my son in agony, and knowing the only way to help him was to carry him God-only-knows how far and listen to his screams the entire way.  Watching strange people do strange things to him.  Getting some sense of relief when whatever the doctors gave to him finally calmed him so that he fell asleep. 

I tried to put myself in the son's place.  The searing pain of breaking biggest bone in your body.  The wait.  The pain getting worse, not better. Then having to be carried - with no support whatsoever for that leg - to strange looking "blancs" that poke and prod. 

I cannot imagine.

The boy is being transported to a hospital.  The leg will require surgery.  Hopefully, we will get an update before we leave. 

The perseverance of these people astounds me.

Waiting for pharmacy

Friday, September 10, 2010


Best t-shirts we've seen so far:

"I 'heart' Boston"

Apparently, the Bears won the Superbowl a few years ago.  We've seen the t-shirts to prove it.

A guy wearing a Caterpillar employee shirt, with "Sheryl" over the pocket.

A large woman wearing a t-shirt that said "Designated wing man."

A cartoon of a snowman that said "I'm freezing my balls off."  Holly, of all people tried to explain it to him.  He didn't get it.

John still says the best one is from a few years ago - a very large, tough looking man with a t-shirt that read, "Trucker's Wife."

Signing off for my daily Prestige and we're off to the beach.

Dick Hammond and John

Thursday, September 9, 2010


The team is starting to fall into a routine.  Not being medically trained, I consider myself a "worker bee," getting up at 5:00am, to help start breakfast and the team's laundry.  We have oatmeal every morning and I haven't hung laundry on the line since I was a kid.  The Haitians waiting to see the doctors sit on benches in the middle of our underwear hanging over their heads on clothes lines.  I can't help but think they deserve better seating than that.

We have lunch and dinner prepared by Nieva and Andretta, FOTCOH's Haitian cooks.  They can make miracles happen with canned food.  Vine ripened avocados are reason enough to come here in September!!  And my friends and family know how much I appreciate the vine ripened tomatoes as well.    With the food, the Prestige beer, the Five Star Rum and the beach, this doesn't seem like much of a sacrifice.

I wish I could post photos right now, because I got some great ones today.  These kids literally have nothing, are malnourished and sick - and they still manage to smile at the "blancs" when they make silly noises and hug them.  I wish I could sit down and have a real conversation with some of our older patients.  Their weathered faces tell of a lifetime of hardship.

It rained buckets this afternoon, right at quiting time.  No beach today, so we'll just be hanging out.  Dr. Trainor is a euchre fanatic, so maybe we'll play tonight.  Sounds boring, but after a very long day out in the sun, I'm very grateful for boring.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Most of us were up at 5:00 this morning, helping make breakfast and getting ready for our first day of clinic. During clinic hours, I am helping with  patients files.  Matching up Haitian names with sketchy health  and personal information is not easy.  One woman we saw today went from being 63 years old to 57.  If word gets out about that, women from all over the world will be flocking to Haiti! 

The Haitians we have working for us during the clinic  - the interpreters, the pill counters, the workers, the cooks - are  all incredible. And all the guys LOVE "Boss John" and I guess I am "Madame John."

Wish I could post photos - maybe later in the week.  Working with borrowed laptops means that may have to wait till we get back. 

More tomorrow...

Holly with a patient

Monday, September 6, 2010

Holy buckets, it's hot down here

We finally made it to Haiti and to the clinic in Jacmel.  It only took two major airline planes, 2 very small planes, and 23 people crammed in a tap-tap (truck with a top) and two small trucks, but we made it.  We unpacked all the medication we packed, had our first rice and bean meal and already celebrated two birthdays.

It's not yet 9:00, and I AM BEAT.  Good night - more tomorrow.

At the Port-au-Prince airport, waiting for the small planes to Jacmel

Erosion on the mountains

Barb and Kate's birthday "cake"
John, Jeff and Sharon eating okra and piccli at Son-Son's

Friday, September 3, 2010

Here we go...

We're off to Haiti.

We're flying to Miami Sunday morning, Port-au-Prince Monday morning and then taking a small plane over the mountains to Jacmel.  The only reason I'm not REALLY nervous is because John has done this so many times and he has all the little things covered (like finding the money belt and passport holders, going to the bank and getting a huge wad of singles and fives to give out and getting little keychain flashlights so we can find our way to the bathroom at night...).  I still haven't packed and am worried about finding the charger for my camera.

For the record, we will have someone staying here and 2-3 other people coming in at various times to tend to the dogs.  If you are of the burglar persuasion and like to break into homes while the residents are out of town, stay away or be prepared to meet a few new friends, a couple nosey and retired neighbors who have nothing better to do than to watch our house, and 2 very vicious pugs.  I mean it.  They will rip your arm off.  The pugs - not the neighbors.  Well ok, maybe the neighbors too.

Feel free to follow along...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mom 2.0

Today is my mother-in-law’s birthday.  I’m not sure how old she would be today – late 70’s?  Early 80’s?  I’ve never known anyone for such a short time that made such a huge impact on my life.

 The obvious thing is that she raised John to be the man I feel for.  But for 6 months, from September 1983 to February 1984, she became my friend. 

I hadn’t known her but for a few weeks when John and I got engaged.  She made me feel so comfortable, I didn’t have any fears about temporarily moving in with John and his parents while looking for a job and a place of my own in the unfamiliar territory of Chicago suburbia.  I lived there for close to 2 months.  Dorothy and I would get up and have breakfast with John before he left for work.  Then we would lounge around for a few hours, look through wedding magazines, talk and watch Oprah.  On those mornings, I told her things I never told my best friends.  Then we might go out to lunch and/or shopping, and I sort of looked for a job.  We ate out every night.  After I found a job and got an apartment, Dorothy and I shopped for a bedroom set for me and John - their wedding present to us.  I will never forget her rolling around on the water bed while we were filling it for the first time, trying to get the air bubbles out.  Oh to have a video camera…

Dorothy was the person that introduced me to the profession of purchasing.  When I knew her, she had been a buyer before getting laid off.  Are you kidding me?!  People get PAID for BUYING things?!  Why didn’t anyone mention this glorious job to me while I was in college??!! 

I miss her.  I’ve said it for over 25 years and I will say it again – I truly believe that God gave us those precious few months together because without them, I would have missed out on a big piece of who John is.  But sometimes it’s hard not to think about her without feeling cheated of time with her - for me and John, for Jim and Hannah, for Diane and Mike.   She died very suddenly, a few months before we were married.  I still can't help but feel she should have at least been at that ceremony. She would have been the ultimate Grandma.  I’m sure she would have spoiled our kids  ROTTEN.  Hannah has been told many times that she is just like her.  It would have been nice for her to see that for herself. 

Mrs. K., I only knew you for a few months.  I can only imagine how your children grieve, and only hope I can impact someone's life the way you did mine.