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Loss is a void. Love is how you fill it.

When you work in a place where loss is an every day occurrence, it changes something in you. Empathy is always there, yes, but when you’ve seen so much loss so often you begin to get a little numb to it. That’s a harsh reality of the medical profession. And it’s not to say that you’ve become cold or indifferent. Not at all. It’s just that the acceptance of loss can be part of your routine. It loses some of its smack that way and you catch yourself saying those time-honoured clichés… it’ll be ok or it’ll get better with time. But loss has a way of reaching you when you least expect it. An unwanted surprise when the phone rings in the middle of the night.

I guess I keep my cards close to my chest. I don’t usually air what I’m feeling. I internalize a lot. But perhaps writing this blog is cathartic, maybe even selfish, as I hope to find some solace in sharing the experience of loss with others. Maybe they’ve been down this road. Or maybe this is just my way of filling the void. Doctors often find a place to hide their emotions, take a deep breath and deliver bad news. I never quite developed the skill for it. God bless those who have. It’s probably why I chose a specialty that deals largely in fixing things when they can be fixed. There are always better odds on a happy ending.

But life is predictably unpredictable. As soon as we are old enough to understand what it means to live and breath, we realize the antithesis. Yet no matter the duration of this knowledge, the loss of a loved one is overwhelming, like being hit with the harsh truth of life, smacking you in the chest, leaving you breathless.

Last month, my father-in-law, Richard Taylor, passed away suddenly of a massive heart attack. He was 65. He was not only Allison’s dad but also my children’s “pops,” and my friend. The relationship between a father-in-law and his son-in-law is storied to not always be an easy one. Rick made it look easy. He taught me that it was ok to live different lives, to try and accomplish different goals, to wear different hats, as long as you had the equipoise of family first. That piece of wisdom has meant so much to me.

I’m travelling home, trying to reconcile a memorial service, which I just attended for someone who had such a large influence in my family’s life. The service itself was a beautiful and moving tribute to a dynamic, caring husband, father and grandfather.

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With a fire truck standing guard outside, and a sea of black uniformed solemn fire fighters inside, surrounded by family and friends, it concluded with a five-bell salute, the fire code that the truck is home safe and sound. There were multiple testimonials about the different facets of Rick’s life as a fire fighter, paramedic, pastor, youth leader, friend, and colleague. It was a heartfelt capture of his life.   There were many sad moments, many breathtaking memories, but perhaps the true reflection of his life, his true memory, was in his grandchildren playing happily while remembering their pops with the innocence that only belongs to children.

But the void is still there. I see it most dramatically hanging over Allison’s head. She smiles for the kids’ sake. She greets friends and visitors. She’s being the rock she’s always been. But look closer. There’s that thousand-mile stare that comes with grief. Loss is hard but seeing how it weighs on the ones you love, that feels even harder. I started writing this by wondering what fills that void. What gives you your breath back. Then it hit me. It’s not about the void. It’s about celebrating the legacy. Rick’s is already overflowing with the love of his family and everyone who remembers him.

I’ve done countless presentations on Broken Earth to audiences of all sizes. But the thought of having to stand up in front of group and say a few words about Rick… that, that was the most intimidating. Below is an excerpt of my remarks from his service that I wanted to share with you…

 

“Pops” lived his life with the frequently proclaimed mantra: Peace and Love. He did this by committing his life to service. In fact, I think it is accurate to say that he lost himself in service to others in need, and thereby to God and most importantly, to his wife, daughters and family.

 I first met Rick in 1997, before Allison and I were dating. It was immediately obvious that he had an intense and immense love of life. Since those years, I was privileged to learn myself how to open my heart… to learn from him that there are no limits to love.

Rick always led by example. He ran into buildings from which people were running. Flew into accident scenes from which people were fleeing. I often wondered how many people are alive today, how many people can live freely today because of Rick’s courage and service to others.

Rick was a spiritual person. He served God and his community. I was a full-fledged member of the family when Rick was a pastor and I observed his dedication to the community: baptizing, running church camps, officiating at weddings, administering the last rights. Rick was a spiritual leader.

Beyond saving lives and his spiritual ministry… even beyond golf… Rick’s most heartfelt service was to his family. His commitment to his family is something I strive to emulate daily. His love and dedication to his wife was the stuff of art… forty-four years! I’ve watched Rick and Deb interact with such poetic flare, such music, that they always seemed to be on their first date. Rick’s smile was always a tad wider when Deb was in the room. 

In truth, because of his dedication to Allison, I owe my family life to Rick. The day Allison’s medical school application was due, Rick had to race across town to get a transcript and have it post-dated the same day. When the first post office was closed, he raced to another one and begged the clerk to post-mark it for that day even though they were closed. He pleaded that his daughter’s future depended on it. How easy it would have been to quit at the first post office. And how different my life would be! 

His love for his grandchildren was what we read in storybooks. Meeting us in Disney, taking Maggie on stroller rides around Washington, Rachael to soccer, Mark to hockey. The endless trips to movie theatres and local stores for treats. Yes, pops was a storybook grandfather. My children are blessed to have had him in their lives.

As a family we are all stronger for having known him. We are more caring for having loved him, and more courageous for having had him in our lives. I take great solace in knowing that his spirit lives in our hearts and especially in the hopes and dreams of his grandchildren.

When people question the current state of the American Dream, I suggest we point to Pops. When they wrote the famous words: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the founding fathers had people like Rick in mind. 

Life: Rick lived life fully. He loved life and he made the lives of those around him better.  

Liberty: from a rough start, Rick rose through the ranks and seized the day… the freedom to raise a family and love them with every fiber of his being. And he always found the freedom for his second great passion: golf.

Pursuit of Happiness: for Rick, there was no “pursuit” of happiness. Happiness was a by-product of his being… with his family and his community… and all those magical moments that gave his life such rich meaning.  

Let us be grateful for the presence among us of one who truly lived the American Dream. Peace and Love, Rick… Peace and Love.

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For Allison, for all members of the Taylor family, and everyone else whose life Rick touched. For those out there tonight dealing with a loss in their own life. For us all. Find the peace that comes in knowing that cherished memories are eternal. Find the love in every moment with the ones you love. Hold them in your heart. That’s how you fill the void.

  • Andrew

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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The women who cut the path we walk.

Before the term ever became prominent in today’s culture, I am and have been a feminist. It’s not a stance I’m taking. It’s not political. It’s quite simply just how I was raised. It’s been engrained in my family’s history. It’s who I am, what I have done, what I am doing, and I owe it to the influence of strong women.

Growing up, I’m not sure I would have fully recognized their influence. But today, especially being International Women’s Day, it’s important that we celebrate how women have shaped who we are. More importantly, it helps us realize how far we have to go to create equality and gender parity.

In the 1950’s, my grandmother was a homemaker, a loving, caring mother of eight children in a rural catholic community in Newfoundland and Labrador. Facing a troubling situation at home, she somehow found the guts, the very deep courage and strength to make a change. She took all of her eight children, one just a baby, and left her community in search of a better, safer place to raise her family. Under a cloak of secrecy, and with only an inner courage, little money, or even time to pack, she made a long trek to St. John’s with eight young children by her side.

Arriving with five boys and three girls, nowhere to live, and nowhere to stay, the boys found a home in Mount Cashel, and the girls in Belvedere Orphanage. With hope in her heart and desire to keep the family united, she maintained the family unit, against insurmountable odds, finding a job at Mount Cashel as a cook, being able then to afford to visit her daughters while keeping an eye on her sons. I often wonder about those initial 1950’s Newfoundland days, the decision she was faced with, the unknown, the panic, the fear, but above all, the strength. The hardships she knew she was accepting. The unknown journey she was embarking on. All in a heroic effort to save her family. I can’t think of a better role model.

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My grandmother passed away at 88 years of age surrounded by her children and family. Her dying words: “I am just not ready to leave you all yet.” She never has.

My family has been defined by the influence of strong women. My aunt was a catholic nun, Sister Rosalita. She was the oldest of the Furey clan who made the trek in the dark of night to St. John’s. She was that second layer of glue that held the family together. Being a Catholic nun in the 1960’s through to the 90’s could not have been an easy time, especially for Rose, a trendsetter, an agent of change and a maverick. She was not only spiritually sound in her beliefs, but was philosophically and academically a powerhouse way ahead of her time.

From driving motorcycles, to setting up an Apple computer lab for a high school in the 80’s, she broke the mold. She devoted her life to caring for the poor, travelling to underserviced areas for education and spiritual guidance, she was a beacon of change.  She was tough, and often feared by students, but with a heart bigger than life and an ability to push people to greater heights.

Before Rose died, she was completing her PhD in math. I remember being in grade 4, sitting around the kitchen table while Rose taught me the Pythagorean theory, not letting me leave until I understood the sum of squares, and the purity of math.

She cut her own path in life often taking us along for the ride to see the first generation Mac computer, some new camera lens she had found, a new type of garden, or even taking my dirt bike for a long ride. I adored her. I aspired to be like her and miss her dearly. She was a woman ahead of her time.

Of course my life has been influenced by women beyond my family. I first met Zahida, a kind, soft spoken woman from Dhaka, Bangladesh. I had the pleasure of watching her in a classroom setting, and amongst leaders from around the world, her star out glowed the rest. I went to visit Zahida first in 2015. It became clear immediately that her kindness was only surpassed by her devotion to help. The respect and dedication as the CEO of a large charity caring for homeless children, people who could not afford health care, and teaching women about social programs and how to create small businesses was both aspirational and inspirational. I walked behind her in awe, taking notes, in pure admiration. I try to carry Zahida in everything I do.

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The theme for International Women’s Day 2017 is #BeBoldForChange, and encourages everyone to focus on creating a more inclusive, gender-equal working world and getting to an equal 50-50 at work by 2030.

In order to feel safe and equal at work, women must first feel safe and equal at home.

The statistics on intimate partner abuse are staggering. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 3 women will experience some form of physical or sexual violence at the hands of their partner, and 38% of murders of women are committed by male intimate partners.

In order to achieve the goal of 50-50 at work, we cannot forget the women who cannot, or will not make it out of the home for work because of domestic violence. This is not just a Canadian problem, or a North American problem, this is a global problem. As I have travelled, I have witnessed it first hand in many countries. It’s a global issue and requires global solutions. Days like today help us remember.

50-50. It sounds like the kind of goal that should already exist. But here it is an ambitious global goal for even 2030. While fixing the problem in North America would be a massive accomplishment, it does not help the 16 year-old sex worker in Dhaka with a scar of the profession permanently tattooed on her face. Providing women around the world with more mentors of change, like Zahida, is a start. As I watched Zahida gracefully stroll the crowded streets of Dhaka, I could not help but see the smile of my grandmother, and the passion of my aunt.

On days like today we need to celebrate the women in leadership roles. They will help us all rectify the inequalities that exist throughout the work place. As men, we need the courage it takes to support this, to openly advocate for it. Only 4.8% of Fortune 500 companies have women CEOs.  Nothing justifies this massive inequality. We need to do better, not just today, everyday. We need to strike a balance.

The courage, strength and leadership of these women are only a few examples of how I have been lucky to be surrounded by powerful women. My wife, Allison, is an Emergency Room doctor, a veteran of Broken Earth missions and a caring, attentive mother. I have two sisters I admire and look up to, and of course my own mother who I love dearly. I also have two daughters. For them most of all, I want to see change. To see the 50-50 realized. To have a world of opportunity open to them based on who they are, not to what gender they belong.

To all the influential, dedicated, never-quitting, always-inspiring women out there, I stand with you today on International Women’s Day.

– Andrew

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Look a little closer: keeping positive in the age of doubt.

It all kinda makes you want to stop looking at the news. The turmoil is undeniable. Recent world events have left some feeling down, disillusioned and even depressed. We appear to be on a path of applying a negative lens, and I fear it is becoming all-consuming. But look a little closer. Are we actually in tough times?

There is no question that 2016 and the beginning of 2017 have had some disheartening and questionable behaviors of not just a few, but many.  There is no doubt that these actions are a gigantic Trump-sized anchor weighing on our collective conscious and subconscious mind.

But there’s the trick, and the psychological fallacy we must overcome.

Just because there have been two or three or even 10 or 20 negative events, we cannot let our lens be anchored here. It is our duty and responsibility to be skeptical and at times fearful, but we cannot lose site of the overwhelming positivity around the world.

Hope and courage outweigh it all on a local, national and global stage every single day. It is easy to be sucked into the often-gigantic shadows of negativity, but we need to resist that move, and instead celebrate more frequently, more loudly, and with more enthusiasm the positive messages of hope.

Yes, 2016 was hard. But we must look at what goes into making the glass half full. In my profession, good news is there if you look for it. According to the UN child mortality rates are down everywhere around the world. The rate of deaths from malaria is down by 60%.  We’ve made great strides to eradicate Ebola. World hunger has reached some of its lowest levels in 25 years. The Paris agreement, albeit in current flux, has made the world take notice, recognize and act on climate change.

In St. John’s, Team Broken Earth launched our first refugee clinic drawing on local resources and talent to help care for new Canadians. Nationally, we grew to include 7 provinces, representing hundreds of Canadians united in making a difference in healthcare, and health education to those living in countries in desperate need. New teams from Quebec, Saskatoon and Barrie, Ontario joined the effort.

But by far the most impressive national team effort was lead by Dr. Barter to respond to Hurricane Matthew, drawing on volunteers from across Canada to unite and care for thousands of patients in the immediate aftermath of the natural disaster.

Internationally, we expanded to ensure there was more education with trauma, orthopedic, anesthesia and critical care courses in Haiti, even with our first volunteer from Australia. We also provided a trauma course in Bangladesh.  A team has even approached us from Massachusetts to carry the Broken Earth flag. We also expanded to begin to send teams to Guatemala and Nicaragua. Yes, look closer and see yourself in every part of these little wins, these reasons to smile.

Do we live in troubling times? Yes. But fear can be a motivator. We need to have the courage to resist the temptation of negativity, resist this anchor to our course, and reset our direction based on the good that is happening in the world.

The bright side so often eludes us. The tough stand on immigration in the States is all over the news but in Canada it was met with a continued commitment to embracing immigrants and refugees as the responsible, ethical, most Canadian thing we can do. Even more recently (and tragic) is the inexplicable murder of 6 people in Quebec, gunned down while they prayed at their Mosque. It’s such a dark and sorrowful moment that has been greeted with an outpouring of love and support across Canada and around the world.

Yes. Look closer and see it.

See where we can shift the dynamic from what is happening to us to how we react to it. Trust me, bridging that gap will make all the difference.

Best,

Andrew

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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The origins of inspiration and how it constantly redefines itself.

I get asked one question a lot: “where do you get your inspiration?”

I find it a little tough to answer. Maybe not so much answer but narrow down. I’ve been blessed to know, work with, learn from and listen to some truly inspiring people and organizations. Sometimes I just don’t have the words. It’s Thanksgiving in the States this week. I’m here with Allison and the kids visiting her parents on the West Coast. There’s a lot of love around. A lot to be thankful for these days. It’s good to pause and inventory our gratitude and inspirations.

In the wake of the devastating hurricane in Haiti, Team Broken Earth was immediately committed to respond and make a difference in the relief effort. But we didn’t know what that effort would look like or what would be involved. We were asked before the storm even landed to begin to assemble a team. I didn’t know what to expect or who we would need. Felt like déjà vu.

Quickly the local team in Haiti, working 24-hr days, made an assessment of what the needs would be. We made some quick decisions. Figured out what skills were needed to go but had no idea if we could meet the last minute emergency demands. This was so stressful. In this hour of need, none of us wanted to let the people of Haiti down.

Turns out, in true Broken Earth fashion, all we had to do was ask. With one email to our national family, we had what we needed to set out and answer the call for help. Flying into the middle of a natural disaster was not going to be easy. But our members rose to the occasion and stood out as a force that was able to partner with others and see over 4000 patients.

These are the true heroes. The very best inspiration. Our volunteers from coast to coast, a true Canadian effort, were welcomed in the town of Jeremie, a devastated community on the South West coast of Haiti in the path of the eye of the hurricane. They were celebrated as being front and center in the relief effort. Our volunteers took a leap of faith, answering a call for help, walking into the unknown with one purpose: to help.

Heroes walk among us everyday. This is where I get my inspiration.

People like Jim Maher, who step up and leave work and his family on a moments notice, risking his own health and safety to help the people of Haiti. Why does he do it? It’s not because it is a part of his job, not because he is getting paid overtime, not for fame or accolades, but because he can. And he’s not alone.

Inspiration is all around us.

Amid all that’s going on, from the election in Haiti to continuing to organize our expansion team, I received a message from a parent at my children’s school. She asked it if it was ok if her daughter for her ninth birthday party could announce to her friends that, in lieu of gifts, could they please bring articles of clothing for Haiti. A random child turning nine. And she’s offering not just to help but to sacrifice her own birthday gifts to help those in need. Think to when you were nine. I know I would not have been so altruistic. This is beyond inspirational, this is a legacy that we may be creating. Helping to instil in our future generations the sense of social responsibility and appreciation that we are part of a global family. The hope of a little girl to change the world, that’s inspiration.

But that’s the funny thing about inspiration. It’s constantly changing. It continually redefines itself and what it means to you. I’m always curious what it’ll be next. Where I’ll see it. What it’ll mean. Just recently our team has expanded within the province of Newfoundland with our first team from the West Coast now on the ground in Haiti. I once thought that having teams from across the country would be our ultimate goal.

But inspiration knows no borders.

I was offered to come and speak at the University of Massachusetts. The common goal of global healthcare and medical care for those who need it most, knows no boundaries. It was exciting to be speaking with specialists, surgeons, anesthesia, gynecologists, and medical students about how we can collaborate, how we can work together to make a sustainable difference. A humbling, inspiring event using the podium of U Mass to launch a Broken Earth chapter south of the border. To think of how far we have come. To have people from other countries, from celebrated institutions interested in what we are doing and how they can be involved, that is inspiring.

Lastly, inspiration often comes from unsung heroes. People like our sponsors. They are always there for us, always offering, always asking how to help.

Keith Bradbury, when approached for help, immediately assumed the cost of rooms for our recent trip to Nicaragua. Although we do our best to thank them, it is hard to give them the thanks they deserve. Whether it is M5 , Columbus, Rogers, Air Canada, Stryker, Zimmer, Depuy, the Lions Club or many, many more. From restaurants (Blue, Raymond’s, Mallard Cottage, Tavola, Get Stuffed, and many more) to entertainment (Alan Doyle, Great Big Sea, The Once, The Fortunate Ones, Cory Tetford and many more) we have been lucky. The people in the background often get overlooked, those who move the machine at home so we can function on the ground away (Nakita, Susan, Meghan, Mary, Allison and many more). Where do we find our inspiration? From the companies and individuals that make a difference and many more.

I set out to answer the simple question of inspiration and motivation. Turns out it is easier than I thought: inspiration is everywhere.

Best,

Andrew

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Posted by on November 25, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Butterfly in a hurricane.

Been a long few days, hey? The pictures of the devastation in Haiti have been moving, the numbers staggering and the task at hand feels overwhelming. Feels like déjà vu.

This week was a whirlwind of emotions. Any trip, especially one establishing new ground for Team Broken Earth, is always filled with adventure, uncertainty, challenges, and rewards. The highest of highs and the lowest of lows. This trip to Nicaragua was similar in its experience, but different in that the emotions were magnified with a background lens of hurricane Matthew and our friends in Haiti.

The clinic in Nicaragua was a huge success. We treated over 200 patients a day. The partnership with the Lions Club and the vision clinic changed lives at a rate of 100 per day. Attached to the clinic was an orphanage-style home for the blind children of Chinandega, where there were 10 full time children being taught how to use brail, play instruments, and given a safe place to live, learn and grow.

At the hospital, there was a special moment when an elderly lady came to have her eyes cared for with her daughter at her side. She had not seen her daughter clearly for years and after being assessed by the vision team, she was handed a pair of glasses and asked by her daughter if she could see. The woman cried, saying  through a translator, it was the first time she had seen her daughter clearly in years.  There was no need for translation, the tears of joy in each of them was enough for anyone in the room.

I remember someone once talking about the Butterfly Effect. I believe it’s about the origin of effect. That if a butterfly flaps its wing in Brazil, it can cause a Tornado across the globe. Or something. I’m the wrong kind of doctor for that question. But I wonder if the same can be said for the hope in the eyes of a patient? Can hope ripple across the globe? God I hope so.

The truth is a challenge for us all. The real tragedy in Haiti is that after the reporters leave and media reports settle, the real need will still be there. The news all day is all about the latest bombshell in the American election. Third story in on the news is how the death toll in Haiti is now over 900. I’m not sure what tiny thing sparked what would become hurricane Matthew. But the aftermath? I know it will be worse than I imagine.

As I sat in the sweltering, humid heat of Nicaragua, watching Broken Earth members place eye glasses on the face of a patient creating a smile, I could not help but think that this smile, this is hope, and that hope will, as Robert Kennedy suggested ripple throughout the world.  That despite the disaster in Haiti today, they will feel the ripple from the smile in Nicaragua for them well into the future.

The Haitian now struggling for food and water, battling cholera, and looking for shelter, needs that ripple to grow larger and quickly.  The family with nowhere to lay their heads tonight needs the ripple to hit them with greater force than Matthew. This is where we all can help.

Maybe the hurricane is a wakeup call. A reminder. Something that says we are all in this together. That yes, the need is again great. But the will to change it will always be greater.

-Andrew

Ps. Back on the ground now in St. John’s. Our team is scrambling to put an immediate mission together to go to Haiti. Can we count on your help? Please visit www.TeamBrokenEarth.com

 

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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When hearts grow heavy for Haiti.

I keep checking my phone to the point that I’m sure I’m annoying everyone around me. I can’t help it. I keep thinking “it’s a hurricane. Surely they saw it coming? Everyone’s safe right?” Knowing. Not knowing. I can’t tell which is worse.

Here in Nicaragua. The team has expanded beyond Haiti but, and I think I can speak for all of us, our hearts remain deeply rooted there.

Lately we’ve been working so hard on expanding our team’s reach. I just got back from an exploratory trip to Guatemala. The beauty of the place is overwhelming. Volcanic mountains, green with growth, with the threat of eruption underneath. It made for a breathtaking landscape.

We were looking at helping construct a school. The school will help educate children who have no means to be educated themselves. Some are orphans. Others are denied by the poverty they face.

We sat in the blistering heat, thinking about building new capacity in these incredible surroundings, listening to stories of the children and their families.  Some picked directly off the streets, others identified from broken homes and families. Now given an opportunity, a chance to build a future. We can help with that build.

Back home, my son started school the day before we left. There was never a question of if, rather when he would start. It’s impossible not to draw comparisons. We visited the most remote areas of the jungles of Guatemala, through small towns, over rough terrain and loose roads, through coffee plantations, up mountains with volcanoes smoking in the background. There we met a small community of people. Farmers eager to welcome us, show us their fields and their homes. These places are strapped together pieces of disposed sheet metal with dirt floors, no windows, bamboo struts and no electrical outlets. Yet as we walk into the huts, we are greeted with gifts. Like Haiti and Bangladesh, kindness supersedes processions.

I only returned home for two weeks before departing for Nicaragua. We were supposed to be in Haiti this week, supposed to be seeing patients we know, working with colleagues we love. Instead, we were advised six weeks ago that this would not be a good time to come. It was for security reasons. Little did the advisors know what was in store. But like Team Broken Earth often does, we pivoted quickly, finding another potential expansion location in Nicaragua. Fifteen of us travelled to Managua, then boarded a bus for Chinandega where we are helping provide badly needed medical care. Yesterday alone we saw over 200 patients, including a full vision clinic with the Newfoundland Lions Club.

However, something was not right.

Something was not sitting right. I could not focus, and found it hard to even connect with people. To be honest, my heart was in Port au Prince.

Hurricane Matthew is now bearing down on the people of Haiti, our friends, our colleagues, and our patients. Not nearly fully recovered from the devastation of 2010’s earthquake, now 6 years later an epic category 4 hurricane. Life is not fair. People living in tents should not have to face 1000mm of rain and 220km/h winds. It is not a fair fight.

I have been in touch with many of my friends and the hospital staff in Port au Prince but it provides little solace. It’s like hearing about a sick loved one on the phone in another country, your heart aches as your mind knows it is useless to help. I want to be with our Team Broken Earth family during this time but know that we dodged a very dangerous bullet.

The only thing to do is to carry on in Nicaragua, making a difference to those that would not have access to care. Strength returns in watching the pediatric team treat a very sick child with antibiotics. Or watching someone who had no previous access to care and not being able to see, walk out with a new pair of glasses, smiling and waving as they leave the hospital.

The solace comes with knowing that we will be there to help with the rebuild in Haiti as soon as the storm has passed. We have to be there.  We will be.

The solace comes through the hope that things will be ok and that we will be able to help. It’s who we are, as doctors and nurses, we want and need to help those in need. Despite the devastation, the people of Haiti are survivors. Yes, they will survive. They just need to know a hand will greet them when they reach. I want to be that hand. Don’t you?

– Andrew

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

When just a little is enough sometimes.

It has been a while since I have written a blog. To be honest, I had lost my appetite for it. It’s tough to admit but my motivation was and has been so challenged as of late.

Haiti. I despair that it’ll never catch a break. The lack of political stability there, although not making headlines anywhere, is so troubling. This is not a political blog. Won’t ever be. I believe Broken Earth is independent of political parties and elections, but we operate in an environment that is up to its neck in it. The patients we serve, as if they don’t have it hard enough, are drowning in it.

The sad truth for us is that we only move in this environment. We visit it a week at a time. I know this is a selfish view. Why? Because Haitians have to live with this every day. Haiti has not had a recognized election result this year.  Because of this, the country has been in a state of flux and without a democratically elected government for eight months now. Where’s the outrage? Can you imagine if Canada, the US, or other democratic governments in the international community were allowed to continue to control taxes, health care, and law and order this way? Somebody would say something for sure. But not here.

Of course this affects us very little at home. Other than the disruption of having to rearrange trips and move equipment, it is merely an inconvenience. But do we have a greater responsibility?  Are we not supposed to be advocates for our patients, for those in need? I had hoped the elections would come and go as they are supposed to and that the results would be sanctioned and that there would be no CNN headline, and no incident to warrant a report.

I was equally gutted with the deliberate, horrific attacks in Bangladesh and Istanbul. Broken Earth had recently stayed for a full week only a kilometer from where the Dhaka terror attack had happened. Dhaka is an immense city, a mega city, and despite its size and the mass of humanity, I had never felt unsafe. Crowded, yes, suffocated, yes, but never unsafe. The people of Dhaka, despite the hand they have been dealt, have gigantic hearts, and are some of the kindest people I have ever met.

The attack in Dhaka struck me hard. The attack on an airport in Turkey also caused me to pause and reflect on the madness that exists, the evil that is lurking. En route to Dhaka, we spend full days in that very international Turkish terminal, waiting for a connecting flight. The images on the TV were geographically familiar. Frightening and troubling but again seen through a selfish lens as I write this in the comfort of my home.

All of these near misses made me reflect and pause for thought.

I thought about stopping. I thought about quitting.

I thought about forgetting about it all and going back to just practicing orthopedic surgery in the comfort of St. John’s. But I can’t. Too many images in my head that together pick me up and carry me forward. The faces of the patient in the corridor in Haiti. The eyes of the young boy smiling in the streets of Dhaka.

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I won’t let this attitude defeat me. I can’t.

I think each of us carries a candle inside. Sometimes it flickers, grows weak. We all have to tend that light. It’s what keeps us going. If we’re lucky, it’ll burn bright enough for others. And they can see a little bit of hope. Just a little is enough sometimes.

Again and again I come back to the team for inspiration. Broken Earth is planning a full slate of missions for the fall in Haiti. We have had to postpone two and reroute one.  The one team I am a part of will be heading to Nicaragua instead of Port au Prince and hopefully light the flame of hope there as well.

We are also expanding our reach to Guatemala. I will be travelling there in September to hopefully set up a clinic, help lay the foundation to build a clinic, and establish the potential for future non-medical education to the impoverished people outside of Guatemala City.

In addition we are concentrating our efforts at home as well. We created what I hope is our first of many clinics to help new Canadians, starting with a free vision and hearing clinic. This will help our organization, our community and our country grow healthier and stronger together.

So although I have felt the squeeze of our troubled times, and though it may have exhausted my will, the exhaustion was short lived. Got a lot good people around me. A chorus of positive energy as a soft as a whisper but it’s all I need sometimes.

Best,

Andrew

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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