It Could Happen

Yesterday, my mom called me and told me One of My Many Cuzzins‘ sent me and my family a package.

I was like:  “MEEE??? “A package?” “WHAT?” “Huuu?” 

 “WHY?”

My mom laughed and said, “I don’t know. . . After school come over and see what it is.”

“Oh! We will!”  I said.

After completing science, English, and math I thought we should skip the rest and call it a day. After all, I had important things to do like study for the 8th grade Confirmation class I was teaching at six that night.

AND 


Most Importantly, 

I had a very important business matter to handle at my mother’s house. . . like opening a package that was waiting. . . for ME! and my family. 


I should tell you I was confused, a little perplexed and very excited. . . But, I won’t tell you that at all. You may think I have never gotten a surprise package before in my life. Unless, I sent a package to myself and then it just wouldn’t be a surprise. . . of course, unless I forgot. 



That could happen.

To our great delight I find a card, finger nail polish and goodies inside the very large envelope. 

Okay, there were also Starbursts.  I gave those to out to my confirmation students last night as rewards for: class participation, reading volunteers, good behavior and just plain being there with a good attitude. I figured after being in school all day we all may need a little surprise. The bribe thought out plan worked perfectly. 


The card inside the package said my cuzzin wanted to let me know she felt my pain for the run of bad luck we had in August and I thought. . . Run of Bad Luck???  

Oh! the cars, the fall, the cut, the illnesses, the kids. . . Oh! Yeah! THAT!. 

“WOW!”

“How very nice of her.” “How very thoughtful.” “How kind.” “Gee, It is one thing to think of sending nice things like cards, nail polish and candy but THEN to actuality send them. . .  That is really something special.” ~ my mom agreed. 

And then, we both decided two things: 

1.) Complaining and whining pays off.

2.) We both want to be thoughtful, kind and follow through like Regina when we grow up. 

It could happen. 

Well! It could! 
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Black and White Wednesday & The Sisters

Aunt Ann came down for a visit with two of her daughters….and just like Aunt Ann does SHE started to sing…and my mom started to sing…and then Auntie started to sing and sing and sing and sing.
 
(Aunt Ann, my Mom and Auntie)
AND
Sing they did!
(Margaret, Karen, Me
Peggy and Regina)

There was so much singing going on…we just couldn’t get away.

the long road

Home From Haiti ~ Regina

My cousin Regina sent out this letter February 11 telling everyone she was home and about her experiences in Haiti.
I wanted to post this letter not only because I am proud of Regina there were many people wishing her well that are not on her e-mail list.
I thought some of you would like the opportunity to read her letter.

Hello All:
We departed 95 degree Haiti at 9 in the morning, and arrived home to frigid Boston around midnight Sunday 2/7. Shovelling out from 6-8 inches of snow this morning never felt so invigorating and freeing to me. I’ll take this weather and American taxes anyday over life in Haiti. I live in a beautiful country and really take way too much for granted.

I’ve been home a few days and am still feeling the effects of what I experienced. My body is physically spent as I’ve never worked so hard in my life. Every time we turned around there was something more that could be done. The morning quickly became afternoon and soon it was evening and then the sun set and the next thing we knew, it was midnight or 2 AM and, I was STILL working!!! Half the time I couldn’t remember when the last time was that I ate or went to the bathroom! Constantly I was pulled in different directions….to medicate someone or perhaps 50 patients; to take down dressings and re-bandage gruesome wounds; to bathe victims caked with 3 weeks worth of earthquake soot; to improve the living quarters of 100 women who were sleeping on straw mats on a concrete floor; to assemble a shelving unit from card board boxes & surgical tape, to create an accessible stock area for nursing supplies; to digging a foxhole-like ditch for the emptying of bedpans; to hanging a 2 mile long clothes line for the hand washed laundry to dry. No joke…these are some of the many things that I found myself doing. Sometimes reality would hit and I’d shake my head and think ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this’!
As a nurse, I found myself thrown into situations that were far beyond my scope of knowledge, however I worked to the best of my ability and really believe I made a difference in the lives of many. As a woman, I felt my maternal insticts pulling me into that role of nurturer and protector. I fell in love with so many of the beautiful children. One in particular who I will give an update later in this letter. As a human, I felt very conflicted that such poverty exists…I’m talking about life in Haiti before the earthquake. How is it that a country can be so corrupt and allow their people to live in these conditions? It is an awful place…dirty, antiquated, sad.

I was in Milot, Haiti. A small town 75 miles north of Port Au Prince. I did not go anywhere near the epicenter of the quake. Our area was not damaged by the earthquake. Hopital Sacre Coeur is a hospital funded by the Order of Malta, here in the States. It functions and is well equipped for 75 patients. Since the earthquake, the hospital has expanded to nearly 400 pts. The original hospital building has been transformed into an ICU, PACU, 3 OR’s, 3 Procedure Rms (mostly for casting), and the upstairs is used for non earthquake related patients. We had a birth up there last week. A beautiful healthy little girl! Across the street there was a school building which has been taken over to house the majority of patients and also a nutrition center which was taken over and used as the Pediatric Center. And, another school which is used as the Emergency Room & Triage areas. A soccer field has become a helicopter landing area where victims are brought in from Port Au Prince, the USS Comfort ship, and many of the field hospitals around the immediate earthquake area. The Caritas Hospital Network in Boston, has shipped down 5 very large tents which went up during my time in Haiti. We called it Tent City and it looks just like M.A.S.H. The plan is to move all of the patients out of the school buildings and get the children back into school. The tents are being stocked with supplies and cots/beds and can house up to 500+ patients. The moving of patients had just begun as we were finishing up our 10 day stay.

The volunteers sleep (not much!) in a gated, secured compound. There are 3 buildings, sort of like retreat houses, with 3 people per room and several common bathrooms/shower rooms to share. Tents were also pitched to accommodate volunteers. I was lucky to be assigned a room with a bed in the convent. I roomed with 2 other Caritas nurses and we did have a bath & shower in our quarters that was shared with a few other nurses who were sleeping on cots in the convent kitchen & living room. There was a cook for the volunteers and meals were meager and a little different than what we’d normally choose to eat. Breakfast was delicious juicy grapefruit & Haitian porrage. Lunch was rice & beans and some sort of mystery meat, either goat, mule or some kind of bird. Supper was rice & beans and vegetables. I was very happy that I thought ahead and brought with me those foil packages of tuna!! There was also a fridge full of Coke and cold beer…which was a welcome treat enjoyed by all.

Many of us left behind our shoes and clothing. I gave the few articles of clothing I brought to my friend Rita. She had nothing of her own and was thrilled to have some “new” things to wear. My shoes went to my interpreter Jaqueson. He was a tremendous help to me and I was really happy that my brand new Reeboks would be well worn. I also gave him the Quaker Instant Oatmeal that I brought and never ate. You’d think I gave that boy a thousand dollars. He actually cried real tears to receive my leftovers.

My little boy Raymond looks to be 2 yrs old, but they say he is very articulate, so it is possible he is 3 yrs old. He was found in the rubble of a little shack in Port Au Prince. There were other bodies around him, however he was the sole survivor. He arrived at Hopital Sacre Coeur on a chopper, the same day that I arrived. He was brought to us from one of the field hospitals in Port Au Prince with his right arm already amputated at the elbow. I met him when he came out of the OR on my second day. His wound was badly infected and he had just had more of his right arm amputated. He is now left with a shoulder stump. He woke up hysterically crying looking for his “Mama”. I leaned over his bed and tried to comfort him. He was wild and trying to climb out of the bed. I was impatient, stressed and frustrated as the ONLY nurse in an ICU with 12 patients. I asked the surgeon to escort the baby’s parents in to the unit. The doctor turned to me with this forlorn look and said: “he is all alone, there is no one”. He’s an orphan? I couldn’t believe it. Everything stopped. My heart nearly burst out of my chest. This little boy, so cute, so innocent…crying for his “Mama”, was all alone in this world. In this horrible dirty place, this little guy was totally alone. I couldn’t help myself. He was reaching out to me and I just scooped him out of that big hospital bed and held him close. I cried like I haven’t cried before. My heart broke for him. I wanted him. I wanted to take him home to my nice clean house in my nice clean world. I thought to myself, I can leave right now. I’ll call Colin and tell him I have to come home with this little boy and we are going to adopt him and give him everything that we’ve given Andrew and MaryKate. It seemed so logical! He touched my face and stroked my straight, smooth hair…something he’d never felt before. He looked at my white skin quizzically and tried touching my light eyes. He was examining this pale creature that was tightly hugging him.

The family members of the other patients in the ICU came over to me. One lady put her arm around me and was comforting me. In spite of our language differences I knew what her eyes were saying. She had that Haitian resilience and hope that would impress me over and over again during my stay in her country. Then, a man came over to me. He was the husband of one of my ICU patients. He took the boy from me and spoke through the interpreter. He said “I’ll hold the child for you sister, so you can get your work done.” I wiped my tears away and shook my head in thanks. You are right, I thought…get a grip Regina, you have alot of work here and you are all alone with all these sick patients. I handed over the child and went back to nursing the ICU patients.

The boy was later transferred over to the Pediatric Unit. Every night I went over to put him to bed. I couldn’t help myself. I needed to visit with him and know that he was okay. It was a task I looked forward to and I think Ray Ray also enjoyed seeing me. He’d stretch out his good arm and nestled his little head into my neck as I rocked him to sleep. He giggled when I whispered in his ears and simply loved my rendition of American lullabies. A bright light for me leaving Ray Ray behind, is the man, named Tomas, who took him from me that day in the ICU. He was also captivated by the little boy. Tomas has become a surrogate Dad for Ray, and has spent much of his time with him in the Pedi Ctr. Tomas told me that he lost his 2 little girls in the quake and if he is allowed, he would like to give Ray Ray a home. That would be so wonderful. I know that Tomas loves him and would be good to him. If the child advocates doing investigations on behalf of the orphans at the hospital do not find any living relatives, then Ray will be placed for adoption. I was in close contact with the advocate assigned to Ray and I left a letter recommending Tomas be considered as an adoptive parent. If there is no family left, then I truly believe Tomas and his wife, who is healing from her injuries and doing well, would be loving parents for this beautiful child Please pray that it works out for Tomas and Ray Ray. I really believe they need each other and truly see the hand of God at work.

In closing, I want to thank you all for your thoughts and kind prayers for me. I honestly believe that it was the power of prayer and strength from those at home, that got me through the journey. It will take some time for me to process all that was experienced. I have many, many stories and memories…some haunting, some sad, some hopeful, some funny. I met so many amazing people…the volunteers – so selfless and living examples of God’s infinite love and compassion, the victims – so injured and sick, yet so full of hope and determination, the families of victims – so generous of their meager belongings; offering support, guidance and motivation to every one of the victims, not just their own. The unselfish concern for humanity was so moving and inspiring. Thank you all for your interest. Please don’t forget. Continue to pray for the people of Haiti and do whatever you can to support the earthquake relief efforts.

I hope to see you all and share my pictures and stories of the experience. Tonight I look forward to reuniting with my Haiti collegues for a debriefing. There is so much to sort out in my mind and heart. I’ve had so many personal experiences in my lifetime that have changed me, but there are none that even come close in comparison to this journey.

Again, my heartfelt gratitude to all.

Love,

Regina

Helping Haiti ~ Regina

There are two letters I am posting today. Both from my cousin Regina. She is on a medical mission sponsored by Caritas Christi. She and her group left for Haiti January 28. She is asking for prayers…..I will forward your comments to her.

I know she and the medical team she is with will appreciate the moral support.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Hello All!

I am alive and well, however completely exhausted. We’ve been here 4 days and there are no
words to describe what my eyes have seen and my heart has felt.

The gravity of destruction to a generation of this country is beyond words. So many of the children without limbs simply take my breath away. I have one little boy, Raymond, who I’ve grown very attached. While trying to comfort him just after he came out of surgery, I was told by the doc that he was all alone. He was recovered in the rubble in Port Au Prince and his family is presumed dead.Hearing that, I scooped him up in my arms and just couldn’t hold back the tears. He kept looking at his bandaged shoulder stump and saying in Creole “All gone? All gone?”Oh, how I wish I could bring him home. And sadly, there are many others like Raymond.

Our days have been very long. We start work at 8am and finish anywhere from 10p-2a. We are taking care of patients that are laying on mattresses on the floor and army cots. We kneel or squat to reach them. The rooms are filthy and all of us nurses have had difficulty caring for our pts in such unsanitary conditions. We do our absolute best, to practice aseptically, as we would at home, but truthfully, it is next to impossible. We often crack jokes about JHACO!! Needless to say, I’ll need a full body massage when I get home. Oh, and throw in a pedicure too. My feet are swollen and blistered. Chairs are a commodity here. Any available seats are occupied by the family members who have no where to go, so they stay in the pts wards. Just more people to add to the chaos!

We are doing so much good here. Although I’ve never been so physically + emotionally drained, I am so glad that I came. I knew it’d be grueling, but I didn’t expect to have the feeling of sadness that I’ve experienced. To look in the eyes of these people, you sense an emptiness. They had so little to begin with and now they have nothing. And, then there are their families who do not hesitate to provide the most intimate of care. Not only do they help their own, but also those who are without families. It is a culture that really looks out for the little guy. And they are so grateful for our presence. In spite of their agonizing conditions, they kiss our hands and pat our backs in gratitude. I just hope that in the months to come these victims will get the rehab they need to learn the necessary skills to have some quality of life with their handicaps. Looking around at the infrastructure of this 3rd World country, it is certainly hard to fathom.

The Caritas contingent is highly regarded down here. I love telling the other volunteers that I’m from Boston. They respond with “oh, Caritas has been so responsive to this mission…and then they thank us on bended knee. It gives us all such a sense of pride. And thank you Caritas for providing us with Blackberries to keep in touch with our families. I’d never get through this overwhelming experience without hearing the voices of Colin, Andrew and Mary Kate. Their support and encouragement have kept me going.

I haven’t had a lot of time to take pictures, but I will get some soon and send them out.

Please keep us all in your prayers. There is very little rest here and we desperately need the support of prayer to keep us going.

Feel free to pass this on. I wish there was more time to write to everyone individually,

God bless.
Love,
Regina

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Letter # 2

My new friend Rita…

She is 64 yrs old and raised her daughters 2 sons since 1996 when she drowned at 26 yrs old

Rita was on her way to Confession when the earthquake occured. Her legs were trapped under cinder blocks for 6 days when American soldiers found her and came to her rescue. There were 4 other women with her and a 10 year old girl. She helplessly watched and listened to them die.

In this picture, I have just finished changing the dressings of her bilateral above the knee amputations. An agonizing ordeal for her. Also, a team of us had just moved her from a straw mat on the floor to an army cot and I’m very happy to report that we’ve since received a few new beds and Rita is now recuperating in luxury….in an honest to goodness real bed!! However, there is no linen to be found, so we became creative and fashioned bed sheets out of rags!

Rita has an amazing spirit and is a role model for the other patients. What a great source for coping skills and surviving life’s tragedies. She has not heard from her grandsons since the quake. Her older sister lives on the outskirts of Port Au Prince and Rita feels very fortunate to have a place to go when she is physically able.

Rita speaks a bit of English and when I medicate her at the end of the night, she summons me down and outstretches her arms to give me a generous warm embrace. She quietly whispers “I love you, God bless you my new girl.”

–Regina