Journal from Haiti #3

Family Legacies

Martin Johnson with child  who has Kwashiker

Martin Johnson with child who has Kwashiker

This journal chronicles the six months my mother spent in Haiti, working as an RN in a clinic sponsored by a non-profit located in Searcy, Arkansas. Jerry Myhan, Director of the Clinic, had his young family with him. Haitian workers in the clinic served as interpreters, clerks, and medication management. The following is taken from the journal she kept with a little editing on my part.

In February, 1986, the clinic in Cap Haitian, Haiti was established in the poorer section of the city. It had an excellent reputation for quality care and was considered one of the top three medical services serving North Haiti. Patients were charged a nominal fee for consultation, lab work, and medicines.

Examining Room in Clinic

Examining Room in Clinic

From Martin Johnson’s journal:

Those who seem to be able to pay, do so. Many will return at a later date to pay their debt. Of course, many can pay nothing. Some of the T.B. patients are unable to work.

A typical clinic charge ticket might look something like this:ChargeTicket


Sorting and packaging medicines

One of the routine tasks of the nurses and other staff members in the clinic was to sort through medicines when they arrived from the States. Various organizations donated boxes of medicine; we organized and repackaged them to be dispensed to individuals.

In countries lacking adequate resources to provide medical care to the poor, aspirin and other pain relievers were some of the most frequently dispensed medicines.



When Americans need relief from a headache or a fever, we simply visit a nearby drugstore and treat ourselves with minor ailments. The clinic lab and pharmacy provided diagnosis and treatment for many diseases and ailments Americans would treat themselves with over-the-counter medicine.

November, 1987

The lab for the clinic was set up in 1986 by Richard Watson, a lab technologist working for the University of Kentucky in Lexington. He came for a visit in late November; after we worked together in the clinic, I asked him where he was from. He said, “Oh, a little town in Kentucky about 60 or 70 miles north of Nashville.” It happened to be Gamalial, Kentucky, ten minutes from Turkey Neck Bend, where I grew up. Small, small world. His parents own a business there.

We all thoroughly enjoyed Richard’s visit. He reorganized the lab and taught Yolette how to do the test for typhoid. We had a case of typhoid the week he was here. He related very well with Haitian workers. He and his wife would love to come to Haiti and work with the clinic.

While he was here we spent Saturday evening at the Myhans helping them put up their Christmas tree. On Thursday night they had my birthday party (Dec. 3) complete with homemade ice cream. The Myhan kids made a big banner with all sorts of drawings and HAPPPY BIRTHDAY MARTIN. Lange and Lavanne (Haitian workers) also came. Made me feel very loved. And I needed that!

Even though Mama’s time in Haiti was only six months, it wasn’t easy for her to be away from her children and grandchildren. Phones were in scarce supply in Haiti and of course, cell phones were still unheard of by most people.

She always wrote us letters and scolded us when we did not reply in a timely manner. Just a few years ago, Mama’s younger sister found a letter from their mother when both Mama and Martha Ann lived in Texas with their young families. Grandmother Stephens had some words to say to both of her daughters about the lack of letters coming from them. I wish I had known about that letter back in 1987. I would love to remind her that she was not always the best letter writer in her younger days!

The legacy of ser

Three Stephens sisters: Martha Ann, Martin, Mayme

Three Stephens sisters: Martha Ann, Martin, Mayme

ing God wherever your circumstances placed you comes from that little wide spot in the road in Monroe County, Kentucky. The Stephens family were known as hard workers, farming the bottom land along the Cumberland River. Sickness, infant deaths, flood waters, a Depression, and then World War II shaped my grandparents and their daughters. Not one life escaped some hardship or tragedy, but faithfulness to a mighty God remained a constant.

I am so thankful for the legacies of grandparents, parents, and aunts, uncles, great grandparents. More blessings 

  • legacies of working with hands to grow and preserve food
  • experiencing life without – indoor toilets, air conditioning, Internet, 200 channels
  • experiencing life with – homegrown vegetables, a big dinner at noon, card games, for entertainment, and storytelling
  • Mama’s life experiences that prepared her for life in Haiti



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