The Darkness Before Dawn

Breathe.  Just breathe.

That’s what I kept telling myself yesterday morning.

My world felt as though it was tilting nearly out of control when I surveyed the large crowd that was waiting for us, with people everywhere reaching out to stop me as I walked by, as I tried desperately to shove my emotions about some news from home down, all the while fighting to function normally on much too little sleep.

I don’t do well on too little sleep.

But let me go back to the beginning of the week, so that maybe you can understand where I’m coming from – or better yet, to last Saturday.

We were just leaving Port from picking up supplies for the dentist when Whitney got a phone call from Eugene.  A man had shown up needing a catheter put in.  Someone was found to do it, but Kara was needing to know where we keep the supplies for it.

During the process of calling and trying to follow the directions to the supplies, a girl showed up that was severely dehydrated and from what we were told, sounded like she had cholera.  And a very short time later, we were told that a woman in labor had also shown up.

We all took turns blaming ourselves for leaving as we flew down the road to Petit Goave, where Whit, Mali and I jumped on a small machine with Hans and hurried up the trail, while the rest of the group went on to market to finish our day out with the dentist.

Upon our arrival, we discovered that the lady was in fact pregnant with twins, and that the little girl, while she didn’t have cholera, was in pretty bad shape.  After a brief discussion, we all agreed that we weren’t comfortable keeping either of them here, and Hans went home to get the bobcat ready to go.

In the meantime, Mali and I got our people ready to go, since it was our turn for a birth and we were the two going with, while Whit worked on prescribing meds for a man with abdominal pain.

All of this was happening over Easter weekend, a time when voodooists all over Haiti celebrate the death of Jesus by participating in raras at all hours of the day and night (this is part of the reason we were all a little low on sleep).  Raras are….the epitome of evil.  Really.  This is supposed to be a family-friendly blog, so I won’t go into any details, but suffice it to say, that there are many grossly horrible things that happen in raras.  Is it any wonder that it’s hard to sleep when you know that people that you know are out there participating in them?

This particular evening’s rara that was happening in front of the clinic was especially hard for me to bear, since there were a couple young men participating in it that we know pretty well from our mini cholera outbreak a while back.  Mali had talked with them about Christ before, and they always declared that they’re going to come to church.  Seeing them dancing and chanting with the rest of the group…knowing that they were celebrating the death of a Saviour who came to die for THEM as well as me….wrenched my heart and brought tears to my eyes.

When they were leaving, the older of the two walked over to the clinic and came to the window of the office where I was stamping transfer papers for our patients.  When I opened the window, he greeted me by calling me his sister, which he’s done ever since I told him once that I only have one brother and he promptly adopted me and told me that I now have two.  When I only quietly replied with, “Bonswa, frè’m”, he paused and studied for me for a bit, before asking what was the matter.  Since my tears were threatening to drip down my face by that time, I only choked out a nearly inaudible “Nothing” as I fled the room.

I can’t explain the pain that comes from knowing that someone you genuinely care about is celebrating the death of the Someone who is the very reason that you’re living.  It’s a new kind of heartbreak for me.

I talked with him for a few minutes again before he left, and had so many things that I wanted to say to him about his need for a God big enough to love him in the midst of the evil he’s involved in right now, but my traitorous throat closed and wouldn’t allow me to say all that I wanted to.  We were also about ready to leave by this time, so I finally simply told him that I needed to go.  Please remember him and his family in your prayers.

Mali and I were discussing the incident after we hit the trail, as we braced ourselves on the back of the bobcat on either side of our laboring mother, while bouncing along.  We both agreed that there was a nearly overwhelming sense of darkness in the air, even though our path was being lit by a rather beautiful moon shining from a clear sky.

I felt a nearly desperate need for prayer, so I sent some of my family a message asking them to join us in praying for a safe trip out to town and back, and that both of our patients would make it out all right.  We knew we’d most likely be driving through more raras on the trail, and while people are usually pretty respectful when we are transferring patients, people that are both drunk and “deviled up” (as I heard someone once refer to the people in raras) are not always reasonable.

We came up to our first one that was spread across the trail, and as we called ahead that we were transferring a maladi and it was urgent, they slowly shifted to the side enough for us to squeeze by.  We no sooner than got partway through the crowd, than four or five of the guys started half-jogging behind us, yelling and looking at us with such hatred in their eyes…I told Mali later that the only time I’ve seen people here look that angry was that time up by the helicopter – but then it wasn’t aimed at me personally.  As we were coming out of the crowd, Hans started speeding up and a couple guys suddenly decided to see if they could catch a ride on our machine with us, running after us and grabbing the tailgate to pull themselves up.  Mali promptly stomped on the fingers of the guy closest to her, who let out a rather sheepish laugh as he shook his stinging fingers.  The guy on my side didn’t take his punishment quite so well though, and as he released his hold with the hand I stomped on, he raised his other hand and brought the rock that he was holding in it down on the tailgate in an attempt to hit my foot that I had braced there.  Thankfully, he almost entirely missed, and just barely brushed one of my toes.

Mali and I looked at each other with big eyes, and I couldn’t help but say that I hoped we didn’t bump into this particular group again on our way back up, since I wouldn’t have put it past that young man to chuck a rock at my head if he saw me again.

Thankfully, we only had to drive through one more rara on the trail, which we passed without incident.

We arrived at the hospital in Petit Goave, where Mali and I took the woman back to the maternity ward while Hans went with the girl to Ti Goave’s equivalent of an emergency room (hint: it’s not like the ones you may or may not have seen).

In that whole hospital, there was not a single doctor.

The nurse back in the maternity ward did an ultrasound, and agreed with us that there was in fact two babies in there.  She also sweetly informed us that they couldn’t deliver them since they didn’t have a doctor.  We left the woman in her hands for a minute while we ran up to see what Hans had figured out about the girl.  They actually had an ambulance that was leaving right then to make a transfer to Port, and we were told that they could transfer the girl to Grand Goave’s hospital if they wanted to ride along, so we decided to send them with the ambulance, then go back and pick the lady again to transfer her to a hospital in Leogane ourselves.

After a hurried switch of vehicles at Pastor’s house, we were once again flying down the road, while the lady’s woi-ing seemed to intensify every few minutes.  It was now sometime around eleven o’clock.

We passed a couple more raras on the road without event, and reached the hospital where we transferred our lady into the capable hands of the nurses there.

We now turned our tired bodies toward home again, and retraced our path back to Pastor’s to reclaim our bobcat before heading back to the trail.  We paused at the bottom of the trail and turned the machine off so that we could say a prayer for our safety before coming back up, since we knew we no longer had the safety of being able to say that we were transferring a patient.

And, yet again, God proved himself a worker of miracles, because, at a time in the night when raras are usually more prevalent, the only one that we saw was already off the trail.  I glanced over my shoulder at the small group that was standing on a ridge overlooking the road just in time to see one of the shadowy figures hurl a rock in our direction – aimed at my head, I was sure. :o)

We had no sooner than got home, cleaned up, and fallen asleep it seemed than I was awoken by a knock on the gate.  I pried my eyes open enough to see Whit getting ready to leave and I rather groggily asked if she wanted me to go down to the clinic with her, but she told me to sleep and that she’d wake up Ellamae.

It wasn’t until the next morning that I found out that that they had had a total of ten people come in with diarrhea between Saturday evening and Sunday morning.

Well, I had planned on giving a quick run-down on the last week when I started this post on Thursday evening, but since it’s already rather lengthy, I don’t really think that that is such a good idea.  I’m not sure, but Whit may still write a post to fill you in.

If she does, she can tell you about the sixteen month old who puked up seven worms, one of which was nearly ten inches long.  And the sixteen year old girl we did a paracentesis on Friday.  About the four separate runs that we’ve made to the hospital in Leogane in just over a week.  That I inserted my first IO on a little girl that was so dehydrated that her little veins just wouldn’t stand up.  She could talk about all the beautiful work that Ewold was able to do for the teeth in this area whilst he was here.

She can tell you about how much we’re missing Mali since she left with Ewold and his daughter Debbie on Thursday morning for a three week furlough.

She may NOT mention that my eldest sister just had a beautiful little baby girl named Makenna.  How completely sezi I was when I saw the message saying that she had had it while I was at clinic this afternoon.  How I danced down the trail showing every single person that I happened upon my new little niece’s photo and nearly popping with pride as they all exclaimed over how pretty and big she was.  She really is quite perfect, just for the record. :o)

These last two weeks have been rather hectic and stressful.  We’ve had a lot going on at clinic, it’s rained nearly every day, and the whole Easter thing is just…tiring, and on top of all that, stuff happening with my family back at home and not being able to be there with them.  Hans and I were talking this morning, about how crazy it’s been, and how the last two days have been so much calmer and even somewhat sunny, and he mentioned how they say that it’s always the “darkest before the dawn”.

And we’re praising the Lord for that dawn.

Well, I’m gonna wrap this rather lengthy epistle up now.  Thanks for the prayers, and for caring enough to make it all the way to the end of this post. ;o)

May each of you have a wonderfully peace-filled and inspiring Lord’s day tomorrow, and God bless.

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