These past three weeks have literally been like an ongoing film jam packed full of action. It first began when I arrived in Port Au Prince on July 2nd. I began to feel sick and I developed a harsh cough that ended up leading me to cough up blood, pass out, and to become so weak that I lost the strength in my entire body. It hit me like a tidal wave. I hopped onto a moto during the evening of July 4th and headed to the Medishare hospital. It was dark and dusty and I barely remember the ride as I was going in and out of consciousness; I was barely able to keep my grip on the moto. The moto was stopped at a police checkpoint and the officers kept looking at me and trying to talk to me, I'm still not sure if they were hitting on me or if they suspected that I was on some sort of drugs due to the fact that I could not keep my eyes open and I didn't have the strength to open my mouth to talk. Finally I arrived at the hospital and was sent for a chest x-ray. As I entered the x-ray room, I lost all strength and fell and hit my head hard against the wall. After the x-ray they sat me down in a chair facing the road and I was still going in and out of consciousness when I noticed my friend standing at the gate with his co-workers and in his uniform. They would not let him through the gate to come and see me. Although he was on duty that night, he stood at the gate for two hours with his co-workers waiting for my test results and making sure that I was okay.
Finally the doctors diagnosed me with Pneumonia and sent me home with a small bag of Antibiotic pills and was told to return in a week for a check up. That night I did not sleep as I was having difficulties breathing. The next evening at dinner I felt so sick and so weak that I once again called a moto and rushed to Hopital Espoir- a hospital that I had worked at for two months during one of my previous trips to Haiti. I was brought into the ER and they began doing test right away. My cough became so bad that I could not breathe. They put an oxygen mask over my face and immediately hooked me up to an IV. The last thing that I remember was seeing my friend once again rush through the hospital doors and holding my hand as I received two needles (I am terrified of needles). The next thing I remember was waking up in the hospital room and being frozen from the air conditioning. What I thought was going to be a one night stay turned out to be a six day stay. Thankfully I was fortunate enough to have a private room (with a private washroom), an excellent staff who literally kept their eyes on me 24/7, and a great friend who was my "responsible" during my stay. I had many tests done and was loaded with meds every two hours. I completely lost my appetite and did not eat for four days. On the third day my breathing suffered once again and the nurses rushed in the room with another oxygen mask. I honestly remember looking up at the ceiling and thinking "this is it" and praying to God that it wasn't. I woke up three hours later soaking wet from a broken fever. Sometimes my fever became so high that I actually became delirious and started having conversations with people who were not even there.
On top of everything that I was facing that day, I received a call from UNICEF who not only told me that they would be closing my orphanage and taking my kids away, but also threatened to arrest me and to have me deported from Haiti. I was told that as soon as I step foot out of that hospital that the authorities would be after me. I had no idea what was going on and I became so overcome with shock and emotions that I once again started having problems breathing. I felt as if my heart had literally been ripped out of my chest. The lady on the phone did not let me get a word in, I could not ask questions, and I could not inform her that she had her facts wrong. I did not sleep that night, instead, I spent the entire night calling and texting everyone that I possibly could to help me and my babies. I could not bare the thought of losing the children I had grown to love. I was angry. I called my lawyer immediately and he came straight to the hospital to talk with me. After that, I was visited by a man from the Canadian Embassy who told me that the Haitian Police had been looking for me. I began to panic even more. But he assured me that I would not be arrested and that I would not be deported from the country. I still could not help it, I can't even express the emotions that overcame me. The tears would just not stop flowing. My heart had never hurt so much. I still had no idea what exactly was going on or what had happened, all I knew was that I came to Haiti to do good, solely good, I came here to care for and to love children who desperately needed any affection that they could get. I didn't know what I could do or say to fix this, I was stuck in the hospital and unable to be at the orphanage to protect my kids, my only option was to leave it in Gods hands.
Finally, I had some answers. My lawyer met with the Haitian authorities and it seems as if there had been a HUGE miscommunication. UNICEF had sent out an alert to the Haitian Government stating that my children were in EXTREME danger. They had cars with flashing lights ready to go and pick up my kids. They had been told that the children had been left alone while I was in the hospital, not realizing that Montanna had been staying and caring for them. So.. When UNICEF and the Haitian authorities arrived at the orphanage the next morning, they did not quite understand why such an alert was put out since our children appeared to be well taken care of and not in any sort of danger. They told us that they want to work with us and help us out to obtain the legal paperwork that we have been trying to have completed for the past two months.
On Monday, July 9th, I demanded to be discharged from the hospital so that I could surprise my mother at the airport that afternoon. I had been texting her all day telling her how frustrated I was that they would be keeping me until Wednesday when my test results were in. With weak legs, sore arms from IV's, and a very tired and heavy head on my shoulders, I marched out of the hospital leaning on my friend who had stood at my bedside for my entire stay at the hospital, who ran all over port au prince searching for my prescriptions, and who showed up everyday with gatorade, milkshakes, and even M&M's and who spoon fed me when I did not have the strength to feed myself.
I was granted access to go all of the way inside of the airport to wait for my mother at the luggage claim. I hid behind a sign and when I spotted her I jumped out and surprised her. I was so glad that she had come to visit and it made me feel better just by having her here. I was very sad to see her go after such a short stay- a week just didn't seem long enough; however, I am so happy that she was finally able to meet my babies.
Last week I received a call while I was in Port Au Prince informing me that our security guards house had been destroyed in the storm. Tiny is not just my security guard though; he has become a great friend and almost like a father to me. I love his family and all of his six children. I was sadden to hear this news as they did not have much to begin with. His small house on the top of the mountain was literally completely destroyed while his 15th month old son remained inside. We have opened our arms to his family and have allowed them to sleep at the already crowded house with us. We feed his children and wife almost everyday and we have given them some clothes, toys, and hygiene packages to keep them going. We are in search right now for a building team to come down and assist in rebuilding his small home as he does not have the funds to do so. If anyone is interested in donating to him please visit our website at www.himeforhelp.org and click "donate"- make sure to add in the comment box that it is for "Tiny's House Project". Thank you !
Although these last few weeks have literally been the most difficult and trying weeks of my life, there is something even greater than having the police after me, being threatened to be deported, being sick in the hospital, and even having authorities threaten to shut my orphanage down that is weighing on my heart. On Saturday morning as Montanna and I stood at the bus station in Cite Soleil waiting for our ride, a mother ran past us holding her grown child (about 10 or 11 years old). At first we thought he was just sleeping, but after a closer glance, we noticed that his feet were dragging on the ground. We realized he was more than sleeping. There was something seriously wrong. A man that I have become friends with at the bus station ran over to the woman and assisted her with carrying her son. He ran through the crowds and I was trying my best to see what was happening but after seeing the boys neck go limp, I lost site. My friend came back towards us and I asked him what was wrong with the boy and he told me that the boy had been possessed by voodoo and that his mother was bringing him to Saint Marc. I became furious, I wanted to shake the mother and tell her to get him to the hospital NOW, but I couldn't. I couldn't see her or the boy anymore and I had no idea what bus they had gotten on. I began to panic. All I could think about was how badly that boy needed medical attention. If he was not dead already, he would be by the time he got to Saint Marc. all I can think about now is that if I would have just stepped up and assisted the mother when I noticed her son's feet dragging on the ground, I could have possibly saved him, or at least attempted to save him. I thought that I had become desensitized to these types of situations after encountering so many of them here in Haiti, but now I realize that it is impossible to do so. I am a human being. My heart is aching so badly for that little boy and his mother as well as for the two other men's bodies I had passed on the side of the road the same week (one was that very same morning). Everyone tells me that I cannot save everyone, but it does not make it any easier when you know you could have at least tried. My insomnia has been reactivated and I have many moments where my eyes fill with tears. If only I could turn back the clock.
Right now we are still desperately searching for another house to rent since the Haitian Government did not desire us moving to Tabarre like we had planned. The house we are currently in is beyond unsanitary and has developed a great deal of mold. Right now we have two children that are sick, one of them being Christine who had a fever of 103 last night. Thankfully we have her on antibiotics and we were are working hard to keep her fever down. I am hoping and praying that we can find something soon.
Through these past three weeks I have had so many people tell me "maybe this is a sign em, maybe it's time for you to come home". And to be honest, I have thought a lot about that lately. I have thought about just giving it all up and returning home. I have thought about how much easier that would be and how much I am missing the comforts of home and my family and friends. But.. I have to keep reminding myself that this is also my family now. I can't just give up on them, I have vowed to never leave any of my family members behind. If I leave now, it would be the most selfish decision that I could ever make. To simply leave when things get tough. I know that I was born to do this, this is what God has asked me to do, this is why I wake up at the crack of dawn every morning at the sound of the roosters crow. This is why I endure heat rash, bug bites, ringworm, being covered in dirt and dust 24/7, illnesses, muscles so sore and tired that they feel like needles. And I have learned that through all of this, life is a lot like the ocean. Sometimes you get caught in the undertow and you have to use all of your strength and all of your faith to keep your head above the water, to keep you from sinking. As soon as you let go, your life is over. You don't get another chance. You have to keep fighting to keep your head above that water.. because you never know what could be over that next wave. And I truly believe that if you have faith, anything is possible, anything at all. But most of all, the greatest lesson that I have learned is that there is something much stronger then tidal waves that destroy lives, stronger than winds that blow away homes, stronger than rains that wash away one's only belongings, and stronger than earthquakes that allow one's world to fall to the ground around them and leaving them standing among the rubble... it's called love. And it is the most powerful thing in the world. Without the love of my friends, family, and children, I don't know if I would have been able to make it through these past three weeks. I know that God has a plan for me. I know that this is all part of His plan. I know that these trials are a test of my strength and determination. I know that this is one of the greatest learning experiences I may ever encounter. I have learned that I trust others way too easily. I have learned that the people you trust the most- may be the ones that you should trust the least. I have realized that the people who have forsaken me are merely desperate and possibly uneducated and were never taught proper morals or how to carry themselves. How can I hold them responsible when they have been stripped of life's most basic lessons? I can only hope that these people begin to realize that when we forsake others...we are actually forsaking ourselves. And although things have been tough, I would not change a thing. Because then I wouldn't have this chance or this opportunity, in front of all of you, to chase a dream, to show you that impossible possible, to show you how you can achieve anything that your heart desires, and to embrace more people then I ever could have before. I know that I must take everything I can from this and keep pushing onward. I know that I cannot give up.
Big thanks to my lawyer (Robert), Alison Thompson (my rock), Barbara Guillame (our new Haitian Director), Brunache (my amazing friend), my mother (for dropping everything and coming to visit when I needed her the most), Montanna Butler (for staying with the kids while I was in the hospital), Bill Farrar from Fountains of Hope (for continuing to encourage me and for helping me in any possible way that he can). And most of all my kids, who can bring a smile to my face even on the hardest day. Love you all !
"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win" - Mahatma Gan