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Tag Archives: Haiti medical relief

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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From the Hill You Can See All the Way to Haiti.

There’s no more iconic image of Canada than Parliament Hill. I’m sure I’ve been by here a hundred times and it still never fails to give me goose bumps. It’s something about the history, or just that kinship you feel in the heart of the nation. Standing in front of the flame with the peace tower in the background, it is hard not to feel your heart grow with pride.

As I walked the steps it struck me that this monumental building is something more. It’s a beacon of hope to the rest of the world. I know that sounds grand. But I really feel that it’s true.

For me, this trip also doubled as a twist on “take your kid to work day.” This time, I was the kid and loving it.   We rarely get to see people we love and care for working at their jobs.  We hear about them, hear from others how they perform, but rarely do we get to experience first hand at this time in our lives! So proud to be here with dad.

It was also equally thrilling to meet Team Broken Earth’s Ottawa team members, some of whom I only knew by email addresses.   It was like meeting lost family relatives!

But now it’s down to work. I am not going to lie to you, speaking on the hill was nerve racking. But the strength of the collaboration with our partners in Haiti made it easier.

Meeting with the Haitian Ambassador and seeing the passion and commitment he has for the partnership with Canada was inspiring.  The relationship between Haiti and Team Broken Earth has grown from a few individuals providing emergency relief to the people of Port au Prince, to a Canada-wide team of over 1000 volunteers, providing medical care and education to the people of Haiti.

On behalf of our entire team, from Vancouver to St. John’s, I assured the ambassador and our audience that Team Broken Earth would do whatever was asked, whatever was required.

Together, Canada and Haiti can be an example of how collaboration can not only change the face of a desperate patient, but in fact a people and indeed the world.

Best,

Andrew

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Where we are going.

So my four year-old son, Mark, asks in the car last week, “how do people know where they are going?”

We tried to explain that there are maps, and he says: “no, how do they know where they are going?”

We try to explain there are schedules, and he says: “no, how do they know where they are going?”

There are routines, memories of direction, things to do?  No matter what answer we provided, he responded the same.  Frankly, his question stumped us.

So how do we know where we are going?

This week, we completed something I would have thought impossible two years ago, let alone five years after the earthquake… we conducted a full trauma simulation course in Port-au-Prince, one with all of the trimmings and expertise of any trauma course held anywhere in the world.

Team Broken Earth Experts from across Canada, teaching in a combination of didactic and simulation scenarios, the basic approach to trauma care and resuscitating trauma patients.

Trauma is the leading cause of years of life lost in the world, it dwarfs illnesses like HIV and TB combined.  It takes a perfectly healthy individual and within milliseconds with an incorrect turn in a car or a slip from a ladder, and changes their lives forever. The effects and impact of critically wounded patients is amplified in low and middle income countries, to the point where the World Health Organization and the UN are focusing on trauma in these countries.

We have scene first hand young men, women, and children die because there was inadequate treatment, supplies and skills.   Of course we take steps to correct that with each trip, but this trip is a huge leap in progress.

80 participants. Nurses and doctors, who need and want the skills to save lives, in a room listening intently and then so enthusiastic to get started. This will change the way hospitals here practice.  This one course will be a legacy of changing lives forever.

So I guess my answer to Mark and to all of you who have supported us, is this: I don’t know exactly where we are going, none of us can, but we are making a difference at stops along the way, and if the journey is more important than the destination, perhaps that is the purpose.

– Andrew

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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SPECIAL GUEST BLOG: Dr. Allison Furey on returning to Haiti.

Dr. Allison Furey is one of the original members of Team Broken Earth.

Our trip to Haiti, 21 weeks after the earthquake, changed our lives.  We left behind two young children (at the time), with a backpack full of DEET, mosquito nets and some Cliff bars, to help during a time of disaster to a nation in need.

Easy-peasy, so I thought.

A few days before we left, I got a little nervous after Andrew finally gave me the details on security, sleeping quarters and armed guards driving our vehicles.  But I was reassured that “we would be fine” and not to worry.

Getting off the plane, with the thick, hot air hitting us like a wall and walking to the airport, I thought twice about how “fine” we actually would be.  We forged on, but nothing could have prepared me for the vision I would encounter of sheer devastation, flattened homes, blatant poverty, piles of rubble, streets of chaos, miles of tent cities, unthinkable scents, helpless souls who had lost loved ones so recently and hopeless eyes in those seeking medical attention at our free clinic and surgical center.  I use the word “center” loosely, since it was, after all, a parking lot with blue tarps creating examination rooms.

After a long week of hard work, our team was the last mission to provide care in that center.  Imagine walking away from a hospital ward full of sick children and adults, with nowhere to go to receive the medical attention that they needed and deserved.

I was not prepared for that helpless, guilty emotion.

I can still feel the pit in my stomach on the afternoon that we packed up our supplies and equipment after emotional good bye’s and tight hugs of thanks, and simply drove away, trying to hold back my tears.

Why was I so upset?  Our patients should be upset…but they weren’t…they handed out humble smiles of gratitude and soft waves as we shut the doors.  I quickly realized that this was their reality…an unfair reality.  A few months was not long enough to help Haiti.

Over the last 4 years, from home, I’ve watched Andrew lead more than a dozen missions to Haiti.  Every time we started the routine preparation for take off: pack the red bags, buy Kraft dinner, get instant coffee, hand sanitizer, medications, find the Crocs, and prepare for a week away from home. I felt that pit well up inside.  A deep desire has sat within me to return to Haiti and be a part of the team that does the work to make a difference in the lives of the Haitian people.

Here I am, 5 years later, reunited with Haiti… The streets are cleared, buildings are new, houses are not piles of rubble… I didn’t even see a tent city between the airport and the hospital!  The streets are still bustling with people and street vendors, Tap Tap’s, motorcylists with no helmets and crazy drivers, but that’s normal for Haiti!  It’s a relief to see that the surface of the city is improved.  That is something Haiti should be proud of.

Even though Team Broken Earth is near to my heart, and in my mind, I had created an image of the hospital our teams return to time and time again. I didn’t anticipate the magnitude of overwhelming pride I felt as I crossed through the gates, made so familiar from pictures and videos.  We were greeted with open, happy arms by hospital staff, just like family.  Team Broken Earth has a true presence at this place, it’s palpable.  I know first hand, how much time goes into sustaining the relationship between Team Broken Earth and Haiti (it is more often, than not, our topic of conversation at the supper table).

The completion of the new building, housing a new hospital wing is a virtual testament to the hard work and challenges overcome in completing a project of this magnitude in a country like Haiti.  I’ve never been so proud.  It is an icon of sustainability, growth and advancement in a place where all of that seemed impossible a few short years ago.

My first shift in the ER this week was the hardest I’ve ever worked, and much of our efforts were futile, in the end.  We were surrounded by death in the emergency room, trauma’s kept coming in, the newborns came in one after another, and the hospital was full, with nowhere to put the sickest children I’ve ever seen.

I left that ER after 12 hours, exhausted and drained, frustrated, sad and angry. Sad that this could be the norm here, and accepted.  Sad that we had to tell a father that left his wife at the maternity hospital, to rush his newborn to our hospital in hopes that he would live, that we did everything we could, and the baby didn’t make it… through an interpreter.  Sad that I watched him weep in the midst of public chaos at the death of his baby, not even old enough to have a name.  Angry that I couldn’t do more. Angry that there is such despair in this world and that baby would have lived if he were to be born in Canada.  Angry that the only difference between me and that father, is where we were born.

I’m not used to losing patients, so it was a good thing that the next day we saved a baby, who I’m happy to report is steadily improving in the PICU, with his mama at his side.  I’ll also let you know that one of the best feelings all week was giving a 6 year old boy a pair of Transformer sunglasses… he was just as excited as Mark would be, if I had brought them home to him!  Kids are the same, across the world… resilient and happy… and their smiles will melt me, every time!

So, Haiti has come a long way in 5 years.  Team Broken Earth has evolved from a team providing disaster relief, to a team that provides support and education to a healing country, with a whole lot of potential.  I think we’ve reached some gracious health professionals at this hospital… at this point, we are learning from them as much, if not more, than they learn from us.  Working and learning together makes us all stronger.

Thank you, Team Broken Earth, for providing an avenue to make a truly sustainable difference in a community that needs it so desperately. Wouldn’t it be nice to see the day that Haiti doesn’t need us anymore?  I think we’re on our way!

– Allison

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Posted by on October 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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SPECIAL GUEST BLOG: “We’re just happy to be here.”

Brad Moss is currently on the ground in Haiti with our NL team on their latest medical mission.

“We’re just happy to be here.” These words were spoken by the men of NASA in response to a question by the US media about being chosen as participants in the 1960s Mercury project.

Now those words apply to me. As a community-based volunteer, a regular working guy who joined Lions International 12 years ago, I feel like I’ve been asked to join the space program. I’m sure you can imagine the mild anxiety associated with a Lion joining a team of physicians, nurses and allied health professionals bound for Haiti for a week of hard work at an over-taxed hospital in downtown Port-au-Prince.

Fifteen months of preparation for the first Lions / Broken Earth vision mission has taught me that international relief missions are Herculean tasks. The teleconferences, the packing lists, the inoculations, the supplies, getting everything in a holding pattern at home and at work…it consumes you. Could I really contribute? Would I be accepted by these people with whom I share no professional affiliation?

I very quickly learned the answers to those questions are “yes” and “without question.”

Over the past four days our small team, consisting of Team Broken Earth liaison and human dynamo Meghan Gardner, the generous and jovial Lion Michael Foote, our dedicated and tireless Optometrists Lion (Dr.) Richard Buchanan and Dr. Trudy Metcalfe and myself have screened 448 Haitians for eye diseases and refractive errors. The vast majority have never seen an Optometrist in their lives. Two out of three people screened required a consult. Most of those required glasses from our supply. When we arrive in a yard full of people who have waited hours in the sun for just the chance of seeing an eye doctor there is no grief, no noise, only a stoic and hopeful “bonjour” as we file past to start our day.

The hours fly by, with no breaks, as we push ourselves to serve as many of them as possible. It all stops when you see the change in an 8 year old girl’s facial expression when she sees clearly for the first time ever. It’s unforgettable watching a teenage girl leave the yard as she repeatedly takes the glasses off and puts them on again – you couldn’t buy that feeling if you tried.

In the moment, these rewards are very short-lived. Soak it in and on to the next patient from Mike’s visual acuity queue. My role is to take portable auto-refractions and make a cluster of decisions with Mike about whether a referral to Rick and Trudy is necessary. Without their professional know-how none of this would be taking place.

Likewise, none of this would be taking place without the unequivocal support of the Lions of District N4 and our home Clubs in Portugal Cove – St. Philips, Old Perlican and Springdale, who’ve put their trust and hard – earned money into this cause.  To them, I say we are doing our level best here every day to represent the Lions of Newfoundland and Labrador.

This year, our International Lions President, Dr. Jitsuhiro Yamada from Japan, chose the words Dignity, Humanity and Harmony as his motto for 2015. I can’t think of better words to describe the work the entire TBE/Lions group is aspiring to do here. I’ve never been prouder to be a Lion, and I know the same goes for Mike and Rick.

As for Broken Earth: as Lions we remain in awe of this remarkable homegrown humanitarian effort. Take it from me… they are doing our province and its people proud. My resolve to strengthen the partnership between our great organizations is steely. The collegiality, encouragement and recognition of our work by the medical team is appreciated more than any of them realize. I’m really not sure I’ve ever met more dedicated professionals in my life.  What an inspiring and fun group to be around. Without knowing it, they are exuding that motto of Dignity, Harmony and Humanity every waking minute.

Hey, we’re just happy to be here.

– Brad

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Second winds and little wins.

Thank God things slowed down a little yesterday, but I guess that is all relative. Emotions were running high after the first two days, so it was a timely reprieve.

I often get asked, are you exhausted? Today, I did. For the first time in a long time, I felt completely tired. As I was laying down on a stretcher in an empty operating room, I thought about how I was going to get the energy to do a big case.  I thought about the team here and at home.  The inspiration and energy came straight from them, and my tank started filling again. Thanks to you guys for that. Second wind achieved. Back at it.

This trip is the quintessential emotional rollercoaster but there can be some great views that come with it.  I witnessed that yesterday. An ambulance sits with the lights flashing in the hospital parking lot.  Not a big surprise for any hospital, right?  But this ambulance is brand new, and shines with the logo of Team Broken Earth painted on its side.  Thanks to the Malley’s and Collins’ back in Canada, we are able to transfer patients to get the care they need.  I cannot help but smile every time I walk past it. Another little win.

The nurses in the OR have barely had time to sit down.   From 7 in the morning to late into the evening, they never complain and never slow down. We have more work to do then we can ever get done and the push is on.

The eye clinic, run with the Lions Club of Newfoundland, has been so successful. Almost too much! The lines are long lines but all kinds of patients are receiving eye care and free glasses.  This has to be something we do again.

The nurses have been using their down time to teach pediatrics and life support skills while Dr. Paddy Whalen teaches surgical skills to a group of residents.  That will make more of a difference than any individual surgery we do while we are here.

Sometimes I think the need of care is the only constant in Haiti. We visited another hospital and it had what seemed like hundreds of patients, all in desperate need of care and no access.  People were laying on the floor, because the beds were full.  What beds they did have were falling apart.  Maybe the floor was the better option.   We passed through the emergency department and there were people waiting with all kinds of ailments, all acute, for days to be seen.   We are lucky to be making the hospital we work in here a little bit better but this is a reminder of work yet to be done.  Passing by their pediatric ward, my heart pangs and I miss my kids so, so much.

It’s election time here in Haiti.  Apparently that is the reason for escalated violence. It made me think of how lucky we are at home. I mean, regardless of who you voted for, or if you voted at all, you could rest peacefully knowing that there would be no violence, and that the process would be fair. That would be a luxury here and I’ve seen far too many gunshot wounds this week to reinforce that point.

It’s a count your blessings kind of moment. I know I am a lucky man. My kids will grow up in Canada.  They’ll take for granted the rights and freedoms that we enjoy daily.  They will never forgo treatment wondering who is going to pay for a medical bill. They will never worry about being shot when they vote. They will travel around our country without fear and will have the freedom to chase their dreams. A lucky man indeed.

I am always incredibly humbled and inspired by the team members, and this trip is no different.   Everyone using vacation time, and taking time away from their loved ones. Using their skills to help.

A simple concept really. Using your talents to help others, not for money, or for fame, but because you can. You cannot always enact the change you would like to see, but you always can make a difference. That’s what I hope my kids learn, live and breath… to leave this place a little better than you found it.

I am hoping Haiti is a little better today because of us.

– Andrew

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Posted by on October 22, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Nepal Journal: There was once nothing.

Special guest blog by Dr. Nikhil Joshi, currently on the ground in Nepal for Team Broken Earth.

I’m hyperventilating.

I need At least 10 translators. They need excellent English skills, and then have to be able to speak at least 3 of Nepal’s 40 or so dialects. They have to be available, affordable and willing to work the long hours our team will.

But that’s not all. I need space. I need clinic space, enough for at least 8 nurses and physicians. Separate rooms to allow people to be examined without loss of their dignity- which is something critically important to preserve as these people have gone through so much.

What about lab equipment? A laboratory tech? Clean disposal of needles? Supplies of dressings, antibiotics, anti-tuberculosis medications? The list goes on and on.

I sit down. I feel defeated. The day hasn’t even earnestly begun and I’m overwhelmed with the sheer complexity that comes when trying to start an endeavor of this magnitude.

But I remind myself that even Team Broken Earth had a beginning. Few people think about that now. We often focus on the excellent work multiple teams from across Canada have done. But before there were two story buildings and Haitian patients walking on rebuilt femurs, there was people like Dr. Furey sleeping on the floor in some random house as patients slept in nearby tents.

There was once nothing. And now Team Broken Earth has launched a multitude of teams and initiatives and are regarded as ‘local’ partners rather than sporadic visitors. The teaching our organization has done in treating patients with trauma was so popular and timely that it captured the gratitude of Haiti’s press and President. From a humble tent on the ground, there is now a stable two story building where people receive aid, are taught and can come for help. There is a foundation laid in the city that people can see. A place that says our commitment to the country is not transient, is not dependent on media coverage, but grounded in a shared vision and hope. Consistent work and focus over a long time will yield results.

Foundations. That is what I need to lay. I need to talk to people, as many people as I possibly can. I need to find who needs help and what help they need. I need to accept that I can’t help everyone but realize I can help someone. I just need to find other local partners whose core needs match our core competencies. I just need to find people who need help and those who can help us.

My mother taught me when I was young that if a problem seems too big to break it down and down into manageable pieces.

So today I’m going to try and find us some translators.

Wish me luck
-Nikhil Joshi

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Posted by on June 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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