South Dakota is a long way from Haiti but you wouldn’t think so from the energy and attitudes of the Avera Hospital System teams that come to visit us three times each year.  The gifts they bring, their expertise and their boundless enthusiasm make their visits memorable ones.  We were blessed to have an Avera team with us again at the beginning of October, led by Haiti team coordinator Kathy English, RN.  Her husband, Gil, who is an OB/gyne doctor, accompanied her on this visit, having been here last May.  Word of his visit got out and we ended up seeing record numbers of patients in the clinic with Dr. Gil doing dozens and dozens of Pap tests.  We were grateful for the opportunity to provide this screening modality to our female patients and they were grateful as well!  Dr. Gil also treated some of the patients who had had abnormal Pap test results on previous visits, so that was an added service to them.


Avera team

Here is the team, from left to right top:  Tracy Opdahl, Sarah Campbell, Stephanie Allen, Dr. Gil English.  On the bottom:  Madelyn Cassen, Ashley Walter, Jodi Beach, Kathy English


The Avera teams always bring us lots of needed medications.  They take up lots of luggage space and fill up the table in the residence.

Avera meds

Table in the residence full of medications brought to us by the Avera team


We always like to keep our visitors busy and one of the best ways is to have them help pack medications in the pharmacy.

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Jodi helps pack medications in the pharmacy.  She also helped type up some important spreadsheets for our water and sanitation program.


On a previous visit, the Avera group brought down plastic signs to put on the clinic walls to identify the rooms.  This time, they brought one specially designed for Cherlie’s triage room.  She was thrilled!

Cherlie room tag

Cherlie proudly holds up her new room tag.


Dr. Gil was accompanied in his work by Dr. Harold Severe, so Dr. Severe can become proficient in doing pelvic exams and Pap smears.  The teaching was wonderful and it was great to be able to take advantage of Dr. Gil’s expertise.

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Dr. Gil and Kathy English with Dr. Harold Severe


We always love to see the “coincidences” that the Lord plans for us, especially in regard to bringing people to us with the right supplies at the right time.  On the spur of the moment a few days before their departure from the US, I had asked Kathy to bring down a bottle of tetracaine eye drops so I could numb up an eye in case someone came in with a foreign body in the eye.  As “coincidence” would have it, the first day the team was with us, sure enough, I had a patient who had an irritating speck on her eye that needed to be removed with a cotton applicator.  Were it not for the tetracaine drops, I would not have been able to help solve her problem.  The patient jumped for joy when she saw the speck of dirt on the applicator and no longer in her eye!

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Maddy helps Dr. Wolf remove a piece of dirt from the eye of a woman using tetracaine eye drops brought by the team


We always have visiting groups help us out with teaching, both at the clinic and, sometimes, in local communities.  This team did both, with dental teaching at the clinic and hygiene teaching in two local communities.

Stephanie teaching

Stephanie and her translator do dental teaching for our clinic patients.


I think Stephanie probably preferred the following activity, however:

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Stephanie holds an infant while her mother was seeing the doctor


Another way in which we kept the team busy was in packing and sterilizing surgical instruments and towels to prepare for the visit of a surgeon later this year.

Tracy sterilization

Tracy preparing surgical instruments for sterilization


The Avera teams offer to perform, transport and read Pap smears so that we can do this important cervical cancer screening test for our patients here in Haiti.  It is a huge service to them so each time word gets out that the Avera team is at our clinic, all the women in the area come running.  They appreciate the service as well as the free gifts that are given out, including sanitary kits!

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Sarah waits for the next patient to come for a Pap smear.

Cherlie sanitary kits

Cherlie explains to a patient how to use the washable sanitary kits


Sometimes visiting nurses are able to help out in the same departments in which they work in the US.  Obviously, the setting is a bit different but medical cases are often similar.

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Ashley, an ER nurse with Avera, gets to help out with a patient in our little Haitian ER.

We are grateful to Avera for their generosity and faithfulness to us and for their dedication to serving our Lord globally through sustainable partnerships and long-term relationships.


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