Wednesday, 17 January 2018

God's perfect timing

As soon as I arrived in Haiti Dr Rodney sat me down and said ' I have a dream to build a new facility for therapy.  Since you were here in 2010 we have had no therapy and I want Bethesda to have this service even after you leave.'

The first PT room in 2008 and 2010

I worked on a hospital bed often beside patients who were on the observation ward!

The next PT room in 2016, a better bed but still very limited space.  After about a month in here the electricity stopped working!
So we started the process of planning for this new building.  We started funding in early 2017, construction started in June, little by little we got all of our funding and on Friday 29 December we officially opened the new building.  The very next day we used the building was with a team of 6 PT's from the states.  In the morning they were treating patients and  I spent the week learning as much as I could especially on treating strokes and paediatrics.  We used our staff devotion time to educate our staff, giving them assessment tools to decide when they should send a patient to physiotherapy.
The new building!

On Wednesday and Thursday afternoon we had 18 Haitian PT techs come from 2-5pm for education sessions.  This was especially exciting for me.  I have worked really hard to set up the PT network and its been up and down, getting people to be committed and see the benefits of the group has been hard.   Doing the training was one of the reasons why I wanted to set it up.  We want to promote sustainability and when we have PT's coming to train me, I want them to train as many other therapists as they can.

On Friday afternoon we invited doctors and nurses from Bethesda and other clinics to come and learn more about PT particularly in regards to neurology and how physio can help.  We also gave them some assessment tools to help with referral.

The next step was to employ a Haitian PT tech.  The day before we opened the building I spoke with Dr Rodney that we really need a PT tech, especially after the team because there way no way I could see all of those patients for their follow up.  I had a girl in mind, who lives in the area, who has been very committed to the PT network and treated a patient for me over the summer.  Dr Rodney agreed with me and said he had someone in mind.  Turns out it was the same person! Unfortunately we don't yet have the money to pay her salary but she has been volunteering with me and she is great.  We would really  like to employ her full time as soon as we can.

A group of students from the PT tech school also came to shadow.

It has been so clear to me that this is God's plan for therapy in Bethesda and it is really even a miracle that the whole thing is completed, that the team has been and gone and that we already have a Haitian PT tech working alongside of me.

One of the things I wanted to do in this new space was to run classes and for the past two Monday's we have had our stroke class.  The first week each person stood up and told their story of how long they have been sick and how having a stroke affected their lives.  I could just tell this was really important to them and they had not had the chance to meet together with other stroke survivors.  Needless to say we didn't do any exercise the first week! Last week we did our 30 minutes of exercise then had a visiting nutritionist talk about the relationship between food and blood pressure.  Each week we will take a different subject and educate patients and every 3rd week Pastor Daniel will come and do a devotional.

Thank you for your prayers and financial support for this project, its pretty exciting to be here and see the whole thing come together.  Please continue to pray that within this new building patients would not only find the physical help that is so needed but above all they would find spiritual help.

Friday, 12 January 2018

A day to remember

Just saying '12th January' to anyone in Haiti immediately brings the earthquake to their minds.  Everyone is connected in someway to that date and  today marks 8 years since that awful day.

The statistics will never be accurate, but it is estimated that over 250,000 people lost their lives that day and over 300,000 people were injured.  I had the privilege of working with probably around 300 people over the year who were injured on the 12th January.  It was my job to get them out of bed, teach them to walk again, show them exercises about how to move their arm again or to just pray with them as their mind tried to comprehend what had happened. 

I just want to take some time to remember some of my patients and their stories today. 

Yveline, lost her husband and child while they were all in the house together.  She dislocated her shoulder and shattered her elbow.  She really struggled during her time in Milot and broke down almost weekly.  Slowly but surely she improved, not only physically but emotionally.  Through the help of Mercy Inc we were able to find her a place to live and set her up with a small business when she was discharged from hospital.

These three little ones who just got up and got on with it.  Everyday the girls got up, put on their prosthetic leg and just played.  The kids were so good at lifting the mood and just making everyone smile.  Many of the kids I treated had no idea where their parents were. 

This is Dove, Dove's leg was amputated really high up and no one thought she would be able to walk with a prosthesis.  But she proved everyone wrong and she did it!!

Stephanie came to see me in Bethesda, carried in by our security guard because she could not put her feet on the ground.  She had been trapped under rubble for days before anyone found her.  She was in a lot of pain and her legs were so sensitive to even touch.  I had no idea how to help her.  But I did what I thought would work and after 2 months her pain was gone and she was walking normally. 

Joseph was probably the strongest and most courageous of our patients.  He learned to transfer himself almost immediately and when it came time to take those first few steps with his new legs he was more than ready.  He was the first of our double leg amputees to walk with a stick and to get up and down off the floor by himself.  

Every afternoon around 3pm the girls in one of the tents would come together to worship and sing hymns.  I would be working on someone's back or doing exercises with a patient listening to them praising God.  After all they had been through, here they were sitting in a tent far far away from Port, having lost their homes, families, jobs and even limbs yet looking to the Lord for strength and having an overwhelming sense of thankfulness that they were alive. 

And a little miracle.  Julieanna's mum was 12 weeks pregnant when she was trapped under rubble for days. She lost her leg and her baby should not have survived, but she did.  Six months later she gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Julieanna! I am wondering if she knows she is named after a physio from NI and an X ray tech from Oregon! 

These people showed great strength and great courage and I often wonder where they are today.  So today, 8 years later I am thinking about them and praying for them. 

Tuesday, 2 January 2018


Christmas away from home is different to say the least.  Being warm at Christmas doesn't feel like Christmas at all!  It may be the only time of the year I miss being cold and sitting by the fire!  All the normal things that make you feel Christmassy just don't exist in Haiti so this year we were a bit more organised and did a few special hot Christmassy things...

I finished work last Friday and headed to the airport to pick up my sister, Leah which the boys were very excited about. 

On Christmas Eve we had our annual themed Christmas Eve party.  This is a tradition which came from Bill's family, every year on Christmas Eve one of the kids would choose a theme, they would decorate the house, dress up and eat a meal which would tie in with the theme.  Now Sam is old enough to understand what is going on we had to start. 

We invited the Ayars over for our Zoo themed party! The kids (and grown ups!) all had their faces painted, the house was decorated, we ate 'animal food' and played some animal themed games.  We had a great time!

Yes Bill is not wearing a t shirt...he's a monkey...

On Christmas day the boys opened their presents and had a great time doing so.  Joel was so funny, he had to play with everything for a wee while before he moved onto the next present.  We had Christmas dinner with the Ayars and there was no turkey or ham but a roast chicken dinner hit the spot!

Sams favourite present!

On boxing day Leah always goes to watch a football match with my dad, this year we took her to the beach along with some friends.  She made sure she got live updates of how the match was going!! The kids had a great time on the beach!

I was back at work on Thursday and Friday.  Friday was the official opening of the new physiotherapy building.  We had a special service with staff, missionaries and even radio 4VEH!The building is beautiful and exactly what we need.  Dr Rodney was so proud that all the materials for the building were from Haiti and the building was designed and built by Haitians.  Even some of our physio equipment was built in Haiti.  He explained one of the biggest things a missionary can come and do is to train nationals and that is our goal for this new physio building.  We want to employ a local Haitian physio technician who will work alongside me so that Bethesda can provide long term physiotherapy services.  Please pray for the funds we need to employ a PT tech and that God will give us wisdom in choosing the right person.

I have been anxious to get into the building for a long time but the timing has really worked out perfectly.  Yesterday a team of 6 PT's  from the states arrived and will be working at Bethesda all week.  We have around 60 patients booked in for them to see this week and in the afternoons they will be doing education sessions for 20 Haitian PT technicians.  Today was great they brought a whole lot of equipment and knowledge which will help me out after they leave.  I have lots I already want to fill you in on but I think that will have to wait until the weekend!!

I am working everyday this week, Bill is back to work tomorrow and Sam is back to school on Thursday.  EBS is moving into a month of intensives so our visiting professors arrive at the weekend and students start classes next Monday.

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas and Happy New Year!

Everyone is always telling me how happy the boys is a photo to prove its not always the case!! Joel is truly a mummy's boy!!

Friday, 22 December 2017

The grip of Satan

One thing that has struck me recently is the grip that Satan has over Haiti.  Yes people go to witch doctors here and yes they have voodoo parties where they invite spirits to enter into them but the grip I see is one of fear.  It seems to me that Satan doesn't even really need to do very much in Haiti, people automatically give him the victory for many things that happen.  Let me tell you about 3 patients of mine.

My first patient is a  young guy, let's call him John.  In May John had an accident at work and hurt his knee.  He went to various doctors who told them there was nothing that could be done, in fact one doctor even suggested he get his leg amputated because it was useless.  Since May, John has been getting around on a pair of crutches and not putting his foot on the ground at all.

Since I started treating John his leg has become stronger and stronger but progress is slow as all the muscles on his leg are completely wasted away.  Two weeks ago John came for his physio and as soon as I start treating him he started wailing, rolling about the bed and crying.  I stopped what I was doing, explained that I cannot treat him if he is like that and asked what was wrong.  He responded, 'Julie there are some things that happen in Haiti which you just can't understand.'

So I asked him to explain. We talked for well over an hour and to summarize, John believes that someone has prayed to Satan to put a spell on his knee.  He told me that no matter how hard we work it is never going to get better.

We continued to talk, I talked to John about the gospel and explained if he truly believed in God and has the Holy Spirit living inside of him then Satan can't put any spell on him.  John said he believes in God, he goes to church but I am not sure how much of what he said was him telling me what he thinks I wanted to hear.  We talked about the freedom which we find in Jesus and how we are no longer slaves to sin.  And how if John believes Satan is putting a spell on him, then he has given Satan the victory and he will continue to live in fear and hopelessness.

I prayed with him, told him to go home and think about what we talked about. I said if he firmly believes the problem in his knee is a result of Satan then there is no point in coming back to physio because it won't help.

John came back to physio a week later with a completely different attitude, during the week he had had a dream that an old man came and removed a lot of cockroaches from his knee and since that night the pain has decreased.  He told me, 'last week when you were talking to me, that wasn't you talking, it was God speaking through you.'  I really think God is doing something in John's life, please continue to pray for him.  On a physical note, he walked on Monday with no crutches for the first time!

Now let me tell you about the second patient.  My sister in law, Melissa, was here just a couple of weeks ago, she treated a lady who brings her daughter for PT every month.  This lady has told me she gets ill every month or so, and during that time period she has a 'bad spirit', she doesn't know what she is doing, where she is going and she talks a lot even to the point where people don't understand what she is saying.  Every time this happens, her family keep her at home and people from the church come to pray with her and ask the spirit to leave.  This has been going on for 20 years. 

It turns out instead of this lady having a 'bad spirit' she is bipolar, and can easily be treated with medication.  Another 20 year victory for Satan where he didn't have to do anything. 

My third patient came just yesterday with his brother, a young guy who was shot in the head in April and now has two bullet fragments in his head.  After he was first shot his family took him to Port au Prince and they were told if they operate and remove the bullets he would die, but if they don't do anything he will probably die.  So he was sent home to die.  At this stage he couldn't move or talk, he could only open and close his eyes. Over the next few months he began to start moving, talking, eating and drinking.  By November he was walking on his own but he still had issues with his right leg and left arm so he came to Bethesda for physio.  After he told me the story I remarked that it really was a miracle that he was alive and that God must have a plan for his life.

This started a new discussion, his family have been taking him to a witch doctor to get better.  He doesn't believe he has two bullet fragments in his head, he thinks the bullet skimmed by his head and now he hasn't fully healed because of a spell someone put on him.  Yet again, Satan is getting the credit and victory for something he didn't do.  As we talked I could tell that God was really doing something in his life and he told me that he wants to become a Christian but he can't while he is going to a witch doctor.  After a long discussion (and no physio), I sent him to talk with Pastor Daniel.  Pastor Daniel later told me that during their discussion the young man stopped him and said you don't need to talk anymore, I am ready to accept Christ into my life.

And that's how I want to finish this post,  knowing there is HOPE in the despair, knowing there is LIGHT in the darkness and knowing that there is FREEDOM in Christ where people no longer have to live in fear.

Praise the Lord that he is working in Haiti and even though it feels like Satan has a grip on Haiti, little by little, one life at a time God is working to change Haiti for Him.