August 2018 team trip to Haiti


Things in Haiti slow down in the summer. School is out and it’s very, very, hot. Tracee was the USA portion of the team, along with some help from others back home via phone and internet. Jacques, Charles, Tracee, and clinic staff spent time evaluating each program and coming up with ideas for improvement. This is Dr. Jacques first month to devote his full attention to the clinic since graduating from his MBA program, so this review was particularly timely. We continue to give the safe birthing program extra time and support since it is one of our newest programs. This trip we introduced the “Days for Girls” program with the help of Amesville - New England Parish. daysforgirls.org seeks to supply girls with washable hygiene kits, so they don’t miss school while on their period. We also began a program to distribute LUCI lights to school children at the Charles Solomon school in Port-de-Paix. In October we hope to extend the program into Demier.   

 Charles receiving LUCI lights to take to students, so they will be able to study after dark     

Charles receiving LUCI lights to take to students, so they will be able to study after dark  

 

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Nurse Ruth, and her daughter with a Days for Girls kit.  

 

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Nurse Midwife, Marie Fleur with supplies donated by Dr Becky Stilson.  

A successful collaboration with the Asheville Symphony

On April 14, we had the honor of partnering with Asheville Symphony for the performance, PATRIOTS.  We want to give a special thank you to Bill and Nancy Getty's who organized our collaboration with the A.S.  We also want to thank our volunteers, Kelly, Warren, and Susie who operated our display booth.  Thanks to everyone who stopped by to take the time and learn a bit about Haiti and ways in which we're involved in the community from basic health care to access to clean water and education.  

Remembering Tousant

Tousant has been in our home visit program in Dumay since it's inception in 2011. 

When we first met him, though he could stand up, he was scooting around his yard on his bottom, planting corn in his yard. There were stalks of corn coming up between the rocks all over his quarter acre yard. 

At that time, his house was a humble shelter, leaning heavily to one side and made up of sticks and mud.  A few years after we first met up with him, he had a plywood house built by a non-profit that built a few homes in Dumay in response to the earthquake.  He lived alone, but all of his neighbors worked together to make sure he had what he needed. We occasionally sent him food and new clothes when he needed them. Most often, he was just really happy to have us visit and bring him vitamins to supplement his diet and Acetaminophen to help him cope with his knee pain. He always said he would pray for us to come back and see him again soon. 

The running joke with Tousant was no one knew how old he was, including Tousant. We tried to figure out by asking him to tell us historical stories from his childhood - who was president, any big events. He told us fantastical/mystical stories about things that happened in Haiti when he was a child.  I'm sure there was a grain of truth in the stories, but none of our Haitian staff could make sense of them. 

After a few months of illness and being cared for by his daughter, Tousant recently passed away and is survived by his daughter and son.  We miss his humor, his kindness and his mystical stories of Haiti.

January 2018

HAM started off 2018 with a busy and productive two weeks, January 14th to 28th. Dr. Tracee and Paul spent the first week working with eye technician Charles to continue finding potential cataract surgery candidates and organizing for the arrival of the eye surgery team we were hosting the second week. Dr. Leslie came along for the first week to see patients and assist Dr. Jacques with surgeries. The clinic was also under a bit of construction that week as well, with the addition of new double paned windows and double glass doors so the surgery room was actually isolated from the outside environment for the first time. 

Dr. Brian Stahl headed the Go Crazy, Do Good team as they returned to the clinic after their initial trip last January. This time he brought a larger team, including eye surgeon, Dr. Charle Agnone, and six surgical techs and assistants. Ophthalmologist Dr. Joan Nerderman also joined the crew for her first trip to Haiti. Dr. Tracee and Paul met Dr. Joan, who works at OSU’s School of Optometry, in 2017 and invited her to join this mission to help with the pre and post op work. Dr. Brian and his team performed an amazing 98 cataract surgeries in four days to the delight of his patients, many of whom were able to see for the first time in many years. 

October Trip

HAM founder and medical director Tracee Laing, and her husband and HAM’s Director of Operations Paul Hammond, led a team for our final trip of the year to Haiti, October 22 to 29, 2017. Joining Tracee and Paul we’re long time HAM volunteer and board member, Dr. Leslie Mihalov, veteran eye clinic volunteer Susan Palleschi, first time Haiti volunteer nurse Pat Martin, and HAM’s newest board member, Jack Blanks. Jack returned to Haiti after a 15+ year absence, though this was his first visit to HAM projects. 

The team jumped right into it Monday morning with Susan and Charles seeing eye patients, Drs. Leslie and Tracee seeing patients, and nurse Pat bouncing back and forth providing medical assistance. The medical team spent the afternoon doing home visits in the Dumay community while Paul and Jack spent the day in Port-au-Prince resourcing.

Tuesday began our annual medical visit to the Demier community located in the mountains on southwest peninsula of Haiti. Demier community leader, HAM health worker and water technician Ferdinand led our team of Dr. Tracee , Susan, Jack, Charles HAM’s eye technician and interpreter, and Jony another long-time interpreter, on a long hike into the mountains to his home, where the team fed and housed. It is an eight hour journey from the Dumay clinic to Ferdinand’s house and as there is no electricity in Demier the long travel day quickly concluded with a lovely dinner prepared by Mdm Ferdinand. Clinic began early the next morning with some patients arriving before the sun. Jack assisted Ferdinand hanging a tarp to provide some shade for the waiting patients. Dr. Tracee spent the day examining over 40 patients, ranging in age from babies to octogenarians, including a followup visit from a young woman hit in the head with a rock and knocked unconscious who they encountered on the hike to Demier the previous day. This was the first time we held an eye clinic in Demier where Charles and Susan, assisted by Jack saw over 40 eye patients for glaucoma, cataracts and general vision checks. The team brought a variety of prescription glasses and could offer drops for minor issues, but equally important was the assessment experience providing HAM with a better understanding of how meet the eye care needs of the Demier community. 

The end of the week proved extremely busy with the entire team back in Dumay. The eye clinic was in full swing, Drs. Jacques and Leslie performed several surgeries, and Dr. Tracee and Pat saw many patients. Friday proved so busy that Dr. Verdieu, HAM’s doctor on Tuesdays and Thursdays, who brought her daughter into the clinic for some lab tests saw how backed up patients were and immediately pitched in and began seeing patients while her daughter sat on her lap. 

It was a very productive trip that also allowed for critical planning time with Dr. Jacques. 2018 will see the start of HAM’s new birthing program as our two nurses who’ve spent the past year training with Midwives for Haiti in Hench graduate in January and return to Dumay to work full time. Additionally we are making important improvements to the clinic’s surgery and surgical support areas, and we plan to begin contraction on a building addition providing improved patient flow, additional primary care exam rooms, and a new pharmacy. 

April/May 2017 Solar Mission Trip to Install AC in the OR

HAM board members, Paul Hammond and Keith Hare, arrived in Haiti on April 28, 2017 to lead a mission to update the solar collection and storage system at the clinic and to oversee the installation of an A/C system in the surgery room. Keith designed and installed the original solar system back in 2010 and as the clinic services have grown, so has the increased demand for electricity. The old system was pushed beyond capacity this past January when the eye surgery team performed 40 cataract surgeries in 3 days. We have long wanted to add air conditioning to the surgery room given the extreme heat of Haiti and our desire for to avoid corrupting the surgical field during procedures by the surgical team dripping sweat. 

Keith and Paul have been discussing an upgrade for two years now and Keith designed the upgrade to maximize solar collection and storage capacity. Prior to this mission, Paul had sourced and purchased in Haiti additional solar panels with racking system, and greater capacity batteries, and made arrangement for that equipment to be at the clinic before the teams arrival. Keith brought along two new charge controllers not available for purchase in Haiti, along with two of his nephews Aaron and Matthew, who both work as electricians for Hare Electric, their fathers business. This would be their first time to Haiti, though as with all the Hare family they have made many volunteer work trips to Nicaragua and are accustomed to challenging working conditions.

The team arrived in Haiti without incident and with all their luggage. Unfortunately, local transportation became a cloud over the mission as HAM’s Hilux truck had been stuck at the Toyota dealer for weeks with a broken radiator. We were forced to rent a van for the airport pickup and the following day when Paul, Aaron and Matthew had to run around Port-au-Prince collecting all the other electrical supplies needed for the installation. Renting vehicles in Haiti is an expensive venture, so the team needed to make the most out of the first two days to avoid the need for further vehicle rentals until Paul could sort out the truck problems. Once the team made it to the clinic on Friday evening, they immediately went to work measuring, identifying and inventorying all the electrical parts they might need over the next week.

Saturday started bright and early as Paul, Aaron, Mathew, interpreter Charles and driver Regi headed back to Port-au-Prince for some shopping. But first Paul needed to stop at the Toyota dealership to evaluate the status of the truck repair. Seems the dealership had been jerking our Haitian staff around regarding the radiator repair since it was first taken in for repair in February. They fixed it twice only to have it leak again within two days. They then told our staff it was unfixable and the radiator had to be replaced, but there was no new radiator of the right size available in Haiti and they would have to wait 4 months for the part to be shipped from Japan. When our staff located the correct radiator at a parts store on the other side of Port-au-Prince, the dealership told them to purchase it themselves and the dealership would install it for free. Not exactly what one expects when the vehicle is still under warranty, so Paul needed to involve himself directly. After visits to two different Toyota dealerships on Saturday, and a great amount of run around and arguing, we were finally assured that the repair would be fully completed under warranty and if a new radiator had been located they would purchase and install it ASAP. Of course they couldn’t do anything before Tuesday as they are closed Sunday and Monday was a national holiday. Fortunately, the remainder of Saturday’s shopping went well and we arrived back at the clinic with all the needed electrical parts. Keith had stayed at the clinic and begun the installation of the charge controllers. 

Sunday and Monday were extremely productive with the three Hares along with several Haitian helpers pretty much completed the system installation, except for the battery change. It was fortunate that the clinic was closed on Monday for the holiday, as it gave the team uninterrupted access to the clinic and no disruption to clinic operations. Work was ahead of schedule, so on Monday night the team joined the Haitian Labor Day Dumay Festival. Every year the community of Dumay holds such a festival to celebrate and promote the community, and HAM has always helped sponsor the event, but this was the first time a volunteer team has been there for the festivities. The party was held next door to the clinic at the K through High School next door to the clinic. The party was raging when we arrived and the community leaders on stage welcomed us graciously with speeches about all the HAM does for the community. There was good food and drink, arts and crafts for sale, music and dancing, and an overall good time. We enjoyed ourselves and were moved by the appreciation for HAM shown by the community.

The remainder of the week continued to be productive, with the solar and A/C systems fully installed and operational by Tuesday afternoon. Paul kept Aaron and Mathew busy with various maintenance projects around the clinic, including adding lights to the dehydration clinic and a few of the clinic rooms that needed additional lighting. The twins even did a little plumbing, carpentry, and helped Charles inventory and organize the recent order of plus and minus eye glasses and lenses we had ordered from China and had shipped directly to Haiti earlier in the year. Keith meanwhile studied and tweaked the solar system to maximize productivity. 

As for the truck, after a long and frustrating week of run arounds and arguments with the dealership, they ended up finally repairing the radiator to an acceptable state just in time to take Matthew and Aaron to the airport on Friday. Paul and Keith remained to make sure the system was working correctly, collecting data, and making sure and all was right before flying home Monday.

It was an extremely productive trip with everything planned accomplished. A huge THANK YOU goes out to Keith and his nephews Aaron and Matthew, for working so hard to get it all done and having such a great attitude the entire time.

First Eye Surgery Team in Dumay

January’s mission was the culmination of planning, partnership and perseverance over many years. HAM board members, doctors Laing and Janine, had long envisioned bringing an eye surgery team to Dumay to utilize the surgery room at the Dumay clinic. Populations in tropical climes with intense sunlight are highly susceptible to cataracts, and having encountered many cataract cases at the eye clinic, they deemed the need for access to such surgeries as significant. But cataract surgeries require an operating microscope, a large and expensive piece of equipment, so in 2014 we put out a call to HAM’s network of partner organizations stating our need and requesting they keep their eyes open. Within a year, our partner the SEVA Foundation in Berkley, CA informed us that they had located a used operating microscope in good condition which could be donated through their organization. The only hitch was we would have to deal with transportation of the large microscope from Berkeley to Dumay. We immediately contacted another partner organization, Direct Relief International in Santa Barbara, CA and asked if they might allow us room on their next container shipment of supplies to Haiti for the microscope. When they generously agreed and Dr. Laing and Paul Hammond picked up the microscope in Berkeley and had it crated and trucked to Santa Barbara. The microscope departed Southern California on a ship early in 2015 and arrived in Haiti in May. After several months in a Haitian port working through the complicated Haitian customs process, we finally took possession of the microscope in Haiti last August. At the same time the microscope was leaving port in the U.S., Dr. Janine contacted an old friend from optometry school, now a successful eye surgeon, Dr. Brian Stahl, in the Dayton, OH area who had been leading eye surgery missions in Africa, South and Central America, and Jamaica, to see if he was interested in adding Haiti to his mission list. In a certain case of serendipity, Dr. Stahl had been wanting to work in Haiti but had yet to find a suitable partner there to work with. Forging a new partnership, we immediately began work on scheduling a mission to Dumay. Next, work began in Haiti to locate, educate and screen potential cataract patients in the Dumay area. HAM’s Haitian eye technician, Charles, and the Haitian ophthalmologist who visits the clinic one day a month, Dr. Marcelus, worked to get the word out, inform and screen a rural and uneducated population about the possibility and potential for individuals to gain back their sight. Fear and superstition abound in Haiti and the challenge of recruiting patients to undergo a knife carving into their eyes can not be understated. This confluence of luck and hard work would now be put to the real test when Dr. Stahl and his team of assistants from “Go Crazy do Good”, Mindi Grissom, Diana Ernst, Ashley Gullett, along with assistance from Dr. Janine and her sister and fellow HAMboard member Connie Immel Ray arrived in Dumay on January 22nd.

Optometrist Opportunity

Healing Art Missions (HAM), a 501 (c) medical organization working in Haiti since 1999, is looking for an optometrist interested in joining at least one of our medical mission trips to Haiti annually. HAM funds and oversees a Haitian staffed primary care medical clinic in Dumay, Haiti, a subsistence farming community of 20,000 outside of Port-au-Prince. Along with doctor visits, a pharmacy, laboratory, vaccine clinics and clean water programs, we have an eye clinic with a trained eye technician who sees patients one week per month and a Haitian ophthalmologist who sees patients one day per month. Annually in January, a surgical team visits the clinic to perform cataract surgeries in our clinic surgical facility that includes an operating microscope.

 

HAM seeks an optometrist who can help oversee the eye clinic. Responsibilities would include: oversight and additional training of the Haitian eye technician, assessing current clinic eye equipment and helping plan for supplemental and replacement equipment, helping determine proper eye glasses inventory and eye medications for the clinic, seeing patients and working with the Haitian ophthalmologist and the U.S. based surgical team to determine the best options for treatment, working with suppliers of eye medications, glasses and eye equipment to identify and take advantage of programs that support such humanitarian eye programs as ours.

 

HAM’s Dumay eye clinic is currently stocked with the following equipment; autorefractor, tonopen, trial lens set and trial frame, Welsh Allen direct ophthalmoscope, Heine BIO, 20D lens 78D lens, Visual acuity charts.

 

Contact Dr Janine Flood, OD at floodmjk@roadrunner.com or healingartmissions@gmail.com if interested in this unique and important opportunity.