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Tiffany Busscher RN

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            While I have felt a calling toward the mission field for many years, it was not until after January 12, 2010 that I felt the sudden, urgent need to be in country and help the people of Haiti.  Following the earthquake, I spent a lot of time viewing the events and the Haitian people online and keeping up with the various non profit organizations stationed in and around Port au Prince.  I signed up to be called, if needed, as a medical volunteer through Partners in Health and teased Dr. Michael Page about stashing me in his suitcase for his pre-planned, upcoming trip to Haiti.  Then, on Friday, January 22, only 10 days after the earthquake struck, pieces started falling into place.  My friend and coworker, Sarah Ashley, called to tell me there were more openings for medical staff members to be a part of the team leaving for Haiti the following week!  While in my mind, the possibility of my actual departure with the group seemed very remote, I thought I would give it my best and see what happened.  During the next 24 hours, Sarah and I were able to find coverage for a combined total of 10 shifts with the help of our selfless ED family.  The following day, I received a phone call from an excited friend informing me that all the trip expenses for Sarah and I had been covered by a very generous donation from a local church.  It seems that there was a greater purpose, meant to be fulfilled in the streets of Port au Prince and back home in Holland, Michigan, that Sarah and I could be part of the medical team through Haiti Needs You.

The following paragraphs are taken from my journal the first day in Haiti:

01-28-2010: Day 1

            Whew!  What a day so far!  I started out bright and early to get in my last warm shower and to make it to the Amway hanger by 0430.  We certainly flew first class plus!  In a quick 3.5 hours, we were already landing in Port au Prince.  We could see all the military vessels and aircraft from the plane windows as we flew in.  Then, we unloaded our equipment and shuffled through customs…which consisted of no more than a glance at our passports and a stamp.  We loosely packed all of our luggage into a van and the back of a truck.  Then we packed ourselves into the back of the truck!  It was standing room only.  Once we were on the road, I quickly noticed that our travel arrangements were nothing out of the ordinary.  The city is packed with people!  Bumper to bumper traffic and people flooding the streets.  They have a saying about the tap taps (taxis) here that asks, ‘How many people can you fit on a tap tap?  One more!‘  Without question, this definitely proved to be true!  Rules of the road here seem minimal, if not non existent.  If a vehicle needs to turn in any direction or switch lanes, they seem to just slowly make the change and hope that everyone else is paying close attention.  We saw many aide groups and (foreign) military presence here seems strong.  We also got our first glimpse at the devastation…beautiful buildings crumbled, multiple stories collapsed into one, pieces of concrete and rebar littering the streets.  Then a young, Haitian boy runs up to the truck hoping for a bite to eat.  Tim Ryan hands over his portion of the leftovers from the Amway flight.  I wondered how I so carelessly let my own be thrown in the trash!  I felt so thoughtless. 

            Once we made it into the complex at Pastor RoRo’s, we quickly noticed our hopeful audience.  A line of Haitian people weaved down the stairs and into the clinic, waiting for a chance to be seen.  We unpacked the supplies and set up our clinics….then we began seeing our first patients!  An overwhelming way to start, but a great way to jump right in- especially since our time there was so limited.  Thankfully our team included many talented physicians and mid level providers who we could pummel with all our patient care related questions.  We saw a lot of primary care concerns mixed in with post-earthquake complaints.  Common complaints included dizziness, headaches, reflux, vaginal discharge, cough, eye itching, scabies, fungus, minor untreated wounds, non-reduced fractures, sprains, strains, UTIs, fevers, and hypertension. I quickly compiled a list of medical items to take with me on the next trip! 

            On the way back to the guest house we made a quick stop to tour the Matthew 25 complex and to drink a refreshing cold beverage.:)  We learned that most of our interpreters had also lost their homes in the earthquake and were staying with the masses in the tent cities.  These were the same quiet, down-to-earth people we worked next to all day.  I don’t think I heard a single complaint.  On day 2, one of our interpreters, Patrick, told me his story of the earthquake.  He was driving down the road, and was late to meet his friends for dinner at a 4-story restaraunt. This restaurant collapsed and in it, 3 of his friends perished.  Patrick told me he was blessed to be alive and because it hadn’t rained on the tent city.  What strong faith!  I was speechless.  At night we heard songs of praise and worship coming from the tent city behind the guest house.  Wow. Welcome to Haiti.

I am so thankful that I was able to be a part of this trip.  It’s hard to say that it was a ‘great’ trip because it was very difficult to see all the people who were sad, hurting, and hungry.  I wanted so badly to give every person who said they had problems with ‘acid,’ dizziness, headache, or anemia a promise for sufficient food and clean water.  These were such common complaints and I think regular access to food and water could have helped alleviate many of these problems.  Haiti is in such great need of so many basic necessities.  After returning, a friend asked me, “Do you feel like you were actually able to accomplish anything down there?”  Of course, when you look at the sheer numbers of people in need down tahere, one could say we were merely “spitting on a fire.”  However, our team did not serve by this theory.  We served to help one person at a time and to this one person, we could made a huge difference!  This trip has given me inspiration and motivation.  I surely hope to have the opportunity to work with this group again and again.  Haiti needs YOU!

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