"Sickness does not have a horn."
Think, "car horn." In Haiti, your car horn is an indispensable part of your drive. You use it very frequently just to alert people that you are there. In fact, it can be quite dangerous to drive if your car horn is not working. So, the proverb literally means, "Sickness doesn't let you know when it's coming."
Disclaimer: The following tale is rather long. However, I wanted to go into more detail in order to give you a clear picture of the realities in Haiti and of our context right now.
On Monday evening of last week (May 20th), Judy started having stomach pain. Since she has suffered from chronic stomach pain for most of her life, we didn't think too much of it. She had a fever too, but there happened to be a fever going around the Plateau. So again, we assumed it was nothing unusual.
During the night, however, the pain became unbearable. By mid-morning on Tuesday, it became clear that something out of the ordinary was very wrong.
The only place to go for a medical emergency like this is Port-au-Prince. Our one dependable diesel vehicle (the Excursion) was out of commission. Ironically, Wenson had taken my (Krischelle's) car into Port-au-Prince on Friday on an urgent errand to get the necessary part to fix it. We had wanted to do so ASAP just in case of an emergency. The problem was that the emergency arrived before he did!
So, we called MAF for an emergency flight. (Thankfully, they were available.)
However, the other problem was, we didn't know where to go once we got to Port-au-Prince. The medical system in Haiti is hard to navigate. We called one trusted doctor we know, but he was out of the country for the week. There are many other doctors and hospitals...however, you don't want to end up with the majority of them. After a host of phone calls, we finally got connected with Hero, which is a reputable emergency medical service. They said they would pick us up at the airport and take us to the hospital. Your absolute best bet for a hospital in Haiti is Bernard Mevs. When I asked if they would take us there, the woman responded, "We will try. But, Bernard Mevs has been full lately, because other hospitals are shutting down." (Note: this is due to the inability of institutions to function in the economic and political environment in Haiti right now.)
After discussing it, Manis and I decided that I would fly in with Judy, and that he would stay with Ani and follow in the Excursion as soon as Wenson could get back.
We had at least two other friends who live in Port-au-Prince and were on their way to the airport to meet us. Judy could barely make it to the plane, and had to lie down on a board on the floor for the 40 min flight. When we finally made it to Port-au-Prince, our kind pilot friends came to the plane to meet us.
"Is Hero here?" I asked.
"No," said John. "There was another emergency somewhere else, and they are too far away to get here. Bernard Mevs is full too."
You know that heart sinking feeling?
Thankfully, a third dear family friend, Wawa, was at the airport as well. Judy lay down on his back seat while we fought our way through Port-au-Prince traffic.
The following events would make for quite a long story, and the remainder of the day/night was very distressing. We were connected to a first doctor who sent us to a hospital we had wanted to avoid in the first place. At that point, however, we did not know of any other choice. His manner and approach threw red flags up all over the place. Thanks to more phone calls and the fighting spirit of some fierce friends, we walked out of the first hospital and loaded up in the vehicle (for the third time) to go to a private clinic recommended by a friend of a friend.
Even though it was after hours (I think it was somewhere around 8:00PM by this time), this clinic had called in a radiologist to do a sonogram, and they had called surgeons in too, just in case. The radiologist concluded that Judy had a blockage in her bowel, and recommended surgery immediately. The anesthesiologist and the surgeons all came in and talked to and examined Judy. They started prepping her for surgery, and everyone we could contact was praying. (We were, of course, in contact this whole time with Manis and Judy's mother Ginger, who is a nurse with lots of experience in Haiti. Ginger, in turn, was in contact with two doctor friends in the US, who were giving thoughts and counsel through the whole process.)
Suddenly, all three doctors walked in. To our great surprise, they said, "After consulting together, we feel that there may not be an obstruction after all. There are some symptoms that don't make sense, and we think she may in fact have an intestinal infection that is causing inflammation. We would rather not rush into surgery, but instead put her on heavy doses of antibiotics and wait and see."
Praise the Lord!
A dear friend, Lara, and I slept in the hospital that night...
In the meantime....
Wenson was trying his best to get back to the Plateau from Port-au-Prince with all possible speed on Tuesday afternoon, even as Judy and I were in the air on our way into Port-au-Prince. Then he broke down. The alternator on my car gave out. Tiga had to rush to where he was with the necessary equipment to get him running again.
First thing on Wednesday morning, a couple of our guys started working on the Excursion. It was a big job, and it took some time. But, finally Manis and Ani were able to start on their way in. The road right now is not secure. There is a gang installed along it that has been blocking the road and sometimes robbing people. So, there is a heightened level of stress when driving. You just never know what you will meet. The road was indeed blocked in Montrouis, and they had to wait for a little while until they could get through.
To everyone's great relief and joy, Manis and Ani (along with Wenson, Tiga, and Dadithe) made it to the hospital on Wednesday afternoon. I need not say that the past two days had been very trying and left everyone haggard with anxiety and strain. But, we praised the Lord for all the friends he perfectly placed alongside us--each with a vital role--and for leading us to a clean, secure clinic with kind nurses and very capable doctors (none of whom we had ever known about before).
It turns out, Judy did indeed have a serious infection caused by high levels of giardia. Manis stayed in the hospital with her for the next four nights and days, while Ani and I went home with Lara (who thankfully doesn't live that far away) and visited every day. Judy still had quite a bit of pain and unpleasantness as she recovered over the next few days, but slowly and surely she got better.
Judy was released from the hospital on Sunday morning. That evening, Ginger flew into Haiti. We all stayed with Lara at her apartment. On Monday, Manis headed back to the Plateau, while we remained in the city so that Judy could get some more tests. They had to divert around one roadblock in Arcahaie. After dropping Manis off on the Plateau, Wenson turned right around and headed back to Port on Tuesday, so that we would have some method of transport around the city. He confronted one roadblock forming outside of Gonaïves that forced him to turn around and wait in a nearby town for several hours. When it seemed cleared up, he started back on the road again only to find them blocking the road a second time in the same place. Thankfully, the police showed up and he was able to get through.
This past week, Judy has had some follow up tests done. So far, nothing has been conclusive.
On Sunday, Ginger, Judy, and Ani will be flying back to the States for a time. Judy needs to gain weight and strength back, and she needs to have further tests done on her GI tract. Please be in prayer for her. Pray that they would be able to identify the cause of her years of pain.
I will head back with Wenson to the Plateau on Monday. That is, if we can get through. Manis told me a little while ago that they had the road blocked all day today. Please pray for God's wisdom, peace, and protection as we travel.
More to come...!