Monday, March 29, 2010

Quake Damage, Haiti High School Sponsor, Port-au-Prince Students, Malaria News

An eventful few weeks in Cap-Haitien, Haiti!

First, the good news:  Edwinna has a sponsor to see her through high school. Thank you, Tracey and family in Canada, and welcome to the Starthrower community!

Quake repairs Update Students Homes
Photo: Repairing Roof at Lakay Fondasyon - Cap-Haitien, Haiti Center

We're still making repairs to our place and to our own students' housing.

Those repairs are almost finished, for though the damage was extensive, their homes are much smaller and have toll and wood roofs, not cement.

However, we have just heard from the Bos Mason, M. Franck, (father of Frandzy, husband of Mme. Carmene) that the structure of our center in Cap-Haitien has been compromised by each successive after shock, so now our energies are being diverted from the ti kay repairs and focussed on home.

I asked M. Franck if he required another Mason to split the work, so after M. Brutus (owner`s rep) has been. we will need to hire more students to assist as well.

And, as the mason was breaking down the cracks on the outside wall, I just happened to be in the bathroom; the crack went clear through to the inside and cracked the ceramic wall tiles in the shower enclosure. Also, the cracks on the outside of the master bedroom (where Mme Marjorie slept last weekend) went through to the inside as well, destroying the repairs we had made to that room.

Same in the  kitchen, so we will have to tear down the ceramic tiles Jack installed behind the stove and refinish after repairs. This could easily take a year and it's someone else's house. So much work for someone else.

We are schedued to close Friday (Vendredisen, Good Friday), however that may change due to the urgent nature of the repairs. The work will be done with the mason standing on a ladder being held in place be 2 students, and using a hammer and nail to break up the house a section at a time. We are going to purchase the supplies to build a chafo-a (scaffold) of bamboo and planks. Unfortunately there is no rental service here.

Vehicle Purchase Update
What we thought was good news about buying a vehicle turned out not to be. We'd put in an offer for a truck, but the owner decided to hold out for more money, so did not accept it. Something will come along. I am certain if we do not use what is left of Mme Ann's donation, another emergency will come along and the entire gift will have disappeared with no vehicle to show for it.

Port-au-Prince Students, Food Distribution, Visitors
Photo: Rosenie and Nadege and Sister Rosemary at Lakay Fondasyon in Cap-Haitien

The March 13, 14 weekend was very busy with visitors and events.

Rosenie and Nadege, who had travelled to France with Sewoz (Sister Rosemary), are embarking on a project together with Erin, a university staff member in the U.S. who also attended the France conference.

They are working to help displaced  secondary and university students from Port-au-Prince (Potoprens-la).

On Saturday, we purchased supplies for distribution; On Sunday morning, we prepared sacks of food, then cleaned and set up the gallery to receive 8 of the 12 young Port-au-Prince students invited. Their stories of January 12 (quake day) were difficult to listen to. How they stay sane is  perhaps a tribute to the resilience of youth.

We have people from Port-au-Prince knocking on our portay (gate) every day asking for support. All we can do is direct them to the gymnasium for registration. This student response is something manageable. We have added all of them to our food distribution and potable water programs as well providing clothing and shoes. Doesn't heal the spirit but perhaps makes the challenges more palatable.

Mme Marjorie was here for the weekend and left on Monday. Sister Rosemary left Wednesday. The combination of rain, rain and sun is helping our garden. We had electricity most of the weekend for Mme Marjorie's visit. Yes, it went off about a dozen times BUT it came back, then left about the same time she did for the airport.

Sad News
The week ended on a sad note. Weby-Schneider's dad, M. Fan-fan, died. He was a lovely, gracious human being who suffered terribly with uncontrollable diabetes.  It is but one of the scourges of this country. When we visited his home in September, 2008 (shortly before my emergency surgery), he welcomed us, and sat and talked although obviously in a great deal of pain from multiple surgeries resulting from the diabetes.

Malaria, Illness Update and Sen Rafayel News

 Photo: Students Contracting Malaria in Cap-Haitien, Sen Rafayel Haiti

Claudy came down from Sen-Rafayel Tuesday. The route was almost impassable due to mud and rocks from recent rains.

The machine broke down twice and he finally walked the last half arriving here at 4 p.m.

He set out for Cap-Haitien at 6 a.m. A 10-hour trip to cover 28 km.

He was shaking from fatigue and fever (malaria). We fed him, and I suggested he stay here at the center, then go to the clinic in the morning.

He has an aunt living in Petit-Anse. This would allow time for Auguste (director of education) to get to the bank to pick up funds for Sen Rafayel school fees and to restart the food distribution program there.

Student Heads For Home with Sleeping Mat, Mosquito Net

We sent Claudy off with new clothes, shoes and a sack of food for his tant.  He did stay over, and the clinic the next day confirmed malaria.

Modeline was our 4th malaria case and Claudy our 5th.

It is such a devastating illness and these young people keep going not in spite of but in tandem with the pain and fever.

Our sick numbers are growing: Lusnot has a boul (growth, abscess) on his neck. We are treating it with topical and oral antibiotics, as prescribed.

The hospital, however, says antibiotics won't help, as the abscess is on a vein. Othanes is also very ill with similar symptoms to Edwinna and Sister Rosemary. Nothing specific showing up in blood work. No surprise.

I also sent Auguste to the clinic for tests as he had Typhoid symptoms. The clinic confirmed he has malaria (our 6th case), typhoid and UTI,  so he will be lost to us for at least a few days.

Student Nurse Tests Staff, Students Blood Pressure

 Photo: Student Nurse Gaby Checks Carmene's Blood Pressure

Gaby came in from Leogane yesterday to update us on the work at the field hospital and tell us the potential start date for Leogane nursing school.

At my request, he held a blood pressure clinic for staff, looking every inch the seasoned professional.

He has been allowed to observe surgeries and his eyes just sparkle as he describes procedures.

I know he would make a great nurse, but I believe nursing will lose him to surgery.

Cat and Dog
On the up side, Ti Sab, our smallest dog, with cerebral palsy (maladi latranblad, according to our resident nurse, Sewoz) has recovered from pneumonia, thanks to Allimax, but now, we are out of it.

Lucy, our wonderful mother cat is plen (with kitten) although the 'vet' told us he had neutered her. Oops. Good thing we really like kittens! Thanks to Mme Cindy in Pennsylvania, we will be able to feed them.

Good Wishes, Return to Canada
Happy (March) Birthday to Sister Rosemary, Wisly and Othanes (15th), Auguste (7th),  Edeline (5th), Vincent (22nd), Berline  (27th) .

I have changed my return flight to Canada from March 31 to May 8. Initially the change was made as the school system is in disarray. We have yet to hear from the Minister of Education. Several schools opened 2 weeks ago and are charging full fees for the Jan-Easter trimest although schools have been closed since January 12. I will pay half as I know they have commitments but I draw the line at paying the teachers which will deprive our young people.

Pase yon bon semen sa-a (have a great week)
Joyeuse Pak (Happy Easter, for those who celebrate it)

Last Friday, a tanker coming in to Cap-Haitien harbor hit the dock. The resulting shudder resonated throughout the district. The students in a nearby school thought it was a tsunami and despite the teachers' urgings to remain calm, many jumped over the second story balcony and broke legs, feet and arms. Hopefully the level of orthopedic care here has improved dramatically. This shows the level of fear and how pervasive it is.

Joceline came in this morning with a story of two toddlers who yesterday fell into the latrine behind the church she attends on Sundays. Both died.

This poor country! One cannot help but ache for it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Malaria, Vehicles, Mosquito Nets, Beds, Nursing : News From Cap-Haitien Haiti

Bonjou tout moun

Another busy week in Cap-Haitien Haiti: Malaria returns, Inspecting a vehicle with view to purchase, mosquito nets and beds, and outfitting student nurse for return to Leogane to work in field hospital. And through it all, intermittent hydro and rain,rain and more rain.
(Click on an image to enlarge, then click Back to return to this post)

Malaria drugs, Cloroquine Resistance

Our second (Alex) and third (Wilta) cases of malaria were recently confirmed, and we have our third case of cloroquine resistance: Rosema.

Gaby and DIeunet are also cloroquine resistant. Tuesday we sent Edwina for Malaria testing. We had to postpone her home visit, as when we arrived, we found she was very ill.

We left her some meds for fever, pain and nausea, and asked her to promise that she would send us a message (bay komisyon) with Rosenie the next morning to let us know if she needed anything.  We should have her clinic results today (Thursday).

Good thing I purchased Mefloquin and Malarone in Canada before travelling. These antimalarials  are so needed. Cloroquine is always prescribed first, as travel clinics refuse to believe there is Cloroquine resistance in Haiti.

For Rosema, we followed up with Mefloquine. We had enough for one patient only. If more cloroquine resistant cases occur, we can use the prescription for Malerone, the newest anti malarial.

Mosquito nets, Beds
The need for beds (kabann yo) and mosquito nets (mustike yo) is ongoing. We purchase mosquito nets from a marchand at our corner, and also in the market.

As beds are expensive and difficult to find, we are trying a large piece of foam suitable for use as a mattress.

We purchased one to cover the sofa frame where the kids sit on the gallery. It is about the size of a double bed, 5 inches thick and seems quite durable, so we've purchased 3.

Sherlyne (who received hers last Saturday) says it works well so we distributed the other 2 this week. Finding a taxi that can accommodate the awkward size mattress was the big challenge.

We have always been short of beds for our students, and have only been able to provide perhaps a dozen for our 100+ kids. Malaria is worse in Winter (rainy season), so there's a more urgent need to get kids off the ground and surrounded by an effective mosquito net, rather that than see them suffer with Malaria. From experience, Malaria is hell. So is sleeping on bare cement or wet earth.

Buy a Vehicle in Haiti: Mechanic Inspection
There are many used vehicles for sale in Cap-Haitien, so it's necessary to have a good mechanic inspect it before buying.

We are looking at a 2004 Mitsubishi diesel truck, with double cab, in excellent condition, according to our mechanic's inspection and to Jud who knows every vehicle in Cap.

Our mechanic recommended that the seller drop the price by several thousand dollars, which he did. The lower price is still more than we can afford but at least now we know good used vehicles exist.

For background on buying vehicles in Haiti, see previous blog entries:

Jack, Auguste and Dieugrand have driver licences. Rosenie is starting driver training this week, and I will renew my international drivers permit when next in Canada.

Student Nurse Update : Gaby in Leogane

Gaby, who has been dealing with post trauma shock, went back down to Leogane after  a very long talk with me on Monday March 1st.

When he phoned to let us know he had arrived, he sounded much happier than he had prior to going. He had wanted to change nursing schools and stay in Cap-Haitien to study; He did not want to go to Leogane again but bravely decided he needed to talk to the Doyenne, Mme Alcindor, before making final decision.

When he came back from this trip (the trip back to Cap-Haitien was very difficult as regular bus routes are still not running), he told me that, after an inspiring talk with the Doyenne, he decided  that his place was there working with other students and an international team of doctors and nurses in the field hospital that used to be his school

L'hopital St. Croix,
the hospital in Leogane, was destroyed in the earthquake. What was once his dorm is now being used as the operating room; The next dorm is now the Maternity ward and one more room is used for recovery and urgent care.

Gaby had lost everything in the earthquake, and after combing the Cap-Haitien market for scrubs and other items, Rosenie, Sherlyne and I helped him find shoes, jeans and Tshirts from the Christmas boxes that we picked up Wednesday.

What a lifesaver, as the only clothes he had were on his back and everything, including his shoes, was soaking wet.

The need for medical help in Haiti is still great and Gaby is very happy to be able to go back and work. Students and medical staff  are sleeping in tents behind the school. Everyone receives one meal a day at noon. There appears to be enough meds etc. He phoned to tell me he's safe and is working nights, sleeping days.

I'm relieved after the phone call and grateful for cell phone presence in a country with little in the way of reliable communication.

Recap of Students Starthrower Supports
This school year we have 100 students in secondary school. Half of them are in school in the mountain village of Sen Rafayel and the other half are in Cap-Haitien.

In addition we have half a dozen who are apprenticing in trades (carpenters, mechanics, masons) and another 13 in post secondary settings:
  • 4 in nursing school in Leogane, west of Port-au-Prince.
  • 2 in pre med in the Dominican Republic
  • 2 in 3rd year agriculture at the Univerity of Limbe
  • 1 in 2nd yr medical technology in Madelene       
  • 1 in 2nd year kindergarten teacher training in Cap-Haitien
  • 2 in first year teacher training in Madelene in Cap-Haitien
  • 1 in first year electrical engineering, in Port-au-Prince

One of our university students studying medical technology was killed in Port-au-Prince; 2 others were injured and I have left them off the list as do not know if injuries will keep them out of school.

In addition, there are several students on a waiting list for post secondary support but we just don't have the funds. We never know from one semester to the next if we will have enough funding for those already in school to continue as school fees are fluid in nature.

The number of Starthrower students in post secondary is remarkable, and we are very proud of their hard work and accomplishments.  For those who are new Starthrowers, see the Haiti national exams post.

Pi ta


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