As I'm moving closer and closer to medical school, I seem to be doing less and less medicine. From helping build a local bar as a volunteer (a worthy cause, in my book), to hack-building cool gadgets. I'm picking up bizarre skill sets left and right. This is adding to the already diverse skill sets I had acquired on my previous jobs. I'll detail my rants, raves and experiences here.
I'm currently sick, but still finding ways to help. We're saving lives everyday here.
At a meeting the other night (we have one every night), a team was named to help provide a critical surgery to save this woman's leg. We were going to need the team, because we had three different disciplines that needed to be involved. The surgeons were going to perform the surgery (duh. That's what they do). The nurses were going to provide the care for the patient. This is critical for cases like this. Aggressive (and they're aggressive down here!) nursing maintains the patient in a state of optimal healing for their injury, and provides the best environment for optimal outcomes. These nurses will also be in charge of instructing the Haitian nurses on what we're doing.
Optimal outcomes. It's interesting hearing about that in Milot, Haiti. We can't drink the water, we lose power everyday, and we just don't have anything near the resources that we have at home. Still, we're shooting for optimal. Not "Best under the circumstances", but optimal. These people down here are really that good.
So, my part with this team is to build the traction device that is going to hold tension on this woman's leg while it heals. She'll be in it for three to six weeks, so it is going to need to be durable enough to last long after I'm gone, but simple enough that it can be used without complicated instruction.
I met briefly with the team after the meeting. We set out with our objectives in mind. Within minutes I found a draftsman (a 19 year old who is here helping out every way he can. He's incredibly busy. Elijah, if you ever read this, you done good). Twenty minutes later he had the drawing to me. The next day (It was around 10:30 at night at this time) I would go see the local metalsmiths, and see what they could come up with.
The next day was one of running around for me. I made at least 15 trips to the hospital and the tent city where many of the patients were kept, all before lunch. The vendors on the side of the road were beginning to make jokes, and we had some laughs during my trips. Finally, lunchtime rolled around. A quick meal, and I was back at the command center waiting for my translator.
I try to make do without a translator as much as possible. So far, it's been pretty easy. Patients speak a universal language, involving their bodies. We have a primer right in front of us. My other "occupation" down here has been as an engineer, or really a maintenance man. Tools are tools, all over the world. None of the engineers at the hospital spoke any English, but thankfully a wrench is a wrench no matter where you go.
Today was different. The surgery was going to be done quickly. It had gotten pushed back from the original date of two days after the meeting. Instead I had four days. Two days for fabrication, one day for revisions, and surgery on the last day. We could do this, but I wanted the translator to make sure we did this right.
We went down to the shop, and met the foreman, Patrick. We sat on a rusted out truck, and showed him the plans. We went back and forth for a bit, and he even made some improvements. Instead of bolting to the bed, he was going to make a clamp, that would allow it to be moved along the bottom of the bed, or even moved to a different bed entirely.
The only problem was he needed a baseboard to build the traction device on. He wanted to make the device as close as possible to the baseboard specs, so that it be built as efficiently as possible.
Back to the hospital I went. I borrowed some tools again, and attacked an old bed lying behind the ICU. I attracted a bit of a crowd as I did this. One of my translator friends said that the people wanted to see what else I was doing, as I was always running around doing something interesting. I was worried that they were getting pissed because I was destroying an old bed. I'd seen people sleeping on this in the past, but I really needed this board.
I didn't need to worry. I grabbed the big piece of wood, and marched out of the hospital, with no one raising a cry. Back to the smith's, and time for a break.
A couple of hours later I was walking to the command center when I saw my baseboard being walked through the bushes. I went to investigate, and lo and behold the traction device was done. These guys had made a beautiful system, in record time, and were already delivering it.
I ran back into the kitchen, grabbed everyone a Prestige beer (This is a hot commodity down here. Prestige is the good local brew. However, the brewery was damaged during the quake. It's currently shut down. The first time one of the workers here saw me with one in my hand, he almost wept, asking where I found it). We all shared a toast, and snapped a picture (which I can't seem to upload).
OK, I know I said I'd keep the blog up while I was down here. I know I haven't.
If it helps, I've been savin' lives, so work with me a bit, 'kay?
So there's one.
These are the biomedical guys moving a portable x-ray machine from the compound to the hospital. These things have to weigh a quarter of a ton. They're huge. I've treated several broken feet in the States from one of these rolling over an unobservant foot.
First, the locals were going to load this thing onto the back of a tractor. Thankfully the biomed guys heard this and put a stop to it. The tractor would have flipped, crushing the team of four workers.
So they found three sturdy pieces of plywood (rare here, the termites eat anything wooden), and just started rolling it to the hospital (approximately a quarter of a mile away). The machine is designed to "Power-assist" it's movement, so that you aren't dying trying to move it from patient to patient.
I was dead tired, so I didn't stop to see if the batteries held out. When I came on shift tonight, the new machine was right outside the door to my ICU.
I love the attitude out here. Out here being either Haiti, or on deployment. The "Can-do's" and "Makin' it happen!" are out in force, and we're getting incredible things done.
I'll be in the ER/ICU for at least the immediate time being. I've been given the job of critical care "Union Leader", so I'm trying to do my best for the staff.
The staff, in turn, are doing the best for the people of Haiti. It's incredible, and when I stop to think about it, I do get a bit misty.
It's not just the patients. We're working hard with the patients, and their families. It's 4am, and I've got as many family members sleeping here as I do have patients. Everyone is sleeping (Except for Kerry, the other US night nurse), but in an instant, they will hop up and help their family member (or even another patient!) turn in bed, empty a bedpan, or find some food.
The food is really calling to me. There is good food to be had here. Particularly if you're not picky. Flavored beans and rice are a staple. I don't know where they get it, but it smells fantastic. So far the night shift has not been getting fed well, but hopefully some of the new changes will fix that.
Short and sweet. I have to keep remembering that for the blog. I'll sign off now, with one final thank you to all of you that sent me down, and you folks that are following along.
Met the team last night for about a minute or two. They knocked on the door around the time I was getting ready for bed. They'd already had the briefing, and were just now getting around to meeting with me.
I was a little disappointed.
Hopefully things will get better once I get down there.
Heading out to the airport now to make the final leg of the journey to Haiti. I'll post some more up when I get a chance.
When I'm whining about the work down in Milot, shove this picture in my face. It was beautiful today. I went for a swim for about an hour. Didn't see anywhere near as many fish today. Saw a decent sized mackerel, a little more than a meter long. He didn't want to have anything to do with me, but I followed him for a little more than 100 meters.
I found a massive starfish. I'm not sure if he was alive or not. I turned him over with my blade, and thought I saw some movement, but I wasn't sure. I didn't want to touch him, as I couldn't remember if they had any toxins or anything.
Then, as I was swimming back to shore, I realized I had company. A single of the massive school of fish I encountered yesterday was enjoying the shade under me. He was swimming quite close, and seemed very content.
I relaxed and floated in place for awhile. The little guy was very tolerant, not moving while I lifted my head to breathe (again, really missing my snorkel). A couple of times he came right up to my face, and examined my mask closely. After about five minutes of the extreme close up, I decided to call it a day, and wandered back to shore.
The weather is interesting here. It always seems like there is a storm just off shore. Even now, sitting by the pool, it seems like it could open up any minute.
But it hasn't.
In Jamaica or St. Maarten, when the weather looked like this, it inevitably stormed. Beautiful storms, with blowing wind. Very spectacular as you could watch them coming to shore.
I wish I could find the money to spring for a week at a resort. I miss diving on an actual reef, or exploring a new island. St. Maarten was incredible this way. If you go, rent a car. Great beaches, beautiful scenery, and easy driving.
I think my team just arrived. Time to go find out what I'm in for.
There are a ton of these guys running around during the morning hours. They tolerate each other, until they cross a certain distance between each other. Then the chase begins. Humorously, if the chase happens out in the open, they begin chasing each other in a circle. They're not willing to actually catch each other (from what I've seen). They'll just run at each other in a massive bluff, then circle each other furiously.
I originally felt guilty about planning to do my stop over here. Not anymore.
I got here around noon yesterday, exhausted. I hadn't slept in a long time, and the hassle with the hotel had made it even more tiring (Thanks Tadpole, you rock!). Still, I didn't want to disrupt my sleep schedule, and I don't like naps. So I kept pushing. I went to the beach (less waves than we saw at Tahoe last year, or even Osawa). Quiet little place.
However, just beneath the surface, was action. The ocean floor was a stark white sandy bottom that dropped pretty quickly. 20 yards off shore, the water was easily 8 feet. I rapidly got to a point where it was deeper than I could comfortably dive (I only brought my crappy diving mask to use for helicopter ops. Doesn't matter if it gets scratched up). After about 25 minutes of swimming in the calm water two bonitos swam up and kept me company. I had just decided to head back in when they appeared. I decided to stay and swim with them for a bit longer.
Five minutes later, in a flash, they disappeared, swimming for the shallows. I did a slow scan around me, but could only see faint flickers of light at the limit of my vision. I decided to follow the two fish towards shore.
On my next scan, I came face to face with a four foot barracuda. Well, it seemed like it was face to face. I'm pretty sure he was four feet, because he was longer than my arm, but not truly terrifying.
If you've never seen a barracuda, it's something to behold. A skinny, long fish. It looks fast. It moves in very sudden jolts of movement, between hovering stock still, staring at you. The staring is very unnerving. It's very clear that it has its attention on you.
Oh yeah, and the teeth. Mustn't forget the teeth. Barracudas have great teeth. Something that HR Giger used to draw. They are the stuff of nightmares. Snicker-snack
So this thing is out there, initially at around ten feet. Looking all large and sinister. I decided (on my own, no prompting needed, thank you) to head back to the hotel. I swam about thirty of the thirty five yards back to the beach, watching my escort the whole time (I'm never going to mask swim without a snorkel. I should have brought it). He was perfectly happy to swim behind me. Really close to my toes. Too unnervingly close to my toes.
Suddenly, he took off. When a barracuda leaves, it's a Coppefield Act. One second he's there, the next second, poof, he's gone. If the sun hits him right, there's a quick flicker, but that didn't happen this time. Just poof. Gone
I continued my swim towards shore, watching behind me. When I finally turned, to finish my swim in, I was maybe ten feet from shore, and the water was filled with small (6-10 inches) silvery white fish. Thousands of them. They swarmed around me, leaving a polite foot and a half between us. They had no problem with me being there.
It was incredible. I could almost jump to the shore, and I knew from experience that the majority of the people on the beach had no idea I was surrounded by these fish. At times they were so dense I could only barely make out the ocean bottom two feet below me.
I must have stayed there for ten minutes, just quietly paddling. I really wished I could float at this point, with a snorkel. I could have just laid there, face down, watching this beautiful dance in front of me. Each time the school turned, it picked the light up a different way. The turn happened in a wave like fashion, so I was surrounded by this gorgeous, undulating wave of light.
Eventually I had to get out. I had already stayed longer than I had planned, and I hadn't put on sunscreen (It's combined with my bug spray, and I'm saving that for Haiti).
I walked the 300 yards back to the hotel, more relaxed than before. A couple of quick emails (still nothing from PayPal....grrrr), and I set out to find dinner.
Money's tight, and the nearby "local" restaurant was pretty expensive ($15 for a burger?), so I settled on a quiet looking pizza place (Pizza Port, in Provo). It was really quiet. I was the only one there for about 5 minutes, until the lady of the house came out to greet me. She reassured me that it wasn't too early for dinner (it wasn't even 5 yet), and showed me the menu.
I asked her what was good, and she pointed to the top item, an Islander Meat Lovers Pizza. I'm big into trying the local food when I'm abroad, so this really dovetailed with my love of meat lover's pizza (Ask my friends, I'm a Tyrannosaur!). I went with that.
The pizza came with a baked cheese surface, on a crunchy, but moderately thick crust. It smelled heavenly (when was the last time I ate?), and I dived right into it.
This has to be one of the best pizzas I've ever had. Jerk seasoning in the sauce, pepperoni, ham and a jerk seasoned sausage. It was spicy, but not extremely spicy like jerk sometimes is. It was a unique flavor that I have to try to duplicate when I get home.
I sat almost quietly. A family was letting their little girl have a full-on tantrum for half an hour down in the courtyard. People, I sympathize, but when your child is a burden, it is your burden. Please don't inflict the screaming on all of us. My parents removed me to the car, a private corner, or back alley, and tried to reason with us, before smacking our bottoms raw. It worked, and I fully appreciate them for their administrations. Indeed, I remember diners coming to our table when we did behave, and comment on how well behaved we were. Thirty years later, and I remember.
The food was excellent. The breeze was lovely. I sat and ate as I finished my one book (uh-oh.... no more books??? This will be a long dry spell. I've never gone a week without reading a book. Holy shit! What was I doing). Alistair Reynolds is a pretty good author, but damn, it seems his stories have a pretty dark bent at times. I've only read one (Thank you, Jim-Jim. Awesome book to take with me, matched my mood perfectly), Diamond Dogs and Turquoise Days, but I'm going to have to get more.
Finished dinner and back to the room. I stayed up just long enough to talk to my father and my girlfriend. I love the internet. I passed out and just slept. No alarm clocks, no meetings to make in the morning. No critical phone calls to make.
I feel cleansed. I've left behind the stress of home, and I can concentrate on what is ahead of me. Next deployment I'm going to plan on this. The pricing structure made it easier (it was about $100 cheaper for me to come a day earlier, and get another night at the hotel).
OK, gonna go drop the laptop off at the room, and wander down to the beach. Maybe my friends will be waiting for me.
I miss my sister, my parents. I miss the dogs and the cats (even the psycho little one). I miss my neighbor sitting outside. I miss my friends up the street.
I miss my girlfriend. She took the day off today, to see me take off. Instead, she saw me run around like an idiot, trying to make 110lbs of stuff fit into two 50lb bags (stupid airline regs). We did it. Yeah, I can bend space/time.
It was hard today. I first got choked up at Staples, when my girl walked out of sight. Dunno why, but it was difficult. Then my sister called. I was worried I wasn't going to see her before I left. That was rough.
I love them both. Different ways, but lots. All of them, actually. Each in their own individual ways.
I said goodbye to my dad tonight. He said he was proud of me. Wow We don't always see eye to eye. Heck, sometimes I think he doesn't understand how much he says means to me. And he's certainly said it before. But tonight, wow. It was crushing. It was the summation of the night. A couple of simple words, and I'm really getting that I'm doing good here.
Yeah, I'm that shallow that I still need occasional validation from others, ok? Typically I'll spit in your face and argue my point till I'm blue in the face, BUT it's nice to hear sentiment like this every once in awhile.
My girlfriend has said it a couple of times too. Again, it's like a giant weight rolling over me. A nice one. I was married, and I don't think I ever heard that. I certainly didn't hear it with this kind of weight. That could be the divorce talking. You don't do that when everything's going great.
Baby, if you're reading this, I love you.
I found out that the Milot hospital is getting an ambulance. I may have an honest to god job when I get there on Saturday. I'll be posting pictures.
OK, it's 1am at Charlotte International airport. A tiny little airport that doesn't even have wifi at the Starbucks. I was hoping to catch a nap, but unfortunately it appears that 1am is when the construction starts... Only 9 more hours until my connecting flight.... wow
If that hasn't been said before, we'll make it Ty's Rule, number 11.
The thing above is a QR code. It's like a high tech bar code. When I get back, we'll play with them some more. Right now, it's just the QR code for this site.
My bag is packed. It's 47lbs right now, and I'm going to top it off with candy for my patients. I need to make a mix of rice tomorrow, to take with me (My "run for the border" food stash). I'm pretty well equipped. I wish I had more medical supplies, but I seem to have hit some dry holes in this area. To be fair, I believe every local hospital has teams in Haiti.
I found out this weekend that one of my sister's co-workers was contributing to the cause. I'm incredibly touched when people donate (always restating my mantra "Please don't let me screw up"). This one got even better. I don't have the whole story, but this may be my last chance to blog it (I can't believe I just used blog as a verb).
I'm going to change the names, because I'm a big believer in privacy. If she happens to stumble across this blog, and wants to leave her name in the comments, I hope fame finds her and treats her well.
So Mrs. X's kids have done something wrong. I'm not sure what, but mom was angry. Apparently Mrs. X started yelling at the kids, explaining to them how Mr. Ty (I can see her calling me "Mr. Ty") was going to Haiti, where the people have lost everything. In my mind, I can hear her talking about the destroyed buildings, horrible conditions, the lack of supplies, walking uphill both ways in the snow (wait, what?). I dunno. I can really see Mrs. X doing a great rant with this.
Apparently it worked. My sister says that the next day, they came to her with some money they had collected (I don't think either of them are even teenagers yet), and asked if this would be enough to help Mr. Ty.
Excuse me for a second, there's something in my eye.
Both of 'em.
Whew. I know it looks like a short period of time between this line and the last, but it's not. Took me a minute or two.
I've heard a lot of "Oh Ty, I wish we could do more!" And yeah, I wish you folks could. It would mean that your comfort levels are higher. It would mean your level of security is higher.
It would mean we were all better off than we are.
I had a child run out to me the other day in a parking lot. I had just left a business, talking about the deployment to Haiti. He couldn't have been 8 years old. He yelled at me twice "Mister! Mister!" and then gave me two quarters. I told him "Thank you. You can keep these, you know?" He looked at me and I think he almost started crying. "I want you to use this to keep the earthquakes away" (I can't do the cute voice, but this kid was really pulling no punches) Now the kid's got me going. I make it a general rule not to lie to kids. They'll handle the truth better than we give them credit for. I just looked at him. I didn't have the words yet. Again, he filled in the blanks. "My dad says you're going to help the people with the earthquakes" OK, this I could handle, at least until I got to the car. "OK kiddo. Yeah, I can do that. I'm going to help the people with the earthquakes. Some of them are sick, and I'm going to help. OK?" I'm not sure why I asked him "OK?" I guess I needed him to nod, and give his blessing to my efforts at keeping the earthquakes away. He nodded his head and ran back towards the store.
I went to the car, pulled out another two quarters. I think I'm going to have to use his dollar for something special.
I'm not going to put the donate button up today. Paypal is having fits because I'm taking donations but I'm not a 501c3 organization.
Folks, I want to be clear. I want others to understand. I'm not a tax deductible organization. I am volunteering with one, but they cannot cover my travel costs (almost $1000 of it) or any of my other costs. It's just me.
The date is rapidly approaching. I spent the morning upgrading my father's computer, and the afternoon finding the equipment I needed.
The folks at Casual Adventure (http://www.casualadventure.com/) have been incredible. This deployment is very different from any that I have done before, but it is right up their alley. Lightweight, quality gear, and they have the expertise to help you select the right tools for the job.
It was interesting. While I was there, a gentleman was looking for a new pack. He already had a pack purchased from another store, but it was uncomfortable, and didn't seem to fit right. The staff offered to help him set the pack up correctly. He declined, saying that it had been setup before. The staff offered to help him pick out a new pack. He declined, stating that his current pack was cheaper.
The staff was very pleasant and polite, even as he became more and more antagonistic. I was pretty surprised at the lengths that they went to, to try and help this man out. In every case, he preferred his problems over solutions. You aren't going to be able to make everyone happy, all the time.
I really valued their input. The staff there are all big time outdoorsmen (and women!), with a very wide variety of experiences. They're very quick to use each other's expertise to help out their clients. I've been using them for years, but for minor purchases, or critical parts (these folks seem to be able to find anything). This was the first time I needed to be kitted out for something like this. It's incredibly reassuring to know that someone in the shop had been in an environment like Haiti before, and has had experience with all of the equipment I purchased.
As I was leaving, I started checking off my pre-deployment checklist. It ended with my old prayer, "Please god, don't let me screw up." Familiar to all of us. I know I've heard it muttered many times past, either in the ER, outside the door before a warrant service, or before throwing the switch on a multi-thousand dollar custom computer, it's a very familiar mantra.
This is a big leap. I've never deployed solo. It's going to be easier because I'll start in a relatively supported location. However, Port au Prince is going to be tough. I've got a couple of leads for organizations there, but much of the work is going to happen with boots on the ground. These uncertainties are what make me nervous.
On the bright side, it's date night! My girlfriend and I are going to grab a nice dinner, and check out Alice in Wonderland. Then tomorrow we're going to go see the horses before meeting some friends for a 30th birthday. We'll close the weekend by going out to see a bunch of my family. I'm glad this final weekend is going to be filled with everything I want.
On a final note, I'm pleased to hear that my friend's book, They Fought for Each other, is kicking serious ass on the Amazon Top Seller's List. Kelly Kennedy is an incredibly fascinating lady, and I can't wait to get my hands on the book. Unfortunately it's going to have to wait till I get back. No where to stash it in my pack.
I feel like I'm getting ready for a shuttle launch, or something of that magnitude. Something big is coming. I know it is going to be more of the same, completely different patients (something an ER guru once told me).
In seven days I take off, but that won't be the real change. That will simply be me, leaving what is comfortable behind. Leaving my friends, family, and numerous supporters (Nova Scotia? I also got a contribution from a Belgian, but I think he was only 100 miles away when he did it. My family has done a great effort on the West Coast, and I think they have the true distance award so far).
After that great takeoff, down the runway (I love taking off in planes. I wish they'd let me listen to my music), I'll coast for a bit. Actually, a couple of days. Getting further and further away from my home. Sure, I'll have an electronic link (thank god for the internet), but that's not the same.
Then the big change. Weightlessness. I wish. I'd love to go into space.
No, my big change will be Haiti. Cap Haitien, then Milot. Then a series of days at the hospital, hopefully in the ER, where I'll at least be comfortable in my work, if not my surroundings.
And I'll have a team. This is where the real draw is. I love working with a good team. There's nothing else like it. I pick my friends based on how well I can "work" with them. They're the greatest people in the world...
Hopefully I'll find new ones in Haiti.
We had our fund raiser dinner last night. The local restaurant bailed kinda at the last minute, so we hosted a shin-dig at the house. Good friends, old friends, even surprise guests showed up. It was a great time, with plenty of depth that I found surprising. I only had to do my Haiti "Song and Dance" twice (don't think I completed it at all, to be honest).
We talked all night. About everything. A couple of times the controversy regarding the Haiti relief efforts came up. I heard numerous opinions about who was screwing things up, and why. Why things were screwed up. How it could be done better. How the Haitians needed to do better. It kind struck me on numerous levels.
The Haitians just didn't have much before the quake. Then a huge chunk of their world fell apart. The world is coming in to help them, but how are they going to react? Are they going to ask us to build them new tin shacks? Are they going to ask us to build brand new houses? State of the art infrastructure? Build some new hospitals?
These poor people had next to nothing, and they really worked hard to make it better for themselves (I'm not going to believe that a whole, independent nation is nothing but lay-abouts). Now, as a nation, they're in a rough place (no matter how you slice it). Do they embrace the help, and profit from their disaster? Do they stoically, and pridefully turn away the help, and try to rebuild their status quo? I really hope not, but some of the things I've heard have made me think that this option is something that people want.
The other thing that has struck me is the number of people who know exactly what is wrong with any given problem/solution/situation. Wow, it's simply incredible. What's horrifying is the level to which we elevate some of these people. Celebrities, news personalities, pop icons. What the hell are we doing listening to them? (I won't get started about the Vaccine debate. It looks like Jenny McCarthy may try to shut up. Possibly too little too late. Amanda Peet, there's someone I could listen to).
Sure we arm-chair quarterback. All of us do. However, I'm beginning to see that there is a segment of the population that simply delights in that. No matter what is going on in front of them, they're going to accentuate the negative. No matter that your efforts are bearing fruit, they'll decry your mistakes, your inability to save everyone. They'll do this while you sweat, bleed, and succeed. They'll sit in their chairs and drag you down, while you do the best that you can.
And when you're done, they'll let out a sigh. Then roll over, and take a nap. Cynicism is exhausting. Or idle cynicism is exhausting. I'll be the first to admit, I'm pretty cynical. However, I'm cynical as I'm sweatin' bullets trying to fix the problem.
And finally, I was struck by the problems I'm leaving here at home. I apologize for this downer of an ending to the entry, but it's on my mind (and it's my blog!).
I'm not looking to save the world. I know I can't. I know I can try, and I know that sometimes, despite everything I throw at it, bad things will happen. However, there are times, where I just wish I could save something beautiful. Something that I see is going wrong, and that I just don't have the power to fix.
I'm leaving the virtual paradise of the US for Haiti. I'm leaving problems here that need fixing. Problems that I probably can't fix, but that are near and dear to my heart.
I'm hoping people get better about taking care of each other.