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Monthly Archives: May 2017

The weight of expectations and how they never leave you.

I have learned that as long as I hold fast to my beliefs and values – and follow my own moral compass – then the only expectations I need to live up to are my own.

– Michelle Obama


I’m not someone who takes things for granted. Yeah, I count my blessings. Everyone should. I know I’m lucky. I’ve grown up with loving, nurturing, caring parents who gave me the tools to get an education, create a career and start my own family. If that’s not lucky I don’t know what is.

Still, something baffles me. My parents. They never made crazy demands on me. Never pushed me or made heated demands that I push myself. They didn’t air any overwhelming disappointment if I failed. So let me ask you this: why is it that I felt their expectations daily? Where does that come from? Is it the same for everyone? Do we create those expectations in our heads? Do I now project unintentional or intentional expectations on my own kids? Is it a good thing?  Regardless of the source, it’s there. My parents. For me, these are giant shoulders to stand on. The largest shoes to fill.

I’ve talked about my dad before. He came from humble beginnings, without the warm embrace or guidance of an involved father. He not only survived, he flourished. From growing up in an orphanage, to skipping grades, graduating, becoming a teacher, then a lawyer, and eventually a Canadian parliamentarian. You can probably feel the pride I have radiating from these words. Yes, he’s my dad but living up to this legacy is a stage set for Shakespeare.

Why is this coming up now? Well, my parents are coming to visit Haiti for the first time. And I’m feeling things I don’t usually feel. Nervousness. Anxiety. I mean, they’ve heard my stories, read my blogs, and seen the pictures, but will the real thing live up to their expectations of me? All of sudden I’m ten years old bringing home a report card. Will I make them proud?

Flashback to 2010. Post earthquake. When I first suggested I was going to go to help the medical relief effort, my father tried to talk me out of it. He said I should really think about my young family, maybe the time was not right for me, I should probably wait and do this kind of work when my career was established and my family was grown. To not take the risk, not just for my safety, but for my future. I’m not sure I would have provided different advice to my daughter Rachael if I was in my father’s shoes. He was always right. I always listened. But something in my heart told me this time was different. I took this step untethered and it was terrifying.

Seven years later. Will he see what I see? Will he see the despair and the faces of need? Most importantly, will he see the hope that I see? I’ve seen countless people come here and not see the progress. It’s bad here. But if you didn’t see it when it was hopeless, what are you gauging it against?

Of course they will see the tangible accomplishments: the new building and the ambulance. But will they see how far we have come? They will not get to witness the rubble on the streets or the tent ORs from 2010. They will not get to see the face of the little girl thanking us for helping her grandfather. They will not get to see the first total hip replacement patient, or the first time we fired up the new autoclave. They will not experience the little victories or the defeats that have become simple lines on all our faces.

Mom, dad, I hope I have set the scene.  Until now you’ve only had mine and Allison’s stories to reference. But this is real now. What our team has accomplished. How far we still have to go. It’s real and I am nervous that what you’ll see will not reflect what I see, what I have seen. Will this meet your expectations? Will I? Dad, will you think the decision I made to come here in the first place was right?

I guess I am about to find out.

Andrew

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Posted by on May 21, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Create a legacy by being the solution.

I’m not being naïve. I believe that every problem is just a solution waiting to happen. At the heart of it, this is what our team is doing in Haiti, in Bangladesh, in Nicaragua, in the places we will go next. We all believe that change is real and it can happen because we will make it happen, one surgery at a time if we have to.

But believe it or not I get challenged often about Team Broken Earth. About what we are doing. Specifically around our ability to make a difference. It’s often phrased as how can you possibly make a difference? The problem is too big. From others it’s often asking how can we make a sustainable difference, being too small to create and maintain capacity?

Honestly this sometimes feels like a kick in the guts. I do welcome all criticism. We need it. All organizations do. It’s a reality check and it’s a means of making us all better. But every now and then, well, it just stings.

As I am sitting in the back of a room of 2/3’s of the orthopaedic surgery residents of Haiti, one week after the Rock Op for Haiti in Newfoundland, a smile comes to my face. Across Canada we have created something really special. We have done more than create sustainability, we have created a legacy that will live long after many Team Broken Earth members have moved on.

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Yesterday, we toured the hospital we’ve been working in for years now. We walked through the OR we helped finish. We saw the new hospital ward full of patients and volunteer quarters we built (referred to by locals as the Canada tower or Broken Earth tower). The millions of dollars worth of equipment we have secured is on display and the staff are there to greet us with an embrace usually reserved for family members. The building and the relationships we have built are all part of the Team Broken Earth legacy. The team even saw a few patients yesterday, and looked at X-rays of the first bilateral total hip replacements done in Haiti with surgeons from Canada and Haiti working side by side.

Today, we are teaching residents from across the country in a series of lectures and in skills simulation labs for residents to practice. This is the third time we have hosted this course. And to watch the senior residents (who were junior before) teach the new junior residents, well, it just fills me with pride. It’s these young surgeons, full of energy and enthusiasm, who will change orthopaedic care in Haiti. And we are teaching them, year after year.

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So when I think about the criticisms, I have to say thank you.

Thank you for inspiring reflection and making sure that we are moving in the right direction. When people talk about making a difference for patients, I think about how many children Dr. Rideout has literally given the ability to smile to, or the patient with two new hips who would otherwise not have access to care. We, all of us on and supporting Team Broken Earth, made a difference for those patients. Capacity and sustainability? We got that. We’re establishing infrastructure, relationships and education. We are creating a legacy. A Canadian legacy here and abroad. I feel better about that. And to the critics I will say this: believe in solutions. The mountain is high but it can be climbed. The finish line is far but it will be crossed. Yes, always address the problem. But be the solution.

Best,

Andrew

PS. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who came, supported, donated, organized, cooked, sang, and danced with us at the Rock Op over a week ago. Truly amazing night. As always, we will honour your generosity by continuing helping those who need it most.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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