October 6, 2010
I slept pretty well! Which turned out to be a blessing, because I worked extremely hard today. I’m sure this blog is not going to get the length it deserves, simply due to exhaustion.
We woke up with the sun and set up our clinic is a teeny tiny church with no windows and no lighting. The set up worked ok; we set up the triage area by the front door, with the work up area by the side door towards the back doors. Our pharmacy was up in the alter so a couple of people could hand us the requested meds.
People started lining up outside the church the night before. In fact, we could see people’s laterns as they were making their way to us, coming through the hills the night before.
After a few patients who were lucky enough to get very thorough exams, it became obvious to us that we had to speed up the process. Around the same time, we realized that a large majority had complaints of “stomachache and headache”. When we started questioning other symptoms, it appeared that they were just looking for anything we could give them. We had 100 hygiene kits that contained items like soap, toothbrush and band aids. While it was easy to get annoyed with such strategy of getting supplies, I was saddened by the level of desperation. Imagine being so far below the poverty level that you would be willing to wait all night for a few hygiene items.
I hope I’m not displaying the people in a bad light; that is not at all what I’m hoping to tell. I want you to read my blog with a realization of how lucky Americans are. While we complain about the stupid call by the coach of our favorite NFL team, there is a place where people will cherish a bar of soap like we would box seats.
What saddened me even more was when we had to pack up camp. By 1 pm, we had to close the doors. This did not go over well. We had probably left 250 people outside and they were not pleased when we had to admit that we were out of supplies. After being rather proud of the fact that we had seen close to 300 patients, we were quickly humbled by seeing all the patients that weren’t able to get in. It was beyond tough to look the villagers in the island in the eye and tell them we didn’t have anything left to give.
I went outside to give away the odds and ends of what we had left for hygiene supplies. I soon was wishing I had so much more to hand out. Somehow I felt that giving out supplies to 6 out of over 100 people was unfair. Similar to the saying, “if you don’t have enough for everyone, you can’t share”. It’s a tough balance and sometimes you just feel that you can’t win.
I then went back inside to help finish up a few wound dressings. As I was talking to a mom who was squatting on the floor near the doorway, the crowd became overwhelming. There were guards at the door, doing crowd control (with bats!) and the crowd was able to penetrate them. I yelled in a probably a panicky tone and was quickly relieved. After a few words from a big Haitian in charge, the crowd dissipated in a matter of seconds!
Our ride home was uneventful – our first uneventful transportation the entire trip! Well not completely, we did get a flat tire, but that was cake compared to previous obstacles. It was nice and peaceful, but I’m ready for more adventures tomorrow. On the agenda: setting up a clinic in a tent city.