Friday, July 1, 2011

Haiti, part one

First day of July already, and so few posts last month!  Totally shameful, considering how much has happened.  Granted, much of June was spent moving, cramming, traveling, visiting and being visited, but still.  I have a lot to catch up on before the madness of second year starts up. 

So, Haiti: I'm going to do this in installments, partially because I have a lot to say, and partially so you won't get overwhelmed/bored and decide to never come here again. :)

Time Warp
We are now more than halfway through the three weeks we have off for our summer break.  It seems crazy-short.   Our Medishare group got back from Haiti late on Sunday night, and I can't believe it has already been four days... feels like I got home, took a nap, did laundry, took another nap, and now it is Thursday.  I also can't believe that after nine months of waiting, imagining, fundraising, preparing, getting excited and looking forward to not one, but two trips to Haiti, they are now both in the past.  Which is a little bit sad for me.  

One the other hand, one week in Haiti felt infinitely longer than that, and I mean that in the best possible sense.  Our days were long and packed full to the brim, and best of all, meaningful.  Each day was different, brought new adventures and challenges, new people, new locations, new sights, new medical problems.  Each one seemed as though it had about 85 separate and distinct parts to it, each just as vital as the next.  The hours stretched out almost magically, whether we were enjoying a delicious home-cooked Haitian meal, scrambling to see optimistic numbers of patients in chaotic makeshift clinics, or kicking back just as fiercely during leisurely evening hours devoid of tv, cellphones, social media, and the usual demands of our American lives.  And it was wonderful.

Team Medishare
This was my second trip to Haiti in as many months.  This latest trip was a general medicine trip, and because of that, everything about it was bigger and broader.  More students (10), more docs (4), more interpreters (4), more clinics, (many) more patients, more work, more play, more mosquitos, more drinking, more medicine, more interaction.  (Less sleep.)

This woman had a wonderful smile- she was giggling before and after I took
 this shot, (and especially after I showed it to her), but I could not for the life
of me get her to smile for the camera.
One of our rented 4-wheel drive SUVs - very necessary where we were going.
Our first full day in the Central Plateau was spent getting acquainted with the community in and around Thomonde, the town where we were staying, and learning about the medical system in place there.  We followed community healthcare workers around to meet different families in the area.  

We visited the hospital in Thomonde, including this recently-added cholera treatment clinic.

There is another, ongoing cholera outbreak going on in this area that is only
getting worse.  Our group was fortunate to not be affected, but so many Haitians
don't have the luxury of access to clean water, and so the outbreak continues.
Cots awaiting new cholera patients.
Families tend their ailing members in the outdoor clinic, seeking shelter
from the blazing heat under a tree.

We visited a local maternity clinic, one of the many set up throughout the region to keep regular prenatal checkups for prenant women and child wellness visits for newborns.

The maternity clinic seemed almost as much a social gathering
as a medical site.

On our second day, we drove about an hour over what couldn't have been more than 5 or 6 miles--seriously, I have traveled in a lot of places with bad roads, and I have never experienced roads like the ones in Haiti--and arrived at an empty church building to set up shop.  What we had to work with were some wooden benches, a thatched-roof hut, and the medical supplies we brought with us in giant black military-style bags.  

The hut that became our "pharmacy".
Whiplash and bruised tailbones from the drive up,
and the day had only just begun.

We were able to run two pediatric clinics and two adult clinics, with triage stations for both, which all ran with varying degrees of efficiency/success.

Taking such little people's blood pressure is surprisingly hard.
Patients wait in line to be triaged.
We thought our ride to the clinic site was rough...
Naked babies running around everywhere was pretty much the norm.
Dr. Reines, fabulous pediatrician
Youssef, treating a baby with amoxicillin.  She came in tachycardic, tachypnic,
and with a high fever, and left afebrile, happy, and playing with her mama.

Lenny, on the left, interpreting for a patient

We waited out an afternoon rainstorm before we could drive home, and
meanwhile prayed that it wouldn't leave us stranded.

These roads were so much worse than they look in pictures.

There is truly no way that these pictures can do justice to the actual experience of any part of the trip--the roads, the rain, the beauty, the poverty, the heat, the sheer awesomeness of our team and everyone's enthusiasm and willingness to jump in and do whatever was needed in the moment to care for patients.  I am totally honored and inspired to have been part of this group, and feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to go.

Much more to come; check back soon!


  1. So glad you were apart of this rich and meaningful experience. Thanks for sharing!

  2. That is amazing! You are inspiring.


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