12 January 2015

5 Years Since That Devastating Day

It's been 5 years since that devastating day. The one that shook the foundations of our lives and that of so many of our Haitian friends. The day that lives of our friends were lost and that colleagues of ours had to bury their babies, their wives, their brothers and mothers. The day that so much destruction surrounded us and so much hurt.

I remember the smell of the decaying bodies under buildings to this day, I remember bodies lying by the side of the road, I remember the horror of dump trucks needed to clear the bodies from the streets, and I remember the mass gravesite where they lay. I remember the patients lying in city hospital parking lots with gangrene infested wounds and more infections ensuing. I remember the tears in the eyes of our security guard as he told us he lost his 4 children. I remember my co-worker telling me that his daughter was stuck under a building for four days and I remember my friend who was trapped in his school building while he listened to his classmates die one by one.

In 2010 I was the Medical Coordinator of a mission clinic in the outskirts of Port-Au-Prince Haiti. It was this mighty little clinic that stood while others fell, it was this mighty little clinic that treated over 150 dying and injured people in the first few hours after the destruction. We had limited support and little pain medication. It was in this mighty little clinic that I saw more pain and injury than I care to see in over a lifetime or that I care to describe to you. It was in this mighty little clinic that I did not sleep for 33 hours straight and it was through this mighty little clinic that I coordinated 4 field hospitals, 150 medical personnel/week, a surgical unit that completed over 2000 surgeries and saw over 8000 trauma patients in the ensuing months.

From those first days, I remember limbs that needed to be amputated and I remember having to tell mothers we could not save their babies. I remember having to use heavy rocks to traction femur fractures and wood sticks as IV poles, I remember cleaning concrete out of wounds and stapling scalps back together. I remember reducing hundreds of fractures and stabilizing them. I remember the eyes of desolation and pain and then hope as the injured looked to me for help. I remember the burden of responsibility I took upon myself for the lives of every patient and the coordination of surgeries via US military helicopters around Port-Au-Prince.

Now I stand here 5 years later. It seems so near, yet so far. It seems like yesterday, yet a lifetime ago. A lot has passed since that terrible time and I am in a different place. I have healed from my post traumatic stress symptoms. A process that took 4 ½ years and the blessing of trauma counselling. I am now able to look back on this dark time without a quick heartbeat, tears, or the burden of guilt of not saving every patient. I have closure for the hundreds of thousands that never got a funeral and I am at peace with the world. I have joy.

As I look back I am able to see the hope, the light, the healing, the power in such an event like this. I am able to see the incredible strength of the human spirit that God gives us and I am able to see how His strength is enough to carry us through anything. I am able to see the incredible things that have been born out of the destruction. I am able to see how much Haiti has advanced over the past 5 years and how it continues to do so. I am able to see the spiritual change in so many who put their trust in God when they had no hope before. I am able to see the strength that has built in relationships and the resilience of so many. As I look back now, I see that difficult time not as one that defines my life in the here and now, but as one that will be a part of my past forever. I am able to appreciate so many people that were there that day for a reason and all the work they did to save lives. I am so thankful for those that came to help us save so many and I am so grateful for the lives saved. I am thankful that many have partnered with Haiti over the past 5 years to advance God's kingdom for the Haitian people through housing, food, medical care, and education. Most of all I am so inspired by the Haitian people and their drive to move on.

As I look forward I am encouraged by so much, I am empowered to use what I have learned from the past and to use it for good. I am excited to see how God continues to put Haiti on my heart and to know that I am blessed, so blessed in this life. I pray that people will never forget Haiti. I pray that people will continue to support Haiti and help to rebuild a great nation of people.

Nou Pap Janm Bliye (We will never forget)

Me and an ER physician exhausted in the middle of the night with body in background

Patient- loved them all-

Military chopper bringing wounded to our facility


National Palace
Mass Gravesite

A new Haiti, a new beginning

07 July 2013

Books and Blogs

I spent the evening printing out every blog entry we have done since we started out our journey to Haiti and back. I would like to keep them all in a book for our family to have for years. The good and the bad. It was quite the trip down memory lane. What feelings and memories it brought back! I could see the sights in my mind, hear the sounds and smell the smells. I smiled at the adventures of the kids and cried at the tragedy of many stories. As I was looking back to all our heart felt posts about life in Haiti and beyond even I am amazed at the power of the human spirit when you have God to depend on.

Many people have told me I should write a book and believe me I have started but life with 5 kids a full time practice and ministry, it is tough to find time to sit down and write. When I ponder this, I have many ideas...a book about my life as a missionary in Haiti; a book about just my earthquake and aftermath experiences as a medical missionary; an autobiography type about my whole life journey including my faith walk, kids, practice, mission work; just a blog entry type book like.. a diary of a missionary (I know overused) or a book filled with stories of individuals I had the honour of coming across.... How I wish I had the gift of writing like my friend Diana.

As I think about sharing my written expressions of my experiences there are times when I think that no one would ever be interested and then times where I think it would be important and wildly popular (these moments are usually when people tell me I need to write a book when all they know is I have a practice and 5 kids! If only they knew the rest ha ha). Most of all through any of my writings I would want others to see how incredibly powerful God is and how His strength will pull them through. I would want them to see the hope and the loving message of Jesus through the tough times.

As my eyelids slowly start to slip I will end my musings and continue to lean on the wisdom of the Lord and let Him lead me always.

04 March 2013

God is Great

God is great. I remind myself of this often when second guessing myself on His plan to move us back to Canada. Since coming back we have moved to a new house, the kids have all started new schools, I have started a new practice, Laurens well Laurens has jumped back into the same job he had before and the dog finds any piece of sunshine on the floor to lie in on his lazy afternoons. Teagan has had a close friend pass away as have I.

Our family all has different thoughts on our life over the past year and a half and it is a strange thing to integrate into a materialistic culture after living among such poverty. It is a difficult thing to see such loss, trauma and destruction and then be among those who will never know such pain.

It is tough to gather your empathy for patients with 1st world problems and to understand that to them it is indeed a big deal. It is hard to be in a workplace where some complain about the government they work for, that they do not make enough money or do not understand the value of hard work. It is hard to walk amongst the high school halls of kids that do not "get" our inner selves and it is hard not to miss catching spiders and lizards or running barefoot over the dusty rocks.

I am surprised at how long it takes to feel "normal" in 1st world culture again on the other hand I am infinitely grateful that I do not feel "normal" yet. I hope I never do. We are still working through how God wants to use us in Canada. We have so much more to give and are praying through how to do that. We are trusting in His greatness, His wisdom, His grace and His direction. We have become in tune to those moments where He speaks to us and those moments He nudges us.

We have had so many successes over the past year and a half and we are so grateful for our kids. We love following their lives. We have been told from all teachers each one of them are good role models for peers, they have received top marks and have won so many medals and ribbons we can't keep track.  God is great. We know that as our kids progress, they will have low points and high points but we pray that they know that God will get them through them all.

We are looking forward to great years ahead. We are so blessed. Please pray that God continues to go before us and we keep our eyes fixed on Him

31 July 2012

Prayers lifted up

Life has a way of passing you by when immersed in so much change. This past 6 months we have been meaning to blog about our life back in Canada, how much we miss Haiti, the trips we have taken back to Haiti since moving back to Canada but we have been busy enjoying life in the moment day by day.

Do you ever notice how independent you get from God when things are going good? Maybe you find yourself reading your bible less, praying a little less earnestly or sharing God's life changing power less often.. This week our daughter Teagan's friend Kenton tragically drowned while swimming at his cottage......Life has a way of putting things in perspective from time to time. There is nothing is like a young 15 year old full of life and opportunity losing his life so young. Having your child loose someone close to them is something we have not experienced before and it is tough to see them suffer.

Kenton was a young man who at first meeting filled the room with life. He was one of the young teens that was inspired by the stories Teagan brought back from Haiti and one of those that went on her mission trip to Mission of Hope with her in March. Even though Kenton's life was cut short, we praise God for His infinite wisdom and we praise God for giving Kenton the life changing experience he had in Haiti. We praise God for who Teagan is and how he gave her the strength to share her experiences that lead to such great things.

Read about their experiences including Kenton's thoughts and Teagan's last blog at Stop and Think

Hug your kids, enjoy all moments, lift up your prayers and trust in God always...