I’ve been feeling dislocated lately.  I know that’s the wrong way to use that word, but it’s how I feel.

Between my parents and kids there are plenty of people around, so I can’t by rights call it loneliness.  But I feel unsettled and frequently uneasy.

Last week I took the girls to dance class.  I didn’t know any of the parents there (my dance friends were travelling that week) and they were all talking about how terrible their children’s teachers are this year.  It was all I could do not to hold up my hand and interrupt, but before I did, they moved on to talking about how wonderful their vacations were and how terrible it will be when they finally “have” to take their kids with them.  “They’re too young to enjoy a cruise.”  “We wouldn’t be able to drink as much.”  All that to say, the dance parents weren’t my people.


I told myself to stop whining about it and call someone, but my phone wasn’t working.  It just kept flickering in and out of service, so that I couldn’t even text Sam, and while I understand that this is a First World Problem, it was vexing.  Dance went on and on, and I hadn’t even brought a book (#firstworldproblem).

And then Sam on his white horse to pick up the girls so I could go meet two of my fellow homeschooling moms for tea, and we had a beautiful conversation about our brokenness.  About having to turn to Jesus every day to look for grace, and I wasn’t lonely any more.


They say 1.75 million Syrians have fled their country.  Nearly a third of the country (7 million people) is in desperate need of food, safe water, and basic necessities.  Half a million Burmese are displaced– a whole generation.  About half a million Haitians are still homeless after the 2010 earthquake.  Those numbers are staggering and unimaginable and I am whining about my phone.

I don’t mean to be spewing statistics, but it helps me to remind myself of the faces I’ve met who make these statistics real to me.  When I was in Haiti, and when I was in Thailand, they were my neighbors and bid me welcome. They are still my neighbors, and I can still be their community.  Even when my cell phone isn’t working and the dance moms are on my last nerve.


My hope is that this sense of displacement I am feeling will turn my heart to pray for– and seek out to befriend– others who are displaced, for whatever reason. I am inspired by those around me who are making community: my family, ministering daily to one another.  My dad, who faithfully delivers Meals on Wheels and stays to chat everywhere he goes.  My friends who just became foster parents.  The families in our homeschool group whose heart for the elderly leads them to visit a nursing home regularly.  The committed staffs of  Samaritan’s Purse and Oxfam and Doctors Beyond Borders and World Vision and Free Burma Rangers and Partners Relief and Development who teach me what persistence and caring and hope look like on the ground among millions of displaced people.


And no, loving those who are so far away from me and my pampered first-world life isn’t the same as loving the dance mom sitting across from me, and sometimes it seems easier to throw money at a problem than to be a neighbor.  Auntie Leila had a beautiful post recently about making community, and I had to go reread it.  It turns out that we all need community.  I am blessed enough to have it here, even if I have to come out of my shell and get off my phone to see it.


How have you experienced community this week?










:: children who can’t put a book down

:: a working oven (what better way to celebrate than to make bread?)

:: the apple my friend Jerusha painted for me that had been lost behind the oven and was just restored to my wall

:: lilacs

:: a lazy weeked with Uno and swimming and the library

:: iris

:: water. I am grateful every time I drink it.  Would you join me in praying for water security for Haiti?

Home Safe

Haiti from the air

Thanks for your prayers and wishes for a good trip.  I’m back and glad to be with my little ones.

from the wall of the dining hall at the base where we stayed

I was encouraged to see the progress made by the Haitian nurses in our treatment center.  Six months ago, the Haitian nurses I worked with had had no training in acute care medicine.  They have learned so much, and I was happy to be able to encourage them in how far they’ve come.  Likewise I saw more construction happening in Port-au-Prince and more families with food.

one patient's 90th liter of IV fluid

That said, the cholera epidemic is a tragedy happening under our very noses, and I see no end to it until Haiti achieves water security– something I take completely for granted here in the US.

Will you join me in praying for Haiti?

Haiti Links

While I’m in Haiti, I thought I would share with you what I’m doing.  The first is a video from Samaritan’s Purse.

The second is by a nurse who has made multiple trips to Haiti to work in the cholera treatment centers.  I so resonate with her experience.  It’s worth listening all the way to the end.

Update on Haiti

As of April 4, 2011, the Haitian Ministry of Health had reported 274,418 cases of cholera and 4,787 deaths.  This is on top of the more than 300,000 lives lost in the earthquake in January, 2010.  For a country that– prior to the earthquake– had only 10 million people.  That’s approximately 3% of their population lost in a year and a half.

the canal in Port-au-Prince where many get their water

Now the rainy season has begun, and the cholera epidemic is on the rise again.  The clinic where I volunteer has 200 cots and is overflowing.

I’m heading back to Haiti for a week.  I leave Friday.  Please join me in praying for an end to the epidemic and for water stability in this country that has endured so much.  Also, please pray for my friends who have graciously offered to entertain my children next week– it is a huge gift and sacrifice on their part. I am so grateful.

Vegetable stall on the Route Nationale

Haiti, Part Three

Here is how God sent me to Haiti.  Here is a word (or 300) about what I saw.

A word about cholera.  Vibrio cholera is a bacteria that lives in water.


It passes from one person’s stool into a water supply, where it multiplies and infects everyone who drinks that water.  The bacteria causes a toxin-mediated (meaning it’s a chemical produced by the bacteria, not the bacteria itself) diarrhea that can dehydrate and kill a person in a few hours.  The quantity of diarrhea we saw was unbelievable.  (15 liters a day in an adult is average.)  Patients were sick, exhausted, and robbed of their dignity.  So I don’t have any photos of what cholera actually does to you.  I’m sure you understand.   

There have been about 131,000 reported cases of cholera in Haiti since the end of October, and approximately 2700 deaths.  There is another mass gravesite on the same hill, this time for cholera victims.  Our pediatric team cared for approximately 150 children who would have died without the therapy we gave them.

We worked hard– with IV fluids, antibiotics, and prayer– to save people.  During my time there, we had only two deaths.  There were numerous children I expected to die, and none of them did.  I can’t really tell you their stories.  But this is my story:

I had no idea what to expect.  I’d read about cholera but never treated it.  I’d never a case of malaria before, nor thought I’d learn to diagnose it without any laboratory tests.  I had no idea how I’d hold up under the pressure, or in such sad conditions.

But I was fully convinced God wanted me there– not just to use my skills for His children there, but also to change me through them.  And this entire experience has made me pray specific prayers again.  I had such a certain sense of my need.  Here at home, what I need and what I want are so tangled. 

In Haiti, we needed a NICU nurse– someone who could put IVs in tiny children regardless of how dehydrated they were.  Our need was so clear even the first night, and we prayed.  When we got back to the compound, we found a NICU nurse who had just flown in.  God used her hands to do nearly impossible things.  I am so grateful.

There was no hot water for tea, my preferred source of caffeine, and we ran out of Pepsi, my emergency back up.  I tried a caffeine tablet and was nearly deaf for the rest of the night.  (I’m not sure if that was a reaction to the caffeine tablet, or my chloroquine.)  I prayed for the Pepsi truck to come– and it did, the next day.  I had asked my home community to pray specifically for my language skills to return, which they did.  Not only was I speaking French again, but enough Creole to get around the ward without a translator in most cases.  My needs were very clear to me.  I offered them up, and they were met.  Abundantly.  My wants… didn’t seem so important any more.

I have a renewed sense of my calling to be a doctor.  I don’t know why God has so much on my plate.  I don’t see any release from my call to be the primary educator of my children at this time, nor am I seeking a release.  But I had been asking God– badgering Him, really– to release me from the call He placed on my life 18 years ago when I began my medical journey.  I had even begun to doubt whether I’d heard right all those years ago.

It turns out, I did hear right.  He has a reason for me to be in medicine.  He has blessed me abundantly in allowing me to educate my children.  Each of those two challenges is huge in its own right, and for whatever reason, He’s given me both.  So I am praying now that He gives me exactly what I need to fulfill them.

For the first time in a long time, I have faith that He will.

Haiti, Part Two

See how I got to Haiti here.

I can’t be specific about which organization I went with because I agreed not to speak on its behalf in any media outlet.  Suffice it to say that it is well-run, well-intentioned, and effective.  God does good work through them, and I was glad to be a part of it even for a short time.  I will continue to support them with donations and prayer.

I arrived on Saturday morning after flying all night from Denver to Miami, and Miami to Haiti.  Getting from the plane to the staff compound took hours, between finding luggage, clearing customs, finding our driver amongst all the nationals trying to earn a few dollars (or twenty, as one suggested) by rolling my luggage fifty feet.  The traffic was crazy– unusually so, our driver said– and it took two hours to get from the airport to the compound thirty miles north.


I used that two hours to take a gazillion bad photos of Part-au-Prince through the windows of the van.

Once out of Port-au-Prince, we drove along the northern peninsula, where the water was just beautiful.


On the other side of the road, on the hillside, were hundreds of tents set up by people living there to be near the mass grave where their families were buried after the January, 2010, earthquake.

I have to insert a caveat here that, due to security concerns, I never left the confines of the NGO compound, secured vehicle, or highly guarded clinic.   The clinic is in what is described as one of the worst slums in the western hemisphere, and yet I was well cared-for and well-protected.   The patients and families for whom I cared were univerally respectful and polite.  The NGO practiced extensive and thorough infection control precautions, which were effective.  None of  my group contracted cholera or experienced any threats to our safety while we were there.  But– because I was happy to comply with the safety precautions they recommended– I didn’t get out much.

I worked 13 or 14 hours overnight shifts with a team of dedicated international professionals and a varied group of Haitian staff.  (Just like at home: some were excellent, and some just wanted a job.)  Here’s the night crew.

More to come.

Haiti, Part One

I’m not sure how much you all want to hear about my trip to Haiti.  Much of it is really horrific medical details that I’m sure you don’t want running around in your heads, and much of it is deep work that I haven’t processed very well yet.  But I’d like to share a bit about why I went to Haiti, how I got there, and what I saw.

I’ve been praying for Haiti specifically for a few years.  Five years ago I read Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains about Paul Farmer and Partners in Health’s work there, and since there, Haiti has been on my heart.  (I highly recommend this book if you haven’t read it.)  A few years ago, Amanda Soule organized a drive for baby hats to send to a Haitian partnership to provide perinatal care, and our family participated in that.  Each disaster that has struck there reverberated in my heart, even though saying it that way sounds melodramatic.

In November, as the cholera epidemic picked up speed, I felt such a burden for Haiti.  Here was a crisis that my specific skills– speaking French, being a doctor– could actually address… and yet I had no idea how to get there.   Sam came home on Dec 2 after hearing a talk on global health at the university and said, “They need French speaking doctors in Haiti.  Do you want to go?”

YES!  But I had no idea how to get there.

December 3, I went to a Christmas concert with my friend Pam.  She and I worked together at a community health center in Chicago, and now we’re both here in the Denver area.  I asked her if there was any chance she wanted to go to Haiti, and she said, “Are you serious?  I have the week before Christmas off, and I was thinking I should go that week.”

At intermission, we started sending emails to everyone we know with connections in Haiti.

Saturday, I went to the boys’ swim meet.   I mentioned my compulsion to go to Haiti to my friend Erin (her daughter swims with my boys), and she said, “Really?  My mom left today for Port-au-Prince to do cholera relief work.”  All of a sudden I had a phone number.

Sam found me an online application, which Pam and I filled out, and we started to pray specifically: God, please send us to Haiti from Dec 18-24 with _________.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been compelled to pray this specifically about anything.  Two days later, I they accepted my application, and on Dec 10, I had plane tickets.

Everything fell into place like it was meant to be.  I had chills every time I thought about it.  I was able to get my typhoid vaccinations and start my malaria prophylaxis on time before I left.  My clinic was able to accomodate my sudden absence.  People stepped up to care for my kids, even though the week before Christmas is a with travel and complicated lives.

And then the day before we left, we had a plumbing disaster (water coming down through our living room ceiling).  It’s always water for Sam & me.  A leaking shower was the final confirmation– an attack of the enemy, if you will– that confirmed that God was working in this trip.  I left Sam for a week right before Christmas with a hole in the ceiling and one non-functional shower.