Haiti Trip - 2012
Testimonial - Tara Fuller (Tara is pictured at the right in the dark blue t-shirt)
Many events in life one cannot prepare for. I had been searching for new experiences for awhile. Ever since my senior year in college, I had wanted to travel to a third world country, turning vacation time into a challenge and putting any medical skills I possess to good use. I finally budgeted my money and found an organization through CCP, with the help of Marc Petrey and Carol Gunn, called FAME. Because Marc and Carol had been to Haiti previously, they had considered going on the trip I had picked. Their expertise was much needed.
Never had I packed so many new experiences into one week. First plane ride, first missions trip, first time out of the country. I had no idea what to expect, along with Carol Crawford, who had never been on a missions trip either, but turned out to be a trooper and one of the sweetest nurses I know. Being at the airport at 3:30 in the morning was a challenge in itself. We met up with a group from Clarksburg Christian Church and flew to Miami, where we met with four other individuals. The trip into Port-Au-Prince was revealing. Another obstacle - sorting and finding luggage in what looked like an old warehouse. We were there for an hour due to three people, Marc and Carol Crawford included, trying to find their luggage. Finally, they found out it was still in Miami and to arrive the next morning. No fresh clothes, no personal items for what would actually until Monday. Marc had threatened to shower with his clothes on at one point.
Riding in the back of a "tap tap" was another first and interesting experience. Old trucks were everywhere, and some were converted into transport vehicles. The back of the truck was comprised of old wooden benches on either side and was covered with an old tarp. When we had arrived at the airport in Port-Au-Prince, a man held a sign that said "Haitian Christian Missions." We were to follow his lead. After loading into the back of the tap tap, we soon found out we had no idea where we were going. The driver was difficult to understand; he spoke very broken English. It became dark quickly, and we rode at high speeds around mountains on both paved and dirt roads in the opposite direction of the mission. Marc, being the fearless leader he is, found some communication with the driver and after riding for probably an hour and a half, we finally arrived In Mirebalais - all of us exhausted. We had found out earlier that the bridge had washed out on the only road to Fonds-Parisien, where the Haitian Christian Missions is located. We arrived around nine or ten o'clock at night at an orphanage owned by the first born son, Pastor Yves Prophete, of the lady who ran Haitian Christian Missions, Betty Prophete. This orphanage was part of Global Vision Citadel Ministries. We were greeted by Haitian children and Amber Foster Bachelier, whose story of how she got to Haiti was remarkable. Our visit was unexpected, but we all made the best of our experience. We were blessed here. We had clean and hot running water at the orphanage, and our electricity only went out once, that I can remember. However, we all slept in one room on bunk beds, but this experience helped us to bond in ways we truly needed.
The next day was church. We had no idea what they were saying, but the Haitians sang with all of their hearts and listened intently to the pastor as he spoke. They introduced our team during the service and our leader Marc was chosen to speak briefly on behalf of the team. Church services may run for half of the day in Haiti. We had to leave early to run our first clinic that afternoon. The building was about five-ten minutes away, and partially stocked with meds already. Arriving at the gates of the clinic, we saw people lined to the streets. As people poured in, I soon realized that some people did not even know what day it was, when they were born, and therefore, how old they were. I suppose this was part of "Haitian time." What astounded me the most was that many medical issues, some life threatening, could be prevented by simple health prevention measures, such as a little boy we had seen one day, whose foot had an open, infected wound that started from scratching mosquito bites. During the first day, we served a little more than 50 patients and were there for about four hours.
The next day, when we returned there, we saw three times as many. The following two days, we traveled to two other clinics, one of which was over three hours long one way. By the time we reached that remote location, we were banged up and white-headed from the dust that had accumulated on our heads. The rewards of treating so many Haitians, many of which had never seen healthcare before, tremendously outweighed any struggles we endured. And God made a way to more properly care for Haiti. During our time at the orphanage, a pediatrician resident, who was a part of a church team from Cincinnati, Ohio, also agreed to join us on our adventures out into the field. Our other doctor specialized in geriatrics and middle-aged adults - a perfect balance of skills.
When the bridge was finally fixed, our director, Lonnie Burley, and three of her team members joined us at the orphanage on Thursday night. The next day, we were supposed to head to our original destination, Haitian Christian Missions, and set up a clinic along the way. Because nothing went as planned during the trip, we soon found out that our bus had a flat tire and was going to be late. This minor inconvenience turned into a blessing when one of our team members became septic and had to be driven by ambulance to the primitive hospital in Port-Au-Prince; she would stay the night there before being flown by airplane to a hospital in Miami. Another lady, who was also a nurse and went to the same church, went with her to look after her. At the same time, she had found out that her husband, who had suffered a severe injury five years prior, had fallen back home and may never walk again. God took care of all of us again. When we finally headed to our destination in the late afternoon, our bus once again broke down. With a sick team member safely receiving treatment, a major crisis was averted.
It was dark when we finally arrived in Fonds-Parisien. We had traveled through high, muddy waters across the twice washed out bridge that led us into the city. It was as if we had finally reached "home," and some of us had never been there before. We had comfortable living arrangements and a safe haven. The next day, our director gave some of us the option of staying at the mission or serving on the field at another clinic. That would turn out to be the hottest day yet. We arrived in a small town in an empty building that was covered with nothing but a tin roof. Marc and the doctor traveling with us covered an open portion of the building with a tarp. At the end of the day, we were able to pass through Port-Au-Prince and see the ruins of the Royal Palace from the earthquake that had devastated Haiti in 2010. Tent cities had been placed along the river for those who had no safe home. It seemed as if the earthquake had struck just a couple of months prior.
On the way home, another team member, Carol Crawford, had become ill due to sun poisoning. She received IV fluids and plenty of rest back at the mission, and we were all very proud of Marc for starting the IV on her that a doctor and another nurse were not able to start! The next morning, many of us were ready to get back home, yet sad to leave each other and what were our called duties to provide spiritual and medical support to the Haitian people. Our director was right: as we rushed into the airport, many of us scrambled to get to our correct destination and became lost in details. Goodbyes were second place. Arriving in Miami, however, we discovered another blessing. The team member who had become septic a few days earlier was well enough to fly home with us to Indianapolis. We gathered for one more group photo before saying goodbye to four of our team members. Flying next to Carol Gunn on the way home, I felt her spirit and calling to Haiti, and why she went through so much and still came back with a smile on her face. A few days prior to leaving, she had come down with a bad ear infection that caused her to experience bad cases of vertigo. While on the trip, she had hyperextended her knee and had to use crutches the rest of the trip. She was truly an inspiration, along with everyone else I had met and come to know.
Never have I experienced so many new things within one week. The rewards of truly benefiting and educating others and enriching our lives and theirs in the process is beyond proper description. The connections I made with those in the group no one can take away. My love for medical missions trip only deepened. I would do it again in a heart beat.