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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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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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Day 2 in Haiti: Broken bones, broken AC, but an unbroken will.

I’m expecting that if I complain that the air conditioning in the OR is broken, I may get a few angry responses from those still in winter’s headlock.

Yesterday was crazy busy but still exciting.  Yes, I did get that femur fixed and the team saw over 50 patients in the clinic.

Every step forward is a reminder of how many more there are ahead. Lots to be done.

So glad the Halifax team will be here next week. This is a relay and you are only as good as the ones you hand the baton off to. The folks of the Halifax team are among the best.

It’s tough being away from the kids. That gets even tougher when you’re thousands of miles away and your child is in pain. Yeah, little fright from home yesterday when one of my kids had an orthopedic issue.  Thank you so much to the team at home for all your help. He’s ok but still he’s on my mind every minute and it kills me not to there for him.  One day I hope he will recognize how lucky we are to have the Janeway. The kids don’t have that here. Someday I hope they will.

I believe the reminders and comparisons of where we are to where we come from are important. Hard, but so important. The team visited the general hospital in downtown Port-au-Prince yesterday.  It’s incredibly sad to see the despair and frightening to think of the fate of some of these patients. I could tell by the looks on every team member’s face that we all walked away wanting to do more. We will. None of us are giving up on this place.

Huge thunder and lightening storms cooled the compound and brought much needed rain to the country last night.

Back at our hospital, I keep thinking of my little guy at home as I watch the pediatric nurses doing such an amazing job.  Triage has been a force. What a great team. Better together, I always say.

Ah the AC is finally working in the OR.   Need to take advantage of this window.   

– Andrew

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Posted by on March 31, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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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 

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Posted by on November 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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As Long as We Have We…

Sometimes you have to stop and look at the people you’ve surrounded yourself with and count yourself as lucky that you get to work in their presence. I believe nurses are amazing people. I’m lucky to work with some of the best here.  The team started today with a bang.  The OR was buzzing immediately, Orla and Tina have barley had time to recharge but they find the energy somewhere.  Rochelle and Michael in the peds unit started with Leigh Anne and Natalie resuscitating a baby. Always tough to see for a parent, for anyone really. Little fighter pulled through.

You can always count on Jackie Connelly to be in the ring. Jackie continues to be the glue for the team… coach, mentor, supporter, soldier… she’s working hard in the ICU and putting out fires all around us. Our nurses are all cut from that cloth. The emerge nurses are working together even when they are off. It’s a solid lesson in teamwork for all of us

Scott Wilson an adult ER doc thought he was running a pediatric unit with three very sick babies at one point! That changed very quickly with a three-person polytrauma car accident and an adult code all at one time.   Four acute sick patients in a three-bed unit. I’d like to say that’s abnormal, far from it.

Trying to keep up on our mandate of making education an important part of what we do here. Last night I met with the Dean of the local medical school and we are going to try and set up regular telemedicine lectures for his students and teachers. I like to think of it as investing in Haiti’s own team for Broken Earth.

Been long days here so far. Lots done. Lots more to do. I hear it’s been cold back home. Thinking about the kids. The support at home. The support at work. You got to surround yourself with a team. That’s how you do it. My kids love the Grinch. There’s a great line at the end… “as long as we have we.”

– Andrew

 

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Posted by on October 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Day 2: Little wins…

Amazing what a few good hours of sleep will do for you. Was up and at it early today. There’s no shortage of work and this is no vacation. The peds nurses had a rough night loosing a child but with the new day comes new beginnings with an early c-section and the welcomed cry of a newborn. A little win.

At the hospital where there’s already 5 total hip replacements booked for neglected injuries. Some of these people have been in traction for months. Either way, they are here, now, and after a couple of weeks of recovery their life will change. That’s a little win too. I believe in little wins.

Little wins can add up. Went to the general hospital today and it’s really reassuring to know we are improving care beyond what they have access to here. You can see the changes all around you. You can see hope coming back, little by little but it’s there.

This team is pumped. Dr. Rideout had a busy clinic and booked lots of cases already. He’ll be non-stop for sure. Dr. Squire and Dr. Straton have been in the OR for most of the day on a long complicated case. Andrew O’Brien is doing what he does best… lifting spirits with music. He sang to the spinal care unit and sang “Happy Birthday” to a patient. You should’ve seen the smiles.  Andrew’s also been pitching in as an orderly in the OR.  Such an amazing effort all round.

It’s only the second day but it already feels like we’ve accomplished a lot. More to do. More cases. More people to reach. More little wins to celebrate.

Keep all your good thoughts and well wishes coming… they keep us all going.

– Andrew

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Posted by on October 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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