Caffeine, kids, and hospitals.

This extra large coffee (I paid 50 cents instead of the normal 25 for a small) is what got me through a productive, satisfying morning at the hospital.

I was in such a good mood after my coffee and some great teaching moments, I spent 15 minutes outside St. Damien's chasing butterflies around with my camera trying to capture the hundreds of monarchs and other beautiful papiyon yo that flutter around our flower bushes that, in addition to nectar for the butterflies, supply sprigs of colorful petals for the daily funeral mass service.

The Haitians thought I was crazy, but a blan's gotta do what a blan's gotta do to get a good butterfly photo.

My stronger-than-normal urge for caffeine was caused by an early wake up call this morning up in the mountain orphanage in Kenscoff in order to catch the 5:30 truck back down to the hospital in Tabarre. I spent 12 short hours in Kenscoff to bring up donated items (thanks for the printer cartridges mom!) and Christmas gifts for my godson. I don't have pictures on my phone of Kervenson to upload, but out of all three years I've had a chance to see him, this time was the best.  He is such a sweet and mature 12-year-old kid. He lost his family in the earthquake but he is so happy and told me all about his recent trip to Italy and playing soccer and meeting his Italian godmother (of course, he assured me I'm his favorite godparent!) The orphanage sent a group of kids from Haiti to Italy for three weeks for a fundraising/awareness tour where they walked onto the soccer field at FC Milan and went to Andrea Bocelli's house. No big deal. He was very excited about his gifts and was so polite, thanking me multiple times and proudly using his new English skills! He asked me to write him and send pictures when I get back.

I wanted to include a picture of St. Luc hospital where I work to train physical therapy technicians for acute stroke care. I've been so excited to see the therapists grow in their confidence and skills since our time together a year ago and I could go on and on singing their praises and talking about the tragic/fascinating/uplifting patients we've spent time with this week. But overall, I think it's the hospital itself that is the most surprising: a large room divided into separate stalls by thin wood dividers, with at least 10 patients in each stall. Patients are not provided with food or even any bedding; the families who keep vigil at their sides 24/7 (sitting in hard metal chairs or standing at the bedside throughout the night) are required to bring these items for the patients. The roof is metal and the building has no air conditioning. There are a few IV poles, no monitors at all, and one handheld pulse oximeter in the entire hospital.

Yet the families are incredibly grateful for the care they receive and participate so much in their loved ones' physical therapy that I almost envy the patients - until they are discharged without an assistive device in a flatbed truck to a tent, of course.

 Last but not least, two contrasting pictures of children in St. Damien's abandoned babies room. While Haiti's social services will come to transition abandoned children back with family or to another orphanage, they will not accept children with disabilities. Until the government releases children they don't want to us (often with months to years as a delay), we cannot bring them to our orphanage since they are wards of the state. Many of the disabled children especially spend years in the abandoned babies room.  But some of the children are perfect, like the little girl below who I spent time with last year as a tiny baby and is now walking and babbling. She held my pinky for three laps around the hospital hallway the other day and apparently does not understand how a phone camera works, so I got some extreme close-ups. So hard not to bring her home.