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Monday, March 14, 2011

I'm a humanitarian?

Okay so I love spending time with Jenn and traveling with her is something I was definitely looking forward to doing more of but lets just say that these circumstances were less than ideal and I would have been MORE than happy to have waited on that traveling thing until…this summer maybe?

Beginning last Wednesday Jenn and I got to have another sweet, or rather, bittersweet traveling experience. This blog post shall be devoted to Jenn and her month of illness.

Raise your hand if you’ve had kidney stones.

The start of Jenn’s problems most likely began about a month ago with some intense kidney stone pain. She couldn’t eat, she couldn’t sleep, she couldn’t drink and I’d sometimes find her doubled over on the floor. Don’t tell her I told you that.

With the IV fluids and a table full of medication our apartment somewhat resembled a hospital room, Haiti-style of course.

There was one morning when Jenn had somehow managed to catch a few hours of sleep and woke up feeling slightly better. After 5 days cooped up inside the apartment she was ready to venture out for an early morning drive to Louise’s house. We’re pretty sure that it was on this outing that she passed her kidney stone hidden behind some sugar cane bushes out in the fields but we never found the stone in the midst of all that goat poop… maybe next time.

I tried my best to take care of Jenn but secretly I couldn’t stand to see her in so much pain. You can bet I wasn’t excited when the pain returned less than two weeks later.

I did some lab tests and in the absence of infection her symptoms still pointed to kidney stones. We talked with a few doctors and they advised us to get things checked out in the states. Maybe Jenn needed a stent or lithotripsy. We went to Milot to chat with a visiting physician on Tuesday afternoon. The one thing we took away from the conversation: Get to the states within 12 hours if a fever arises.

Funny, we get home and Jenn’s temperature jumps to 102.3. Trust me, we’re both not ones to go running for the comforts of America. But those older and wiser encouraged us to lean on the safe side and head to a hospital in Florida. Someone once told me that “kidney stones plus a fever can kill a healthy 22 year-old.” Yikes.

Jenn agreed to go and Nick and Jamie helped book some flights out the following morning. I love talking to Jenn about the night that, in her delirium, she agreed to go to Florida. Funny thing is, she doesn’t remember agreeing to go to Florida and spent the first few hours of our trip mad at me for forcing her to leave Haiti. ;) Love ya.

Arguably the first God-thing that happened during the course of our trip was the fact that our new friends and recent COTP volunteers, Paul and Kelsey were able to pick us up from the airport. Thanks for living in Ft. Lauderdale P and K and thanks for all that you did for us, wouldn’t have wanted to be in Florida without you.

Jenn was admitted to the ER and the first few scans revealed that she didn’t actually have kidney stones at all. Instead she had an interesting little problem called mesenteric lymphadenitis and an ovarian cyst. They decided Jenn would start on antibiotics and remain in the hospital for a 23-hour period of observation.

We were excited that our emergency room nurse was Haitian, that is until we realized that 60% of the hospital staff was Haitian. But I mean, it was still cool…

I swear it couldn’t have been more convenient if the doctors themselves had planned it but Jenn starts having diarrhea. They decide to do some stool cultures. They also decide that since Jenn’s fresh out of Haiti she probably has cholera.

She was placed on contact precautions meaning that everyone, except for me, had to gown, glove, and mask up before touching her. Nothing like isolation to make a person feel special.

The fact that we had just stepped off a plane departing Haiti was hard for a lot of people to understand. In fact, aside from a few pats on the back, most of the doctors treated us as if we were crazy, insane, and incredibly irresponsible. Why didn’t Jenn have a general practitioner, a gynecologist, a regular PAP smear, a home address?

Somehow, the hospital staff caught on to the fact that Jenn was a humanitarian and that I was a nurse. Someone, somewhere had decided that if Jenn had been given the opportunity to answer the following questions she would reply as such.

What you should know about me: I’m a humanitarian.

What's important to me during my stay: Good care.


I definitely had to flex my nursing muscle and advocate for Jenn in a big way. The nurses were slow to start medication and fluids and rarely made an appearance. The doctors could have done a better job of communicating to us and to each other and the surgeon should definitely not have attempted to remove Jenn’s appendix without first consulting with her.

It’s okay though, while we the doctors and nurses neglected us, we had some quality Amy-Jenn time.

They did a few more blood test, ultrasounds, urine analysis, and then we left. The final word was that they didn’t quite understand exactly what was responsible for Jenn’s swollen lymph nodes in the abdomen although she did have giardia, a common parasitic infection in Haiti. She did have a ruptured ovarian cyst which could have been responsible for the appendicitis-like pain and the fluid visualized on the CT scan and ultrasound. Her liver and spleen were enlarged.

After less than satisfactory care Jenn received at the hospital we were more than ready to leave Friday morning. I promise I let her sleep in her hospital bed most of the time. This picture can serve as proof that I did get some COTP related emails completed while we waited.

Finally, we were free and clear… and Paul and Kelsey picked us up out in front of the hospital. They were so great! They took us to Chilli’s and Walmart and back to their apartment to rest for a bit. Yes, Jenn did drink Dr. Pepper at Chilli’s and yes, I did buy me some marshmellows. Paul and Kelsey’s apartment was lovely and the views were gorgeous.

We just missed Haiti. We missed the babies. We missed Maria.

So we jumped in taxi and wound up at the Miami airport within 45 minutes before an evening flight to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. We jumped on it.

On Saturday morning we were 3 hours short of arriving in Haiti via bus when the fatigue of the past week hit us like a brick wall. Jenn hadn’t showered in 5 days and I hadn’t showered in 4. Lets face it, we didn’t feel awesome and we looked worse. We woke up from a quick nap just as our bus was rolling through the familiar city of Santiago. Which brings me to the second God-moment of the trip. At practically the same time, Jenn and I both considered getting off the bus and spending the rest of the day sleeping in Santiago. I ran to ask the bus driver to stop the bus for us when Jenn noticed that we were directly in front of “our hotel” (a.k.a the sweet place we stayed with Loudjenca’s family). We spent 14 of the next 19 hours sleeping. It was PERFECT.

We made our way easily back to Haiti the next morning. I did get a “muffler burn” on my leg from our first moto ride but they tell me it makes me look hardcore. And I definitely earn points with the nannies when I share stories of navigating Haitian transportation without being ripped off. It’s the little things that make them smile. :)

It’s SOOOOO good to be home. And Jenn’s feeling just a little bit better. Our plan of action is to change Jenn’s diet, finish the antibiotics, take lots of Juice Plus, follow up with a urologist and an internist at Milot one month from now, do some blood tests in a few weeks, and check things out via ultrasound on a regular basis. I promise to take good care of her, still. I hope this post doesn't come across as too sarcastic or negative. I am truly thankful that we had access to the medical tests we were able to receive while in the states. It is definitely a privilege that not everyone has access to.

Jenn, I loved spending this week with you. But I think you know that already.

1 comment:

  1. Oh wow! I'm just reading this like, it just gets worse and worse for her... Jenn I hope you're feeling better now!!! When you say diet change, does that mean no Torros?? I miss you guys so much and Haiti. I'm reading about this and it's so hard and yet I'm jealous... xoxo love ya'll;)!