Thursday, February 28, 2013

Justin’s 1st Birthday

The day didn’t go quite as planned. 

The trouble actually began last week when Justin became sick and feverish. His runny nose, goopy eye and warm temperatures did not paint a pretty picture. I attributed it to teething as he had at least 3 new teeth coming in and together with lots of fluids and Tylenol kept my baby as comfortable as I could. 

By Sunday Justin started feeling better; but then Jayden got sick. I couldn’t blame it on teething this time around and he was just as feverish and miserable. I treated him much the same as I did his baby brother with lots of fluids and Tylenol when needed. He stayed home from school, mostly resting on the couch. When he felt up to it we would read stories together or look online for cake ideas for Justin’s upcoming birthday. We finally agreed on a tiger cake. It was pretty simple to make and very cute. 

Then Tuesday I got sick. It wasn’t what the boys had either. It started with nausea and then led to vomiting and yeah, the other thing. I was so sick that in one night I dropped down to what I weighed when I was 12; which of course is a perfectly acceptable weight for a 12 year old, but not for someone the other side of 25. Thankfully, with the help of some Cipro, by the following afternoon I was able to keep fluids down again, but birthday planning was understandably at a minimum. 

Our sweet Justin was pretty oblivious to the lack of festivities though. When he woke up this morning he loved opening and playing with his two gifts; a plastic bowling ball set we had purchased for him a few weeks ago and a wooden puzzle that a friend had given for his baby shower last year.

And although he did not get the tiger cake Jayden and I had imagined, he was perfectly happy with a piece of leftover chocolate cake with some ice cream on the side and a candle on top!

And what’s he like, our little 1 year old? 

Well, let’s just say he doesn’t take no for an answer. 

Baby toys are boring. 

Paper is delicious to eat, and pretty much anything else he can find on the floor for that matter.

Dueling with a plastic pirate sword is a skill he’s already mastered; and his older brother is his hero.

He’s a great kid; happy, stubborn, determined, ambitious, active, and sweet! 

We love our little Justin and are thankful that God blessed us with him!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

They Gave More

Saturday, February 16, 9:50 a.m.

“Bonjou Jedline, koman ou ye?”

I turn to greet Jedline, my one arm cradling Justin’s car seat and the other a backpack full of swimming lesson paraphernalia. 

“Mwen pa byen (I’m not well),” the thirteen year old neighborhood boy mumbles, looking down.

“Pouki sa? (Why)” “Paske mwen pa't mange, (Because I haven’t eaten)” he replies, his eyes dull.

“Ou konnen ou ka vini a een er? (You know you can come at 1:00?)”

“Wi (Yes). He nods, than pulls a small plastic gecko out of his pocket. I watch as a slight smile curves over his lips as he makes the gecko run over a nearby cement wall.

Bidding him goodbye, I unlock the gate of the pool house and head inside for my weekly swimming lesson classes.

1:00 p.m.
Bang, bang, bang. I’m back home and hear sharp rapping on the front gate. The boys must be here. Justin who normally sleeps at this time is wide awake and clinging onto me tightly. Opening the kitchen door I ask Anoud to open the gate for the boys. Then with Jayden’s help I fill a tray of buns with peanut butter, a tall pitcher of ice water and some candies and crackers.

By the time I get it all outside the boys are waiting on the front patio. Both of them are holding empty cereal boxes. I motion for them to grab chairs and make a circle and then go back inside to get money to pay them for the boxes. Denise can use them for beads and it’s an opportunity for them to earn money without begging.

Once I’ve paid them, we pray together and eat lunch. Once lunch is finished, I ask the boys about their families. Jedline tells me that neither his father, a mason, or his mother, a merchant, have any work. The last time he ate was the day before yesterday.

“If your parents aren’t working how did you eat on Thursday?” I ask in Creole. “Madam Liz gave us a bag of bread.” He replies. “My parents used to go out looking for work but day after day they would come home without finding anything. Now that we aren’t eating much they don’t have much energy left, except to sit there.” Listening to him my heart breaks. There is just such hopelessness about him.

Not knowing what to say, I hand out the Creole Bible Story Books and together we read the story about Noah and the Ark. Palo, who is basically illiterate, isn’t here today. Wilson who is slightly better off due to an uncle who has a job can read the words slowly if we do it together. Jedline stumbles through the words and often loses his place, but tries his best.

When we finish I tell the boys to wait for a moment. Almost instantaneously two plastic geckos jump out of their pockets. While the boys play and Jayden watches, I fill up two bags with potatoes, carrots, onions, crackers and bread. Knowing their circumstances it doesn’t feel like much at all, but both their faces light up when they see the bags of food for their families. To free their hands,  the plastic geckos quickly disappear back into their pockets.

Then I watch in wonder as the two boys look at each other, reach back into their pockets and each hand their well-loved, plastic gecko friend to my son. Then turning to me, they thank me for the food and skip out through the front gate.

Still trying to comprehend what just happened, I absently wave goodbye.

Mulling the scenario over in my mind, I keep coming back to one thing. Both those boys just handed over what most likely was their only toy, an obviously prized possession, without a moments hesitation! Not only that, they gave it to a boy they knew already had a variety of toys!

The truth was, they could teach me a thing or two about giving.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Valentine's Day!

Valentine's morning;  all the special boys in my life received gifts!

Delicious French Breakfast Puffs to start off our day..

We celebrated with a special Valentine's Banquet at the church that night. The two boys could come as well since babysitting was provided on site.

Beautiful sunset just before the dinner.

The banquet hall decorated very nicely. 

Hearts, candles and flowers.

Delicious food and desert!

My Valentine!

Posing together under the arch.

A special day; new memories made.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Three Minutes to Spare!

This story is an account of Jason’s experiences on February 2. That was the same day I wrote about in the previous blog called 'A Long Day'. It’s a little late, but he’s been very busy with work! 

I pick up my backpack and dig for my car keys. It will be nice to leave early for a change. It’s 12:30 p.m. on a warm Saturday afternoon and I just completed the last of my three flights for the day. 

Of course it’s right at that moment that the flight-scheduling phone begins to vibrate. 

Flipping the phone open I answer it. 

It’s Jean Thomas, a missionary in Fond Des Blanc. “There’s been an accident,” he tells me, “A Canadian engineer has fallen off of a bridge that is under construction and may have a broken neck and spinal injuries. The accident site however, is more than 5 miles from the airstrip over rough road, and across several rivers.” 

“I will get to work seeing if I can arrange a helicopter to airlift him since transporting him over the rough roads to the airstrip will be risky,” I tell Jean. 

I spend the next hour on the phone with various helicopter operators, the UN, and the Canadian Embassy, but soon come to the conclusion that it is not possible to dispatch and adequately sized helicopter in time. 

Now the only option left is to fly one of our own airplanes there and see what can be done. 

Before preparing an airplane for takeoff I make a quick call to Howard, a paramedic friend of mine, to see how quickly he can join me. I also send a driver to a nearby hospital to pick up some medical supplies. 

By 2:00 p.m. Howard and I are ready to go. The spine board, oxygen tanks, rescue ropes, and medical bags are loaded in the airplane. With extra fuel on board we depart west towards Fond Des Blancs. 

Reaching cruising altitude, Howard and I begin discussing our plan of action through our headsets. We go through possible scenarios until we know for sure we are on the same page. 

Thirty minutes later we have the Fond des Blanc airstrip in sight. Flying over I study it carefully making sure it is clear of people and animals. Fond Des Blanc is our most difficult landing strip in Haiti with steep mountainous terrain on both ends and a short, sloped runway. Animals are also frequently left to graze on the grassy strip. 

Once I am satisfied the runway is clear, I join the normal approach pattern and a minute later touch safely down on the airstrip. I park the airplane and then watch as a 4x4 Land Cruiser ambulance drives up to the airstrip. 

Once the plane has been secured we quickly transfer the medical supplies to the vehicle and jump in. Without wasting any time the Haitian driver speeds away from the airstrip towards the accident scene. Howard and I grip the handles inside the vehicle tightly as we race down the narrow, rough trail at top speed. Animals and people jump out of the way as the ambulance makes its way through small villages with lights and sirens blaring. 

About 25 minutes later we roll up to a large clearing where a variety of heavy equipment is parked.

We quickly unload the medical supplies and then set off on foot down a narrow trail that leads to a river bed. When we finally spot a large crowd of locals we know we must be at the scene of the accident. 

Yelling in Creole to clear a path, we make our way through the crowd until we reach the spot where a man is lying awkwardly on his side, moaning in pain. Howard quickly gets to work assessing his injuries as I check his vitals. It becomes immediately apparent that he does indeed have spinal injuries in his lower neck, and possible fractures in his right shoulder and collarbone as well. He also has several large abrasions on his head, but the bleeding has mostly stopped. Anywhere we touch him however, he screams in pain. 

When the initial assessment is over I pass Howard a small vial of morphine and a needle. Once the pain medication starts taking effect the man thankfully begins to quiet down. Howard gets to work putting on a neck collar so we can stabilize the man enough to transfer him onto the spine board. With the help of several bystanders we get the job done but the morphine unfortunately doesn’t quite mask the pain and the man begins to cry out again. 

Once he is on the board we work to secure his body. As I work I glance at my watch. Knowing that it will likely take some time to get him back to the airstrip I begin to worry. In Haiti, night operations are prohibited and we are not able to take off after dark. I pray silently that God will help us get this man to the airstrip before sunset. 

After what seems like hours we finally have him adequately secured to the spine board. We then carry him out of the river bed, up the embankment and down the trail to the waiting ambulance. It takes eight of us to lift him carefully into the back of the land cruiser.

Once inside I take position at his head to continue holding him stable in anticipation of the long bumpy ride ahead. Averaging 10km per hour I calculate it will take us at least one hour to arrive at the airstrip. As we drive the sun continues its descent. Worrying that we may not reach the airstrip before sunset, I ask the driver to speed up a little. As the vehicle picks up speed, the patient lets out piercing screams of pain. He also begins to vomit so we stop the vehicle to reposition him and give some more medication. 

“We need to keep going,” I tell the driver again, and we work on steadying the patient as the land cruiser continues to snake down the narrow mountain trail. 

Pulling out my phone I make a quick call to update my program manager and advise him that I will likely be landing in Port au Prince after dark and will need a waiver approval. You can get approval for landing after dark, but not for taking off after sunset. 

When we finally reach the airstrip I quickly delegate tasks to speed up the process of loading and securing.

Once the pre-flight inspection is complete, and everything is securely fastened I taxi the airplane up the steep sloped airstrip. As the sky continues to darken I glance once more at my watch. It is exactly 3 minutes before official sunset time! I thank God for His providential care as literally three minutes later we would not have been able to depart. 

Climbing up to altitude I look out as darkness settles in all around us. Unlike flying in Canada there are almost no lights to be seen and I now focus on my GPS for navigation. 

Approaching the coastline I begin picking out faint lights of small coastal villages.
I radio Base 1 with a revised eta and advise that we will be going straight to the international terminal to await the medevac jet to arrive. 

Thirty minutes later we are on final approach. Dimly lit lights illuminate the runway. I touch down smoothly and taxi to the international ramp. Before shutting down I radio the tower to request an airport ambulance to meet the airplane, as we will likely be waiting quite some time before the medivac jet from Florida arrives. 

We carefully transfer the patient from the airplane into the waiting ambulance.

Then I begin making phone calls to check on the status of the jet. After several calls I am frustrated to find out that the jet has been cancelled due to some dispute with medical insurance. I quickly discover that the patients’ insurance company is requiring blood work, x-rays, and a medical report from a hospital before they agree to send the jet! This seems absurd since it is impossible to obtain these on short notice, and the whole reason for flying the patient back to the United States is for him to get the specialized care he may not be able to find in Port au Prince! 

I continue to make calls until I’ve arranged for a different jet to come. Trinity Air Ambulance agrees to fly over but it will be just over 3 hours before they arrive. Howard decides to go with the patient in the ambulance to a nearby field hospital so they can monitor him more closely while they wait. 

Aware that the jet will need to land after the Port au Prince airport is officially closed, I get to work contacting the necessary people to arrange for it to remain open. I coordinate with the tower, PAP and Miami control, immigrations, customs, and the Marshaller to ensure that they will all be staying late until the Jet can depart back to Florida. After promising to pay overtime to everyone they happily agree to stay. I then call back Trinity Air to relay the information as well as help prepare the necessary documentation for their return flight. 

Once everything is organized I return to the MAF office. As I wait, I reflect on God’s goodness and once again thank Him for providing every step of the way.

The patient was safely transported to Miami where he received the specialized medical attention he so desperately needed. Although he may have a long road ahead of him the doctors expect him to recover.

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Long Day

Saturday, February 2, 2013 12:25 p.m. 

“Will, I just want to let you know I won’t be coming home early like planned. A man with possible spinal injuries needs help in Fon De Blan and I’m going to fly up there.” 

I can hear by the pitch of his voice and his breathing that his adrenaline is pumping. Jason enjoys flying but his passion lies in emergency response. Helping people in intense situations is what he loves. 

I push the phone a little tighter against my ear as Justin begins to wiggle on my lap. 

“Okay, thanks for letting me know and fly safe.” 

“Love you bye.” 

The phone cuts out and I lay it down. Closing my eyes I pray a silent prayer of safety and wisdom for him. I remain that way; eyes closed, until I feel a small hand tugging at my arm. 

“Mom, I’m hungry.” 

“Okay, Jayden.” I carefully place Justin on the playroom mat and then head to the kitchen. In the fridge I find some leftover lasagne and quickly heat it up. Today is Saturday and after a morning of teaching swimming lesson classes I am hungry too. 

The afternoon continues as usual with the neighborhood boys joining us at 1:00 p.m. for a meal and bible story. After they leave time ticks slowly on. Justin naps while Jayden and I read stories and play together. When 3:30 comes and goes and no Jason comes home, Jayden starts to ask questions. 

“Mom, where is Daddy?” 

“He’s helping a man who fell and is really hurt.” 

“When is he coming home?” 

“I don’t know. Daddy said it might take awhile.” 

“What are you called if you don’t have a husband?” 

“Like if your husband dies?” 


“A widow.” 

“What about the kids?” 

“Well, they are called orphans.” 

“Oh.” Deep in thought he stares off into space. I wrap my arms around him and pull him close.  Hours later when there’s still no sign of Jason I pick up my cell phone and call him. After several rings he answers. 

“I’m not going to be home till late Will. I landed at the airstrip with a paramedic and then took an ambulance/land cruiser, over rough roads to the accident site. We’ve just finished securing the patient onto a spine board and now I’m busy arranging a medivac airplane to land at the Port au Prince International Airport to pick up our patient after I land there with him. He very likely has spinal injuries and the sooner he can get to the United States the better. I will try to keep you updated.” 

“Okay.” I hang up and look at the clock. It’s nearing 5:00 p.m. now and the sun is about to set. Flying in the dark is not normally done and once again I pray for safety for my husband. 

To keep my mind occupied I pull out the ingredients for pizza dough and together with Jayden start to mix, knead and roll. 

“Is Dad going to eat with us?” 

“No. He won’t be home till really late.” 

“Oh.” Disappointed, Jayden’s face drops. 

“Why don’t you help me put the toppings on the pizza?” His face brightens again. I hand him the pineapple, ham and mozzarella cheese and he quickly gets to work decorating the pizza. 

After dinner and a bath I put the boys in bed. Justin, missing his special playtime with Dad, refuses to sleep.  After a few failed attempts of trying to get him settled I take him out of bed; no use in him keeping Jayden awake. 

Time ticks on. I cuddle with Justin on the playroom couch as we wait together for the familiar honk. We wait and wait but there’s no honk to be heard. Finally the cell phone rings again. 

“Hi Will, It will probably be midnight before I get home. An airplane will be coming, but I need to stay to organize all the logistics.” 

“Okay, I’m glad you are safe on the ground again.” We chat a few more minutes before hanging up. 

20 hours on the job is a long day for him. 

I turn to my baby. “Well, you’re just going to have to go to sleep without seeing your Daddy,” I whisper in his ear. He looks at me with sleepy eyes and I gently carry him to his crib. Kissing him softly I lay him down and arrange his favourite soft blanket around him. Closing his eyes he drifts off to sleep. 

I turn to look at my other son, fast asleep in his bed, his soft blanket tucked against his cheek as well. I lean down to kiss him and readjust his sheets. 

Feeling tired now too, I decide to get ready for bed too. 

Before I fall asleep, I pray that my husband may come home safely and soon. I also thank God for providing safety in flight, and for thus far sparing the patient’s life. 

Hours later I wake up to find Jason hovering over me. 

“Are you awake Will?”  He whispers.

“Not really.” 

“Okay, we will talk in the morning.” 

Closing my eyes I drift back to sleep. Tomorrow. God willing, I will hear all about his day.