My Daughter’s Trip to Haiti: Mending Bodies & Hearts, Including Mine

by Karen on February 15, 2010

“Hi Mom. It’s Kel. I’m back in the States! We were transported out of Port Au Prince on an Air Force C-17 cargo transport plane to Charleston, SC. Oh, Mom, I have so much to tell you but I’ve been up for almost 36 hours so as soon as I get some sleep, I’ll let you know all the details. It was hard to leave but I’m glad to be home.”

Those were sweet words for this mama to hear! My daughter was home, safe and sound. I could hear in her voice that she was exhausted but she was also exhilarated at the same time.

Kelly and adorable Haitian baby boy, whom they suspect had pneumonia.

Kelly and adorable Haitian baby boy, whom they suspect had pneumonia.

Three days into their trip to Haiti, Kelly got sick with a GI bug (I, not surprisingly, was a wreck knowing she was sick) but she said she was really grateful it only lasted 24 hours and she was able to rejoin the team at the hospital (Kelly and her coworker, Erin, were the only ones who could start IVs so she was desperate to be able to help).

She told me later that the hardest thing for her during her time in Haiti was being sick herself and not only could she not serve, but someone on the team needed to stay with her and make sure she was okay (thank you MTW!). Kelly said she may never know why she got hit with whatever it was that made her ill.  It didn’t seem to be a virus or food poisoning since nobody else got sick.

Gratefully, when she was finally able to get back to work, she was able to jump in full force for some of the 16-hour shifts they worked until more relief help came.

A few nights after that, Kelly and I got into a short but interesting discussion when she called home one night to check in (thank you AT&T for free phone calls home from relief workers!).

I asked her how she was doing emotionally. She said she was okay and that the conditions were frustratingly primitive, but it wasn’t all that different from working in the emergency room and that she was really enjoying what she was doing.

“’Enjoying’ probably isn’t the right word for it, honey,” I said, in my usual mom/editor voice.

“Actually, Mom, I think it is the right word,” she said, with a hint of indignation in her voice.

She continued, “I’m not saying that I’m enjoying the circumstances the people are in, or enjoying the conditions here. But I am enjoying what I’m doing to help. It’s what I’ve trained for and what I’m called to do, so yes, I am enjoying it.”

Sigh. I just hate it sometimes when my kids are more mature than I am.

After some reflection, I decided she was right. She has grown up since childhood reciting the first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

Q: What is the chief end of man? A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

She was enjoying God by using the skills, talents and gifts He has given her. She has gone to school for years, taken lots of specialty courses in crisis, wilderness and survival medicine so she can help in such a time as this.

I realized that it is okay to “enjoy” who you are and who you were created to be, even when the circumstances seem to be the most dark and discouraging.

And in this horrible, hot, heartbreaking situation that is Haiti, she was enjoying God, and who He is and I think, too, He was enjoying her. She was being His hands and feet in a situation that so desperately needs His hand and His touch.

When she got home and was finally up for sharing some of what went on, she said there was one incident that stood out that described the conditions at the hospital.

Kelly and Erin were working the night shift and they were trying to get an IV into an infant while sitting on the floor (there were no beds in the hospital). Suddenly, the power went out! She said they didn’t panic because since the lighting wasn’t great to begin with, they were both wearing their high intensity headlamps so they were able to continue working.

That was the good news. The bad news was that the room went pitch black and with their high beam headlamps cutting through the darkness, every bug in Haiti was instantly attracted to the light!

Erin had to keeping blowing in Kelly’s face to keep the bugs out of her eyes! Fortunately, they were able to complete the IV, but as soon as they got the IV going, Kelly said they looked at each other and burst out laughing! (She thought the poor patients must have thought they were completely nuts!)

After hearing her story, it hit home for me what a difference it makes to have light in a dark place. Yes, the bugs come and make life difficult but light gives life… and even joy in the midst of total darkness.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Lindsey Nobles 02.19.10 at 4:14 pm

You have one mature daughter…not surprising!

FamilyInsights.net 03.10.10 at 9:07 pm

It’s so great to see people like Kelly who are willing to face other people’s face and roll up their sleeves to do something about it. Thanks for sharing this story! What a gift.

Jan 08.30.12 at 8:22 am

How inspiring and motivational.

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