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Tag Archives: Newfoundland

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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The women who cut the path we walk.

Before the term ever became prominent in today’s culture, I am and have been a feminist. It’s not a stance I’m taking. It’s not political. It’s quite simply just how I was raised. It’s been engrained in my family’s history. It’s who I am, what I have done, what I am doing, and I owe it to the influence of strong women.

Growing up, I’m not sure I would have fully recognized their influence. But today, especially being International Women’s Day, it’s important that we celebrate how women have shaped who we are. More importantly, it helps us realize how far we have to go to create equality and gender parity.

In the 1950’s, my grandmother was a homemaker, a loving, caring mother of eight children in a rural catholic community in Newfoundland and Labrador. Facing a troubling situation at home, she somehow found the guts, the very deep courage and strength to make a change. She took all of her eight children, one just a baby, and left her community in search of a better, safer place to raise her family. Under a cloak of secrecy, and with only an inner courage, little money, or even time to pack, she made a long trek to St. John’s with eight young children by her side.

Arriving with five boys and three girls, nowhere to live, and nowhere to stay, the boys found a home in Mount Cashel, and the girls in Belvedere Orphanage. With hope in her heart and desire to keep the family united, she maintained the family unit, against insurmountable odds, finding a job at Mount Cashel as a cook, being able then to afford to visit her daughters while keeping an eye on her sons. I often wonder about those initial 1950’s Newfoundland days, the decision she was faced with, the unknown, the panic, the fear, but above all, the strength. The hardships she knew she was accepting. The unknown journey she was embarking on. All in a heroic effort to save her family. I can’t think of a better role model.

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My grandmother passed away at 88 years of age surrounded by her children and family. Her dying words: “I am just not ready to leave you all yet.” She never has.

My family has been defined by the influence of strong women. My aunt was a catholic nun, Sister Rosalita. She was the oldest of the Furey clan who made the trek in the dark of night to St. John’s. She was that second layer of glue that held the family together. Being a Catholic nun in the 1960’s through to the 90’s could not have been an easy time, especially for Rose, a trendsetter, an agent of change and a maverick. She was not only spiritually sound in her beliefs, but was philosophically and academically a powerhouse way ahead of her time.

From driving motorcycles, to setting up an Apple computer lab for a high school in the 80’s, she broke the mold. She devoted her life to caring for the poor, travelling to underserviced areas for education and spiritual guidance, she was a beacon of change.  She was tough, and often feared by students, but with a heart bigger than life and an ability to push people to greater heights.

Before Rose died, she was completing her PhD in math. I remember being in grade 4, sitting around the kitchen table while Rose taught me the Pythagorean theory, not letting me leave until I understood the sum of squares, and the purity of math.

She cut her own path in life often taking us along for the ride to see the first generation Mac computer, some new camera lens she had found, a new type of garden, or even taking my dirt bike for a long ride. I adored her. I aspired to be like her and miss her dearly. She was a woman ahead of her time.

Of course my life has been influenced by women beyond my family. I first met Zahida, a kind, soft spoken woman from Dhaka, Bangladesh. I had the pleasure of watching her in a classroom setting, and amongst leaders from around the world, her star out glowed the rest. I went to visit Zahida first in 2015. It became clear immediately that her kindness was only surpassed by her devotion to help. The respect and dedication as the CEO of a large charity caring for homeless children, people who could not afford health care, and teaching women about social programs and how to create small businesses was both aspirational and inspirational. I walked behind her in awe, taking notes, in pure admiration. I try to carry Zahida in everything I do.

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The theme for International Women’s Day 2017 is #BeBoldForChange, and encourages everyone to focus on creating a more inclusive, gender-equal working world and getting to an equal 50-50 at work by 2030.

In order to feel safe and equal at work, women must first feel safe and equal at home.

The statistics on intimate partner abuse are staggering. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 3 women will experience some form of physical or sexual violence at the hands of their partner, and 38% of murders of women are committed by male intimate partners.

In order to achieve the goal of 50-50 at work, we cannot forget the women who cannot, or will not make it out of the home for work because of domestic violence. This is not just a Canadian problem, or a North American problem, this is a global problem. As I have travelled, I have witnessed it first hand in many countries. It’s a global issue and requires global solutions. Days like today help us remember.

50-50. It sounds like the kind of goal that should already exist. But here it is an ambitious global goal for even 2030. While fixing the problem in North America would be a massive accomplishment, it does not help the 16 year-old sex worker in Dhaka with a scar of the profession permanently tattooed on her face. Providing women around the world with more mentors of change, like Zahida, is a start. As I watched Zahida gracefully stroll the crowded streets of Dhaka, I could not help but see the smile of my grandmother, and the passion of my aunt.

On days like today we need to celebrate the women in leadership roles. They will help us all rectify the inequalities that exist throughout the work place. As men, we need the courage it takes to support this, to openly advocate for it. Only 4.8% of Fortune 500 companies have women CEOs.  Nothing justifies this massive inequality. We need to do better, not just today, everyday. We need to strike a balance.

The courage, strength and leadership of these women are only a few examples of how I have been lucky to be surrounded by powerful women. My wife, Allison, is an Emergency Room doctor, a veteran of Broken Earth missions and a caring, attentive mother. I have two sisters I admire and look up to, and of course my own mother who I love dearly. I also have two daughters. For them most of all, I want to see change. To see the 50-50 realized. To have a world of opportunity open to them based on who they are, not to what gender they belong.

To all the influential, dedicated, never-quitting, always-inspiring women out there, I stand with you today on International Women’s Day.

– Andrew

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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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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The origins of inspiration and how it constantly redefines itself.

I get asked one question a lot: “where do you get your inspiration?”

I find it a little tough to answer. Maybe not so much answer but narrow down. I’ve been blessed to know, work with, learn from and listen to some truly inspiring people and organizations. Sometimes I just don’t have the words. It’s Thanksgiving in the States this week. I’m here with Allison and the kids visiting her parents on the West Coast. There’s a lot of love around. A lot to be thankful for these days. It’s good to pause and inventory our gratitude and inspirations.

In the wake of the devastating hurricane in Haiti, Team Broken Earth was immediately committed to respond and make a difference in the relief effort. But we didn’t know what that effort would look like or what would be involved. We were asked before the storm even landed to begin to assemble a team. I didn’t know what to expect or who we would need. Felt like déjà vu.

Quickly the local team in Haiti, working 24-hr days, made an assessment of what the needs would be. We made some quick decisions. Figured out what skills were needed to go but had no idea if we could meet the last minute emergency demands. This was so stressful. In this hour of need, none of us wanted to let the people of Haiti down.

Turns out, in true Broken Earth fashion, all we had to do was ask. With one email to our national family, we had what we needed to set out and answer the call for help. Flying into the middle of a natural disaster was not going to be easy. But our members rose to the occasion and stood out as a force that was able to partner with others and see over 4000 patients.

These are the true heroes. The very best inspiration. Our volunteers from coast to coast, a true Canadian effort, were welcomed in the town of Jeremie, a devastated community on the South West coast of Haiti in the path of the eye of the hurricane. They were celebrated as being front and center in the relief effort. Our volunteers took a leap of faith, answering a call for help, walking into the unknown with one purpose: to help.

Heroes walk among us everyday. This is where I get my inspiration.

People like Jim Maher, who step up and leave work and his family on a moments notice, risking his own health and safety to help the people of Haiti. Why does he do it? It’s not because it is a part of his job, not because he is getting paid overtime, not for fame or accolades, but because he can. And he’s not alone.

Inspiration is all around us.

Amid all that’s going on, from the election in Haiti to continuing to organize our expansion team, I received a message from a parent at my children’s school. She asked it if it was ok if her daughter for her ninth birthday party could announce to her friends that, in lieu of gifts, could they please bring articles of clothing for Haiti. A random child turning nine. And she’s offering not just to help but to sacrifice her own birthday gifts to help those in need. Think to when you were nine. I know I would not have been so altruistic. This is beyond inspirational, this is a legacy that we may be creating. Helping to instil in our future generations the sense of social responsibility and appreciation that we are part of a global family. The hope of a little girl to change the world, that’s inspiration.

But that’s the funny thing about inspiration. It’s constantly changing. It continually redefines itself and what it means to you. I’m always curious what it’ll be next. Where I’ll see it. What it’ll mean. Just recently our team has expanded within the province of Newfoundland with our first team from the West Coast now on the ground in Haiti. I once thought that having teams from across the country would be our ultimate goal.

But inspiration knows no borders.

I was offered to come and speak at the University of Massachusetts. The common goal of global healthcare and medical care for those who need it most, knows no boundaries. It was exciting to be speaking with specialists, surgeons, anesthesia, gynecologists, and medical students about how we can collaborate, how we can work together to make a sustainable difference. A humbling, inspiring event using the podium of U Mass to launch a Broken Earth chapter south of the border. To think of how far we have come. To have people from other countries, from celebrated institutions interested in what we are doing and how they can be involved, that is inspiring.

Lastly, inspiration often comes from unsung heroes. People like our sponsors. They are always there for us, always offering, always asking how to help.

Keith Bradbury, when approached for help, immediately assumed the cost of rooms for our recent trip to Nicaragua. Although we do our best to thank them, it is hard to give them the thanks they deserve. Whether it is M5 , Columbus, Rogers, Air Canada, Stryker, Zimmer, Depuy, the Lions Club or many, many more. From restaurants (Blue, Raymond’s, Mallard Cottage, Tavola, Get Stuffed, and many more) to entertainment (Alan Doyle, Great Big Sea, The Once, The Fortunate Ones, Cory Tetford and many more) we have been lucky. The people in the background often get overlooked, those who move the machine at home so we can function on the ground away (Nakita, Susan, Meghan, Mary, Allison and many more). Where do we find our inspiration? From the companies and individuals that make a difference and many more.

I set out to answer the simple question of inspiration and motivation. Turns out it is easier than I thought: inspiration is everywhere.

Best,

Andrew

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Posted by on November 25, 2016 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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It’s the surprises that you never see coming…

One thing you can count on in Haiti is that the place will change you. And just when you think you’ve seen it all, it manages to somehow surprise you again.

Yesterday was one of those days.   

In my job I don’t often see sick children in orthopedics.  It’s just not a routine part of my practice and when I saw an 8 year-old child (my daughter’s age) with a neglected leg wound that had exposed her entire shin, well, it just hit me so bloody hard. Sadly, she needed an amputation and will survive because of it, but cutting an 8 year-old’s leg off for a treatable infection is not a procedure I ever wanted to be part of and believe me, it hurt us both.

I know, I know. Gotta keep my spirits up. As the sun broke through the clouds, I got to watch my sister work in the surgery unit. That’s a very special experience for me.  Family matters so much to me, to us all. She is younger than me but so much stronger than she knows and better than I will ever be. So proud of her and so glad she’s here.

The team has been going all out. The nurses are really the true heroes.  They work without us but we can’t work with out them!  

The CBC coverage has been great and Anthony Germain has gelled well with the team. His coverage will go a long way to shed light on what needs to be done here. Haiti needs help, we need help.   We can’t do it alone so I always hope this will continue to be the momentum for change.

Keep thinking of that little girl’s leg. If this were home, it would not have come to this. I can’t write anymore today.

– Andrew

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Posted by on April 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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