On Tuesday Aaron called me to tell me that CNN was looking to do a story on La Piste. When Aaron explained to them about the community that was living there, they wanted to know more. Aaron gave them my information and on Wednesday I had an interview with CNN.
I had been in Haiti for three weeks now without getting sick. I brush my teeth with the water and eat the food; I thought I was even adjusting to the heat. As the trees in upstate New York were turning their bright fall colors, I was in the sun in 100 degree temperatures at 9:00 AM. Today had to be the day I got sick. At 7:00 AM we dropped Yvonne (my aunt) at the airport and headed over to La Piste. I wasn’t intended to meet with CNN until 10:30, but it didn’t make sense to head up the hill in Port au Prince morning traffic just to head down again. I didn’t mind, it was a nice opportunity to head over to FODH and visit with the community.
I told Widler what was happening and that CNN would want to talk to him as well. Neither Aaron nor I knew what to expect so I prepared myself for anything. Widler and I talked about possible questions CNN might ask and I tried to get a little more of his story and what it was like for him to grow up in Haiti being deaf. We talked about where he was during the earth quake on January 12th, how he came to find FODH and what life has been like for him since the earthquake.
Around 10:30 the CNN crew showed up at FODH. When I walked over to meet them across the property I felt a little tired, more than I should have been. We talked a little about the things they wanted to film and a little about what my plans in Haiti are. I explained to them more about La Piste and the plans for the property; because the deaf community was on the property now did not mean they would be guaranteed a temporary shelter. Everything was set up and we were ready to start the interviews. I was still feeling tired and starting to really feel my body over heat.
I explained to the CNN crew a little about deaf culture and why I was constantly signing what they were say as well as my responses to them. We were after all in a deaf community; to only talk to each other would have been nothing short of rude. The CNN crew was wonderful and made an effort to say “Hello” and try their best to introduce themselves and communicate with those they met. Together we decided I would sim-com (simultaneous communication) my interview. This meant I was signing and talking my responses for the interview, I tried my best to add the question into my answer so those around me knew the question. Sim-com is draining; my mind was working on so many things it quickly turned to mush. I was thinking about the question and my response at the same time I was trying to simultaneously produce my answer in two different languages all the while trying not to think about the fact that I was doing and interview with CNN.
As soon as the interview was finished I took a deep breath and realized it was quite possible I didn’t breathe the entire time I did the interview. I immediately became dizzy and light headed. I tried to mask my rapidly failing mind, tried to regulate my breathing, but I failed. I tore off my microphone and headed behind a tent to possibly loose whatever was in my stomach. I got low to the ground and tried to get a hold of myself, I was unsuccessful. Vladimir who had just finished interviewing me brought over a bottle of water and Aaron from IFRC got me a towel to put around my neck. I took a few minutes and thought I would be able to pull it together. When I looked at Widler who was signing to me I saw black spots and I knew I wouldn’t be able to get back to 100% where I needed to be. When I stood up my world went white and silent, I returned to crouching on the ground. Luckily my new friends were the IFRC; Aaron put me in a car and went with me to the Red Cross headquarters. A doctor in their air conditioned medical clinic talked with me and told me I had suffered heat exhaustion. My blood pressure and pulse were high, but there were a lack of beds so I lucked out with having needles in my arm and bags of saline pumped into me.
With me out of commission and down at the Red Cross, the rest of the CNN team and those at FODH had to figure things out without me. Luckily, there was a Creole-ASL interpreter at La Piste that day who was there to help out with FODH workers who were meant to be building the temporary shelters. He was able to interpret for Widler who was using ASL into Creole and a Creole-English interpreter was able to then interpret into English. It was a little more complicated than we had hoped, but it worked. When they finished at La Piste with FODH, the team went over to St. Vincent. St. Vincent is a deaf school in Haiti and fell during the earthquake.
I am grateful for the people here who have such amazingly big hearts. For Aaron and those at IFRC who took such great care of me. For the CNN team who cared enough to realize that with their help and interest we could get the help needed to the deaf community in Haiti. I am grateful for the community and family I have found at FODH. They have welcomed me with open arms and heartwarming smiles. Life in Haiti isn’t easy, but with the right people and support anything is possible.