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Haiti-My first Medical Mission I'm helping Midwives for Haiti to educate skilled birth attendants. Haiti has the highest mortality rate in the Western Hemisphere. Here is where I will write daily journals of my adventure.

Day 1

HAITI | Monday, 16 October 2017 | Views [243]

Day 1~ Day of travel, breaking down and arriving in Hinche.

 

I had everything packed. A suitcase mostly full of food and some supplies, and 2 other suitcases strictly full of donated medical supplies. It was an all-day endeavor to pack, weigh the bag and unpack to make the 50-lb. weight limit. My huge carry on backpack was filled with my personal belongings like medications and clothing.

The plan was to leave at 7pm, pick up Megan and head to the airport, arriving at 8:30pm. I hadn’t had the opportunity to meet Megan yet so I was excited about that. However, the anticipation of leaving my loved ones for 2 weeks was starting to weigh heavy on my heart. 1 hour to go, 30 minutes to go, 15 minutes to go…..’guys, it’s time for me to leave.’ I go down and kiss my elderly Gramma goodbye and can’t help but think, ‘what if this is the last time I kiss her, what if her time comes while I’m gone?’ She tells me to make sure and tell all the Haitians that she too lived like they live. I tell her I will do that but I know I won’t. No matter how much she thinks she understands how Haitian’s live from reading my blog last year, she really is clueless. I can never put into words what it is like. I start to choke up as I tell her goodbye. She says ‘I’ll miss you honey.’ I tell her the same. I head upstairs and kiss my sweet Alessa goodbye. I tell her to be good and to help Daddy out. Then I go and hug Cody. I give him a long hug and tell him I love him. He says it back. Dylan is waiting for his hug and I’m a mess at this point. Tears aren’t getting held back much at this point. But, I’m trying hard, don’t want to mess up the mascara. I tell Dylan I love him and to be good. He starts to get upset too and tells me ‘I will miss you Mommy.’ Poor buddy. Luke gives me a handcrafted card. It says ‘I love you, Mommy’ on the front and has a drawing of me. I open it and it says ‘you’re a good Mom, I will miss you.’ Then a picture of our whole family holding hands. Sigh, that’s it, can’t hold it back anymore! I’m going to miss my babies. Niles tries to console me but it isn’t going to help. I can’t help to think I’m leaving my babies and going to go help others and they will suffer while I’m gone. I mean they won’t ‘suffer’ but they will miss me and not have their Mommy there to be with them. They all walk me out to the car, I get in trying to make the emptions slow down. I gotta stop crying. I get a little drawing from Alessa. She saw Luke make me one and went and quickly made one herself. It’s cute, Can’t make out what it is, but it’s so cute and I put it with the one Luke gave me in my purse. That way I can look at them later on the trip.

I pull out of the driveway and wave goodbye. Sigh. I’m going to miss them, a lot. Bye my babies.

I’m on time and should get to Megan’s on time. Niles and I get to her house, have a little trouble finding it cuz is dark and I can’t see the house numbers. So, I call her and we are luckily right in front of the house. We get out and help Megan load her stuff in the car. Off to the airport we go, hitting some traffic on the way. But that’s okay cuz I allowed time for traffic when I was planning our trip to the airport.

We find a place to park and get out of the car, grab the million bags. I know from last year that we are limited to only 2 checked suitcases per person. Niles helps us get the bags to the counter. We check in and ask if we can get the fees waived for the medical donations. The initial response was no, but we mentioned we had them waived last year. The agent asked another desk person and he told her where to look it up on the computer. She was having a difficult time finding it so he helped her. He asked if I had any documentation to prove that I’m bringing requested donations. Luckily, I had them in my purse ready to go. I showed him the paper work and the fees were waived!! Yay! This saved us $120! This can be used in other places in Haiti or donated to Midwives for Haiti.

We are all checked in and it’s time to say goodbye to Niles. I’m going to miss him, terribly. I truly appreciate what he is doing for me. He is taking on my role while I’m gone and supporting me in my dreams. I give him a few kisses and tell him I love him and that I will miss him. We say goodbye and Megan and I head to the security. Security was not long and we get through it quickly. We are both nervous for it because we had medications and other things in our bags. I got through okay but Megan got flagged. Apparently powder creamer for our coffee looks suspicious on x-ray!

After security, we head for our gate, I’m a little hungry because I haven’t eaten dinner yet. Luckily, there’s a place to eat across from the gate. I’m debating about what to order because I know my next meals will be in Haiti, so I want to eat a salad or something that I can’t have there. But they only have a casear or side salad which neither I want. I decide on chicken strips and a Blue Moon beer. Food isn’t very tasty and the beer is served without a glass or an orange slice. Boo. I eat and drink and pay my tab. We have some time until we have to board. We find a place to sit and I eventually get comfortable and fall asleep. Megan wakes me up when it’s time to board. I have this HUGE backpack with a pillow attached to it and it’s hard to lug around. I get it on my back and head for the gate. We walk down the jet way and I do my ritual tap of the side of the plane as I walk in. Right hand…tap tap. Megan captures the moment in a requested photo.

We find our seat and get situated. We plan on sleeping as this is a redeye flight from Seattle to Boston, 1130 pm. It doesn’t take long to find a somewhat comfortable position and fall asleep. Its interrupted of course. Overhead announcements and the frequent need to change position. I tell Megan she can snuggle up next to me, I don’t mind really. She places her pillow on my shoulder and gets as comfortable as she possibly can. I have the window seat and its easy for me to lean on the window with my pillow.

Our 4.5-hour flight goes relatively quickly. We land in Boston and deboard the aircraft. As I get up for the first time in 5 hours, I slide my body out of my seat and my right knee experiences immense pain along with some pops and crackles. It causes me to immediately buckle and ’fall’ into the seat. I turn my head so no one sees how much pain I am in and I want to yell out in pain. I’m thinking, what the fuck did I just do to my knee. I didn’t twist it, roll it or do anything abnormal, I just put weight on my leg. I limp off the plane and can barely put weight on that leg. We get off the jet way and I yell out for Megan to stop. I tell her I seriously injured my knee and I’m not sure how. My mind is going fast. I’m not sure what to do. If my knee is badly injured, I should go to get it checked out. But if I do that I will miss my flight to Haiti. If I wait and go to Haiti, I won’t be able to get care for it until we return to the USA. After some time, the initial bad pain decreases in severity and I think I’m okay to walk. We find our gate to Port au Prince and settle in. It’s a short layover, 90 minutes. Megan goes and gets us coffee from Starbucks. Drip coffee with cream and sugar. It’s not long before its time to board. We’ve been ‘upgraded’ to an emergency exit. This gives us some extra leg room. We find our seats and settle in. I plan our working on some of the bracelets I’ve been working on to give to the Haitian children. Luck was in our favor again when we find that our seat next to us is empty. The flight to Haiti is about 3.5 hours. We get excited because we know we are getting so close!

The flight is great. There are some bumps on the flight but I distract Megan with pointing out the window at the vacant Caribbean islands. She tells me ‘you’re a good Mom’ for distracting her lol. It’s not long before Megan declares that she sees Haiti. I’m not 100% sure due to what I am seeing geographically but the captain comes on and states we are 60 miles from landing. So, I draw a map of Haiti on a barf bag and try to figure out exactly where we are. Megan is right, we are flying over Haiti, we are just flying in a direction that threw me off.

I make sure to tell Megan to have her camera ready as we will be flying over some poverty-stricken areas. Sheet metal huts, side by side. I can’t imagine how hot it must be to live in them. No shade or vegetation, just hut after hut. We land and a few Haitians on board start clapping. I’m not sure why, but, they are happy and Megan and I smile at each other. Maybe they are happy to be home or maybe happy with the landing.

We are told we will be getting off the plane and taken to a bus for transportation to the terminal. We need to go to immigration and customs. We all load into this bus and once its full we literally drive around 2 aircraft and pull up to a door. The bus erupts in laughter and /whispers of “ha, we could have just walked here.’ We chuckle as we get off the bus and walk in. We head up some escalators and walk in the line for immigrants. We know to have $10 US dollars ready to pay a ‘visitor fee’. I have $10 ready and they give me a receipt. I head over to have my passport checked out. I get a quick couple stamps on a paper we filled out on the plane and my passport from a man talking on his personal phone. I wait for Megan to get done and head out towards baggage claim. I hear some music and come around a corner to a local band playing some Haitian music.

We find our bags on a carousel. This is different from last year. Last time we had a room full of bags and no system to find your bags. This was much easier, just like the states. We slowly find our bags and head out of baggage claim. We are each pulling 2 huge suitcases and our huge carry ons. We had a lot of offers for help but declined. We are stopped and asked for the baggage receipts we received in Seattle They want to prove we aren’t taking someone else’s bags. I am grateful for this and thank the man checking.

We walk up to a customs agent and hand him our prefilled customs paperwork. We know this can be a moment that things can go very wrong and cross our fingers it runs smoothly. The agent doesn’t even think twice. He takes our papers, stamps them and sends us out. We walk along a hallway where Haitians want to give us a ride. I know to decline and look for our MFH contact. He should be wearing a pale yellow MFH t-shirt. We don’t have to walk far before we see him. He grabs our bags and pulls us to the side. We know we need to wait for the rest of our group, Winter and Ali. They are supposed to arrive 15 mins after us. We, however arrived 30 minutes early.

As we are waiting, we are getting very hot. Megan decides to find a bathroom and change out of her Seattle weather clothing. After some time, we are told to follow the man to the car. Ronel, our driver, is waiting for us. So, we follow him through the crowds of people waiting for arrivals and get to the car. Jonel is there also. He is a security officer as well as a helper for pick up of volunteers. Jonel loads our bags up on top of a white Land Rover and Megan and I climb inside. My knee is super painful and it’s hard to walk let alone climb into a jeep.

I decide I need to change my clothes too, its toooooo hot. Luckily, I have all my clothing in my carry on. I take off my hot shoes and socks and jeans. Put on some flip flops and shorts. I don’t care that I am surrounded by a bunch of people. In Haiti, there is not any privacy and being unclothed is a normal part of life.

I feel much better and cooler. I decide it’s a perfect time to have my first Haitian beer. Prestige. I ask Megan if she would like one as well and she accepts. I give Ronel $2 to buy 2 beers. Then I ask if Jonel and Ronel would like one as well. They state they will take a juice. So, I give $2 for them to have a beverage. They give the money to a young lady and tell her to get us our drinks.

Before long, Winter and Ali arrive. I am SO excited to meet the rest of my group. We have all been chatting online for months and here we all are in Haiti. I limp out of the jeep and greet them with hugs. YAY, our group is complete.

Winter is hot and changes her clothes. She too isn’t caring about privacy. Just wants to be comfortable. I buy them drinks too and we are sipping on them when we are told they are waiting for us to finish. They need the bottles back to get a refund. So, we quickly drink our beers and hand back the bottle. It’s time to go…

Communication at times is not good! We drive out of the airport thinking we are headed to Hinche. Instead we pull into a locked, gated home and I tell the girls I don’t know where we are. At that time, Ronel tells me we are picking up Sara. I ask if she is a midwife and he said yes. I’m thinking like a Haitian midwife but instead comes out an old American white-haired woman. She is referred to as ‘mom’ to the Haitians. I instantly recognize her from photos I’ve seen online. The men get her luggage in and get her settled into the jeep. We introduce ourselves and I tell Sara I’ve seen things about her. We get to talking and the next thing we know we are back at the airport. We aren’t sure why but Ronel says we are picking someone else up. Between Sara and I, we find out we are picking up a Haitian woman. One of the in-house staff, Perrine, is helping her. We wait and she doesn’t come. Her friend had joined us when we left the airport but no one told us who she was until Sara and I started asking questions. Apparently, we are supposed to meet this young lady that MFH is helping to start a business selling clothing. We wait a few minutes and Ronel makes a phone call. We leave the airport and drive down the street a way. We pull over to the side of the road and Ronel makes another call. Before long, 2 young women show up with a huge burlap sack filled with new clothing and shoes. They climb in the jeep and then we are finally on our way after 2 hours.

We drive past many people of all ages, walking around doing various activities. The poverty is very hard to put into words. Shacks for homes and no electricity or running water. The girls are taking it all in and point things out to each other. Sara and I chat about MFH and what her role here is. She is working on a community assessment study.

After about an hour of driving, we start to approach the mountain range. I notice that Ronel is driving slower and slower. I am not sure why he is doing it as he doesn’t really communicate well even though he speaks English. Finally, Ronel grabs the phone and is making a frantic call. At this time, we are headed up the mountain and going less than 25 mph. We start to notice the car is smelling and a lot of smoke is coming out of the back. We are told the car is breaking down and Ronel has called Mariot for help. Sara tries hard to get information from Ronel and even asks to call and talk to someone to get some information. We find out that a rental van is coming from Hinche, over 1.5 hours away. We had already been waiting about an hour at that point. Mariot was also on his way. He would be the one to drive the car back to Port au Prince. The view was spectacular and Port au Prince could be seen. We are surrounded by a mountain range with the valley/sea down below. It is very hot though and we run out of water quickly. Most of us hadn’t eaten much all day but snacks and we are hungry. It could be the boredom though. We ask Ronel to take down my suitcase because I have many things in there to eat. I didn’t want to eat in front of the staff and the ladies we picked up so I gave them all a granola bar. I later found out that one of the ladies is very malnourished and will go 3 days without eating so that she can buy formula for her baby. Her milk had dried up while the baby was fighting for its life for over 60 days in the NICU. Perrine, the in-country educator director, has been helping her get food and formula as she was the one who saved the baby and felt an obligation to help.

I wish I would’ve know that she was not eating and saving her money to buy formula. I would’ve given her more food. Sara had called Mariot and told him to please stop and get us some food and water. Once he arrived, we had already started eating some of the food I got out but we definitely needed water. We shared some of our water with the ladies as well. But he brought us emergency rations of pringles and white bread! Yum lol.

Our rental van arrives and we all clap. We are hot and tired and just want to get to Hinche and settle in. We have been traveling many hours with little sleep. We transfer all the bags to the van and we all climb in.

It doesn’t take long before I start to nod off. It’s getting dark and we are on a windy road. I want to stay awake so I can look at the window but my eyes don’t want to. I’m pretty crammed in the van and my knee is really hurting me. I can stretch it out. I try to readjust the bags in front of me so I can stretch out my leg and I was finally able to do so. My leg feels really tight from the swelling.

I wake up to the car slowing down and we let out the ladies and say goodbye. We are finally in Hinche! We arrive at the house and get out of the van and are greeted by the staff. I felt very welcomed this time. Our bags are unloaded while we come into the house and settle in. Dinner has been waiting for us. White rice, with black beans and sauce and a dish of cooked vegetables and likely goat. It was so delicious!! I added a side of avocado. These avocados are the size of cantaloupes and are absolutely delicious. I ask the Clinical Educator, Cindy, if it’s safe to eat the food that’s been sitting out. I am very worried about eating down here since my group got so sick last time. Cindy assures me that she hasn’t gotten sick and she has been here since January. This is a relief and I feel better about eating the food. I have come prepared with my Young Living essential oils just like I did last time. I was the only one who didn’t get sick last year and I was the only one using the oils. I can’t help but think they saved me from becoming ill. I’ve also brought enough food to last a few days if needed and we develop food poisoning and need to resort to other food.

After dinner, I wash my dishes and rinse them in bleach water. This helps to kill any bacteria that may be in the water. I head to our volunteer room. We are all in one room the has 2 bunk beds. Mine is on the bottom. I unpack my stuff and get all organized. Since its late, Stecy the volunteer organizer, says she leave all the normal welcome to Hinche things till the morning. She asks us to all be up and ready for church and a town tour by 815am. I politely decline church as I am not religious and I have nothing to wear to church anyhow. I can tell Stecy is a bit shocked by my decision to not go but I tell her the others can go if they like. I went and asked the other girls what they wanted to do and all of them said they didn’t want to go to church either. I go back and tell Stecy and the decision is to sleep in and Kelby, the interpreter, will pick us up at 1030 for the town tour. I head back and tell the group what the plan is and we are all so very tired and decide to go to bed. I take my malorone and brush my teeth. I help the girls get their mosquito nets tucked in and I climb into my bed. My net gets all tucked in and Winter turns off the lights…Goodnight Haiti!

 

 

Tags: breaking down., day of travel, saying goodbye

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