This is the first post in our new First Choice section. Future posts under this heading will take in fiction, music and dance, but this one urges you to imagine the real work being done by Fr. Rick Frechette and his comrades in Haiti.
Fr. Frechette is a medical doctor and priest. He’s also a longtime contributor to “First of the Month.” But he’s been writing less lately as his work in Haiti concentrates all his attention. He also had a serious accident earlier this year. (More on that anon.) Fr. Frechette recently sent out a fundraising appeal and this post begins with his report from last week on that appeal, which provides a snapshot of hard times in Port au Prince. It then flashes back to his reflections on his accident. Earlier this year, in another brief meditation, Fr. Frechette noted people often misunderstand the meaning of “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” The point is not to avoid the places that scare us, but rather “it is advice as to how not to go there. Rushing in.” (“Jesus’s entrance into our lives was humble, and marked by vulnerability as shown in the birth in a manger, the slaughter of the innocents, the flight into Egypt. Jesus grew slowly, in wisdom and grace; there were many quiet years of maturing, preparation and initiation…”) Please take time to visit http://stlukehaiti.org where you can learn about the St Luke Foundation in Haiti. You might also read about Fr. Frechette’s works and days at his “First” author page. Then consider making a donation to the Foundation. B.D.
How We’re Doing (& the State of the Nation)
About six weeks ago, I sent out the appeal below:
Over the past few days, I launched an informal appeal for $250,000 to help us manage the patients with cholera that still come to us, six years after the epidemic began, and the new cases that will be coming with the heavy rains. This money will be used this way:
-10% to invest in removing standing water from the rains, in areas where we work in Cite Soileil and Wharf Jeremy, to reduce the risk of cholera;
-20% to invest in water purification tablets, soap and chlorox in the communities where we work, to aid in prevention of cholera;
-50% to keep our redyration centers (cholera and other diarrheal illnesses) functioning for the next 12 months;
-20% in order to expand capacity as needed and share IV fluids and other materials with clinics in the Provinces that call for help.
I AM PLEASED THAT OF THIS GOAL OF $250,000, WE HAVE ALREADY REACHED $175,000.
Our formal and public appeal is for the balance: $75,000.
Last night at 10pm, I raced to a nearby city with an 84 year old woman in respiratory distress, and her family.
There was no room for her at our St Luke hospital, which running over capacity because of the public hospital strikes.
The family begged that we take her, even if on the floor.
The floor is not the problem; it is the strained services: last night, for example, we did not have any way to supply her with oxygen. All tanks and tank connectors were in full use.
I was able to put her into the private hospital of a friend. I will worry about related debts later. I could sleep last night with easy breathing rather than tormented turning, because I knew this grandmother (Lucille) was in great hands.
In addition to the balance for the cholera, we are trying to raise an additional $150,000 to help us find the best care for people who are desperate but surpass our capacity. With these funds we can pay for their care at other private centers and find ways to open more rooms than our ordinary budget permits.
So the total appeal: $75,000 balance for welcoming and caring for people with cholera, and $150,000 for welcoming and caring for those falling between the cracks of a public health system on the skids.
We are glad for any contribution you might make to this appeal for a total of $225,000.
THANKS TO YOUR HELP, I can report that we are still able to maintain three cholera centers, which are saving lives of adults and children.
It is a relief for all of us that we reached our goal of funding the cholera centers, especially St Mary field hospital in Cite Soleil, and St Luke Hospital in Tabarre, for another year.
While so much of world news is distressing lately, if you watch any news of Haiti, you know that we are struggling under political chaos, a political and constitutional crisis related to fraudulent elections.
It seems the elections will have to be redone. In the meantime Haiti is in a kind of free fall, with a related upsurge of street crime and violence.
Also, and very sadly, we are in the 7th week of a full strike of all public hospitals. This is a humanitarian crime, the sick poor are left unattended.
All of us missionaries with healthcare facilities are doing triple time, and stretching to help every patient we can.
So many are in dire need and have nowhere to go, no place to find care.
Thanks to your help, we have added an additional 24 beds to our St Luke hospital.
It’s tragic that we don’t have room for every person in need, but your donations allow us to make places for as many as we possibly can.
Please don’t give up on us if you can help.
June 30, 2016
Fr. Frechette composed this note two weeks after the motorcycle accident that left him and two other members of the St. Luke team wounded.
I was airlifted out of Haiti with a serious internal bleed, treated with excellent care in Haiti and at Ryder trauma center in Miami, and in fact was hospitalized only a day and a half at Ryder because of this excellent care.
Look at the richness of the generosity toward myself when I was in urgent need (a priest suddenly a penitent, a doctor suddenly a patient, and a strong leader suddenly a fallen team member):
I was airlifted first class from Haiti to Miami
I was given first class treatment and a private room at Ryder Trauma (Jackson Memorial Hospital)
the Archbishop of Miami was offering the cathedral rectory for my convalescence
the papal Nuncio in Haiti was asking for me, as well as the Permanent Observer of the Vatican at the UN
my CT scans and case were reviewed even by a trauma physician of the White House
my case was reviewed with mutual discussion between Ryder and Mayo Clinic (Scottsdale)
Mother Theresa’s Sisters came to the hospital with Holy Medals for me
I spent some days of convalescence at the Miami home of Veronica and Andrea Bocelli
and more days of convalescence at the impressive retreat house of The Passionists at North Palm Beach.
This was all just frosting on the cake, (the cake being all the efforts on every side to organize the saving of my life from hemorrhagic shock).
My friends and the docs in Haiti, Phil Hurley who accompanied me and stayed with me in USA, Enzo who has been with me the whole time, and all your messages of support and prayer. It is very moving and wonderful.
St Paul was knocked off his horse, and remained blind until he could see in a new way, that was useful to the building of God’s reign.
I was knocked off this motorcycle, and began right away re-seeing many things which had become somewhat dormant over these years, yet were part of my original calling.
Dormant yet reawakened.
As I was cared for so graciously, I often pictured the other two injured team members, Emmanuel and Lenz.
I pictured them in their shanty shacks, lying on the floor, far frm water and toilets and help if they needed it.
I called them often to see how I could send medicines, some clothes, have them reevaluated.
My own great care made me aware of their limited care, and eager to try to fill in the gaps that I could.
I missed for them what I had for myself. I am glad I had it. I miss it for them. I am more committed than ever to try to even the field of blessing, to make it reach the poorest of people.
My own great care made me picture the children at St Damien’s Hospital, the adults at St Luke Hospital, the old people in Cite Soleil whose physician I am, the sick poor I care for at Sans Fils and St Joseph.
I would see them in my hours and hours of sleep. Wishing for all of them the same courtesy, the same first class treatment, the same kind greetings and promise of prayer, that I have known. It is fully its own powerful medicine.
I have been held up by love and its healing force. I am more committed to spreading this powerful medicine as well, to the people far frm this blessing.
This time of convalescence is a great satisfaction to me: it is the proof that I have set up strong and independent leaders and teams in Haiti, who know what to do and don’t need me to be there.
The NPFS National Directors, Jacqueline and Kenson, and their teams. The St Luke leaders, Nebez, Roseline, Augusnel, and their teams.
They know their responsibility and accept it with enthusiasm and capability. It is deeply satisfying to see.
If I had been more seriously injured in the accident, or killed, there is no part of the institutional work of NPFS or St Luc programs that are dependent on my person.
For sure I bring a certain richness to the work in Haiti, as does each person.
For sure I have my own work to do in Haiti:
-the support of the leaders in grave problems
-the clinics and medical care with the poor
-the burial of the dead
-the peace camps and neighborhood developments in Cite Soleil
-the emergency surgeries I can organize for those who have fallen between the cracks
-the further development of the farms
-the rehabilitation of the old St Luc Hospital
-helping develop the Passionist community in Haiti
-job creation for the disabled
I am eager to get back to this, my work.
I am in minimal pain, I still have a foley catheter which I may need for another 3 weeks, I am healing from the hemorrhages as I should. I need a few more consultations with Urology for a small tear.
I take nice walks on the beach, hoping the urine leg bag is not showing beneath my shorts!
I will be fine, and return to Haiti very likely within one month. (I sure hope sooner!)
Thank you for your help, your concern, your friendship, your prayers.
Be sure of mine for you.
God bless you (real good).