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Tag Archives: Haitian relief work

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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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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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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No Snow. No Problem! Day One in Haiti.

I miss my family, my kids especially. I miss my friends. What I don’t miss? The never-ending WINTER in St. John’s! It was a long day’s travel yesterday, through Montreal and Miami but I gotta say, and don’t hate me for saying it, the hot breezes of Port-au-Prince were quite welcomed by our team!

Some last minute drama before we left… one of our doctors hurt her back and couldn’t come and we had to call up a spare in the last minutes.   Luckily, Dr. Noftall was able to offer his services literally just minutes before we left!   That’s this team’s dedication… true testament to the model we have created. Everyone’s ready to do what it takes.

No rest for the travel weary! We all hit the ground running with a busy trauma in the ER.  All hands were on deck and we all slip back into Haiti mode like true trauma veterans.

Last night set the precedent. Busy clinic again this morning and Art and Sonia haven’t stopped assessing a lot of patients.

Always a reminder of where we are… broken ventilators have slowed us down today. You forget sometimes that luxury of “just get another.” Not here.  But one thing Haiti has taught me is that there’s nothing teamwork can’t solve.   The MacGyver skills of Frank Noel and Heather O’Rielly are on it! Armed with only chewing gum and a Band-Aid, they could make rocket fuel.

Anthony Germain is getting his first taste of the pace here. Looking forward to hearing his first impressions.

Thanks for all the well wishes…keep that good karma comin’.

Got to go fix a femur!

– Andrew

 

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Posted by on March 31, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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