How Hard Can It Be, To Give Blood in Haiti?

Posted: November 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

We at Heartline often ask, “How hard can it be?  Well, follow this series and find out.

This is the second post in the How Hard Can It Be Series.

Click here to read the first post: How Hard Can It Be To Pay For A Sponsor Student

ImageI gave a passionate speech to 13 American volunteers.  I told them we have a young woman, a new mom, struggling at death’s door and she needs their blood.   They faced whatever fears they had about giving blood in Haiti and climbed into our ambulance ready to give of their rich, red goodness to others in need.  The hospital told us our gal needed two units, we would give 13 – what a deal!  We would be helping our own maternity center mom and we would be helping others who desperately need blood.  They were ready to give.  We would fight the traffic, make our way downtown to the hospital, and give life.   Hospital number one gave instructions to give the blood at the center downtown.  We did what we were told.  The atmosphere in the ambulance was joyful.  This group had come to serve, give and love.  They would spend their evening on a table with a tube filling a bag of blood for others.  There is something profound about this: Giving blood for others who will never know you gave.  Giving so others can live.

The darkness hides how ugly the hospital’s grounds are.  A government hospital, funds are stretched, it’s shocking to sheltered eyes.  We park in the blackness, make our way to the office for giving blood, and pile in where we meet “Miss Fancy Pants” who speaks only French.  In Haiti we speak Creole and French (All Haitians speak Creole, but not all speak French).  She looked at our group with distain, told our nurse Wini, who can match her French fluently, that she only takes blood if it is for a patient at this hospital.  I’m thinking do the math sista.  We need two units, we give 13, and your hospital gets a giant gift.  Take two units each from these strapping, beefy American guys!  They will never miss it!  This is a gift, a herd of blood rich Americans landed in your office.  Get out your equipment fast!

No way.  Miss “Speaks only French” sends us off with tight lips and a sour attitude.  I don’t want to misbehave in front of this group of Americans so I keep my English/bad Creole mouth shut.  I’m aggravated and later sad that in my adopted country we have people that think they are too good to speak the language of the people even though they are Haitian.

Have it your way Fancy Pants, we are off to site number two to offer the blood from our veins.  We’ve got all night.  Meanwhile our patient who has a hemoglobin of 5 is laying in a pick up truck because she can’t sit up in the hospital triage.

At site number two we send in Wini, the lovely Haitian nurse on our staff who leads with grace, politeness and French if needed.  Wini returns to our ambulance with a downtrodden face.  “It is after 7:00 PM and they say it is too late to give,” she says.  But Kelly (the American vet who helps both people and animals and who has taken in our patient) is willing to sit all night and wait for the two units of blood while we go to a third spot hoping to give.

Off we go again.  We have given blood here before at all hours of night and day.  They are open 24/7.  Wini again is our ambassador of politeness and goes before us offering gifts of red gold.  People die here and often for lack of blood.  Once again she comes back to the vehicle, face down, the bearer of bad news.  The tech was not interested in working this late at night even though she was there and the office within the hospital was open.  Nope.  Won’t do it.  We took our blood filled bodies and went home.  So, here’s the truth of the matter.   People often die because blood cannot be found.

I sit in our air-conditioned, fuel filled, top running ambulance that just went from place to place trying to give and receive blood.  This running to and fro is also expected from family members of anyone sick and needing blood or supplies like meds, IV supplies and so on.  So poor folks, with little money, have to navigate this system, ride on public transportation and hope pharmacies, and wherever they are instructed to go have the supplies their loved one needs.  People sit all day and into the night waiting to give and receive blood.  Many times their loved one dies while they wait.

This system is not “family friendly”!  It is hard.   Trying to get what you need at free hospitals is not free, is not easy and often does not happen.   People grow weary and even more impoverished trying to get what their sick family member needs.

We return to our guesthouse with as much blood in our veins as when we left.  We lost, Haiti lost, sick people lost, opportunity lost.

Kelly persevered and our very sick HELLP syndrome gal got a unit of blood this morning.  She has been through the doors of seven hospitals trying to get the help for HELLP that she needs.   Each hospital has done what they could and pushed her out because they are overcrowded, understaffed or don’t know what else to do.  We’ll keep on.  Her life is important.  She is our patient and we won’t let go.  It shouldn’t be this hard but it is.

We press on.

Beth McHoul


Beth had posted on Facebook about her experience with trying to give blood and a friend who is a medical officer at the US Embassy in Haiti saw the post and contacted the head of the Red Cross here in Haiti and told her about Beth’s post.  The director gave her phone number and asked that Beth would call her.  Today, Beth did call her and the director was profusely apologetic and told Beth that she already had had meetings over the incident and that there have been other complaints.  She assured Beth that she will work so that this doesn’t happen again and she told Beth to call her directly if she again encounters such issues.

  1. Deanna Bortner says:

    If only a cup of water given brings a reward then you have great riches in Heaven I know. Press on dear ones…praying for you and your work for Christ there.

  2. johnmchoul says:

    Thank you for your words of encouragement. We will continue to plod forward.

  3. Kim Curry says:

    Thankful my experience giving blood with you in summer of 2012 went much smoother, slow, but successful. Sorry that such a life-giving experience was met with such difficulty.

  4. jodylenz says:

    I had a friend at MSF hospital and offered to give blood there. I saw others giving it. I give blood/platelets all the time in the US. But they said I was too old to do it hereL I am now 66 and healthy. I know how important it is and I know I don’t need all of mine and know it is one way I could help.

    God bless you and all that you do.

    Jody Allison Lenz

    Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!

    Hebrew 13:1-2

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