The Ackermans

The Ackermans

Friday, August 31, 2007


I’ve always been one who had a pretty easy time of not feeling too guilty about things that I’ve done or didn’t do. That attitude probably comes from my psychology classes in nursing school when we were taught that guilt really didn’t accomplish much of value except in the occasional instance when the guilt encouraged the person to do what he or she had been avoiding. So they emphasized that all we could do of value is to avoid the guilt feeling, admit what we have done to make things worse for ourselves or others, then go on with life.

With all that said I still find myself feeling guilty about not starting the clinics yet. You see, we returned to Haiti early in August since I felt a pressing need to get the clinic up and running by August 16th, the day I had promised my patients that I would be back. Now, due to the almost continuous rains and the passing by of hurricane the roads to Prospere have been totally impassable. So on clinic days I write emails, get the cars serviced, putter around the house, do my leg exercises, visit friends in the hospital who are having surgery, and even blog.

But that still doesn’t take the guilt away. So for any of you who need an apology for my not reaching my goals, I am truly sorry.

Now, let this guilt garbage just go away. Now!

And so it goes!


Monday, August 27, 2007


It’s that day again. For about 19 years now we have taken a ‘first day of school’ picture. Before Jacquie and Jessica came along we never really got into the habit with only Jodie starting her first days of teaching.

I never really remember having my picture taken on a first day of school. In fact I don’t even remember a lot of years when my parents ever brought up the subject of a new school year beginning. I guess it’s a family tradition that my family never got into. But this leaves only two more years of pictures to come for us. After then is when I’ll really miss taking the ‘first day of school’ picture. Isn’t it strange how the time flies? Isn’t it strange how old I am sounding at such a young age.

And So It Goes!


First day of School 07

Friday, August 24, 2007

Here We Go Again

We tried again yesterday to have a clinic. I even had some good news that a friend of ours, Jan Flanagan, had agreed to come with me and help out for a while. I'm still limited on the amount of time that I can stand on my feet so she’ll be a great help to me.

But this thing that I wasn't expecting happened again. As we got within hollering distance of Prospere the roads began to be running with water and we again came to a place where passage was impossible. There were large ruts in the road and when I drove off road in the fields I came to areas of flooding that were simply mud. If I would have tried to get through them I would have ended up to my axles in mud and Jan and I would have spent most of the day out there waiting for the young guys to figure out a way that they could get my car out of there. Here are a couple pictures of the young guys that came around to talk. They were trying to convince me that I would have no trouble getting through. None of these guys drive anything more mechanical than a donkey. So we returned to town.

And So it Goes.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Lessons of the Hurricanes

We have been through a number of hurricanes since moving to Haiti and all of them seem to be somewhat different than the others, but there are some consistencies that we have discovered in all of them, at least so far.

Almost all hurricanes develop off the shore of Africa and become a REAL storm as they pass westward through the warm Caribbean. Now, there are advantages of this fact to us personally since our house is on the side of a mountain perched above Port-au-Prince. This location makes it necessary for any hurricane which would have any major wind effect on Port-au-Prince and especially our home to come directly over mountains to get to us. In most cases as hurricanes pass over elevations their wind speed decreases, which mean that in most cases a category 4 or 5 has little chance of reaching us. The worst I remember thus far has been that of Hurricane George back in (a long time ago) getting up into the high 80-90mph around here.

Probably the only way hurricane winds could devastate this area of Haiti would be if it were to pass Haiti, say on the south side, then reverse course, and head into the Bay of LaGonave. This would set up a very highly dangerous situation since Haiti’s capital has no protection from the west. If this scenario were to take place lives would be lost by the thousands in City Soleil alone and most of the city would be devastated. I have never seen this happen in Haiti, never knew of it happening, and certainly hope that it never happens.

Most of the problem we run into in our area is with water. The rain is usually heavy and almost unceasing. Thus we have flooding and also due to the lack of ground cover in many areas the soaking rain causes large layers of land to simply slide down mountains destroying total communities and the loss of life is great. This happened about four years ago in the area of Prospere, where my clinic is located. In one village that night almost 2000 persons perished.

So what about Hurricane Dean? We personally saw very little high wind. I would say the top speeds were possibly in the high 30mph range. Yes, there was a great deal of rain but we have yet to hear about any major devastation from it. Word is that there were three who lost their lives from the storm in Haiti

Please understand, I am not saying that Dean didn’t have any devastation on the lives of Haitians but simply that the effect was fairly minimal in our living area. Especially the areas near Jacmel, LesCayes, and Port Salute, where they were much nearer to the eye of the storm, the lives of many were simply devastated. Do keep these in your prayers as you walk in the sunshine.

Our Thoughts on Haiti


Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Reopening of the Clinic or is this just a joke?

Luckily Jodie had agreed to go out with me to the first scheduled clinic since our return. This wasn't easy for her since she is already active at school testing kids for admission and getting her classroom in shape for their opening day. But we both felt that since Eden wasn't available I shouldn't go alone. There was always the chance, especially with the roads being flooded, of getting stuck and having to walk long distances while still on new knees. So we got back into the usual morning routine of "up at five, showers, breakfast, become presentable then leave the house by 6:45.

The traffic wasn't bad since schools hadn't opened yet and the roads were in better shape until we got to within a couple miles of the clinic. Then we saw the water flowing in the road. I'm not exactly known for giving up midstream but I did consider it. As we continued the roads became more rutted out with more and more water running in the ruts. One thing I hadn't seen before was women with their large basins of laundry sitting in these water swollen areas doing their laundry.

But we slowly continued. When we came to the area where we could see the church and clinic in the distance we had to leave the rutted road for the irrigation ditches beside it then sort of by surprise we actually arrived to the turnoff and drove into the fields that led us to Prospere. They were dry.

(editorial) When I turned off the road there were men cultivating the field. They didn't stop their work. I waved and they waved. It was like I was just one of the many passers by for that hour. But I know that mine was probably the first vehicle to pass that area in more than a week, possibly two. If I had been working in that field I would stopped my work, run to the car, and asked how in the world did you get through the flooded road? But no, they almost didn't take the time to look up from what they were doing or take their hands off their tools. It was as if a steady stream of cars had been passing all day. I've lived here 21 years now and this place never ceases to amaze me. Back to the clinic.

So we finally arrived. There was nobody in sight and all was quiet except for the roosters. I walked up to the pastor's (Pastor Francois) house and finally woke he and his wife up. We asked if anybody had come for the clinic. He said yes, but said he had sent them away since he knew we weren't coming back until the end of August. The last thing I told him was that I would be back in early August and our first clinic would be on the 16th. I love these people, I love this country but one of these days this place and these people are going to drive me to drink. Enough said!

To make a long story short Jodie and I cleaned the clinic for the next three hours or so and left very tired and sweaty, but with the clinic was much better prepared for what will be happening on Monday: a clinic.

Note: From Prospere we drove directly to downtown Port-au-Prince to the American consulate where we needed to go to renew our passports. We got our photographs taken. When the guard at the consluate asked us what we were doing here we told him and he told us the office was only open from 9:30-12:30. It was 1:00.

And so it goes.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Just Checking It Out
Last week Jodie and I took the time to drive out to Prospere just to see what condition the clinic was in and to do anything that may need done to it prior to the clinic that was coming up next Thursday. As we got within about three miles from Prospere it became evident that we weren't going to make it. It seems that the nightly rains that have been coming down recently have filled the canals to overflowing and the road to a stream. Over time the streams gouge out the dirt road to make it impassable even with a four wheel drive truck. So we simply hope for the rains to subside for a while and permit some heavy equipment back in this area in order to again make the roads passable.
There is one thing that I see as good about this though. In lots of places and times I could feel all guilty that I wasn't doing what I could to keep the clinic open but this situation is absolutely beyond my ability to overcome. I just can't imagine my knees walking the last two miles through flooded fields in order to get to the clinic. In fact I can't imagine my knees walking a mile over good sidewalks, where there are none that I've seen recently. And So It Goes! John

Thursday, August 09, 2007

We're back

After a long week of collecting stuff, packing, making last visits, then packing some more we again made our way to the Indianapolis airport on August 8th for our return trip to Haiti, new knees and all.

It seemed so different this time. Most of the time we are excited to return and get back to the work we love (except for Jessica who would rather stay in the States and shop) but this time, for me there was a sense of wondering if we may be returning too soon and unprepared for what we had to come. I'm not sure if the reason for that feeling was due to the continuing discomfort of the new knees or maybe it was due to our friends who would frequently remind us that "maybe you should give those knees a chance to feel well and go back later." When you hear that from so many friends who really do have your interests on their minds it just starts to make you question what you're up to.

So we ignored the advice of our friends and find ourselves back at our home on the side of a mountain in this strange country that we have learned to love so much. Yes, the knees are having a difficult time with the stairs inside and outside our house and when Jodie says that she will go up back to help get the generator started I simply have to tell her in all honesty that there will just be some things that I'll have to do for us since, even though she knows much more about running the house then I do the generator is something that is in more my ballpark then hers. So we continue on.

And so it goes!


Monday, August 06, 2007

An Important Time

Yes we are pressed by the need to get everything packed up and ready for our return to Haiti but this weekend has been filled with that which is more important that our simple return. It was the 75th birthday of Jacquie Gross, Jodie's mother and Jessica and Jacquie's grandmother. And did we party! It lasted two nights and was attended by all the family except for Chip who had some pressing work to do in Afghanistan and David, one of the grandsons who had other pressing needs.

There are not a lot of people who age well but Jacquie is one of those few who does it with gusto. I'm happy we stayed around long enough to be part of this party.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Good Morning
As you can tell by the vast amount of blogging that I haven't been doing recently that I'm either sick, tired, or simply dead. It's certainly not that there weren't times when I didn't feel dead or dying but rather most of the time there was enough pain to distract me from any desire to try to bring others into my world. I am truly sorry about that and hope you didn't feel ignored but, as you can see from the last couple blogs which Jessica wrote for me, there were other things going on that simply distracted me from communication. So, just to bring you up to date: It's 6am and I'm the only person awake in the little house where we have spent most of the summer. We are located just off the Anderson University campus right across from construction of new housing for seminar families. The workers start very early so, even though we do some sleeping in we do it to the tune of brick layers and heavy equipment trying to get these places finished for the fall semester. Actually I'm awake due to Ibuprofin. I never realized that it could keep you from sleeping but since coming off the Vicodan I've had a daily appointment with daybreak around this hour. That is your "medical moment" for today. The house is a mess since we are in our final packing sequence for our return to Haiti this coming Wednesday August 8th. We're trying to get all those things that we have purchased over the summer that will never be able to fit in our luggage into boxes for shipping. In between these packing and sleeping hours we are visiting all those friends and supporters who were ignored during the time of new knees and pain. You see, the blog was not the only thing that was ignored. On a serious note I am so very grateful to those that supported me and my family during this long difficult summer. Your prayers, emails, notes, and kind thoughts kept us going. My sincere thanks to all of you. One last note. No, this is not over. I still have daily pain and continuous minor pain that is associated with the process of healing. I will be returning to Haiti still wondering how I'm going to make it up those steps to the house and still more up to the bedroom. Then there's the clinics that will be starting on August 16th with hills to walk on and sore legs to stand on for long periods of time. I ask for your continued thoughts and prayers as I take on these challanges.
And So It Goes John