Thursday, May 22, 2014

Chikungunya in Haiti

Looking for a reading for Noon Office later today, I went to check some of the excellent blogs I know in case there might be a good meditation on today's office readings. I want to find something on not being anxious. "Consider the lilies" (Matt. 6:25-34) was the gospel reading for Morning Prayer, and it's always good to hear.

25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? (Matthew 6:25-27)
I know it, I've experienced it, and I believe it.  And lately it has also made me sad thinking about Haiti in that context.  We don't provide for each other very well sometimes.  Then I also remember that many of the people I met in Haiti could teach me infinite amounts on this particular passage. God is certainly there.

While considering this along with the lilies, I arrived at my Blogger reading list. Right near the top, I found this post title:

NPR Story - Chikungunya in Haiti - part 2

As I soon discovered, the writers of a blog I follow, Livesay [Haiti] Weblog, were interviewed by NPR for their coverage of this disease, and one of their patients, Emma, was included in the final cut for the broadcast. You can listen to it here:

NPR reports:
Transmitted by mosquitoes, the chikungunya virus causes rash, fever and excruciating joint pain. It has no cure. The good news: It's rarely fatal. Epidemiologists say the virus is headed to the U.S.

Lovely. On so many counts. As though Haiti needs this. As though anyone does! I gather from news elsewhere on the internet that they've had a few cases in Florida, but they expect the effects to be worse in Haiti.
“Longer term, some increase in the levels of joint pains and arthritis-like illness in the population can be expected, given the patterns in Africa and Asia, and given what the French islands are reporting,” said Dr. James Hospedales, the executive director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). “This may be the real ‘legacy’ of ChikV that we will see in time.”
And in post-earthquake Haiti, where 300,000 people suffered injuries during that country’s devastating Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake, people could be at higher risk, Hospedales said.
“From the literature, the persistent arthritis-joint pain following ChikV infection seems more frequent in the presence of pre-existing joint damage, fractures,” he said.
Yes, I took a photo of a mosquito.
I really did.
We were well acquainted.
Haiti 2009

You can read about the Livesays' experience with the interviews here: The NPR coverage is brief and factual.  The Livesays' posts make it real.

Sad to say, one of the doctors down helping them has now come down with it herself.  Here is an excerpt:

If I have said it once I have said it a thousand times.  There is no predicting tomorrow on this half of this island in this part of the Caribbean. 

One day you are stitching up wounds and placing IUDs and taking care of very sick babies and being interviewed by NPR while celebrating your birthday and the next day you are in pain, in bed, a victim to the newest mosquito borne illness.

Dokte Jen went from all of that activity to having a fever and pain in a matter of hours. Not a very nice post birthday hangover at all...

In the next day or two you can watch the NPR feed for a story on Chikungunya in Haiti, you will likely hear Emma (first photo) speaking about her case and her baby, Fritzlene.  You will also very likely hear Jen's concerns about the virus that now has her lying in bed in  a lot of pain.

I want to share one other thing with you.  Emma is a rock star Momma.  Life has dealt her an insanely unfair hand. I so want her voice on NPR and I want people to know she is an incredibly smart woman with more moxie than most of us dream of having.  This 25 year old is tougher than tough.  Right now she is pulling herself up and out of her unfair circumstances. She knew Fritzlene was sick before a single symptom showed.  She is a Mom in every sense of the word. We sometimes hear that poor folks shouldn't have babies and people make comments that are disrespectful and hurtful.  I know for many that sounds absurd. I wish I was exaggerating. There are some that think forced sterilization of the poor makes perfect sense.  There are some that believe material poverty equals stupidity or no right to a free life. We watch materially poor women provide for and love their babies well every day. Like us, they are not perfect mothers, but they are doing the very best they can with what they have and that in and of itself earns my respect and props.

It is safe to say we are all nervous about this virus. Thankfully it is not fatal. Unfortunately it cannot be treated (Malaria can be treated) and only supportive care can be done to try and make patients more comfortable. We don't have time to be sick and we hate seeing the mommas and babies that already have so much on their plate forced to add yet another thing to overcome.

There is also a follow-up post:

Here's what they have to say about their latest experience with it at their maternity center:

For newborn babies it seems much more difficult to tolerate.  Emma's baby had it at two weeks of age, but we now have two five day old babies with it. New babies that have not established a solid nursing pattern are at a higher risk. Tonight the Maternity Center transported a baby girl (born early morning last Saturday) to three hospitals.  Thankfully, the third hospital was able to take baby Anna.  At least three of the Maternity Center staff-members have had it and there is a collective holding of our breath as those of us still doing fine all hope to be the ones that don't get it. 

It is rainy season, our area is low lying and we frequently have standing water and thicker mosquito population. We don't know what to expect long term, but in the short term we are so sad to see pregnant women and babies suffering from this disease and we feel a lot bit helpless as we watch it spread so quickly. 

I am sorry to admit that I hadn't been following this and praying about it. I need to do that. As Jesus says, anxiety won't get us anywhere. Prayer, on the other hand, is powerful. Will you join me?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Santa Maria wreckage found?

When I was first in Haiti in 2009, Sr. Marjorie Raphael kindly took me to the National Museum in Haiti, where I saw, alongside other wonderful things, the anchor of the Santa Maria.  I was astonished, having apparently retained very little from my early schooling in history.  

a 2012 photo of school field trip groups outside the Musee du Pantheon National Haitien, which holds the anchor of the Santa Maria
I am thankful the museum is still (or back) in operation following the earthquake.

I gather I'm also a little slow to pick up more recent news: although I was online last week, I missed this completely. Had I not gone to the Nouvelliste site for something else and followed a tiny picture off to the side, I'd never have seen it. Have you?

The story begins, as many do on the high seas, with a party. 
It was Christmas Eve, 1492. The setting: Christopher Columbus’s Santa María, the flagship vessel that he had commandeered to visit the New World. One by one, the crew fell asleep until only a cabin boy was left steering the ship in the Caribbean Sea.
Soon, the boy crashed the ship into a coral reef off of the northern coast of Hispaniola, or near Cap Haitien in Haiti. The ship sank to the bottom of the sea, and the crew spent that Christmas saving Santa María‘s cargo. Afterward, Columbus boarded one of his other ships, the Nina, and the explorers sailed back to Spain, leaving behind the wreckage of the Santa María – fueling a 500-year-old mystery over its remains.
Apparently someone may finally have found the wreckage. Of course, they've been looking for this a long time, but they had new information about the location of another historical site from which they've calculated the distance to this one. Et voila!

via the Wall Street Journal

Here's a short explanatory video from the History Channel:

The Miami Herald, which has good information, as usual, about news from Haiti, says,

The claim, which still needs to be verified, has its share of skeptics, including another underwater explorer who also believed he had discovered the remains of the Santa Maria while snorkeling in 1987 off Haiti’s northern coast.

“There is a lot of water, a lot of history around Haiti, and there have been many, many shipwrecks along the coast of Haiti,” said Daniel Koski-Karell, whose 1991 mission to confirm his hunch was thwarted by political turmoil.

But should the scientific evidence of the wreckage pan out this time, the discovery would solve a more than 500-year-old riddle that has plagued historians and marine archaeologists, and been the subject of many failed explorations. It would also help in the rebranding a country struggling to rebuild four years after a devastating earthquake, and desperately trying to reshape its image in the world.

“It would be a tremendous discovery for Haiti,” Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe told the Herald.

Lamothe, like others in the government, aren’t breaking out the champagne just yet.
But a confident Clifford, who says he’s been in touch with Haitian President Michel Martelly, is already envisioning a traveling exhibit of the wreckage that would be “a positive statement from Haiti around the world.”

“This ship that changed the course of human history needs to be protected and preserved for the Haitian people; that is much more valuable than gold,” he said. “This is an irreplaceable resource for the Haitian people.”

Read more here:

The wreck as envisaged in 1492

So what's next?

The site has been looted, as all archeological sites somehow seem to be, even underwater, and a whole cannon has already disappeared, so they have to get moving as quickly as possible. Fortunately, the archaeologists themselves have gotten more responsible in the last century or so, and anything found will remain in Haiti where it belongs.

Barry Clifford, the lead archaeologist, says,

"“Ideally, if excavations go well and depending on the state of preservation of any buried timber, it may ultimately be possible to lift any surviving remains of the vessel, fully conserve them and then put them on permanent public exhibition in a museum in Haiti.

“I believe that, treated in this way, the wreck has the potential to play a major role in helping to further develop Haiti’s tourism industry in the future,” he said."

One more reason for me to get back to Haiti.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

boats with houses

Help me out here.  I stopped by the Duxbury Harbor today because I'd never been down where the boats are.  I was curious, and I was also hoping to see some interesting birds.  

What I did see was a bunch of boats with little houses on them.  What are they? Little floating fishing cottages where you can get out of the elements? They don't look like fishing boats, and I've never seen one out on the bay.  They don't look large enough to be actual house boats.  And they're flat like barges, so they wouldn't be too seaworthy.  Are they personal docks, perhaps? To quote Ferris Bueller's Day Off, "Anyone? Anyone?"

Monday, May 12, 2014

#BringBackOurGirls - a prayer to share

The Sisters, along with so many others around the world, are praying for the kidnapped girls of Nigeria. Please join us:

O God, we cry out to you
for the lives and the freedom
of the 276 kidnapped girls in Nigeria.
In their time of danger and fear,
pour out your strong Spirit for them. 
Make a way home for them in safety.
Make a way back for them
to the education that will lift them up.
Hold them in the knowledge
that they are not captive slaves,
they are not purchased brides,
but they are your beloved daughters,
and precious in your sight. 
Change the hearts and minds of their kidnappers
and of all who choose violence against women and girls.
Cast down the mighty from their seat,
and lift up the humble and meek,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Prayer for the kidnapped Nigerian girls May 2014
(written by Elizabeth Smith from the Diocese of Perth, Anglican Church of Australia)

a fowl photobomb

I was trying to take pictures of the semipalmated plovers that stopped by our cove yesterday. Someone popped in for a moment of fame.  Enjoy.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

grateful for Mom

It's Mothers Day. I've been remembering over and over this weekend just how amazing it is that I have a mother to call this year. After her car accident last June, in which we nearly lost her (, I have counted every minute with gratitude.

I was already thankful for her.  I don't think I appreciated her properly until I was in college, but the older I get, the more I have wondered how I could have gotten so lucky. This year, how much more so!

When I last saw her at the end of August, it was still taking two people to get her out of bed into a wheelchair, and she couldn't really carry on a conversation.  Now she walks short distances without a walker, and I talk with her regularly on the phone.

So I am giving thanks.  Sending up prayers for her and in gratitude for her.  She's worth celebrating, not just on Mother's Day, but always.