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Tag Archives: Halifax

Look a little closer: keeping positive in the age of doubt.

It all kinda makes you want to stop looking at the news. The turmoil is undeniable. Recent world events have left some feeling down, disillusioned and even depressed. We appear to be on a path of applying a negative lens, and I fear it is becoming all-consuming. But look a little closer. Are we actually in tough times?

There is no question that 2016 and the beginning of 2017 have had some disheartening and questionable behaviors of not just a few, but many.  There is no doubt that these actions are a gigantic Trump-sized anchor weighing on our collective conscious and subconscious mind.

But there’s the trick, and the psychological fallacy we must overcome.

Just because there have been two or three or even 10 or 20 negative events, we cannot let our lens be anchored here. It is our duty and responsibility to be skeptical and at times fearful, but we cannot lose site of the overwhelming positivity around the world.

Hope and courage outweigh it all on a local, national and global stage every single day. It is easy to be sucked into the often-gigantic shadows of negativity, but we need to resist that move, and instead celebrate more frequently, more loudly, and with more enthusiasm the positive messages of hope.

Yes, 2016 was hard. But we must look at what goes into making the glass half full. In my profession, good news is there if you look for it. According to the UN child mortality rates are down everywhere around the world. The rate of deaths from malaria is down by 60%.  We’ve made great strides to eradicate Ebola. World hunger has reached some of its lowest levels in 25 years. The Paris agreement, albeit in current flux, has made the world take notice, recognize and act on climate change.

In St. John’s, Team Broken Earth launched our first refugee clinic drawing on local resources and talent to help care for new Canadians. Nationally, we grew to include 7 provinces, representing hundreds of Canadians united in making a difference in healthcare, and health education to those living in countries in desperate need. New teams from Quebec, Saskatoon and Barrie, Ontario joined the effort.

But by far the most impressive national team effort was lead by Dr. Barter to respond to Hurricane Matthew, drawing on volunteers from across Canada to unite and care for thousands of patients in the immediate aftermath of the natural disaster.

Internationally, we expanded to ensure there was more education with trauma, orthopedic, anesthesia and critical care courses in Haiti, even with our first volunteer from Australia. We also provided a trauma course in Bangladesh.  A team has even approached us from Massachusetts to carry the Broken Earth flag. We also expanded to begin to send teams to Guatemala and Nicaragua. Yes, look closer and see yourself in every part of these little wins, these reasons to smile.

Do we live in troubling times? Yes. But fear can be a motivator. We need to have the courage to resist the temptation of negativity, resist this anchor to our course, and reset our direction based on the good that is happening in the world.

The bright side so often eludes us. The tough stand on immigration in the States is all over the news but in Canada it was met with a continued commitment to embracing immigrants and refugees as the responsible, ethical, most Canadian thing we can do. Even more recently (and tragic) is the inexplicable murder of 6 people in Quebec, gunned down while they prayed at their Mosque. It’s such a dark and sorrowful moment that has been greeted with an outpouring of love and support across Canada and around the world.

Yes. Look closer and see it.

See where we can shift the dynamic from what is happening to us to how we react to it. Trust me, bridging that gap will make all the difference.

Best,

Andrew

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2017 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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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

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Posted by on October 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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