RSS

Tag Archives: Haiti relief

In the Company of Heroes

I don’t get to spend enough time in New Brunswick. This trip is a bit different. I’m a little anxious about it. I’m receiving an award for my work with Team Broken Earth. But that’s just it… it’s not just my work.

I know I’ve said this a million times and I’m not trying to create any false modesty, but this is really a team effort. There are many hands lifting, many hands on the oars. This is something I don’t take lightly. I know I represent everyone who has given of their time or talents. Those who support us at home and abroad. Those who have donated or attended an event. Everyone who has believed in and trusted us to make a difference.

Sitting in the awards hall today was one of the proudest days I have had in the journey of Team Broken Earth. I was sitting in the company of fellow Canadians receiving medals and recognition for bravery, humanitarian efforts, and volunteer service. Listening to the biographies of those winning awards reinforced to me that Canada is more than three oceans, the “second largest landmass, and the first nation of hockey.” Canada is its people. People define the maple leaf. People like those who are walking across the stage today.

Watching the Governor General pin medals of awards on the chests of Canadians, my heart was full of pride, not just for Team Broken Earth but that we are fortunate enough to live in a country where people sacrifice themselves for others, to make this place a better place to live. People like Leon, a fish plant worker from St Lawrence who risked his life saving the life of a man who had gone through the ice on his ATV. Leon pulled the man to safety, lighting a fire and giving the man his own clothes in the middle of a cold Newfoundland winter day.

Anne Michelle Curtis’ story brought tears to my eyes. She was a mother who lost her life rescuing her son and two boys. She swam with the boys on her back through heavy waves in Nova Scotia and she eventually was overcome by exhaustion. She made the ultimate sacrifice. She gave her life so all three boys could survive.

Or there was one of the brave soldiers at the scene of the attack at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa in 2014. He remained calm and was able to provide first aid to one of the soldiers injured in the attack.

For us on Team Broken Earth, it was our story in Haiti. While I was accepting the award, I felt the weight of representing my family, of representing Newfoundland and Labrador, of representing the thousands of Canadian volunteers, and the weight of the responsibility of ensuring we never give up on Haiti.

This year we are celebrating 150 years of Canada and reflecting on what it means to be Canadian. Is there a Canadian dream? There is. It’s one built on the principles of diversity, equality, freedom and social justice for all. Above everything else, empathy to our neighbours. Not just in Port aux Basques, Ottawa or Vancouver but around the world.

Whether it is the poor of Haiti, a child in danger in Nova Scotia or an attack our nation’s capital, what makes us Canadian is that we choose not to look away.

For me, when I reflect on Canada 150 and what it means to be Canadian, I look at the people around me at this ceremony. I look at this medal pinned to my lapel. I see Allison, mom and dad smiling from the audience. And I think of my boy someday asking me about all this. I’ll tell him the stories of the people in this room. I’ll tell him about the sacrifice and dedication of everyone involved on Team Broken Earth. That’s a lesson in what it means to be Canadian. That’s what it’s like to stand in the company of heroes.

– Andrew

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 13, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 10, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

image2 2 image1 2 image1 image2 image3

 
13 Comments

Posted by on October 20, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bangladesh, Day 3

Thanks to all who sent well wishes and thoughts on yesterday’s post. It really does mean a lot to me and re-energizes me in so many ways.

Today was better.

We visited Dhaka which has approximately 15 million people so it was a dense day, dense in every sense of the word.

We travelled throughout Dhaka to the older part of the city to visit a SAJIDA hospital. It was without a doubt one of the more interesting drives I have taken. There were more rickshaws and other forms of transportation than I could have dreamed existed.  On the way home, it took us 2-3 hours to travel a short distance through what I can only describe as an ocean of people, not waves, or groups, but constant people side by side, rickshaw by rickshaw for kilometres.

When we got to the hospital, we had several presentations and discussed with how Broken Earth and SAJIDA could collaborate.   They have the equipment and skills, but need more education and support. I think that is where we could help. They average 3-4 C-sections per day, but need more training in infant resuscitation, a course we could teach them. Then they can pass on that knowledge.

Following that we ran a busy clinic with the help of local doctors and nurses.  It was incredibly rewarding to work along side such remarkable people, to work with, and learn from them.

From the clinic into the operating room, where Dr. Rideout helped change the fate of child who may otherwise have gone through life with just three fingers.

We met one patient yesterday who was born with no legs and only two fingers on one hand.  He lives in rural Bangladesh, and despite his perceived disability, he is a successful farmer (farming the land himself), husband and father.   He was so thankful to see us, he demanded to visit with us tonight to sing us a song of appreciation.

In many ways this place is different than Haiti, but the human spirit, hope and determination to help those in need is a universal tenet, it just gets clouded sometimes.

Speaking of Haiti, I was extremely saddened to hear of the loss in Haiti yesterday. 18 people killed, celebrating Carnival, our thoughts and prayers are with our Haitian families and friends.

Best,

Andrew

IMG_9611 IMG_9613 IMG_9624 IMG_9627

 
2 Comments

Posted by on February 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Things to do during the longest winter since the Ice Age.

Is it me or does this winter feel like it has been three winters long?

Suddenly the balmy heat of Port-au-Prince doesn’t seem so bad!

It’s been a crazy-busy year so far and yet it feels we’re just getting started. So much on the go. So much coming up. It’s exciting. It’s intimidating. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So far the New Year has meant new partnerships and new teams.

After Dr. Barter’s successful rural trip last year, there’s now a second team in  Haiti with Haiti Village Health. This is an amazing development as we start to grow our mission throughout the country. More reach means more people receive badly needed medical attention.

Speaking of teams, our roster continues to grow. We’ve got a Vancouver team ready to go in the spring and an Ottawa team planning a trip for later in the year. This is the momentum we all want. More people getting involved means we do so much more for the people of Haiti.

How does it all play out? Well, I love the way our March mission is working out. The Newfoundland team will start with a trip at the end of the month. We then hand things over to our Halifax team for their mission. The Halifax teams then gives the puck to a specialized Calgary team that’ll handle tendon transfers specifically. Then the team from Vancouver in May.  Four teams working a quasi relay race of medical attention. I love it.

The last few months have also meant a lot of speaking engagements and interviews to continue getting the word out on what Broken Earth is doing and wants to do in Haiti. The media has been so supportive of Broken Earth and we’ve had amazing write-ups in Halifax and Calgary, which are bringing nation-wide coverage of our endeavor. In fact, on our next mission to Haiti we will be bringing the CBC’s Anthony Germain. He’s been a great supporter of our work and I’m hoping this trip will give him a first-hand look as to why we are all driven to go back, again and again.

In Haiti, we are set to launch our first formal education course in May with approval of the location and partnerships with Haiti’s residency programs.  It will be an amazing event with orthopedic surgeons from across the country waving the Team Broken earth flag!

Well, it’s only March. Just a couple of weeks away from the next trip. It’s funny how time just races by when you need it most. Lots of planning to do. You’ve all probably seen the announcement for Rock Op 2014. Gonna be another amazing event and I want to see ALL of you there! The Once will take the stage and where else can you taste the talents of the best chefs in the city all under one roof?!

Speaking of fundraising, we’ve been getting a lot of support from some truly amazing people.  Dedicated nurses organizing everything from pubs nights to fitness events. Every bit counts!

In the meantime, the Ted X talk that Dr. Bridger and I gave is now online for all to view. To be honest, I haven’t been able to watch it yet… it’s just too strange to watch yourself!  That being said I am scheduled to speak for what seems like 100 times over the next few months as the Honorary chair of Volunteer week.  I am super excited about it and looking forward to spreading the Broken Earth story to all of the other exceptional volunteers in Newfoundland and Labrador.

You can check out the TEDx video here…

Take care and make sure to get your Rock Op tickets early! If the last two years are any example, it’ll sell out quick!

Best,

Andrew

 

photo 7 photo 6 photo 5 photo 1 photo 2 photo 4

 
2 Comments

Posted by on March 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , ,

Day for my dad.

It seems odd and strange to say but I have become somewhat used to the chaos and direness here in Port-au-Prince.  I know what to expect when I come here. I know how bad the situation is and, not to be too cold, but rarely does it become personal or overly emotional anymore. I’ve become accustomed to it.

But yesterday was an exception.

Yesterday shook me.

I felt my father’s history in my journey.

It caught me off-guard.  Overwhelmed me.

At times, I broke down.

It was the morning visit to an orphanage. There are a lot of orphanages in Haiti. It’s known as “the land of a million orphans.”

This one was different in that the children are being cared for by a former orphan.  In fact, the only way the children could get in to the compound was if they had lost one or both of their parents.

They were being cared for in dorm rooms with the best that could be provided. It wasn’t much.

Made me embarrassed and tearful to think of anytime I ever complained about hotel rooms or ply counts on sheets.  More so, in each child’s eyes I could see dad’s. I could see my own kids. And it broke me.

The shining light here is the extraordinary people committing their lives to look after these special children.

The school we visited was like that too. Dedicated teachers working with children in an outdoor classroom.

Makes you think that, hope that there’s a child among them that will some day change this place.

From there I put on a political hat and met with the leader of the Haitian senate.  It felt like I was continuing my family’s history and journey but through different eyes, in a much different place. Here, there’s devastation. There’s unforgiving poverty. But I gotta believe there is always, always hope.

I find it back at the hospital.

The team was incredibly busy.  Greg Browne saved the life of a woman run over by a car.  She lost her leg but will live to be fitted with a prosthesis.

Nurses and ER docs treating multiple injuries from an orphanage that partially collapsed.  Thank god the injuries were not fatal.  Little victories.

Pediatric nurses continued what seems to be at times an acute care pediatric only hospital. So many sick kids.

Ask me why I keep coming back here and I think about those kids. I see all of the world’s potential in their eyes. I see dad’s journey. I see my journey. Most of all, I see hope.

Tomorrow can be better.

Tomorrow will be better.

– Andrew 

 ImageImageImageImageImageImage

 
9 Comments

Posted by on November 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Every stone’s throw created a ripple.

I’ve been lucky to meet some truly talented people. Outliers. Originals. The kind of people that inspire you by how they’ve made a difference simply by being themselves. Alan Doyle and Brendan Paddick spring to mind. And Andrew James O’Brien is one as well. Andrew is an award-winning musician with a big heart. He’s always been a huge supporter of Broken Earth and has joined us on our latest mission to Haiti to experience it first hand. That takes guts. But for an artist like Andrew, there is no other way.I asked Andrew to write a guest blog for us. Please, have a read.

– Andrew Furey

 

It’s 12:38am. I’m lying under a mosquito net listening to a child cry. Our bunk room is adjacent to the emergency room, which has been full of activity every day since we arrived here in Port au Prince. It’s tough to hear that sound and not want to get out of bed and help.  My personal qualifications are limited to say the least but the nurses that work the night shift are the best at what they do despite the heat, Mosquitos and the limited resources at their disposal. It’s a surreal thought to think that that child may not make it through the night but equally profound to know that he has a team of tireless and heroic people doing all they can to help him through to morning.

I have seen things here that have changed me in many ways. I’m still trying to make sense of everything down here. The poverty and day-to-day adversity that these people face is staggering. Mental, physical and spiritual duress is constant and seemingly unrelenting. Yet in the face of all this they are resilient, determined and stoic. Fathers stand over their children’s beds until nightfall then sleep uncovered in the open-air courtyard until morning when they return to the bedsides again. Unwavering love.

Patients don’t shout praise from the rooftops. They don’t thank surgeons on their hands and knees for the invaluable service they provide. Instead, they are quietly, deeply thankful. Their’s is a stoic appreciation. Their silence is intensely profound. They are tough and strong willed. They have to be.

I am grateful to the doctors and nurses. I, admittedly have taken for granted, living in Canada, how immensely crucial their services are and seeing them work here in Haiti with limited resources, less than ideal work spaces and literally thousands of patients who all deserve their attention, is absolutely incredible. They work with what they have and when they don’t have what they need they problem solve and push though.

This group consists of some of the most incredible and vital people in the world.

Inevitably, they’ll all return home to their regular jobs and, no doubt, their work will on some level be taken for granted by the ordinary public like myself. Perhaps that’s nobody’s fault. We live in a society where we come to expect their service without thinking or concerning ourselves with what that entails.

I know what it entails now. I’ve seen it firsthand. It’s branded on my brain.

I want to thank them. All of them. So does the man who’s femur was reinforced so he can walk for the first time in three months. So does the mother who’s infant’s heart can pump blood on its own again. So does the girl who had a cleft lip and was kept away from the rest of society. She smiles now.

Profound.

These doctors and nurses do this on their own time, for free, away from their families so that some of the millions of displaced Haitians can have a chance at life.

Dr. Greg Browne, General Surgeon said to me, “We can’t and won’t save everyone. Not even close. But maybe we’ll save the person who will have the answer to all these problems down here”.

Every stone’s throw created a ripple.

– Andrew O’Brien

ImageImage

 

 
12 Comments

Posted by on October 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,