Monday, April 30, 2012

Fun Day in Port Salut

Before our week of work began at the hospital. June took us for a fun day at Port Salut. This was one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen with crystal clear water. These are some of my favorite pics!

Team Restore

Hannah's Cliff Jump

Callie's Cliff Jump

Ashley's Cliff Jump

Michael's Cliff Jump

Awesome hammock swings

One of many jumping pictures

June Hanks, our fearless leader, and Berkley 

Travel Pics

All of these pictures were taken when we are on the road from Port Au Prince to Les Cayes. More pics coming. Enjoy :)

Beginning our journey

Caribbean from the air

Port Au Prince

Beginning our 8 hour car ride from Port Au Prince to Les Cayes

Tent City

The streets of Port Au Prince are filled with garbage piles

Harold our driver directing traffic

One of the manifests. This large truck was abandoned in the middle of the road to block people from getting through.

A tap tap aka Haitian taxi

The coast. So beautiful!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Day 10: Team Restore

Well, today was the day the three of us had to say goodbye to Haiti. We awoke early in order to meet our driver so he could drop us off at the airport. It is so bittersweet to leave this place. We will miss getting to work with our favorite patients at Hopital Lumiere. We will miss June and her dog Berkley. We will miss the spirit and happiness of the Haitian community. The memories we have made over the last ten days will never be forgotten. We will carry our experiences from Les Cayes and Bonne Fin with us forever. Thank you to our friends, families, and co-workers who helped make this trip possible by donating funds to help us achieve our goals. Thank you for all your prayers while we were in Haiti. We felt God's security and hand on every part of our trip. We didn't lose any bags, miss any flights, and all of us stayed healthy. We would also like to thank June Hanks for being our mentor, tour guide, and friend. Thanks to Harold for driving us through the madness in bumper to bumper traffic. Thanks to Sheila for being the best house mother ever. Thanks to Mona and Marie for keeping us well fed. I can not even express how amazing this trip was for the four of us. It has opened our eyes as well as our hearts to what is really important in life. I can't wait til the next time I can go back! But for now, it sure feels good to be home! I'll be posting pics tomorrow of our trip. -Ashley

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Day 9: Team Restore

Wow we can't believe it's already day 9! The last week has really blown by, it feels like just yesterday we were 4 therapists from Brooks headed to Haiti not knowing what to expect. To say this week was amazing is an understatement, we all agree that this has been one of the best trips we have ever been on, and we wouldn't have changed a thing. This morning we woke and knew it was time to say goodbye to June, even though we were thinking of every possible way to stay. June is such an amazing mentor, missionary and now our friend. We are so excited for all the other teams to meet her, and she is equally excited to meet them.We were all so sad to say goodbye, I even got a little teary eyed, but we know we will see June again! For our last night in Haiti we had to make the long drive back into Port-Au-Prince, luckily we had our favorite driver Harold to take us. We think he could be a NASCAR driver, he really knows how to put the pedal to the medal and got us here in under 6 hours! As we drove from Les Cayes to PAP, I think we all had a deeper appreciation for each town we drove through, not to mention the Haiti landscape. Haiti has to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It is truely breathtaking, from the mountains to the ocean. During our drive we got to see what market day is like in Haiti. Each town we drove through was packed with vendors and customers stocking up for the week. In America we have parking lots, here they line up their donkeys in a row wit hand woven baskets over their backs. Despite the poverty and limited resources many of the Haitian people we saw still had smiles on their faces. The ride was bumpy and hot, but we survived, even after sitting in a 2nd gridlock. I will never complain about traffic ever again, NYC traffic has nothing on PAP traffic. We finally arrived at Villa Mamika, our hotel for the night, and as soon as we got on ours we were all due for a nap. After dinner (our last Haitian meal) we did a little exploring and made our way to the roof,up there we were able to see the mountains that surround PAP, so pretty! Tonight is our last night together as a team, so naturally we had a mean game of Phase 10, Ashley beat us all. Haiti has stolen my heart and I am so sad to leave in the morning, but am so grateful to have the opportunity to come here. We have seen and accomplished so much over the last 9 days, from helping a stroke patient walk to observing surgeries in less than stellar conditions. As a team we have all become so close and we will always have a special bond with eachother because of all that we experienced together. We are all sad to say goodbye to Haiti but will always hold a special place in ours for the country and it's people. We leave at 630am for the airport and have a long day of traveling ahead of us. Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for your continued prayers and support throughout our trip. We look forward to sharing our pictures and stories upon our return! Please continue to prayer for all our teams as they prepare for their trips, but also continue to prayer for the people of Haiti those we have served and those we have not. <3 Callie

Friday, April 27, 2012

Day 8: Team Restore

Today was our last day in the hospital and it was definitely a day filled with emotions. We started the day with breakfast and chapel, just like every other day, but it felt different knowing it was our last day. Another team of therapists is going to be coming to the hospital tomorrow and since we didn't know what their backgrounds were, it was really important that we wrote a very specific plan of care for each patient. This was especially important for our more involved neuro patients that we saw, like the TBI, the young kid with the SCI and the judge's father who had the stroke. Callie and I had big things planned today for the judge's father - we were going to gait train on a rolling walker! But unfortunately, he was feeling faint and couldn't get out of bed. One of my favorite patients was the little 8 year old boy who had an abdominal cyst the size of a grapefruit removed. He loved us! I think he mainly loved us because Ash carried lollipops in her backpack, but that's beside the point. He is so precious and at 8 years old, he probably only weighed 45 pounds. When I said goodbye to him and explained to him that it was our last day, he told me that it was good to meet me and that I would be in his prayers. Such a precious boy. The real tears, for me, came with my all-time favorite patient, Cadet. He is the 16 year old boy with the T2 SCI. We have been working hard with him all week and it was hard to explain to him today that we would be leaving. His cousin, who we think is about our age, has been there every day with him. She also seemed really disappointed that we were leaving. We wanted to make sure that they did not have any unanswered questions about his diagnosis or prognosis before we left. We asked Cadet if the doctors had explained to him what was going on with him (i.e. why he can't move his legs) and he said no. I couldn't believe it. It has been a week and not one doctor explained to this poor boy what is going on with him. We explained to him the anatomy of the spinal cord, what happened in his injury, and why he could not move his legs. When we finished explaining, he looked up at us and said "will I have to pay for all of the wheelchair by myself?" Well, that pretty much broke my heart. This 16 year old boy's first question after being told that he is paralyzed was in regards to money and the ability to pay for his wheelchair. It kills me that I cannot do more for him. I wish I could just bring him home with me and help provide for him. I was probably crying for about an hour after that was rough. After we said goodbye to Sheila and drove back to Les Cayes, we went to play volleyball with June and the other missionaries in the area. We had a blast, although I realized that the volleyball skills I had in 8th grade are no longer with me. As we were walking back, we stopped by the home of one of June's patients - a 23 year old boy with an L1 SCI. They invited us inside the home to talk to him. The house had no electricity and was two rooms with a bed in each. June told us that a couple months ago, rats had infested the home and were gnawing on his feet (which he cannot feel). They had to put rat poison in the home to take care of the problem. She also told us that he probably has not been out of bed in months. Once again, we were in the midst of such extreme poverty and reminded just how lucky we are. This trip has been the most amazing experience of my life. I feel so blessed to have worked with these people, but so helpless at the same time because I wish I could do so much more. I wish we didn't have to leave tomorrow and I am already looking forward to our next trip. Thank you to everyone for the prayers and support while we have been in Haiti. We appreciate it so much! - Hannah

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Day 7: Team Restore

Today was a great day for Team Restore. We have gotten to know all the patients we treat,and they are able to recognize us and always greet us with a smile and a friendly "Bonjour". Callie and I were able to assist our patient with a brain injury to long sit in bed. His wife was so happy and was smiling ear to ear to see him more alert. We were able to educate her on the proper handling techniques to sit him up in bed, and we were so happy to see her performing this exercise with him on her own later on in the day. One of the craziest things I have seen since we reached Bonne Fin has to be the surgery Hannah and I were able to observe. A 16 year old had broken his femur and had to have a steel rod placed to repair it. For sedation, he was given a spinal block and was awake for the whole thing, throughout all the sawing, hammering, and cutting. The whole operating room bowed their heads and prayed aloud for the boy's safety and recovery through the procedure. The surgical utensils were in toolboxes and were not laid out neatly, making the surgeons have to sift through to find what they needed. They resanitize the utensils and wrap them in blue cloths. It was so surreal to get to watch the procedure, and then two days later have the opportunity to treat this boy and help in his recovery. Callie, Hannah, and I progressed the judge's father who had the stroke to walking inside the parallel bars today. He is already showing signs of muscle recovery in his leg. And probably one of our most favorite patients, the 16 year old boy with the SCI, was able to hold his balance while sitting on the edge of the mat for 20 seconds without support. We really want to take him back with us so bad! He has only one cousin who is providing him care while he is here. He has no parents. June says usually someone with his injury will never really leave his home, and will most likely die within the year of a UTI or a wound infection. Again, we are faced with the harsh reality of the healthcare, or lack of I should say, in Haiti. I can't wait for the next groups to come and continue on with the treatments we have started with these patients. I can only imagine the difference four teams will make over the next couple months! -Ashley

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Day 6: Team Restore

I think the four of us have finally gotten the hang of how things work around Hopital Lumiere. Kind of similar of how we usually work at Brooks, we are treating primarily in PT/OT teams. One particular patient Callie and I have been treating suffered a brain injury and has just come out of a coma. When we evaluated him three days ago, we suspected he was somewhere around a Rancho 3 level, unable to follow commands, speak, or move. He broke both of his femurs and was placed on traction devices on both of his legs. Traction is the common way to repair broken bones as it decreases the risk of infection, however leaves the patient bed bound. One of his legs below the knee was ice cold, with his foot showing the early signs of gangrene. His family had placed him on a makeshift "airbed" which was essentially a pool float. There are no meds to manage cognition here. There are no speech therapists. There is no mental health. There is a limited amount of medications available and people with painful injuries are given pain meds sparingly. The 16 year old boy Michael and Hannah have been treating with a spinal cord injury at a T2 level is in so much pain, therapy is almost impossible. The meds and equipment he needs are not available that would improve his condition. The doctors gave him less than a year to live. Back in the states, a patient who sustained this same injury would most likely be living independently, driving, and survive. It brings me to tears to think someone so young who could be helped so much in the facilities we have in America is given no chance of survival here. Talking with those who work and live here is eye opening to how bad it actually is. They need so much help from doctors, surgeons, nurses, and therapists, but not just for short term. They need consistent help to make a change of any kind. That's what June is doing here in Haiti. The sacrifices she has made and the love she shows to each person she treats is overwhelming to me. Through so many struggles and hardships she has stayed. And the people love and respect her as "Dr. June". I only hope that one day I will be able to make a difference in people's lives as June has made in the lives of the Haitian people. I hope people will begin to realize the need that is present in Haiti and that these people do not have the resources to help themselves. I pray more people will feel moved to help when help is needed abroad and not just in their own backyard. Thanks for all your prayers and well wishes. We appreciate it! -Ashley

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Day 5: Team Restore

We started our second day here by attending the daily morning "devotional" at the hospital. It is a short religious service and is attended by most of the hospital staff. June introduced our group and we were all wearing our project Haiti t shirts. We had several new evals but most of the morning was spent following up and treating the roughly thirty patients we met yesterday. There are roughly 60 patients in the hospital right now but not all are appropriate for therapy. We were able to fit the young man with a spinal cord injury with a brace and get him up for the first time. We walked with a patent who had been in bed since November and also worked with a girl and two boys all under the age of nine. After a lunch of Haitian spagetti and freshly fallen mangos from our front yard, we were privileged to observe surgeries in the afternoon. We split into pairs and one group treated while the other observed surgery. The surgeon, from the u.s., spoke in creole with the Haitian team. They do the very best they can with leas than ideal surgical conditions. Both surgeons at the hospital will be leaving this week and we are not sure how all the needs of the patients will continue to be met. We have several translators with us whenever seeing patients and we are doing our best to learn simple phrases in creole. A nurse and translator also have been following us to assist and learn because there is no rehab staff to work with or get patients up when there are no volunteers here. We are all still healthy and enjoying the experience. Ashley even survived her first experience with a tarantula! Thanks for the continued support! - michael

Monday, April 23, 2012

Day 4: Team Restore

Today was our first day working at Hopital Lumiere up in the mountains of Bonne Fin. We drove up early this morning eager to see what our day would bring. As soon as we arrived at the hospital we were put right to work and split into two teams. Ashley and I went with June and Dr Rudolph to do rounds in the ER. Michael and Hannah went to do an ASIA on a 16 year old male who had a T6 SCI. Last night, 12 patients from a bus accident were brought into the ER. During rounds, we performed initial assessments to see who would be admitted and who could be discharged. Of those 12, 9 were admitted with multiple lacerations, abrasions, and broken bones. One of the first things that we noticed was that none of the patients have a private room. Every room has about 6 or 7 beds in it and there aren't even curtains to divide the patients. There are no briefs provided to patients and the bed linens are scarce. Family members are responsible for providing patients with meals and emptying their waste. Hannah and I also got to perform a stroke eval on the father of the judge from Les Cayes. During the evaluation, we realized how much we take for granted back in the States. We easily get frustrated when things don't go our way at work, while these people have two walkers for the whole hospital and barely any wheelchairs. A lot of things were really put into perspective today. After work, we decided to take a break before paperwork and dinner to play outside. Hannah, Ashley and Basil (one of our translators) played soccer while June, Michael and I played frisbee. Before we knew it, there were three local Haitian boys looking to join in our fun. So, we decided to invite them to play soccer with us (this was my first attempt at soccer...ever!) It was the four of us vs the boys and they've got game. Not only were they barefoot, but they pretty much ran circles around us. I may or may not have ended up on the ground during the game. They ended up winning by a goal, but regardless of who won, it was an absolute blast. We can't wait to play again tomorrow! We took a ton of pictures today but we can't post them until we have a laptop to post from. Today I realized how much we all take for granted every day, myself included, when these people don't even have a clean bed to lay on when they are sick and hurt. I was moved today by the strength these people have despite the struggles they endure every day. I thank God I live in a country where I know my needs will always be taken care of and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to help those in need. I hope people realize that the people of Haiti are not only in need, but they simply do not have the resources to help themselves. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!! -Callie

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Day 3: Team Restore say that today was awesome is the understatement of the year. We woke up to the rooster (again) but it was less annoying today. Maybe the little guy is growing on me? We could also hear the congregation of the nearby church singing and worshipping. It was such a beautiful sound to hear and made us really excited to go check out the church! We got up and had spaghetti for breakfast. Random but delicious! June took us to the church which is just a five minute walk from the MTI house. We stopped at a booth in the market along the way and purchased bibles in Creole. We wanted them for keepsakes as well as to assist us in (hopefully) learning Creole before coming back to Haiti next time. When we got to the church, it was packed. I mean filled to the brim and overflowing. It was so moving to see these people so dressed up and so happy to be singing and praising the Lord, despite the extreme poverty that they come from. Everyone was smiling and singing and clapping. As we made our way through the church crowd to find a place to stand, we were greeted by both smiles and glares. I swear, about ten kids must have grabbed my arm or hand as we walked through. Ashley said that they were grabbing for me because I am so pale that they probably thought I was an angel haha. I don't know about that. But I do know that these people may be monetarily poor but that they are far richer than most in their faith and family and sense of community. After church, we headed back to the house for lunch and to relax. June took us to Port Salut later in the afternoon for a "beach day" before the work week begins. It was amaaazing! This hotel where we played on the beach and swam and later ate dinner was gorgeous! Don't worry, we took a ton of pictures! We even got to jump from a pretttyyy high rock into the ocean. Callie was a little nervous but after a pep talk from Coach Braun, that little meatball jumped right off that cliff! It was so much fun! June has been wonderful so far, answering all of our questions about Haitian culture and such. She is doing such inspiring and life-changing work down here and it is obvious that the people of Les Cayes are beyond grateful for "Doctor June". We leave at 6:30am to drive up into the mountains to the hospital where we will work and the new guest house that we will be staying in. We aren't sure if we will have wireless so if the blog posts stop abruptly, then that is why! Time to pack and head to bed. We will write more tomorrow, we hope! -Hannah

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Day 2: Team Restore

This morning we were awoken early by the sounds of roosters crowing aka nature's own alarm clock. We are staying in the MTI team house where June, the PT we are working with lives. The building is a three story compound that houses the clinic, volunteer housing, and June which is all protected by an armed guard. We ate breakfast which was prepared by the house cook Marie. We spend the rest of our morning organizing the supplies we had brought, as well as some of the other medical equipment June had in her storeroom. The Haiti Advantage Program is in the process of moving to a new location and everything needs to be moved to the new location. There is another team of three men from Tennessee staying in the house who are helping with the construction of the new clinic. After lunch, Marie took us out for a walk down the street. The streets are packed with vendors making it hard to navigate between the crowds, motorcycles, and cars. People have booths set up selling anything and everything. Along our way, Marie introduced us to some former and present patients of June's. One girl we met had her foot amputated by her mother because she didn't like that one of her feet was bigger than the other. Another girl was being pushed by her friend in a wheelchair with no cushion or legs rests. Marie told us the girl had been complaining of leg pain and went to the doctor. They started doing all kinds of surgery on her leaving her paralyzed and unable to walk. The stories of these people are unbelievable, but even more so that these people are so happy. They have huge smiles and greet you with such enthusiasm and kindness. After our walk, June took us to the building where the new clinic is being renovated. We spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning which seemed like it was an impossible task. No matter how much you would scrub, the dirt would keep multiplying. We did take a break and climbed a 32 foot ladder up three stories to the roof of the building where we could see a view of the coast. So beautiful! After a long day, we are now relaxing and reflecting on the past two days and what more we could do to make a difference, not just for the people of Haiti, but for June and her program. She is such an amazing lady and has done such great things here for the Haitian people. It is refreshing to meet someone who is so driven to make a difference who has answered the call she received to serve those less fortunate. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings! -Ashley

Friday, April 20, 2012

Day 1: Team Restore

The day finally arrived for the first Project Haiti team to embark on their journey to Les Cayes, Haiti. We left Jacksonville at 2:45 am to arrive in Orlando at 5:00 am to check into our flight. Our flight consisted of long waits in security and customs lines from Orlando to Miami and finally arriving in Port Au Prince. Once we arrived, we had to gather in the terminal and find our bags in a huge pile of luggage which was a bit chaotic. We ended up finding everything we checked including our big parcels of meical supplies without any lost baggage! Now to find our driver... We followed the directions we were given by MTI and found Harold right where they said he would be. Harold is an awesome driver, but spoke only creole so it was hard for us to communicate with him. We met up with June and Marvin and began our trek from Port Au Prince to Les Cayes which takes an estimatated time of 4-6 hours. Well, 8 hours later we are finally safely in Les Cayes. There are no traffic laws and people have been protesting by leaving large trucks and busses in the middle of the road, blocking traffic from going through. This happened to us repeatedly until we finally found a way out of Port Au Prince thanks to Harold's expert traffic directing skills. We are staying at June's house and we are having so much fun so far! We are all getting to know each other on such a different level which is amazing. So excited for the rest of our time here and the people who are going to impact our lives forever! Pics to come :) -Ashley

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Plaster Cast Day

Lynne Shoffner, one of the most amazing and experienced occupational therapists at Brooks, volunteered to give all of the Project Haiti volunteers an inservice on casting with Plaster of Paris today. Most of us are trained in using fiberglass casting materials and don't have much experience in working with plaster. We have learned that in Haiti, plaster is most commonly used to cast different body parts and felt we should all be trained in this skill. What fun it was too!!!

Our awesome instructor, Lynne Shoffner

Nicole's casting Anita's fractured radius...

Valdora's handy work

Megan's plaster skills

Ali's got it!

Using the team approach on the elbow...

Anita's turn

Michael showing off his OT skills...

Ticklish Megs?

Ola to the rescue!

Ashley and Nicole


Greg's turn

Nicole doesn't look scared....

Geoff's opinion of plaster...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Volunteer Spotlight: Callie Squires

Team Restore

My name is Callie Squires and I am currently an Occupational Therapist for the Brain Injury Program at Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital. I decided I wanted to pursue a career in Occupational Therapy after shadowing a family friend and seeing the difference she was able to make in the lives of others. Now I am able to wake up every day and go to a job I truly love. I feel so blessed to see miracles happen both big and small, and know that in some way, I played a part. After seeing the impact I am able to make with my patients here in Jacksonville, I began to think of ways that I could use my skills to help those who may not normally be able to receive rehabilitation services. I am looking forward to using my skills as an Occupational Therapist to provide skilled care to those in need through Project Haiti, to help make a difference in the lives of those affected by the devastating 2010 earthquake. Words can not fully express how thankful I am for the support and encouragement I have received since embarking on this journey, and I hope I am able to bring the same love, compassion and support to the people of Les Cayes, Haiti. 

"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9

Thanks to the generous support of Callie's friends and family, her trip has been completely funded through her fundraising efforts!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Brooks Match

This past Friday, Project Haiti was able to celebrate surpassing their goal of raising over $5,000. Brooks presented the Project Haiti team with a check totaling $5,000 to match the funds that were raised over the months of February and March. We were so excited!!! We are so blessed to work with such a supportive organization who has been behind us all the way. We would like to thank our COO Michael Spigel and CEO Doug Baer for making this dream a reality!! Without your support, this trip would not be possible. Project Haiti would also like to thank Jill Matejcek for helping us from the marketing standpoint and supporting our cause within the Brooks system, as well as in the community. Thanks to Brooks, all of the Project Haiti volunteers have the funds to cover their travel, as well as buy supplies to take to the clinic in Les Cayes! Here are some pics from Friday....

Check out the article about Project Haiti on the First Coast News website at