A Travellerspoint blog

Clinic Day 3

sunny 94 °F

4/15 10:30p

Clinic was awesome today! I got to play with some of the cutest kids, make people laugh by being the crazy white girl that I am and improve health at the same time! On the flip side we had some sad cases. One lady miscarried her child, another has a probable brain tumor that is causing an increase in intercranial pressure, we had one patient with a suspected subarachnoid bleed (with likely permanent vision loss in his left eye), more scabies, asthma patients but we were out of albuterol (rescue) inhalers and could only provide slow acting inhalers…

Infant mortality is a huge concern here in Haiti. I was told that one in two children do not make it to the age of 5. Malnutrition is a large culprit, one that we have seen in the clinic and do not have a solution for. We refer them to the Red Cross but have not heard if they accept our referrals. When I am able to upload movies and pics you will see that the line to get humanitarian aid (food) from the UN is about .75-1 miles in length. UN soldiers holding AK-47s are the line monitors. Men are not allowed to wait in line, only women due to corruption. It was the only line that was longer than the bank, immigration, and gas lines (all which were substantial).

Yesterday our drivers had more trouble than usual finding gasoline. The shortage has grown so severe that each station is empty and cars just pile into the area causing complete chaos, horns blaring and yelling can be heard for a few blocks.

With piles of rubble filling every corner, dust from cement has filled the air mimicking an LA smog appearance, but lighter. This haze is thicker than smog and coats you head to toe. Bye the time I return from clinic I have a protective layer of cement coating my skin, and globs collected in my elbows. Attempting to practice good hygiene for those that do not have a clean home to return to, is all but impossible, resulting in hundreds of site-specific infections. I would say it is the number one problem that we are treating currently.

Our everyday clinic operations begin before we arrive. Our security / ushers if you will open the doors, a couple of hundred people enter the clinic, are handed a number and de-worming medication, then sit in order to be seen. Most of these people have never been evaluated before. When you ask them, “How can I help you today?” On more than one occasion they have responded, “I don’t know you are the doctor.” It cracks me up each time I hear it. I am forced to re-phrase. Is there something that hurts you? They also have no idea what to do when I take their blood pressure; they wiggle their arms all around, and need step-by-step instructions because they were not raised with medical care like we were. The average Haitian’s life expectancy is very short, approximately 46, so elderly Haitians have a large education and generation gap. Most of my elderly patients don’t know their birthday or their age. Not because of a dementia but because they were not educated, and were so poor that they did not see reason to celebrate. That record was simply not kept, so they usually make one up that is off by a estimated 15-20 years. But the one that really got me was they do not know how to provide a deep breath so that we can listen to their lungs. I act it out, the translators translate it and also act it out, and it has been something that they have struggled with repeatedly. So you can imagine how fun it is to teach them how to use an inhaler. Non-treated hypertension and diabetes have been a huge problem that I have noted so far. Today I had someone with a blood pressure of 248/146, for those of you in the medical field and probably anyone that is on a low salt diet knows that that is no bueno.

I have much more to write about the day but it is 11pm, and I am out of fuel… I will write tomorrow (I hope) about the palace visit, walking the town, awesome beer, and bonding with Marc my translator. J

Posted by senete 04:01 Archived in Haiti Comments (0)

Clinic Day 3 Continued

overcast 91 °F

4/15 (continued) 9p

Ok so to finish the skinny on yesterday, our driver drove us past the Presidential Palace (Destroyed) where Michelle Obama was the day prior. It had a slight resemblance to the white house, and I couldn’t help but think that we could have had something like that happen during the air attacks of 9/11. When Haitians come into the clinic expressing symptoms that they have had since the earthquake they say, “Since 1/12,” instead of the earthquake. People here believe that a new Haiti is being built and in the future Haiti will be referred to as before the quake or after.

During lunch yesterday, Mark and Isaac walked me to the Cuban hospital. “Hospital” was more of a figurative word; it seemed like one step up from our very humble clinic. However, it did have electricity, which meant fans, so it was much cooler inside. It had a few exam rooms, a couple of observation rooms and one “operating room.” The Cubans were very hospitable and gave me a tour, allowing me to practice my Spanish with them.

Then the boys took me past the cathedral, while we were walking, they strategically walked one in front and one in back. I glanced back at Marc and he said, “I’m here… I’m back here for a reason.” They were apparently my bodyguards. They said, “It’s safe, just some people are stupid…” I had one person yell something in Creole after I took a picture and I asked what they said, Marc responded, “They said thank you for coming here and helping us.” I couldn’t help but giggle and said that was definitely not what she said… He laughed and said, “It is what she should have said.” J

Walking the streets for the first time today initiated a serious gut response. Before then (yesterday), I had a cognitive grievance for the loss experienced not a soul filled response. After my feet connected with the ground and I experienced the devastation at the pace of the people, tromping through debris, my heart sunk, and my soul ached. The magnitude of the disaster was exponentially larger by foot than by truck or “tap tap.” I had the time to absorb each piece of fallen ruble and each down electrical wire. I studied steel poles that were snapped in half as if they were aluminum. Each road has a layer of trash that has been compacted flat but coats the entire street. We passed a section of tents that provided housing for hundreds and hundreds of Haitians. As we walked past we watched some locals pay for water and then shower under it with their shampoo and soap. In fact a line had formed to take a public shower under a bucket of water on a sidewalk next to the street. Coal was made and sold everywhere because electricity was out in the entire metro area and so coal was the only means of cooking food. While this walk gave me a sobering reality blow, paradoxically I felt better as well, as if I had a brief glimpse into one aspect of Haitian life today. I cannot even begin to imagine how they must feel, however, today I felt as if I made a small step closer to the wavelength of understanding the situation in Haiti today. Marc and I have really bonded throughout the days, he has been my translator, and after our walk we got a cold beer on the side of the road before continuing to work. It was a Haitian beer, Prestige, it was pretty tasty in 95 deg weather. While we walked Marc told me that he lived in Miami on a visa for a few years but stayed a little too long, came back to Haiti, and is not permitted to return the states for at least two years as a punishment. Unfortunately, his ENTIRE family is in the states. He is in his late 20s living in a troubling stressful time (to say the least) and he has zero family members accessible to him.

Another thing he shared with me was the prison situation. He said that the prison was destroyed and all of the convicts escaped. Marc is a bit of a bad boy, so he knows a few guys that escaped and he said, “One of my friends got caught again because he had real bad vision and he didn’t see them coming.” They have a temporary prison currently and are trying to capture the “bad guys.” Marc actually got mugged while walking at night near our clinic about two weeks ago. He said, “The guy had a gun so I gave him my phone and a few bucks.” Hence why he was so protective during our walk. The cops tried to find the bad guy but he got away. Marc said that he didn’t know why he would risk getting caught over a phone. He said that if he were caught the cops would just shoot him. Pretty steep penalties here.

Food shortage was a huge problem in Haiti before 1/12, now it is outright ridiculous what a broke Haitian must do to simply obtain food. There is at least one place that they can go to receive free food and there was a line about .75-1 miles long! UN solders acted as line guards but instead of a whistle they utilized AK-47s to assure that there were no line cutters.

To change gears, on a much lighter note I have mastered exactly one phrase in Creole! It is pronounced “Sock, Passe!” It is a slang, hip, way to say waz up, how ya’ doing, etc. They respond one-way, “mop brule!” (Spelling is way off I’m sure), translates to “I’m boiling.” I would say in “American” that would mean, “I’m on fire, I’m hot, ready to go, etc.”

Posted by senete 01:46 Archived in Haiti Comments (0)

Montezumas struck...

Uggh

sunny 94 °F

4/14 5:30p

Today I woke up at 5 am with some abdominal grumblings…. That resulted in a less than pretty couple of hours. I have been very careful with produce, water, and food consumption but figure that either our “bottled” water still has some critters (I drank like a gallon yesterday) or I caught something from one of the 200 people I triaged. In addition, since we have no running water or electricity we have no ability to wash our hands while at clinic utilizing antimicrobial/ bacterial gel as our only means of disinfectant… This resulted in me having to stay home and miss clinic today. L 3 of us have experienced this GI delight in the last 5 days. So I don’t have much to report that is appropriate for this blog except I slept a ton, have adequately medicated myself with Cipro and Imodium, and am feeling better, just weak.

Posted by senete 22:43 Archived in Haiti Comments (1)

Thank you!

My friends and family rock!

semi-overcast 80 °F

Thank you so much for your kind comments. They warm my heart and bring a bright smile to my face. You remind me that you are all here with me. You amaze me with your kind support. Additionally thank you to those that are helping me do this financially. I hope this blog helps you see the rewards of your work. ;)

Posted by senete 22:37 Archived in Haiti Comments (0)

Ambassador of Israel

How did I forget??

sunny 94 °F

I met, well sort of met the Ambassador of Israel today. Apparently they help fund Heart to Heart and wanted to do a tour of our clinic. Random right? Well they wipped in and out so fast, I couldn't even try to shake his hand. He was about 4 feet from me at one time while I was triaging a patient. That's close enough to say I met him right?? I'm calling it good. :) Oh, and Michelle Obama was apparently at the Grand Pallace today, I tried to txt message her but she was too busy to stop bye... LOL So close yet so far! It was just down the street, a 5 minute walk from our clinic!!

I don't know how I forgot to mention that but there you have it.

Also I wanted to mention the school that is in session below our clnic in the basement. There are two partitioned rooms downstairs direction adjacent to a bathroom that is being used by 100s of people but that has no working plumbing or electricity. Occasionally someone pours water down the toilet to help facilitate movement of waste... And yes, that is our bathroom should we need to void during our days work... Good thing we sweat most of our water out our pores! I don't know how the students were able to keep focus with the unavoidable stinch...

Haitians are strong people. I had a man walk into the clinic after 120lb piece of cement fell onto his left arm. He had an obvious deformity in his proximal humerous, two lacerations, and tears filled his eyes. After all that I have seen so far this is the first Haitian that I had seen cry. I cleaned, splinted (with a piece of card board box from our medicines and surgical tape), and dressed his injury, then sent him with Vicadin and a referal to the Hospital. It really felt insufficient but it was all that we could do...

Posted by senete 17:03 Archived in Haiti Comments (0)

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