call to serve, Feed My Starving Children, Haiti, health care, hunger, mission work, sorghum making, Uncategorized

Why Haiti? Part III

Len Demert founder

Schools4Haiti Founder, Len Demert

Day 2 of the mission trip with Schools4Haiti:

One of the very first things that was apparent upon arriving in Port au Prince (my first exposure to Haitian people) is how boorish or verbally aggressive they are.  It is classic id run amok–no filter.  If they think it, they tend to say it. “Hey pretty lady!” they call out to some of the ladies in our group.  Wow, put a sock in it, Ace! I think to myself. Yet somehow, they are also polite and quick to smile.  Their default expression is one forged out of lifelong hardship, however.

Haitian elder

She’s younger than you think…

Unless you are from Haiti or used to driving in Haiti, it’s best to hire a driver who can double as an interpreter–especially if you are not fluent in Creole.  One truck was not enough for our team and our luggage.  The trip organizer, Penny Demert-Neal of Schools4Haiti left our company to get another truck rented from Avis.  The standing joke of how many people can you fit on a Haitian truck (one more) did not hold for our team. We needed two trucks. Driving in PAP streets is harrowing, crowded, choked with traffic, and very minimal traffic laws are observed.  Our host would later tell us stories of drivers who have hit others in the street who were then pulled from the vehicle and stoned by villagers–judge, jury, and executioners all rolled into one frenzied group.

haitian streets

driving in Haitian streets

We began our northward ascent toward Mirebalais and the New Life International compound and our hosts, Brian and Jamie Rauschenberger. Soon we were climbing Mt. Cabrit (goat) and were seeing what appeared to be wild goats, donkeys, and horses.  Our driver soon corrected me on this issue and said that although each animal appeared to be wild, every Haitian knew exactly who this horse belonged to or that goat, even that stray chicken scampering about. I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty of the countryside that followed the despair, crowds, and litter so rampant in PAP. Cacti of varying types speckled the mountainside, while animals scurried about. On the way up Mt. Cabrit, those of us in the back of the truck got caught in our first monsoon, taking care to hold the blue tarp over us and at least limit the impact of the big drops of rain that were pelting us.

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Our New Life Int’l hosts, the Rauschenburgers

After arriving at New Life International at meeting our hosts, we grabbed our bags and checked out our new dorm rooms.  Each of us men had a single bed, three in our room.  One of the docs roomed with his sister, a high school French teacher.  The rest of the ladies in our group shared a larger dorm room with two single beds and two bunk beds.  The dorms, recently completed, looked more like bunkers than dorms as the interior was unpainted cement that was not yet finished sweating–and would not be painted until time passed and the sweating had run its course.

inside NLI dorm

inside dorm room at New Life Int’l

Our host, Brian, explained that the air conditioning was freshly installed but the daylight hours had slipped away before the electrical connections could be completed.  Therefore, our first night we would have no AC but each subsequent night we would.  This was a huge bonus, as the nighttime air brought open windows, mosquitoes, and security risk.  Outside were two armed guards who kept patrol while we slept.  New Life International in Mirebalais sat on 40 acres of the prettiest jungle in Haiti.  Enormous cane stalks bordered the lane and the property and made me recall the memories of my grandfather Ever who grew cane and pressed sorghum for 47 years until he died in 1983.

Wanting to appease the curiosity of my foodie wife Sara (of thesisterslice.com), I took care to carefully catalog the different foods that we ate while in Haiti.  Brian’s wife Jamie served us spaghetti with fish, rice & beans, an iceberg salad, and ranch chicken drumsticks with lime-aid to wash it all down with.  Brian assured us that the lime-aid was made with purified water from his own system.

Haitian water purifying system at Pastor Paul’s orphanage

** Watch for Why Haiti, part IV soon! Please remember to like and follow the blog.

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health care, hip resurfacing, orthopedic surgery, surgery, Uncategorized

Humbled by Mortality

Today…I bought a cane.  A cane!  I am 46 years old. I am only 46!  I have inherited some bad genes.  Genes for coronary artery disease (CAD), genes for diabetes (which I have dodged so far), and genes for osteoarthritis (OA).  About one year ago I stopped taking the statins, those wretched, wretched drugs that are supposed to be wonder drugs that will bring naughty lipid profiles up to toe the line.  I predict Hupy & Abraham 1-800-BAD-DRUG commercials in the near future, featuring statins. I had started aching–my legs, arms, even the spinal erector muscles ached.  An endocrinologist in Monroe, WI named Dr. Bekx tweaked my regimen with CoEnzyme Q10, Niaspan, the water-soluble Crestor that had been touted as “the best of the best of the best” in that class of drugs.  Dr. Bekx is a brilliant man, and even among physicians he stands out.  Tweak as he may, the myalgias (muscle aches) persisted to the point I could not stand taking even the tiniest dose.  I began to list them as an intolerance.

pill bottles

Mr. Polypharmacy!

By July I thought the statins should be long gone from my system and the pain should therefore also be gone…but it wasn’t.  My primary doc set a referral to a rheumatologist, Dr. Wilson.  A reputation of being difficult to work with preceded her, but I found her to be delightfully candid with a fast, dry wit.  Upon exam, she brought each of my legs up to my chest and I nearly came off the table in pain!  After reviewing the family history and getting an anterior-posterior x-ray of my hip joints, she told me I had osteoarthritis in both hips.  Mine was so bad that I had bone on bone, grinding, in each hip.  Worse, I had bone spurs that had been laid down as part of the body’s response after it received a chemical signal that something was bad in each hip.

OA hip

Arthritic hip; both of mine are bone-on-bone

Next was a referral to the orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Wolff.  From Madison, WI, he has a stellar reputation and a great surgical history.  Better, he was well-liked.  I cared little about that part because I would rather have a sound, gifted surgeon than one who simply made me feel good about some gaffe that occurred intraoperatively.  Surgery was originally scheduled for early December, but I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the notion of a total hip replacement on each side–not at age 46!  Sure, just lop off the proximal end of each femur and shove some hardware down in the center of the remaining leg bone!  No way, not for me, not at 46.

total hip hardware

The more common “total hip” replacement

A salty mare of a charge nurse that we love and work with in the emergency department suggested I look into the program at Sauk Memorial Hospital.  So I did, and I realized they offered hip resurfacing–new titanium alloy surfaces covering the head of the femur and the corresponding cup that is attached to the hip bone in the acetabulum.  Touted as the ideal surgery option for a male in his 40s or 50s with OA who plans to return to a vigorous lifestyle of running and skiing, this sounded like my perfect solution.  I would not likely run marathons again, but I do plan to ski with my sons.  By choosing this option, I get to keep my bones but I just get new surfaces so my bones are no longer grinding together–the titanium parts are!  Now that sounded like a capital idea!  When I met and spoke with Dr. Arnold Rosenthal, I liked him immediately.  He confided that he had the hip resurfacing done years ago himself and has loved the outcome.  Suddenly the man had street cred with me…like a mom-to-be taking suggestions from her doc who had already had a baby herself.

hip resurfacing hardware

This is hip resurfacing hardware; generally titanium alloy

Having never been cut on and placed under a general anesthetic, I am scared witless about this surgery.  I have decided to have both hips resurfaced and the closest the surgeon will do them is 6 weeks apart.  So, six weeks it is.  I will be on FMLA from work for 12 weeks.  Since osteoarthritis is a degenerative process, my hips will never be better than they are today–they will only get worse.  I cannot continue to gobble up the tramadol, naproxen, acetaminophen, and motrin as I have been for months or my kidneys will begin to fail.  My physician even added hydrocodone recently to help manage the pain all the other times that I am not at work.  Ibuprofen causes my ANA or anti-nuclear antibodies to spike and then I begin to feel pretty cruddy, so I reserve that stuff for breakthrough pain while at work. I cannot imagine a day where I don’t have to take something to manage pain, but that is the ideal I strive for by committing to these two surgeries.  Living with chronic pain is pure hell.

chronic hip pain

Living with chronic pain

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