Sunday, January 24, 2010


Good evening,

Let me begin by saying I am very sorry for all of the run-on sentences and typos I entered yesterday. I didn't realize just how exhausted I was. My night was restful and I awakened to the sounds of voices speaking Creole in melodic harmony.

Roland met me this morning with his usual Cuban pride. I granted him his wish. Remember, the scrub caps I talked about? I gave him caps with logos from the Florida State Seminoles, Tennesee Volunteers, and the Indiana Hoosiers. He was ecstatic. He had me write down all of my information for future contact. He even stated in front of our respective colleagues, "God Bless America!!!". I pulled Roland to the side and quietly asked him if he was abusing his anesthesia medication. A Cuban saying something positive about America? I have learned that our photographer captured that moment. Roland simply gave me in return that Santa Claus laugh as is typical of his personality. He told me of his day's schedule and we both went on to start the day's work.

The world is filled with evil people, triumphs and tragedies, victories and defeats. Today Mother Haiti and I experienced both first hand. I started off the day by seeing a pediatric consult from my colleagues.

8 month old Agaella, (pronounced A-gale-a), was brought in by her mother to have the baby's wound checked. Baby Agaella had been seriously wounded during the quake with a very large right thigh laceration down to her precious bone. She had been seen during the acute phase of the initial earthquake and had her wounds washed out and partially closed. Unfortunately, today she presented with pus coming from her wounds.

"Darlene, what have you been washing the wounds with?" the translator inquires.

"Doctor, I used water" she replies. "From where?" I asked.
"From the street."
Puzzled I look at the translator. My eyes demonstrated confusion and inquiry as to whether or not something was lost in translation. The translator asks her a question in Creole again. I now realize that the water she speaks of is the same water found in the potholes on the city streets that are filled with bacteria-laden mud deposits associated with the night's rain. "What have you fed the baby?"

"The water," as she peers at me.

That same water that pigs, chickens, and people tredge through each day. I dropped everything and ran back to the hotel (through the streets with the children running beside me cheering and filled with joy). I gather Enfamil and bottles, diapers and a can opener). I return to hand it to Ms. Shaw and her baby.


EXHAUSTION- from the deplorable living conditions and the visual images of my wife and I feeding our children the "water".

I continued to operate today, four additional life saving procedures and feeling like I am making a difference only to have my elation and adrenaline rush marred by a dark feeling. For you see, Haiti is filled with politics.

The Medical Director of St. Michel Hospital who has been useless at best, asked to meet with my team and an organization from France (The French version of Doctors Without Borders). As a background, please familiarize yourself with Papa and Baby Doc and the brutalization of the Haitian people.

The French representatives spoke of long terms plans, suboptimal conditions and the needs of the people. Without turning to politics, the irony of this meeting made my blood boil. They informed me that the short term plans once they were up and running did not include my team.

All kinds of emotions floated through my mind. The most prominent of them was ANGER!! I defended my team's efforts and the Miracle created on Jacmel Street (our operating room arising from the ashes). My colleagues clearly saw the emotion I had today as we were less than politely asked to suspend operations.

I have been supported by my colleagues- they assure me that I have made a difference. I know that I have but my desire to preserve life and the compassion for my brothers and sisters comes out as tears today. My feeling today is what Haiti feels every day. Only this country's tears are made of blood.

I am not defeated just fallen. As I tell my children... "If you fall down seven times, always stand up eight." Tomorrow, they are going to have to throw me out. My team plans on conducting business as usual. The Jacmel Mayor is supportive of us.

There is nothing but chaos here- I hope to combat some of it again with a new day. Word came to me that the Swiss heard of our "problem" and are willing to provide a portable operating room they shipped in today. This would be their contribution and our blessing. I do not want to feel an additional emotion- DISAPPOINTMENT.

This evening we traveled to "Tent City". This is an area in the center of town where many casted Coleman tents and sought refuge during the quake. My colleagues convinced me that I would feel better if I saw patients and assessed wounds at one of the tables we used in this makeshift clinic. We evaluated over 300 people tonight and I was present during the assessment of many. Another way to contribute and some satisfaction for me. It was horrific though. 13 year olds with vaginal discharge from unprotected sex, mothers and fathers with hypertension and diabetes, cancer patients with a need for pain control, traumatic wounds (mentally and physically). Haiti will continue with despair and woe until Justice prevails.

BUT STILL I RISE!!! Tomorrow will come if I am granted life for another day. I promise to live it to the fullest acting as the voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. Thanks for your attention.

Special Thanks to my wife and children and to all the old and new (i.e. Doug Grannan, Shirley (aka Otis' wife), and others). I would like to respond to all of you individually but I am time limited. I appreciate you all and one day we will talk about this tragedy.

Much Love,
Doc J


Anonymous said...

This was very well written, honey. There is so much to respond to, I'm not sure where to begin. My heart aches for the baby and her mom who had very few options for fluids.

The whole French thing seems out of control. Babe, I'm certain it's beyond complicated. Let us focus on what HAS been accomplished... a TREMENDOUS amount! I understand there is more to do. I also understand you want to give the next crew a great start. Please know the outcome has already been determined. Continue to focus on what can be done while time remains.

You have changed lives, inclusive of your own. For that, countless are thankful!

With love,

Monty said...


I want to commend you and your team. God will bless all those who have selflessly given of themselves during this crisis. Know the the H's are supporting you and your efforts.

Good job standing up for the Phils. I will say the the New York song by Jay Z and AK 47 is banging though... so I will chalk that up to you being delirious. LOL. I won't make any smart comments to your lovely Mrs. since this is my first post, but tell her not to get use to it...LOL.. Stay strong my friend and thank you for doing the Lord's work. For those of us who can't, we will have to find other means to demonstrate goodness and continue to grow within our humanity. I will see you soon.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your posts. It helps us know how to pray. Do not doubt that you are doing the right thing. Every single person your team touches is precious and and you are doing sacred work.
Sister Julian

Anonymous said...

Please know that what you and the team are doing is much appreciated by those in need, and never forget your purpose in being there. We will pray that all of you continue to do God's work in helping the Haitian people.
Stay strong and TRUST IN HIM!
Velma S.

Anne G. said...

Again, I cannot tell you enough how very proud I am of the work you and the team are accomplishing. I am riveted to your story.
I have taken care of your request and today your colleagues and staff here at Christiana can follow your story too. Please know that we are all sending our prayers, thoughts, and support to all of you. Keep up the amazing work you all are doing.

Anne G.

Anonymous said...


What a heart wrenching blog. Needless to say, I am so proud of the man you are and the physician you have become. I know how much love you have in your heart and the people of Haiti should praise God that you are there for them.

I will keep you, your team and the people of Haiti in my prayers. Stay safe!!

Love you,

Joe said...

Stay Strong! Stay Positive!

Joe C.

sevans said...

Dr. Johnson,
Keep your head up and know that you have touched so many hearts with your blog and your plight to help the people of Haiti. I am just one but I am so proud of you and want to say Thank you for being such a caring soul.
Remember when one door shuts another one opens.
Keep the Faith,

Anonymous said...


Before I read this post, I planned to ask you what organization you came with so that I could donate money to assist you in your efforts. (was it doctor's without borders?).

I also planned to give you some insight into Jacmel since my family is from Jacmel and I have my own memories of Jacmel when I was there for 10 days at age 9. I remember a beautiful seaside town within walking distance of the beach. My great uncle owned a mercantile store (he sold sugar, flour etc) near the center of town. It was right out of little house on the prairie but he had all the modern comforts. He lived better than I did in NYC at the time. (BTW stop all the hate on NYC).

I so wanted to get the address and ask you if you could see if the structure was still standing but reality always sets in.

Politics will always be around but remember "slow and steady." Know that your efforts will always be appreciated and you will always be needed. The people you have helped and will continue to help will always remember. Keep up the inspiring work.


Anonymous said...

Steve -

My heart breaks when I read your words. It is so sad that you and your team's efforts have fallen victim to politics. I can imagine the frustration that you all must feel to have your efforts be halted.
Your dedication and unrelentless love for the Haitian people is not and will not be ignored or cast aside. Whatever the future holds for you and your team, always remember that you all have been part of an incredible experience that has bound you to each other and Mother Haiti for life.
May God continue to watch over you and the people of Haiti.

Camilla said...

Yesterday at church, we were greeted with a doctor from the Philly area, visiting us from his most recent mission trip. He told us about how he was a general surgeon in PA and was living a life of material wealth. But he felt that God was telling him that he had more to offer. He and his wife and their 4 children did a mission trip to Zimbabwe for 7 weeks and then came home. He waited 2 years before his next trip which was to Kenya. After spending 7 weeks there, he told his wife that he felt the calling to move. So move they did. He has been providing medical services in Kenya in a small bush hospital. Now T..Don't kill me. But Steve, I thought you might find some inspiration from that story. He told us that it is always easy to serve God in pretty settings with lots of comforts. But we must challenge ourselves to serve Him when it is ugly. So here is to you sir, for serving Him, even when it is ugly:)
Stay safe. Miss you.

Anonymous said...

Steve and Tomiko,
It's me Carine again....
I've been doing mission work all over the world for over eight years now.... and being from Haiti I know poverty, injustice and all kinds of struggles. It never gets easier - but every trip, every life i touch and every beautiful childs' eye i look into reminds me of my calling to love and serve. So, I urge you not to try understand and just "be" and continue to allow God to use you as you are, where you are and for as long as you are there.

Gary A. Tuma, MD said...

Keep fighting the fight and know that your work is bountiful. Don't let the outside influences affect what you know is right. You can only control what you are doing, and what you are doing is beyond great. Get home safely and God Bless.


Camilla said...

Steve, I forgot to say our guest speakers name was...Dr. Johnson:)

Anonymous said...

We at TJUH are very proud of you. Well done and God Bless.
Rona et al.

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work. Politics will always attempt to dip its hand into good will.


Anonymous said...

Great talking with you today! Obviously you and the team have our full and undying support here at CCHS. We're all very touched and PROUD of the team's efforts. Please be safe and God Bless all of you and your "Angels of Mercy". Everyone back here at CCHS is thinking about all of you and wish you all the best.

Keep writing in sending's GREAT seeing you all in action!


Anonymous said...

You and the entire team are in our constant thoughts and prayers. There are just no words that can describe the awe, the inspiration and the pride we feel for your presence in Haiti and the incredible work you are doing in such austere conditions. Your accounts put much into perspective.

Sending prayers to all for health, stamina and energy to overcome the barriers and challenges!

In gratitude,
Linda Laskowski-Jones
Larry Jones