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For every high, a low… living the balancing act of Haiti.

This ritual is second nature. It starts at 2 am Newfoundland time. 32 people get out of bed and tiredly make their way to the airport in the middle of a chilly Fall night. Add to that the fact that they’re giving their vacation time for this. Time away from their families too. Makes me feel a little guilty for resenting the alarm clock.

I can’t sleep on the flight. Feeling a little anxious. Excited. The team’s now made this trip many times but this will be a week full of firsts. We have, for the first time, an eye clinic run in partnership with the Lions Club and incredible Lions Brad and Mike. This will help screen and provide glasses for hundreds of people throughout the week.

Every time we are here, we struggle with head trauma and brain tumors that we cannot treat, but, this time, for the first time, we are equipped with a neurosurgeon. Dr. Englebrecht will help provide the much needed care and education.

Closer to me personally, it will be the first time my wife, Allison, has returned to Haiti since the 2010 earthquake.  The birth of our little guy has kept her away.  I am excited, nervous and anxious for her to see the fruits of her efforts and what the team has built.  She has been a behind the scenes steady hand for Broken Earth from the beginning.  She will offer a unique view on all that we have accomplished, and where we should be heading.

Our arrival in Haiti was made even extra special when we finally were able to do a walk through of the new building at the hospital. You. Us. Our many teams. Our countless donors and our most special supporters like Brendan Paddick and Columbus Communications. We ALL did this. Together, we’ve helped build a two-story building that will DOUBLE the patient capacity and provide new volunteer quarters as well.

This is a landmark moment for our team. This represents the pinnacle of three years of negotiations with Caribbean contractors, stakeholders, hospital architects, and builders (all of which was outside my day-to-day comfort zone as a surgeon!). What we do here every day, treating patients and teaching medical skills, leaves a huge impact.  But this building will make a lasting impact on the delivery of care in Haiti.

For all of us, this is a true legacy.

What a great first day. I was on such a high but had no idea how short-lived it would be.

The next day started as all other do here… sunshine and the team gelling.

Our Biomed superstar, Patrick Clark, was busy fixing all the broken equipment we will need for the rest of the week.  It was a busy clinic with patients and surgeons moving swiftly to get the work done.

At about midday the tone changed.

A police officer that had been shot and had emergency surgery the previous night, died while heavily armed officers kept a somber vigil at his bedside. As this was happening, a brand new baby, literally only hours old, came in and wasn’t breathing. They both lay side by side in the ER.

The team rallied to save the child. Chest compressions. Tubes in and all hands on deck.  An impressive coordination of effort. Sadly, all efforts to save the officer had failed and he passed away just feet from where life was slowly returning to this small child.

No sooner than that episode was over and there was another new born who was not breathing.  Without missing a beat the team rallied again, not recovered from the previous flat-lined baby.  As we were doing chest compressions on this baby, another police officer with a significant head injury arrived.  As if this was not crazy enough, a 16 year-old pediatric patient in the ICU coded.

Two pediatric resuscitations at once.

God dammit, if at the exact same time another gunshot victim, this time to the chest, was rushed into the ER.  All of this happening while our general surgeon was treating a stomach gunshot wound in the OR.

You pause for a moment. Because a moment is all you have. This is the reality of Haiti. Struggle. Violence. Life and death, all so close and so constant.

I would like to be able to tell you that we saved everyone.

The first baby is still alive this morning.

There’s hope there.

Maybe that more defines this place than anything else. The struggle is just to live. But the hope? The hope is that things will get better. The high of seeing the new building when I arrived is now tangled among the tubes keeping a child alive. The hope is always that things will get better.

The balancing act continues.

Andrew

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Posted by on October 20, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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When the groove is good.

Each update made me more and more excited. Sometimes pictures are just not enough. We are building something. It feels like we’re taking something back from the earthquake’s devastation. Putting a foundation down. Literally, a foundation. A footprint that says Team Broken Earth and our amazing supporters like Columbus are here in Haiti to stay. This new building represents such a big part of our aspirations here.

I can’t help but draw similarities between the new building and our teams. Both started from an idea and have grown so far beyond what we expected or hoped.

Our team is now composed of over 500 people from across the country.  The building – a discussion with our good friend and tireless supporter, Brendan Paddick – is now up to the second floor.

The team is a cohesive working unit.  The building is now a design of working support structures all leaning on each other for support. The team will make an ever-lasting effect on patients… the building, on the face of Haiti.

The teams continue to grow as will the new infrastructure for this country. We can all be proud of that.

Of course it’s business as usual here. Well, Haiti’s version of usual, which means non-stop. The new ER doctor, Brook Saunders, has received his baptism by fire. The surgical team has not stopped with a full day of clinic in two hospitals.

It was good to watch as Dr. Rideout consulted with new patients. They all offered the smiles he’d soon make perfect. And that in turn made us all smile.

– Andrew

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Posted by on March 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Routines and Real Momentum

Talking to team members last week, it struck me how quickly we all snap back in to our own routines. Work. Family. Sleep. Work. Family. Sleep. It does feels good but more often I think about the work left to do in Haiti.

Last week, Deb Noseworthy did an amazing presentation on her experiences as a physiotherapist with Broken Earth in Haiti. The focus in Haiti has been on emergency services with support services falling short. Deb faced the enormity of challenge with determination and professionalism. She touched a lot of people there.

Also last week, we made some great progress on our clean water initiative for the hospital in Haiti. Our friends at Columbus Communications have been keeping their foot on the pedal and the project’s gaining speed.

Had some good news from the hospital too. They received a solar power set-up and it’s now up and running. Reminded me of the blackout last time we were there. Amazing the things we take for granted. Here’s a place struggling for a regular power source and something that sounds as simple as clean water.

Lots of good momentum though, gotta stay focused on that. Been planning the orthopedics education course for October’s mission. Also started planning the Broken Earth Fun Run with the Running Room as well as a golf tournament with our friends at Glendenning. That’ll be a blast for sure. Stay tuned on that one!

Got a busy week ahead. Looking forward to speaking at the National Radiation Technician Conference as well as the Work Place Health and Safety Conference. Spreading the word on Broken Earth, the amazing team we have and the change we are all determined to make.

 

Best,

Andrew

 

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Day 3: the medical MacGyver, teaching & the possibility of clean water.

Last night was one of those surreal nights here. I’ve heard Haiti often referred to as the “land of a million orphans” but there are moments when the weight of that statement hits you.

Late last night, Mary O’Brien, one of our pediatric nurses and Dr. Melissa Angel ended up treating an abandoned orphan. This little one was obviously terrified but it didn’t take long for her to realize she was safe now. Mary and Melissa comforted her and helped arrange the social work this morning.

Take a moment and go hug your kids.

That’s how the day started.

Another busy day in pediatrics. Leigh Anne and Natalie diligently work away treating a variety of infectious diseases including meningitis. They haven’t stopped yet. It can be a real eye-opener, especially if it’s your first trip. Nurses Carla Pitman and Susan Morgan are in that boat. They’re driven by what they see. This place changes you. Humbles you as to how lucky we are in great north.

Still missing his luggage, Patrick Clarke went all MacGyver on us. He helped fix the ultrasound, the anesthesia machine and the downed CT scan… all with duct tape and some LEGOs. Kidding. Pat-of-all-trades.

Spent part of the afternoon helping to teach Haitian medical students with the local ortho surgeons. These guys will change lives here.

Tomorrow’s gonna be another big day. Thanks to our good friend Brendan Paddick, clean water engineers from Columbus Communications will be doing a site survey at the hospital for us. What a difference that’s gonna make. And tomorrow night the team’s been invited to a BBQ at the Canadian consulate. Nice little break there.

Night’s coming on. It’s tough to think about what lies out beyond the walls of the hospital. Sadly, most nights we have to turn people away because we’re way beyond capacity. You end up feeling a little guilty but that drives you to do that much more the next day.

G’night all.

– Andrew

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Posted by on April 30, 2013 in Mission 9

 

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