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Tag Archives: Haitian relief

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: “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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Homeward bound

As the minutes wind down on another trip everyone is exhausted, hot and in desperate need of a real shower! What a week though. Every time I think I’m getting used to this, Haiti proves me wrong. These medical missions are always fulfilling, busy and emotional for us all.  But above all, they are so rewarding.

The ER staff has been busy and the nurses have been covering different shifts, helping each other out.  That’s true teamwork.

The peds unit is always the hardest but again the nurses came through, pushed through some hard shifts and rose to a level above what anyone could expect.

The ICU once again was over flowing with the sickest patients in Haiti but our resident doctor, Dr. Stone, got it done in style.

We had a birthday today.  Our physio, Susan Baird. Not going to say how old but she is spending it in Haiti with the team. That’s commitment!

Perhaps the person who needs the biggest break is Dr. Dick Barter.  He has been down here for almost three weeks.  You would never say it.  His spirits are always high and his work ethic pushes us all to be a little better. Dick’s commitment to the people of Haiti is something we should all be truly proud of.

My 3 year-old son cried this morning when he woke because I wasn’t home.  Someday I hope he will understand. But for now it is a sign, not just for me but for all the hardworking members of our team. We need to get home.  We may be headed north but our hearts are big enough that a piece stays in Haiti.

Thank you all for reading and sending your kind words of support. It truly energizes us all.

– Andrew

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Posted by on October 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Planning and organizing for the week

I’ve heard that perfection is in the details but I beg to differ. I think perfection is found in organization. Maybe that’s the same thing. I’m a doctor not a linguist!  But I believe in the right people doing the right jobs and everything working in balance no matter how stressful it gets. We all work towards that here. And it’s a lesson we take back with us each time.

Anyways, no rest for the weary (or is it the wicked?). All hands were up bright and early today and it’s going to be a full day of clinic for the surgeons. Dr. Fitzpatrick (plastics) and Dr. Sampson (anesthesia) have been working as a team assessing pediatric patients for the OR this week.

Orthopedic surgeons Dr. Jackman and Dr. Moores travelled to the public hospital to triage which patients we could help in our limited time here.  Too many patients, too few hours. Unfortunately that’s always a problem here.

Patricia, an equipment rep for Stryker, has taken over as the lead logistics person, booking patients for surgery and detailing all equipment.   She’s been a real super star for the team this trip.

There was a massive rain storm last night. One of our rooms flooded.  Equipment and wet gear.  Electricity out.  But no dampened spirits.  Everyone is excited to start work tomorrow. It’s just one more hurdle to jump and we’re all pumped to go the distance.

Off to dry the floor…

-Andrew

Ps. Please send along any comments or questions you may have. We really do get by thanks to your support.

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Posted by on October 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Teaching how to fish

I don’t spend a lot of time reflecting. That mindset is usually the first casualty of a busy schedule. But every now and then, as time rushes by, the universe reaches out and stops you in your tracks, gives you the gift of a single moment of realization.

Despite the pleasure of receiving awards for all Team Broken Earth has done, it isn’t often that I let myself become overwhelmed with pride. Overwhelmed with other emotions, yes, but rarely do I allow myself to experience pride.  This week was an exception.

This week, Team Broken Earth led an orthopedic trauma training course in Haiti with surgeons from across the USA and Canada. Not to mention that 30 boxes of surgical equipment arrived at the right time is also no small feat! An equal accomplishment was the local partnership for the first time with multiple stakeholders who rarely see one another.  

Still another success was the fact that 90 local medical residents, students and staff showed up for this course. They came from all areas, representing 75% of all orthopedic providers for the entire country.

But the largest success, the thing that made me beam the most was the interest, enthusiasm and excitement with which the participants approached the material. Their interaction and enjoyment was what hit me the hardest.

This is not only life changing, this is population changing. With this level of collaboration and team building, residents will be better, surgeons will be better, and most importantly, patients will be better.

I am a teacher at home, and thought I understood the meaning of the parable of teaching a person to fish. I lived it this week and I won’t resist the pride of this experience.

Best,

Andrew

Ps. Help us help Haiti. Make sure you purchase your ticket to Rock Op! The Once will be playing and you’ll get to taste the food of some of the best restaurants in Canada and bid on some amazing auction items! You can purchase your tickets online here… www.brokenearth.ca/rock-op-haiti/

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Posted by on May 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Mission End, Part 2: Long road home

It’s been a long week in Port-au-Prince. I am super excited to get home and see Allison, my kids and take a long, long shower. 

We have only a few hours left here and it truly has been another amazing experience. The team just gelled as they always do in these crazy circumstances, and all were working in unison. We really are larger than the sum of our parts.

In a weird way it is tough to leave.  I will miss the sounds, the smells, the patients and our new team family.  Everyone always asks why do you go back?  That’s why. The patients who need our help. The amazing people so eager and willing to give it.  

It’s been non-stop here. Last night I met with senior doctors in Haiti last night to ensure as many participants as possible get the benefit of the teaching we are offering.  That’s so important for the medical infrastructure here. And today, I had a great opportunity to secure some space to store materials and help our good friends at Project Stitch.  Jo and Scott are incredibly dedicated to giving these often forgotten patients their lives back. To treat them with the dignity they deserve. It is an honour to be a part of it.  

Meanwhile on the compound, there have been three multiple-injured patients come in over night and all hands are on deck once again, sprinting to the finish line.

In a bizarre twist, we saw a man who got shot in the head… wait for it… TWO DAYS AGO… and walked into hospital asking to be assessed.  The X-ray showed a bullet in his skull… like I said in a previous blog, this place never ceases to surprise you.

We have all worked so hard and are all exhausted but excited to get home to family and friends. Passing the baton to the Dalhousie team next. I have no doubt they’ll be amazing.

Many of you have sent such amazing notes of support for the team. I can’t tell you how much we appreciate it and how it lifts us up to do more for the people of Haiti. Thank you so much for that. Please keep it up. It truly does help.

From 33 degrees in Port-au-Prince to 1 degree in St. John’s, see you all soon.

– Andrew

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Posted by on April 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Mission’s End, Part 1: See the good.

Yesterday was a good day.

I remembered a very important lesson… see the good. I had a chance to read my last few blogs and realized I sounded a bit gloomy. I guess what didn’t come across was that I believe that, in the midst of the heartache Haiti brings, there are good things happening. See the good. It lifts you up.

The orphanage, although always a tearful visit, was incredible for the team to know how good work can be done despite the despair. These kids have nothing. But they smile. They play. They have good people looking after them. And I honestly believe that one of these kids will change this country.

Back at the hospital, Dr. Noftall replaced a hip that had been in traction for weeks and twelve hours later patient went home.

Mary Rideout has been a logistical superstar and has collected 40 people to attend our first trauma course in May.

Sonia Sampson pushed through difficult conditions for anesthesia and completed two cleft palates. Literally changing the faces of the future here.

There’s still lots to do. And we are all excited to have a Dalhousie team joining us from Halifax and digging in on the endless cases we have seen and can’t treat.

See the good. Because when you do what you really see is hope.

– Andrew

 

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Posted by on April 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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