Après Le Jour

Answering Haiti¿s call, before and after that day

by Rhonda Mullen

Answering Haiti's call, before and after that day.

As the United States has 9/11, the Haitians have the earthquake. They call it "après le jour," after the day.

Those are the words of nurse practitioner and alumna Twilla Haynes, who spoke at Emory's nursing diploma ceremony in May. Her foundation, the Hope Haven Orphanage and Eternal Hope in Haiti, coordinated a triage center in Cap-Haitien, Haiti's second largest city, where the United Nations relocated some 50,000 displaced people from the capital of Port-Au-Prince. Haynes's group scavenged for food, clothes, medications, and water for the earthquake victims and took in orphaned children from the street.

Twilla Haynes

Emory alumna and nurse practitioner Twilla Haynes spoke at Emory’s nursing diploma ceremony about her efforts in Haiti to take care of medically fragile orphan

“Some children in Port-Au-Prince were thrust into buses traveling to Cap-Haitien with only the clothes on their back,” she says. “No belongings. No family members. No experience traveling outside the home. Can you image a 10-year-old child dropped off at the Greyhound bus stations in Atlanta with no resources? These children had lost their families. They were grieving. They were in shock.”

The Hope Haven Orphanage took in the children and fed and clothed them. They got them in school. However, the emotional scars will mark the children forever, says Haynes.

One earthquake victim told her: “We lost the lining from our already empty pockets. Nothing is left to take but our soul.”

Stretching short term into long term

Relief efforts poured into this devastating scene from around the world. People wanted to help. But how? A bigger question for Haynes was how to connect these outpourings of the human spirit and short-term relief efforts into something that could be sustained for Haiti’s future.

She has worked in Haiti for 25 years. When she first went there as a faculty adviser, she remembers finding conditions that were hard to comprehend—“starvation, large crowds around water pumps, raw sewage in the streets, lights on only one to two hours a day.”

But the most unsettling sight was the children who were dying of preventable diseases. She believed that many of these could be saved through basic nursing care. “For the first time, I came to know the spirit of the suffering child,” she says, “quiet, courageous, accepting.”

To answer the quiet calls for help, Haynes founded the Hope Haven Orphanage in 1996 for medically fragile orphans—the ones she had come to know as “the throwaways” of Haiti. The orphanage opened in the isolated northeast to accept children with infectious diseases, tuberculosis, parasitic diarrhea, or pneumonia. Since that time, the staff has raised more than
100 children to adulthood, losing only two along the long way to AIDS. They’ve saved children like Jeflit, who at five weighed 27 pounds and suffered from dilated cardiomyopathy. His abdomen was distended, and his arms and legs, stiff from sepsis, made him walk like a wooden soldier. With nursing care, Jeflit stabilized and eventually recovered, becoming the center of attention at Hope Haven with his beautiful smile and singing voice. Another Hope Haven orphan, Daniel, arrived at age 6. By the eighth grade, he had received the highest score on national standardized testing in Northeast Haiti, and today, as a high school senior, he is president of his class.

Emory nursing alum Cheron Hardy now works full-time at Hope Haven and is mother to its 60 current residents. “The majority of the babies at Hope Haven today live,” Haynes says, “because of the intensive intervention during their sickest hours made by Emory student nurses like Cheron and others.”

Channeling good will

In addition to the orphange, Haynes has set up six community clinics in Haiti that deliver primary care to a community of 7,000 people. Her volunteers and staff have trained community leaders to care for parasitic diarrhea and pneumonia and encouraged mothers to get their children immunized. They’ve assisted three communities to gain access to safe water, reducing the number of orphaned sick children who enter Hope Haven by 70%. Since the earthquake, the patient load at these clinics has intensified, with new patients at these increasing by 30%.

Haynes and her foundation staff have their hands full sustaining the effort in Haiti. “If you ever want to do anything for Haiti, now’s the time,” she says. “We always need more nurses.” Her advice to those who are interested in helping: “Volunteer for a week. Get your feet wet. Your contribution of a week lifts the spirits of those who are there day in and day out.”

In her many years of helping Haitians, Haynes has felt buoyed by the thirst of volunteers for this work. Close to 1,000 nursing students from across the United States and many from Emory have come to offer their services and complete the clinical component of an international nursing course. “If we can channel that energy, it will be a mutual benefit for the nurses and their Haitian patients,” Haynes says.

And then she stops, smiles, and adds: “It’s amazing what love can do.” EH

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