Well our adventure is almost over for this time. What an experience!
As much as we would like to help make the hospital a successful on going project and as much as we can teach and lead by example, it was amazing to me to see how much we can learn from the people of Zinvie (Benin).
All the people without exception were so mannerly, pleasant, gracious and humble from the head Priest to the poorest person we saw. Family members stay at the hospital and cook and clean for their sick relatives, there is no food provided at all. Though no fault of our own we had to cancel a little girl’s surgery twice, though she had fasted twice and when we explained to the mom what happened and that we were so sorry, she just looked up at Dr. Bourget and said “ok, ok”. We felt so awful, but thankfully we were able to see her on Thursday and get her all fixed up. She was so beautiful and the mom was soooo happy.
Everyday was an event one way or another, from power outages in the middle of surgery or cancelation of surgery because there was no oxygen to do the surgeries or a road trip with Pere Cassimere who took a back road, when he wasn’t sure where it would lead, that had been washed out because it is the raining season, with pole holes deep enough to swallow you (I’m not joking either) I didn’t think we would make it back!
Friday was an experience. I was monitoring a 3 day old baby who needed emergency bowel surgery. She was doing great, her levels were all good and out of the blue she stopped breathing. Paul and Julietta, calm and collected just did their business and just like that she was back to normal levels. Hers were normal, mine were not! J That same after noon we had a touchy moment again with another little girl. This is no where near the facilities we have in Canada, there are communication difficulties, there are equipment difficulties, there are continuous power outages and a host of other limitations, but in the middle of all that Dr. Louis, Dr. Paul, Dr Julietta and Judy simply switched gears, each knowing what the other should do and calmly got our 2nd little girl back on track, got her levels organized and way to go to finish a very difficult 4.5 hour surgery! They are a team when you consider they never work together.
Pam, myself and Paul went to the basement to try to do some kind of organizing of they supplies, it was a monumental task and this was before the new container ever arrived. It was long, dusty and hot, but in the middle of it all Pam and I were just laughing at everything Paul would say. He wasn’t trying to be funny, he just was, he proved to be great levity, which made the time pass so quickly. The next day Pam was back in the basement for 5 hours, she is a great organizer and work horse, this too was before the container came. Finally on Saturday morning, the day of our departure the container showed up. There were two surgeries, in the morning and then all hands helped organize, distribute and catalogue the new supplies. There was so much stuff!!!! Some of the boxes had little hats for the neonatal unit, so Judy and I brought those over and the nurses were so happy to receive them. There was loads of medical supplies that will hopefully find good use, there was equipment for the University to use and school supplies. There was one big box of mostly shoes and clothes, so just before we left yesterday afternoon, Judy, Pam and myself took over some things for the little children we had done the surgeries. One little boy, Marcel, he had a huge Hygroma on his neck and we had to get him back in yesterday morning to do some extra draining. He was so scared, but so brave. I had to hold his hand, while we were trying to calm him. He just kept looking at me. I felt so bad. So he was the first boy I went to with a lovely pair of blue flip flops and a matching blue hat. He gave me a big smile and shook my hand. Happy Joanie J Judy and Pam were just bombarded with people wanting things, after we had seen our children, we just gave the rest who we could. It was a great feeling.
There is still so much to do there and Louis and his team have a lot yet ahead of them. The Priest there are so thankful for all that is being done and really look forward to Dr. Alex, Dr. Julietta and their team returning in September and to Dr. Louis, Judy and their team returning in February 2013.
I wish them every success and blessing that comes their way.
And just to finish, I would, from the bottom of my heart like to that Louis and Judy for taking me on an experience I’ve waited 25 years to be a part of and to say that meeting Alex, Julietta, Pam and Paul was such an added bonus! You guys were great!! Lots of love to you all. Xoxoxox
May 27, 2012
It’s Sunday afternoon for some and morning for others. I’m sitting in the plane reflecting on the whole week and blown away by how fast it went. 7 days ago we all met at the airport nervous and anxious to what was awaiting us and now we are headed back home. Wow!!
We had a great week with a great team and worked hard… We did some simple biopsies and some big long surgeries with great success, sometimes not always easy but successful. The biopsies are being brought back home to analyze thanks to a pathologist Louis knows. They better not leak in my bag though.. ewww!!
As Louis and Joanie said everybody complimented each other well and worked great together as much as the majority of us are type a+..
Saturday was a busy crazy day with surgeries in the morning and taking care of unpacking and organizing the container then packing our things and visiting the sisters of Marcelina School. We found at least 6 boxes of neonatal supplies that we delivered to the department such as little tiny diapers, knitted baby hats sweaters etc. We gave out the children’s clothes and shoes that Patty and our families donated. We gave some to the young men that helped us unpack the container as they all have small children and we brought a lot to the sisters to donate to the children in there village as well. We did hand out some to the patients at the hospital but we soon got bombarded with mothers just taking things out of our hands.. It was a bit overwhelming. I asked father Casimere to distribute the remaining as I think a fight would have broken out with the mothers over who was getting what. Its nice to see them so happy with a simple piece of clothing or pair of sandles but sad as well because you wish you could give them so much more.
Our visit to the sisters school was interesting to say the least.. Our drive there took a little longer then expected with traffic so hectic and the father not exactly remembering how to get there. The sisters where happy to see us and happy to receive our offerings for the children. We brought them clothes, school supplies, some toys and treats. The extension to there school is amazing they are doing a great job but they do need help with people volunteering there time to teach. Our drive back was even more interesting as Alex kept telling the father to take a short cut, well he found one thru some hydro lines.. The road was washed out most of the way. Now, I have driven thru roads like this before but with a four wheeler or my old Jeep,, but never with a van with 7 people… OMG!!! We were all holding on wondering if we were going to sink or tip.. I now know that when Joanie gets nervous she starts to sing and giggle like crazy, we laughed so hard. We saw one of the hospital workers on his bike pass by us and Joanie all of sudden thought we were saved because she knew somebody in the bush..lol Father Casimere did a great job driving thru this “road” and getting us back on time to finish packing.. It was quit the adventure. One I’m sure we will not soon forget..lol
The good byes are always the hardest, you get so attached to the hospital workers and the patients, its hard to leave. You let go of your reality and live theirs and coming back home is a reality check. Its better this time, I knew what to expect and it was less of a culture shock so coming back I can accept that we live in separate worlds and as long as we can donate our time, supplies and some money we are helping them develop into a better place.. We can only teach them in baby steps as we can’t overwhelm them with our ways. They have lived in poverty with so little for so long and I guess always will but if we can help the hospital improve in some ways, then we are doing a great job.
On our journey home we parted ways in Paris. We said goodbye to Alex and Julietta and as Louis said we were a bit rushed so it was less emotional. We will keep in touch as they are going back in September. Pam unfortunately is on a different flight back home, so she is going from Paris to Newark and then Halifax.
Thanks to Pam, Joanie and Paul for joining our team and donating there time to help. We appreciate it so much, thank you, thank you. It was amazing to spend this time with all of you and getting to know you all on a different level. You are all great generous loving people.
I love you all and hope we can do this again xox