Last Hours in Haiti: Finding Your Team.
You hear the word “team” used a lot. In sports or in business, even in medicine it gets tossed around quite a bit. For us on the ground in Haiti, it just means something more. It’s not a title or a description, it’s a mantra. It’s a pledge. It’s a fellowship that’s well-earned. A test is passed here with every mission. And the only reward is knowledge that you can pass it. That you are the team.
We’re all together on the morning we have to leave and it’s always one of mixed emotions. Can’t wait to get home and just hug the kids, see the ones we love and get back to the little things in life. That’s balanced against the reality of what you are leaving behind. Yes, there’s pride in the work you have accomplished but there’s always that bit of guilt for the ones you were unable to help.
We load up a cube van with our red bags full of equipment that we are taking home to be repaired or washed for next trip. We pile tightly into a bus that is just able to accommodate all of us.
Before we take our seats on the bus there are the goodbyes. Standing back and looking at the long hugs and tears shared between staff and patients, and local staff and our team, I cannot help but feel proud. The patient care is important, yes, but the relationships that we have built, not just as an organization, but as individuals are what makes the Broken Earth heart tick. And there is no better stage to see that scene than as we are leaving the hospital.
One of the cleaners comes to me and says “my boss” and gives me the biggest hug. It’s taken a long time for us to gain the trust of our Haitian colleagues and friends. Like any relationship it takes time to grow and this week I really felt like we had grown to a point where we witness the fruits of our passion.
High fives and hugs and we are outside the gates of the hospital. It’s always a little surreal and, as team lead, the weight of the responsibility of the team begins to lessen. A full week of making sure no one gets hurt, hungry or sick. It’s not always in your conscious thoughts but weighs heavily in the background, and you don’t appreciate how much so until it begins to lift.
Navigating the airport in Haiti is always a challenge. Red bags are thrown from the back of the cube van. There is one door for the airport. A huge line of Haitians is trying to get in but missing documents, tickets, or passports. We get to jump the line. Part of the reality of returning home: two lines, haves and have-nots.
As we go through security and to the eating area, the responsibility for the team lightens even further.
There have been emotional ups and downs the whole week. Children have died, patients have been lost or turned away because there was nothing we could do. I’ve witnessed nurses and doctors either openly crying or subtly wiping their uncomfortable brow to avoid the reality of a tear. But no matter what the expression, there was always someone their to comfort them, there to lean on, there to share the weight of an overwhelmingly emotional experience. That’s how bonds, true bonds are formed.
That shared experience, that common sense of belonging is what really makes this team work. People often ask how I do it? How I continue on? The answer is simple… it’s the team. The hug from a nurse, a pat on the back from another doctor, or sometimes it is the unspoken words of medicine, and changing the conversation with the recognition that a colleague is there if you need them. The team makes us all continue. The team provides hope for members and patients alike.
My hope for anyone out there, whether you work in a coffee shop, hospital, airport, business, or oil rig, that you feel part of a team, not only for the power of accomplishment it can provide when things are good but for the support and shoulder it allows when things are not. We need that more and more these days.
PS. Speaking of awesome teams, the Team Broken Earth-Lions Club team saw over 800 people during last week’s vision clinic!