It is morning on August 14th. A man walks onto the porch at Klinik Jubilee. His back is bleeding from a stab wound, but that’s not the reason people on the porch are shifting in their seats, moving away from him, avoiding eye contact. His wound is the least concerning part about him. This is a man with a reputation. A reputation for violence. A reputation for using magic to harm and even kill people. A reputation for torturing people after he has stolen their minds through drugs or voodou.
I see the looks on the faces of my staff. Magdala, who has come to the porch to assess the wound, takes a step back when she sees who the injured person is. Jenny is trying to hide. The lady who sells bread tells her to be quiet because if she says anything he doesn’t like, he will beat her after she dies. They are afraid.
I tell him he needs stitches, and I instruct Magdala to do them. But after he enters the emergency room, he refuses. He tells her, “If you poke me with a needle, I will die, and it will be on your head.” (This is a common misconception held by those who practice voodou). Magdala is usually confident with patients, sometimes too forceful as she encourages them to make good choices for their health. But not with this man. Bullied by his reputation and demeanor, she agrees to do a simple dressing, no stitches. He leaves.
I ask her why she didn’t do the stitches. She explains his threats. I tell her, “No, you need to do what’s best for him. I can see you are afraid of him, but if you are afraid of him, you give him power. You give him the power to do what you imagine he could do.”
It’s an hour later, and he is on our porch again. The wound is too deep, and continues to bleed despite the dressing. He needs sutures. I place my hand on Magdala’s shoulder and assure her, “You can do it.” She breathes deeply, and steps forward with a new air of confidence. Her voice is firm and clear as she tells him, “You must let me suture your wound. If it is not stitched, you will bleed to death. You have to let me do it, or you will have to seek care somewhere else.”
He agrees, and she takes care of the cut. As he leaves, I can still see the discomfort on the faces of the others still on the porch. But no longer in Magdala’s face. She has experienced the freedom that comes when we set our fear aside, and choose to serve even the most terrifying people. And she has taken a moment to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to touch and help in the healing of one who is feared and despised by others.
Perhaps he saw this in the moment. Perhaps in her firm tone yet compassionate manner, he felt the truth and grace of Christ. Truth that calls us to turn from our sin, and to go through the healing process that is often painful. Grace that offers us forgiveness and love and His presence even though we have done horrific deeds. Perhaps he felt this.
Not every day is as dramatic as this. But every day, we have an opportunity to share the love of Jesus with our patients. Every day we as a staff get to grow, not only in knowledge, but in compassion and confidence in our calling. Every day, we set aside fear so we can reach the hearts of our neighbors.
-Oscar Dieuson, Medical Director, as told to Abigail Rucker
“S’ou blier pour soulager.” Forget yourself to heal others.
It’s a quote that members of our staff have attributed to Florence Nightingale, and while that ascription is hard to verify, the spirit of the quote is not. This concept of giving sacrificially, of self-forgetfulness in the service of our patients, is certainly in line with the standards developed by Nightingale and those follow in line with the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I first heard the quote while observing Mis Sabine take care of a prenatal patient. This very expectant mama had eased her way up onto the exam table. Before she could lift her feet, Mis Sabine was bending over, removing tightly strapped sandals from feet swollen with the weight of a baby. After the routine examination, Mis Sabine went to the end of the table, showing her patient how to stretch her feet and pump her calves in order to help with the routine swelling. Then she helped her patient roll over and sit up, and without hesitation, bent to fasten the shoes back on the tired feet. It was at that moment Mis Sabine looked at me and shared this quote, “Forget yourself in order to heal. Florence Nightingale said it. It’s what we do as nurses. We have to do everything in our power to bring comfort to our patients.”
Every week, I witness our staff embodying this principle. Once it was during a staff meeting. We were discussing our recent disaster preparedness training, which included CPR. Giving CPR in Haiti can be a scary prospect. Community members might misunderstand and accuse the one giving aid of hurting or killing the patient, rather than recognizing the attempt to help. As we talked, our lab technician Jonas nudged his assistant Annie to share. Between the two of them, they told how Annie had come across someone who needed CPR. Knowing the risk she was taking, Annie chose to help. Her ministrations were successful, and she was able to save that person’s life.
Our Medical Director Oscar is well known in Jubilee. More nights than not, his door is pounded on, as a neighbor brings a child or a mother or a friend who need stitches, or an IV, or medication for a high fever. He sacrifices sleep and time with his family to offer care every time. Magdala cares for a girl who has no home. She suffers from mental illness and won’t stay in one place, but Magdala brings her into clinic, and then seeks her out on the street in order to take care of her when she is sick. Jonas tests our patients for HIV and Syphillis. When a test is positive, he refers them to a local hospital for government sponsored treatment. But, knowing how easy it is for them to be lost in the shuffle, he uses his own time and vehicle to drive them to the hospital and personally oversees their entry into the treatment program. Practicing self-forgetfulness in order to care for our patients.
These stories could go on and on. The beauty of the hearts of our staff is truly stunning, and the change they are making in Jubilee and Gonaives as a whole is apparent. It is this kind of heart, this desire to serve that transforms communities, and opens the doors to sharing God’s love with our neighbors.
-Abigail Rucker, Administrative Director
Over the past months, we have been working to build a fence around the clinic property. After a lot of hard work, the clinic, school, and schoolyard are fully enclosed, and divided into separate areas with connecting gates. Although this update has come with its share of challenges such as the logistics of locking and unlocking gates, or establishing and communicating protocol, the positive benefits have been amazing!
Fencing our property means so many things for our clinic and the school. It means no trash being dumped in the yard where children play, or near the Clinic’s porch waiting area. It means a secure location for our school kids to play and learn, since anyone entering has to be admitted by someone with a key. It means a trash bin will remain on Clinic’s porch instead of “wandering off”, and after-hours visitors won’t use the porch as their weed-smoking hangout.
These things are great, but even greater is what this fence means to our community. In Haitian culture, a fence shows you care about your property. As you walk through Jubilee, you will see that nearly every yard is fenced in some way. Many of these fences are made out of sticks or woven palm leaves- they would not be very effective against intruders. But that’s not the point. These fences say to others in the community, “This area is mine, and I take pride in it.” It shows self-respect and respect for one’s property.
When we began putting up the fence, community members began talking. We heard comments like, “It’s about time!” Someone else said, “[The Klinik] is more serious now.” Because there is more control of who can or cannot enter the Klink property, patients feel more secure and important. They know that their needs are the focus of this place. The community sees that we respect ourselves, our property, and our patients. Klinik Jubilee is a source of pride for this community, and with every step we take to show that we are serious about providing quality healthcare, this community comes one step closer together… uniting over a fence that shows we care.
-Abigail Rucker, Administrative Director