The story of Haiti – part 4

I think the best way to start to describe this day is the same way I started it in my journal.

“Today was a tough day! The tent that we emptied of medical supplies now had to be filled with pallets of water. The breeze from two nights before was gone and the sun was scorching down on us”.

As I mentioned in my last post, the exercise during the day led to increased lows at night. They occurred increasingly often as the week progressed, but I think made their first appearance this morning. Testing when I first woke up at 5 am, I found that my blood sugar was 58 mg/dL. I popped a few glucose tablets as I began to get ready and was back in range at 115 mg/dLby breakfast.

I knew we were in for some heavy labor that day, so I purposefully under-dosed my breakfast a little. I only took about a unit off the bolus wizard estimate and was just trying to avoid the lows that frustrated me the day before.
The team was down the hill and moving water by shortly after 8 am. Since there were 13 people in my group and 10 more in a group that was working with us, we quickly decided that the easiest way to move the water would be to form an assembly line.
It wasn’t long before my arms felt weak and shaky. Moving case after case of bottled water is not an easy task, but my arms did not just feel tired. I felt like I had absolutely no muscle strength and could not lift one more case of water. I figured it was my blood sugar, but since it was so close to breakfast I could not figure out before I tested if it was because I was high or low.
It had only been an hour since breakfast but my blood sugar had already climbed 140 points (to 255 mg/dL). I plugged it into the bolus wizard, took the suggested dose (very small), drank some water from my water bottle, and got back to work.
The next water break came a little after 9 am (it was scorching hot, remember?!) and I tested again. I was incredibly frustrated to find that not only had my blood sugar level not gone down, but had climbed about another 60 points in less than an hour. I was now ringing in at a not so glorious 317 mg/dL. I didn’t want to feel like I was letting the team down again, so I didn’t tell anyone what the result was and got back to work with the rest of the crew.
I, of course, still felt horrible and was struggling more than the rest of the team to move the cases. Sometimes being proud and stubborn is a good thing in my diabetes management, but in this case I certainly wasn’t doing myself any favors. I don’t know if I would have told anyone if one of my leaders had not seen me test again about 20 minutes later and asked about the result (at that point I had topped out at 329 mg/dL).
Before we left, I had given the leaders a basic knowledge of diabetes and what to look out for, so when she heard that number, she forced me to sit in the shade and finish my water bottle. It was just about the last thing that I wanted to do, but I didn’t really have any other options at that point. It didn’t make it any better when one of the leaders from the other team made a ‘smart’ comment about the fact that I was sitting was making everyone else have to work harder. He had no idea what was really going on, but after his comment I couldn’t decide if I wanted to cry or scream.
My team was very supportive of me and the situation, and the same leader that made me sit pointed out that me taking a break actually gave me the opportunity to take some pictures and video of the group that we would not have been able to capture otherwise. The video I captured during that time actually turned out to be one of my favorite moments from the entire trip. As you watch people pass the cases of water, remember that they had already been working for about 3 hours in the blazing hot sun. I know how heavy a case of water is and how I often grumble and complain when I have to move even one from the shelf to my cart at the grocery store. What a difference here!

By 11 am, I was back in a range I was comfortable with so I rejoined the line and worked with them until lunch at noon. As you have probably guessed, by the time we sat down to lunch at noon, I had rollercoastered myself all the way down to 37 mg/dL.

After lunch, we left a few people to finish up moving the water bottles while most of us moved on to the next project. The organization was finishing up a new building that is going to be a kitchen and cafeteria for the children. It is being named for one of the children who lived there and always dreamed of being a chef, who had passed away recently from leukemia. Her favorite color was pink, so we painted pink!
painting pink 2painting pink 1
I can tell you right now that we won’t be winning any awards for our painting ability. The paint was very thin, the rollers were cheap, and the texture of the wall was incredibly rough. It felt like we painted and painted and I would step back and have nothing to show for my work. When we put the rollers to the wall, the rocks of the concrete would come off the wall and rain down on us and stick into the roller. We joked that we were painting rocks with rocks because there were so many rocks stuck in the rollers. Those that didn’t have rollers would follow behind us with brushes to fill in the gaps, but I’m not sure they had any better luck than we did. It
didn’t do anything to help with the frustration I was feeling from the morning.
On our way back up the hill from painting, we stopped by the water tent to pick up the people who had stayed behind and to take some pictures of our work. In less than 8 hours we had moved, by hand, 40 pallets of water.
40 pallets of water is roughly 3,000 cases.
water in the tent 2
3,000 cases of water is 60,000 bottles of water. Amazing!

Sometimes it is important to look at what you’ve done and not always what you have left to do.
When we were whining about our painting frustrations someone shared a message they had heard before that fit our situation. Someone had once told them that when we complain about our circumstances it is like we are saying that we are dissatisfied with God.
That was a powerful statement that really stuck with me through the frustrations that followed and something that I have tried to apply to other areas of my life since I have been back.
messy workmessy work
“There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Life up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!” You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” Psalm 4:6-7



  • amazing work and fantastic effort from you and your team i read the story and you should be proud of yourself best rgds and every one be safe rgds andy

  • Sara, sorry to hear about the start of your roller coaster. It is important to take those times and do some reflecting on our situation. I’m glad that you found some words of wisdom and did as your leader suggested and not only take some time to try and help your body but being able to capture the team in full action is something that everyone will be able to apreciate.

  • Sara, what an amazing journey. Blood sugars don’t always cooperate, and I’m glad you stopped to take care of yourself. Perhaps that time gave you a moment of reflection that you needed. Thank you for giving Haiti your time and love.

  • Amazing. You continue to amaze me.

    The pictures speak Volumes!!

    I’ve gone high being out in the scorching sun, exercising. Makes no sense to me. Glad you took the break. Sometimes we just need to take a break. Does not make us bad or weak….just something that is needed.

    Love the pink paint!

  • I can only imagine how frustrating it was for you to not be able to work as hard as you thought you should have. And the frustration multiplies when people not knowledgeable about diabetes make comments. OR (this happens to me all the time) when in my head I feel they are thinking certain ways or something. Know what I mean? Sometimes it’s all in my head.

    Looking at that tent full of water bottles blows my mind. And to think they were all moved case by case. Amazing.

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