Guest Author: Sarah Riedel
For several years, a group from my church has taken mission trips to Haiti. I had thought about going, but the timing didn’t seem to be right until 2014. As a Tri-County Health Care nurse for 21 years, when I learned the group was taking their first-ever medical mission trip, I wanted to go.
In December last year, I joined a group from Blowers Chapel, my church, called the 7:10 Foundation (www.710Foundation.org) on a trip to Haiti. The people who accompanied me on the trip were Jeremiah and Tanja Dwire (7:10 foundation directors), Jan Blickenstaff LPN, Donna Gustafson CNA, Kendall Koch CNA, Jessanne Johnson, Louisa Schmidt, Zoe Olson, and Emily Ziegler. Here is a story about our trip.
While we were on the ground in Haiti, we went to orphanages, schools and a remote hospital – and were my eyes ever opened! I didn’t know people lived like that. They lived in stick and mud huts, sometimes eight and 10 people in the same hut. The mission that we stayed at had solar powered lights and running water, albeit COLD water only. Our “home” for the week was very nice compared to the homes of the villages around us.
We were encouraged to bring all of our own supplies in a carry-on and a purse, and to fill two large suitcases with 50 pounds of supplies. Mine were filled with medical supplies. Once I had my bags packed, people still wanted to give more money!
It was important for me to pay my own way on the trip, but I took donations for the medical supplies and medications that I took along. Tri-County Health Care donated medical supplies. My family, friends, coworkers and neighbors raised $700 to be put towards antibiotics to take along with. We took 3,650 antibiotic tablets of varying dosages, and boy did we put them to good use! Any medical supplies and medications that I had left at the end of the trip, we donated to the clinic at the mission. Www.childrenslifeline.com.
In the two days before I left, family and friends gave $450 more. I couldn’t possibly fit anything more in my suitcases, so I thought the best way to use this money would be to buy livestock for the people in Haiti.
Goats are a very common around the village. I decided to buy goats and give them to widows, especially widows with children. I gave the money to the Haitian mission director, and he sent someone to the market to buy my goats. If I had bought them myself, the price would have doubled because I was “blanc” (“white” people mean money in Haiti). The person who bought my goats was able to procure nine goats!
It took a few days to be able to disperse my goats to the families who were to get them, so I became a goat farmer for three days! We tied them up to trees at the mission. I fed and watered them twice a day, then moved them a couple times so they could forage for more food.
Before I left, my brother gave me $25 to buy supplies. One item I bought with this money was an otoscope to look in ears. I didn’t know at the time how indispensable this tool would be to me in Haiti. A rough guess, I looked in more than 300 pairs of ears with that tool and diagnosed 40 or 50 Haitians with ear infections, then gave them antibiotics out of our stash.
We also visited two orphanages when we were there. The first orphanage we visited had deplorable conditions and starving children. The second orphanage was run a little better, we could tell the kids were fed, loved and taught. I was glad we went to the second orphanage last, so I didn’t have the burning image of the “bad” orphanage left in my mind.
In Haiti, American nurses work like doctors. I saw patients at the clinic, made the diagnosis and prescribed medications. All of these things were a little out of my comfort zone, but I did them because there was such great need and no one else to do them. The clinic could not do x-rays, and was very limited on lab work they could do. Even if we had wanted lab work done, the patients could not afford it, so diagnosis was basically made on symptoms, which is very different from the way we do things in the United States!
One little girl who touched my heart when I was there was Lilo. She had a severe burn on her upper leg from hot cooking oil. We treated her burn every day that we were there. I still think of her and wonder how she is doing.
I’m very glad I went on a medical mission trip to Haiti. The friends we made and the experiences there will be with me for a lifetime. I plan to go back again someday, so if anyone is interested in going along with, please let me know!
About the author:
Sarah Riedel, RN, is a nurse at Tri-County Health Care in Wadena. She has worked at Tri-County for 21 years. She lives north of Bluffton with her husband, Nathan, and their three children.