Thursday, October 23, 2008

Starthrower Students in Haiti, Hospital Update Sharon in Toronto

Hello Everyone,

Week Two in St, Michael's Hospital: Sharon's health continues to gradually improve. Even though the crisis period has passed, her condition is still very much day-to-day, with some days much better than others, if she's had energy-draining testing and scans and various procedures to track issues following her surgeries.

If you've ever been in hospital yourself, you will recall that institution life is not the most conducive to rest, and you sleep when you can. Because of this, Sharon is not up to receiving visitors while undergoing active treatment and recuperation, but I did pass on your messages. Thank you for your support.

And many thanks, too, to those of you who have been Starthrower's 'memory' of details large and small: Donors who continue to sponsor our students in school and university; Maureen, who thought to ask us about the ongoing need for cat food (Natural Choice for Cats, not available in Haiti) and will include it in the box of vitamins, etc she will ship to the staff in Cap-Haitien; Sister Rosemary for stepping up to the plate in timely fashion then and now, and when she returns to Haiti in a few weeks.

Rest assured that Sharon has arranged for Starthrower's center in Haiti to continue operating in her absence. If you have any questions or happen to think of something we may have overlooked at this time, please do not hesitate to email us at the Starthrower address.

When Sharon and I set out to establish Starthrower Foundation, we were determined that one of the things is was NOT to be was yet another charity that worked in Haiti for a few years, then left when the going got tough. Sharon had witnessed the lives of these 'abandonded' kids, and resolved then and there that Starthrower would be in Haiti for the long haul.

This is one of those tough times, tougher than normal as, more than usual, it involves Sharon's own life and health. In addition to trying to recover from her illness, she is also worrying about those left behind in Haiti. Though she is here in Toronto, the needs of the kids in Haiti continue. They still need food, water, shelter and support, medical services and tuition. Please continue to help us help them.

These are trying times for Starthrower, and for the global community. When you have a minute, see this excellent post on Ireland-based Blog, written by one of their staff for blog action day to give perspective to the current economic situation.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sharon Gaskell Visit St. Michael's Hospital Toronto

Hello Everyone,

It was a great relief to visit with Sharon yesterday afternoon at St. Michael's Hospital (picture) in Toronto. She is still heavily medicated and undergoing treatment for three (3!) bacterial infections, as well as continuing treatment following her surgery, but her responses are most encouraging. I even managed to elicit several good smiles from her!

At this time, however, like most post-surgery patients, Sharon is really not up to visiting. In the coming few weeks, as her health continues to improve, this will likely change. For now, cards and letters of support and news would really help boost her spirits. The mailing address is:
Sharon Gaskell
Patient Room 96
30 Bond Street, Toronto, Ontario
M5B 1W8
Sharon and her family, Sister Rosemary and doctors are deciding how best to arrange Sharon's recuperation phase. As soon as plans are made, I will let you know. Though it is still early days (hard to believe this time last week she was flying to Toronto from Cap-Haitien!), and the situation can change, at this time Sharon is slated to have another operation just after Christmas. Following her recovery from that surgery, she plans to return to Haiti to continue her work, likely in the Spring.

Prior to going into hospital in Cap-Haitien, Sharon made arrangements for the staff to continue administration at Lakay Fondasyon, Starthrower's center in Haiti, and the staff has been in regular contact with Sister Rosemary in Toronto.

I passed along to her your good wishes and prayers. I will let you know as soon as Sharon is able to receive calls and access emails.

Thank you all for your support, and please keep it coming. Sharon is as committed as always to continuing her work with Starthrower Foundation in Haiti.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Starthrower Foundation On Poverty Blog Action Day 2008

Hello Everyone,

Starthrower Foundation joins the blogging community in focusing on world poverty issues today, October 15, 2008.

That Sharon Gaskell, Starthrower's founder, is currently seriously ill from complications borne of living in poverty conditions in Haiti (see Haiti hospital post and Thanksgiving Day post) dramatically underscores the urgent need to help ensure everyone, everywhere has access to clean, safe water and food, and to medical care. These are some of the goals of Starthrower Foundation's work in Haiti. Lofty goals to be sure, but attainable with your help.

On this day of action, take a few minutes to read again Sharon's words on the Starthrower home page, and about social justice issues and donations. These are not easy concepts to internalize. You'll know when you really 'get it'.

Most of us want to right the wrongs of this world by 'fixing' them the way we think they should be fixed. And this is a very natural response when we want to make something better. But this response is patronizing, a colonial mindset, a Father Knows Best attitude that diminishes the ones we are trying to help.

Sharon has listed, on a page on the web site, a recommended reading list on Haiti and social justice issues. Take the time to find a copy of one or all of them. Most are available through Amazon online, or check your local library. The more you know about these issues and learn what others are doing, the more effective your support will be.

And it's already been pretty amazing!

I'll post an update on Sharon's condition in the next day or so, when there is more definite news.


Friday, October 10, 2008

A Happy Thanksgiving in Canada - From Cap-Haitien to Toronto By Air Ambulance

Hello Everyone,

Good news! Sharon arrived in Toronto close to midnight Thursday after a 6 hour flight on a Fox Flight air ambulance from Cap-Haitien, and is now in St. Michael's Hospital.

Sister Rosemary (Sisters of St. Joseph Toronto) has been by her side from Haiti to home, with the hospital providing a cot for her last night. She told Sharon's sister this morning that just to be in cool air, on the flight and here at hospital, made Sharon more comfortable, and she was able to rest. Sharon is able to talk, and taking part in her treatment. She even sat up for a few minutes last night.

It's been a worrying 36 hours trying to get definite information about what was happening, which Sharon's sister ultimately did at 2 a.m. She plans to drive into Toronto later today, so we should have a better idea of what happens now.

This weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving, and is a very special one for Sharon's family and friends, and for Starthrower. Thank you all for your support and prayers, offers of help and fundraising initiatives to handle this emergency. We are very grateful for our Starthrower community.

As soon as we have more information, we'll let you know.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Canadian Government, Sisters of St. Joseph Working to Bring Sharon From Haiti to Ontario

Hello Everyone,

Once again, I could not reach Sister Rosemary this morning to get an update on Sharon's condition. Update 10 a.m. I spoke briefly to Sister just now. The line kept breaking up, but I was able to hear that Sharon is awake and aware of what is going on, and talking to them.

Here is a report from Sharon's sister as of last night.

"Sharon is on two different antibiotics and meds to keep her blood pressure up so that she stays out of shock from the infection. Sharon has a fever that spikes from time to time, but appears not to be in pain.

"The Canadian government doctors are in constant contact with her doctors in Cap-Haitien, and the Department of Foreign Affairs are in contact with me and Sister Rosemary.

"DFAIT is looking into bringing Sharon home if possible, and Sister Rosemary is arranging for one of the Sisters who handles hospital administration to help determine which Ontario hospital is best able to treat Sharon's condition, be it in Toronto, Hamilton or London.

"Mark from NC and Sister Rosemary have arranged for access to Starthrower's monies in Haiti to see her and the kids through this crisis. Everyone has been so kind and helpful." . . . B.L.H.

Thank you to everyone who has emailed with prayers and wishes. I will try to reply ASAP. With Sister Rosemary attending, rest assured that Sharon will have whatever is needed at this time.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

News Haiti Hospital Justinien Sharon's Progress Tuesday Morning

Hello Everyone

I was not able to contact Sister Rosemary this morning, but Sharon's sister just sent this message:

"I spoke with Sister this morning at 8:00 a.m. She was sitting with Sharon then and said she was stabilizing.
"Doctors seem surprised at her "progress" but are going to watch carefully for infection over the next few days as she is still very critical." . . .B.L.

I should perhaps explain who Sister Rosemary is and what a blessing it is that she happens to be in Cap-Haitien at all, let alone at this critical time.

Sister Rosemary is a nun of the Sisters of St Joseph ( in Toronto Canada, who has served in Cap-Haitien for many years. She speaks the language, knows well the culture and the hospitals, and many of the residents and has a great support network. Sister Rosemary and Sharon have been friends and colleagues for many years.

Sister Rosemary retired last year, and returned to Canada. I asked her last night how it was she came to be in Haiti at all. She said she had returned to Haiti only a few weeks ago to work on a special project, but had spent the time taking care of Sharon.

Something Sharon said to me years ago when I asked her why she was in Haiti came to mind this morning. [They appear in the Starthrower brochure, and in my story about meeting Sharon at] :

"Realizing that sitting and crying was not doing any good," she says, "I started asking myself, 'Where do I fit in? What can I do?'"

And she committed herself to work with the kids in Haiti. I cannot do what Sharon does, as much as I may want to, and I am thankful that she is willing and able to do this work that sorely needs doing. But I could learn to do websites, so I did, for Starthrower.

All of us can contribute in some way to keep Starthrower a vital force, and support the work Sharon does, and God willing, will be doing again, and for a long time.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Update Sharon Hospital Justinien Cap-Haitien Monday Night

Hello Everyone,

Sister Rosemary called a few minutes ago to say that Sharon is just out of surgery to repair a perforated bowel, as well as having had two colostomies. Surgery ended about 7:30 pm EDT

The news is not good. Sharon is gravely ill. Her condition is not stable, and two doctors will stay with her through the night, as will an experienced nurse.

Sister Rosemary says that everything that can be done, and that could have been done, has been done, down to bringing in meds from other centers, and that Sharon has been getting the best care possible.

Sister Rosemary also said that Mark from NC has been there today, and Jack, one of the staff, has too. As well, two of the girls are again staying with her through the night,

Several of the kids have been staying with Sharon in shifts at the house all last week, and continue to sit with her. As well, last week Sharon had IV meds at home, and an internist came by twice a day to check her.

The Canadian Embassy has been consulted, and will medivac her home, at a cost of $35,000.00, but she was not, is not, stable enough to make this an option, and it hasn't been an option for several days.

Prior to surgery, Sister Rosemary says that Sharon was conscious and talking, but as of when we spoke, was still in the OR. The doctors will not allow her to see Sharon as yet, though they did come out to tell her about the surgery and her condition.

If and when Sharon is conscious, Sister Rosemary will pass on the prayers and messages from those of you who have written to her.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sharon Surgery Cap-Haitien Hospital Justinien Today

Hello Everyone,

I just got a phone call from Sharon. She wanted me to let you know that she is going to Hospital Justinien in Cap-Haitien hospital for bowel surgery this afternoon.

I'll spare the graphic details, but she is very ill, likely from the E. coli, and the surgeon will check for abscesses or perforations.

She has no idea when she will be released from hospital, or when she will return to Canada. It will NOT be next weekend as planned.

Sister Rosemary has been taking care of Sharon the past week and will phone me when Sharon is out of surgery.

Her voice sounded very weak, and she has been in constant severe pain for several weeks now.

Prayers are needed, Everyone.
Update 9 pm EDT

Sister Rosemary just phoned from the hospital in Haiti to let us know that Sharon is not having surgery until the doctors deem her kidney function sufficien to handle the anaesthetic.

Their best estimate for surgery is later tonight or tomorrow.

Sister Rosemary was heading home for the night, but said that a nurse and two of the students were with Sharon and would stay the night.

If anything changes she said the hospital will call her, and she will call tomorrow afternoon.


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