Susan Walsh penned her first book "Walking in Broken Shoes" following last year's earthquake in Haiti. Written through Walsh’s eyes, the book takes a microscopic look at life in Haiti before and after the disaster.
As Walsh, a nurse who lives in Glenview, and her team, a mix of volunteers and medical staff, leave a local clinic set to return home to the States, the ground rumbles and trees bend to their breaking point. Soon after, Walsh realizes they’ve just experienced an earthquake. Wasting no time, the team races back to the village to check on any injured residents. A young girl who was struck in the head when the side of a foothill came crashing down leads the medical team to Port-Au-Prince, where they ultimately save and serve hundreds more critically wounded Haitians.
The book places readers at ground level, exposing them to the daily life of a Haitian—a far cry from the luxury of living in the U.S. Despite the toll of living in Haiti, from the extreme heat to the harsh terrain, Walsh describes these third-world residents as full of life and possessing spirit unlike anything she’s ever experienced.
In her book, Walsh explains that their passion for life remains strong despite the hardships they endure. Even their shoes are beyond tattered and barely wearable, an image Walsh uses in the title of her book. Haiti is a country ridden with harsh, rocky terrain—a difficult and unforgiving place to live with broken shoes, she explains.
Walsh also shares her personal experiences pre-Haiti, providing context for her desire to give back. In 2003, one summer morning changed her whole life. While tending to her garden, she was approached by police officers. The words that followed left her reeling in pain. Her 21-year-old son, Brad, had died in a car accident.
Only a few months later, life would deal Walsh yet another painful blow. While crossing an intersection, she was struck by a car that left her severely injured. Recovering for months, Walsh was left with nothing but time, which helped mend her wounds and her heart and point her in the direction of Haiti.
As a pediatric nurse, she began teaching graduate nursing students and longed to find a service learning project that would offer a new experience for her students and provide learning opportunities beyond what a normal classroom would offer. Before she knew it, Walsh and a team of volunteers and students were in Haiti running medical clinics for Haitians in a small rural village outside the capital of Port-Au-Prince. Walsh is also the founder and president of Little By Little, a non-profit founded in 2006 that offers healthcare and education to Haitians.
The book chronicles her six missions through emails Walsh sent home and anecdotes from her time in Haiti. These excerpts paint a picture of a world where huts are considered homes and a bed is a luxury. Haitians rarely find relief from the sun and typically sleep under the stars. Restrooms are all but non-existent, especially in rural areas, making way for all sorts of medical problems. Excrement typically runs in streams and water and is a common culprit of illness.
“Walking in Broken Shoes” helps readers to examine their own lives. In reading Walsh's anecdotes from her time abroad and the conditions in which she serves Haitians, readers are left to reflect on the fortune in their own lives. Whether it be family, friends, experiences or possessions, the reader will give thanks for the treasures in their lives no matter what their form.
For more information about Little By Little, Walsh's non-profit organization that provides aid and healthcare to Haitians, visit littlebylittle.org.