What a ride this has been so far. We are approaching our final weeks here in Haiti and we all could not be more sad. Truth be told, I did not expect to feel like this at all, but a shift started happening in my heart about a month ago. There is just still so much to do here, so many people to love, and so much help that is needed.
I post a few pictures a week on social media, highlighting a child or family’s story. Most of them are gut wrenching and difficult to write about and comprehend, but the reality is that those stories and moments happen every single day here-several times a day. There are so many that I have not shared simply from the fact that we are exhausted and cannot formulate the words.
The ones that we have shared, I want to thank those back home who gave specifically for those needs: hospital bills, medication, food, baby formula, supplies, etc. We have lost some monthly supporters during our 6 months here and so it has been a little difficult to cover these things ourselves. We so appreciate those who have graciously trusted us and given to meet these immediate and critical needs. Thank you. From the families that don’t have a voice here, and who thank us every time they see us. Thank YOU.
The baby we stumbled upon who hadn't eaten in 3 weeks.
Thank you friends who responded quickly and helped us!
I'd like to brag on my husband for a bit. He already shared a little of this story but I’d like to share more. The day before Mother’s Day, I was making my rounds and visiting houses in the village. I came to check on a little 13 year old girl, who I’ve known for over 2 years now. She was living at the orphanage when I first came to Haiti by myself. She has a number of medical issues, one of them being a previously undiagnosed heart condition. She has always been extremely thin. She is probably one of the skinniest kids in our village. As a 13 year old now, she weighs maybe 40 pounds. I check on her frequently, to make sure she’s taking her medication, and making sure she and her family have adequate food. One of the biggest challenges for families here is that there are hardly any jobs available. It is not that they are unwilling to work, it is just so difficult to find work. A lot of times, women will wind up working at the local brothel. They get paid $2 for sex. Then they take that money and buy food for their families. Tass, our friend Cullen, and I rack our brains daily on how to come up with jobs for these people.
For Bethsaika (Bet-sye-kuh), the 13 year old, Tass and I have supported her and her family for quite some time now. I know the mom does what she can, but oftentimes it is not enough. It had been a couple days since I had seen her, and so about a month ago I was on my way to visit her. When I got to her house, the neighbors told me that she was not there. Bethsaika had taken a turn for the worse the day before and the mom took her to a hospital. The doctor said she needed an EKG test done about 2 hours away. When the mom realized she could not afford the test, as a last ditch effort to save her daughter’s life, she took her to a voodoo/Catholic/Christian “worship” center where she had to pay all that she had to have this priest pray for her all day. I arrived at her house that day…when she had taken Bethsaika to the worship place at the next town over. The neighbors told me she would be back later that night. We went back, and when I found her, her teeny tiny little body was puffy and swollen from her head to her toes. I am no doctor, but I thought that was a really bad sign. She was struggling to breathe. She couldn’t stand. She just sat there gasping for air, and the mom seemed hopeless, as the worship place she had just paid for had not worked. Now she was just waiting to die.
I facetimed my mom and let her examine this precious child via video. It was a Saturday and no hospitals in our area were open. Most hospitals in Haiti close on the weekends. Don’t ask me why. Nothing makes sense in this country. As my mom got a look at her, she told me that this child’s lungs were filling up with fluid and that she was literally drowning from the inside. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more helpless in my life. I had my arms around this weak, stone-faced child, gasping for her every breath. My mom feeling helpless too, said, “can you ask her if it’s ok if I pray for her right now." I asked Bethsaika, and she let out this agonizing wail, and then just started weeping. She knew she was dying. My mom prayed for her, in between sobbing herself, and after hugging and kissing her, I went back to our home and jumped online and searched for ANY hospital in Haiti that might be open on weekends. Our two ministry leaders were out of the country at the time, but they had empowered us to make decisions and so we did not hesitate to do all that was necessary for this girl. I told my husband we’ve got to get her to a hospital. I found a hospital in Port-au-Prince that said they were open on the weekends. It was a Haitian hospital funded by Americans with American doctors and nurses doing rotations among the Haitian staff. We decided if she made it through the night we would take her first thing in the morning.
My husband woke up early, went and picked up Bethsaika and her mom while I stayed with our girls here. I desperately wanted to go but I knew both of us couldn’t be gone, and the road situation in Port-au-Prince was dangerous. In addition to a major bridge collapsing causing backed up traffic for hours, the Haitans were also at it again with the protesting and roadblocks. There was a very good chance we could have gotten stuck in the city for who knows how long. I knew Tass had to be the one to go.
They made it to the city and found the hospital. My husband said there were dozens of Haitian standing at the gate asking to be let in, crying in pain and agony. Because he is white though, they let he and Bethsaika in right away. It is a very sad reality of the way things run here. They admitted her to the pediatric ward, which was nothing more than a small portable building packed full of kids. They got her on oxygen and started doing their tests. Once they realized she needed an EKG they told us there were only 2 EKG machines in all of Port-au-Prince and they didn’t have the machine at the moment. We had to wait a couple of days for our turn with the machine, and once we got the all clear, they took her by ambulance to get the test done.
A few days later we got the results which said she has pulmonary hypertension: a very treatable heart and lung condition with proper medication. The only problem was that she had gone so long with this, undiagnosed, that the damage to her arteries was too severe. Her heart was trying to pump the blood but the arteries were too narrowed and damaged. Her heart was now enlarged and she was in heart failure. Once they realized all of this, they started her on Viagra, believe it or not, because Viagra works at opening up the narrowed arteries.
After about a week of her being in the hospital, we got word that the medicine was not working as well as it should and that she was going into a rapid decline. I knew I had to go see her, if anything, to say goodbye. I just wanted her suffering to end-whether if that was by God doing a miracle in her life, or by God taking her home. She has suffered too much and for so long, all I could do was pray that it ended. Tass and I decided to go the next day together to see her. It was the same day Tass’ parents had flown in so someone needed to go to the airport to pick them up anyway. We got up at 4:00 am, and set out before all the roadblocks and protestors could start.
About 20 minutes from our home, we encountered a large semi turned sideways blocking the entire road. It had been robbed right before we got there, then turned sideways, and then set on fire. I gotta say, it was one of the smartest roadblocks I’d ever seen. Usually they will just put tires on the ground and light those on fire so no one can pass; but an entire semi? The protestors were upping their game. Our driver saw one tiny little opening between the semi and a house that we could maybe squeeze by. I folded the car’s mirrors in, and with a silent prayer, asked God to help us fit. Literally a centimeter more and we wouldn’t have made it passed. No car behind us could fit through. We were the only ones who made it. I knew God wanted us to go see this little girl.
What normally should take about an hour to get through the city, took about 4, with all of the traffic from the collapsed bridge. We off-roaded a little bit, went through some sketchy areas, but eventually made it to the hospital. She was sleeping when we arrived. I saw the look of exhaustion on her mother, as she had been sleeping in a plastic chair, upright, for the past week. In Haiti, you aren’t provided your own nurse-not even your own bed sheets. You have to bring everything. The mother knew this, and was prepared, but still-she looked so exhausted. I took a look around the pediatric room, and every mother in there was exhausted. About a dozen kids and babies crammed into one portable, with a chair for the mom or relative helping to take care of them. I looked around the room: in one direction some young kids laid in comas. They were beaten up pretty badly. I looked in the other direction and saw a baby whose intestines were on the outside of his body. Another baby’s head was three times the size of his body. The room felt hopeless. It was a very sad room.
When Bethsaika woke up and realized we had come I will never forget the smile she made. It was weak, but I could see the hope that came across her face. I fed her, held her, and savored the time with her, not knowing if it would be our last.
Ellie, our 8 year old, the night before, said she wanted to give up her tablet full of games and movies so Bethsaika had something to do in the hospital. Tass pulled it out and gave it to her but she was too weak to hold it, so we held it up as she put on Beauty and the Beast. The opening song played, “Bonjour, bonjour, bonjour bonjour bonjour!” and the kids who were awake all perked up to listen. The moms perked up too. I burst out in song and attempted to put a smile on everyone’s face. It worked.
We had to leave about an hour later and pick up Tass’ parents from the airport, so we said our sad goodbyes. Once we got them we started the long, bumper to bumper smog filled, hot journey back home. We got stuck on one road for quite some time, so our driver decided to turn around and find a different way out of the city. We went through another sketchy part of town on what you could barely even call a road. After some time maneuvering our way through shacks and tents and people’s backyards, we encountered some men who had some shovels and were doing some work. Once they saw our car coming, they immediately blocked the one lane “road” and told our driver to give them money or else they would decapitate him. I felt a little at fault because I, a white American girl, was sitting in the front seat. If it was just a Haitian driver by himself, they probably wouldn’t have bothered or stopped him-but they saw me and of course assumed we had money on us. The driver said, “nope I don’t have any." The men, with the shovels in hand, approached our vehicle slowly and the driver reiterated again “I seriously don’t have any money”. I knew our driver wasn’t going to pay. Once again, all I could do in these types of situations is pray that God would protect us. Once the men realized we seriously weren’t going to pay, for whatever reason they decided to step out of the way instead of carrying out their threat, they let us pass. Maybe we shouldn’t go off roading anymore and just sit in the bumper to bumper traffic.
After a nice week with Tass’ family here, we got a call one afternoon that the hospital was discharging Bethsaika that day because she no longer needed oxygen and there were more emergent kids needing to be seen. They told us the final hospital bill and we said, “no problem, we will come pick her up the next morning and pay the full amount.” Sadly, we received a call that night, that the hospital had kicked Bethsaika and her mom out of the room because they needed the bed. They had no place to sleep. It was late. It was pouring rain outside and they had to sleep on a bench. We were infuriated with the hospital, but apparently this is common practice. We felt so bad that we couldn’t get to them, but we sent our nurse early the next morning to pick them up and pay bill.
We have kept a close eye on her ever since, with several house visits a day: making sure she is eating the right kinds of food (no salt!), making sure she is taking her many medicines, and just being there for her and her family. The whole community was so happy to have her back. Honestly, I didn’t think she’d be back. I get scared thinking about what happens when we leave in a few weeks. I did buy the mom a working phone yesterday and will put data on it so that while we are in the states she can give me updates and we can keep in touch.
Tass' parents: Shelley and Alan
All that to be said, my husband is the one who did the brunt of all of this work and I don’t think he’ll ever know how grateful I am for it. We decided early on that we would take responsibility for this girl, and if that meant draining our savings, we would do it. She is worth it. Her life is worth it.
My parents came for a quick visit last week and it was so wonderful for me to see them. I loved having them come along with us in our day-to-day responsibilities here. They also brought with them loads of shoes, clothes and snacks for the people in our village. Having both sets of grandparents come visit within two weeks was so refreshing for our hearts! We are looking forward to spending more quality family time with them when we return at the end of June.
As I said earlier, there are so many things that happen each and every day, but our family has definitely gotten into a wonderful groove of functioning here. It’s nowhere near as difficult as it was our first three months. Sure it’s hard-absolutely. But it’s a good kind of hard. The kind of hard that we can look back on and be so grateful and happy that we were able to do this.
We still do not know what the future looks like for our family. We are leaving Haiti June 24 and will be back in the states on the 25th. My husband has already begun looking for work. If you are one of our monthly supporters with a recurring online donation and you would like to extend your support one more month while we are back and our family is transitioning, that would be a huge help to us if you are willing and able to do that.
We will also be working remotely for Mission of Grace-continuing to help with coordinating teams, projects, and being a voice for the people of Carries. We will likely be doing some speaking and more fundraising as well. Mission of Grace has taken on a lot of responsibility in their desire to help meet needs and oftentimes they cannot meet their monthly budget. Our heart is to support them in all of their efforts. We have grown to know the leaders and to trust them and their vision. We support it fully.
If while we have been here you have been touched by the work that they and we are doing and would like to give, there are several different ways:
You can click on the button below to give to Mission of Grace directly, and they are very much in need of monthly recurring support.
We’ve also been using an app that is extremely fast and secure and has been proven to be the best route when emergencies come up. It is called Square Cash and is available for iPhone, Android, and can be done through your web browser. It is essentially like transferring cash from one bank account to another, and it is instant. If you’d like to give via this route, clicking the button below will take you to our giving page.