Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Wall

I hit it. The wall that is. Both literally and figuratively. Luckily, the literal part was just hitting the wall and not punching it or I would probably need our visiting orthopedic surgeon to look at a broken wrist or something.

I just got back from watching another baby die after life saving efforts that just weren’t enough. The staff all did a great job but it just wasn’t enough. I guess it took an experience harkening back to my day in Tchad working in a rural 45 bed hospital with one doctor and few supplies to remind me of the absolute frustration in not being able to save someone because of something as simple enough as having the supplies or personnel you need. We have some supplies in great excess (please don’t send anymore rubbing alcohol, crutches, or breast implants). Others, like micro tubing for peds suction is nearly absent. Staff we have too. Most of them don’t have the training they need to respond to this kind of situation. Most of the really qualified doctors and nurses are working with the international NGOs who can pay way more than we can. So what do we do? Bring in trainers and look for better ways to equip our staff, giving them the knowledge and physical resources they need to do their jobs. And that seems to be where I come back in to the equation.

My role here in Haiti is greatly different from that in Africa. In Africa, I was the one doing hands on medical care, bagging neonates, transfusing malaria babies with hemoglobin’s of 2, and being an extra set of hands on an emergency cesarean section because there was no one else around. Here in Haiti, I don’t even take anyone’s temperature. (If we do get slammed by cholera, I’m sure some of this may need to change). Here, I’m the one trying to make sure that all my doctors and nurses have what they need to do their job. And we don’t have it. Not by a long shot. And it’s driving me nuts. Sure, we were already running lean, but this week and over the over the next month or so, two MSF clinics and the German Red Cross are all shutting down. We’re getting referrals from places we didn’t know existed a few weeks ago. Our peds unit is overflowing and still reeks of urine and BO from before you even enter its doors. The suction machine is easily 40 years old and for some reason we still have trouble getting oxygen and all the parts that go with it. To top it off, because of foreign promises that still haven’t come through and because of culture and tradition, we still have a person designated as “key holder” who has to let us in to anything of value. Today that was simply opening the door for the ramp so I could wheel some oxygen to peds. When seconds count, I don’t have time to go looking for a key from a person I can’t seem to find half the time.

So where do we go? Well, even though it still makes me literally sick when I think about this newborn’s eyes rolling back in his head after the decision is made to stop intervening, I really think I needed to see this happen first hand. It happens multiple times a week already and I hear about it from all the medical staff and see how crushing it is for them and many of them are at the end of what they can endure. I didn’t realize how much this all could be avoided or at least given a huge shot in the arm. We need more stuff…

Please read the rest.

We don’t just need “stuff”. We have plenty of “stuff” (I wasn’t kidding earlier about the breast implants). We need basic equipment. We need steady supply chains of the same meds and materials (preferably in a language someone here can read). We need more storage areas. We need more space. We need more staff. We need better-trained staff. We need housing. We need more money to pay our staff and buy the oxygen that costs so much every week.  We need more money for                         . We need more money.

And at the end of it all and before it all we need more God. God has blessed this place is so many ways that I can’t begin to describe. There are so many amazing plans for this place for the future but the current situation is so bleak sometimes. Some things never seem to change.  I need to be reminded daily that “God is God and I am not. I can only see a part of the picture He’s painting”. It pains me to surrender my life to God that way. I so badly want to just “do” something. But really, if I did it all, I would be taking God’s job away from Him. Plus, we were never created to bear all this sinful world has to offer. He knows that and is why he asks to lay all these burdens on Him. If I truly hand everything over to Him, I will be able to do my job better because it will be Him directing me and not me trying to do everything. And even though I can rarely find the time to slow down long enough to admit this, it really is a great comfort to realize that the God who spoke the universe into existence is still here in Haiti and wants only the best for all of his children.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Jesus, Book of Matthew, 11:28-30.