A view from a roof in Port au Prince


Enjoying a Change of Pace

"And once the storm is over you won't remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won't even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won't be the same person who walked in." Haruki Murakami

The last month was a challenging one for me. I had kept pretty quiet about it, but the last few weeks have been difficult. I started doing a lot of non-nursing tasks for the hospitals and the volunteers that were visiting. It was draining for me and I wasn't loving it the way I wanted to love what I am doing. On top of that- I was really exhausted from meeting new people every week and feeling like I had to put on a show of happiness and a willing to help attitude. It's like having a house guest that will never leave! After a couple of days of trying to hide from the volunteers at all cost and pretending not to hear them calling my name throughout the compound, I decided I should probably voice I was not happy. I talked to the board about this and they were very accommodating about getting me back into the nursing scene. This offered me a change of pace and more time working with the sweet Haitians that I love so much! It's a gradual transition. I am training in some Haitian staff to take care of some of my old duties and I am trying to help the volunteers gain independence during their stay in Haiti. Really, it's better for all of us :)

For the last two weeks I have been working in the Emergency Room. Our ER is very different than one you would find in the United States. First of all, it is inside of a tent! It is one room that sometimes has the supplies you need, it is hot when the sun is beating down on it. We have 3 beds. It is always staffed with one Haitian nurse and there is a medical resident on call. There are also several other non-medicals that will be found at any time. There are a few guys that help transfer patients, clean up spills, and run to get things when we need them. They are very loyal and dedicated to their jobs and are such hard workers! We also have an interpreter that is usually in the ER. He used to live in the states and his English is great.At night and on the weekends they move the ER into a small room in between the Maternity unit and Medsurg. I've gotten to know the residents and the ER nurse really well. I love being the first to see the patient, asking questions and challenging my critical thinking about what could be going on. The age of my patients ranges. Last week I had a 1 day old baby and yesterday I had an 82 year old man. My favorite are the pediatric patients! I've removed staples, practiced doing sutures, and gotten IV practice on all sorts of patients.This week there is an American ICU nurse here and we have been working in the ER together. She has a lot of experience and I like watching the way she thinks and mimicking the order in which she does things. It's so much fun to be learning so much every day. The last two days have been very busy in the ER and we had really serious and complicated cases.

Last week I had my friend Tina here with me in Haiti. We met at the hospital here when I had only been here about a week in January. She had been here after the earthquake and during the cholera outbreak- she frequents the hospital quite often. This was her third time here since I arrived and each time I get to know her better. She provided me with comic relief and a roommate for two weeks! We also had an extravagant(at least for me!) two day getaway to the Dominican Republic which was complete with hotel, horseback-riding on the beach, movie theater, and going out to great restaurants. I had a SMOOTHIE! I was so excited. We went to a town called Cabarete with two other friends. The drive was about 4 hours. It is such a nice vacation spot! Tons of hotels and restaurants right on the beach with soft sand a great view. It is also the windsurfing capital of the world!

Today I had to do one of my last airport runs- thank the Lord! I went to train in the interpreter that will take over that job for me. I instructed the driver to park the car somewhere and ask some kids to come wash it. A car wash would be a glorified term. They take a dirty little rag and some equally dirty water and scrub away. The kids are about 8 years old and are clearly not very into the whole cleaning thing. Their distant stares and repetitive hand motions give it away. I make sure they clean well, and at the end, I buy them lunch. There are so many hungry kids at the airport. I can't ignore them, but I hate encouraging handouts. Now I make them work for their meal. They wash the car or run into town to buy some mangoes or pineapple for me. I have a couple of elderly and disabled people that I feed too. One man has to be at least 80 years old, no more than 80 pounds, and if I'm generous in guessing, maybe 5 feet tall. He wears baggy clothes and a side baseball cap. When music plays he dances by himself in the street. I am so fond of him. Today I gave him a plate of food along with the others. The interpreter with me told the bunch of them that they could share with other people if they wanted to. I glanced at the old man's backside and saw him clearly shaking his head "no." It made me laugh as I related his actions the many other stubborn elderly I have known before!

The sky is cloudy today. I'm going to try and walk to Michelet's house this afternoon without getting stuck in the rain. I have a group of high school girls here and they are eager to hold and bathe babies so I know they would love the walk through the neighborhood and a visit to my favorite babe!

So, that is the last couple of weeks. More updates later :) Life is teaching me so much and I have so many thoughts to share... so keep reading

One of the great hotels I had dinner at in the Dominican! 

The sutures I did on a facial injury


  1. Lisa,
    Read your posts. I understand frustrations. I have spent great deal of time in Ayatí and my wife and daughter are Ayaisen. We are in Texas now. Culturally you are not going to change Ayasiens. One thing many of us Americans realize is they are proud of their country and do not want to be like USA. For example my wife mistrusts every doctor and dentist we have seen in Texas and won't even go to get her tooth pulled. She thinks day to day as well and thinks I'm an idiot and greedy for having a 401(k) plan at work. She enjoys U.S. but I believe wants us to return to Ayatí. Aysiens think differently. For example when we go to Mass she really likes to dress up and finds it more important to look real nice then be there on time. Nevertheless I love her and she loves me and we do our best. Believe it or not most Aysiens I know mistrust most of the blan missionaries in Ayatí. My wife thinks blans have made Ayatí have problems and want to go there to make themselves feel good. She even thinks blans were behind earthquake and Martelly is one who caused the cholera epidemic.
    bless you and keep to your work.
    I know you are not Catholic, but perhaps attend Mass. Difference I find is many of my Protestant friends attend church it seems to get something out of it, fellowship or to feel good. I attend Mass for sacrifice of body and blood of Christ. Yes, I enjoy fellowship but save that for after Mass.
    Eric Adams

  2. Thanks for your input Eric, it is very interesting. I am sure your perspective has opened up immensely from your Haitian wife and child. It is beautiful that you mixed cultures and keep fighting the fight even when it seems difficult and like you two cannot understand each other.

    Haiti has been my biggest lesson in life thus far. If I can give just a piece of what Haiti has given to me back to the Haitian people... I know that some NGOs and blans with good intentions have unintentionally made things worse for Haiti.. unfortunately it is a learning experience and we are all aching to find the answer of how to truly help Haitians.

    I will never know exactly how the Haitians view me or the work I do in Haiti. I hope our friendships and love are as true as they feel.