Wednesday, February 2, 2011
We set up a clinic in a small tent city today. And by small I mean about 125 families. I’m not sure if there are 125 families in my small town- and they have a square mile to fit in. These families had about the size of a football field to live in.
We saw about 50 locals with a variety of complaints. One poor elderly woman had a dislocated shoulder for 3 years. When we told her we couldn’t do anything for her, she just shrugged and said, “It’s ok. It’s just painful sometimes.” That’s probably more than a slight understatement.
Ahhh...my trusty little Haitian Creole to English book
I spent the day doing triage and perfecting my Haitian Creole. And by perfecting, I mean I got really good at asking what your name is, how old are you, do you have pain, and do you have a headache or stomachache. The problem was, once I stated these phrases in Creole, I was expected to understand the answer in Creole. Besides the yes and no answers, I was pretty much clueless. I’m sure I even manage to butcher the majority of names. Every now and then, I’d get someone that spoke English or even a little Spanish and would help me with a couple of people by them in line. But I think my Creole is coming along. Slowly, but coming along.
Performing triage gave me an opportunity to really take in my surroundings. Once again, Haitian pride was in full effect and the living quarters were very clean. I saw food stored neatly behind dishes that I watched woman spend hours scrubbing clean. I’m still curious as to where the clothes are kept and how they stay so clean.
I became amused and a little frightened as I let my eyes follow a particular toddler with a sucker. He was enjoying his sucker and would occasionally remove it from his mouth so he could cough on it. He then handed it to his older brother who decided he should also contaminate the sucker by coughing on it after a few licks. The boys then dropped the sucker in the dirt during the handoff and quickly picked it up and licked the dirt off. Yes, this is concerning. But it made me smile at the same time. I wouldn’t be surprised to see my own sons pulling off a similar routine.
Reese examining a patient
One of the biggest services we provide is education. In these communities, we must stress the importance of drinking water. It’s so easy for us to say “you need to drink at least four liters of fluid a day” but the reality is so difficult. Water is an invaluable resource here. The residents don’t have access to clean drinking water and must buy it. I would love to be able to give them the ability to fill up a water bottle like I have. So often, I feel that I cannot even begin to help.
The locals brought a boy who could barely walk to us. There was a group of about 3 adults scuttling this boy across the dirt to our clinic. He had a random venous thrombophlebitis in his leg. Basically, his vein had turned into a tough rope and is very, very painful. Of course, it’s one of those things that we can’t do much about, besides give OTC pain medications. We also advised the use of warm heat compresses….but how do you make a compress when water doesn’t flow freely from the tap?
We had just a few more patients in line, when we got word that we needed to pack up “camp” (that seems like a very inappropriate word in this setting) and get home as soon as possible. Our translators informed the people that we had to leave due to security concerns. They were very understanding and also interested in our own well-being and wished us well.
See, a lot is happening today. The Haiti government is supposed to announce the new election results after the OAS review. If you’ve been following, you know that the Haiti election has been crazy to say the least. The initial announcement ended in riots and protesting, as many Haitians felt that the government backed candidate didn’t qualify for the runoff election. Then of course, Baby Doc returned. To add to the sense of chaos, another exiled dictator, Aristide, is trying to get back to Haiti soon as well.
We were told to get home as soon as possible because of word of protests starting. There was no evidence of violence, but things can be very unpredictable here in Haiti and our hosts didn’t want to take any chances with our safety. There is a rumor that this group is starting tires on fire in protest of the delay in granting Aristide his passport.
You could feel the energy as we drove through the streets of Port Au Prince. There were more people walking on the streets, including a young boy guiding a blind elder down the median of a busy street. The banks and stores also announced that they would be closing early in anticipation of escalated violence. We saw more UN and police vehicles patrolling the streets as well.
View from our balcony
This guy used the short work day to try to get his tap tap up and running.
So we came home, safe and secure, behind our razor wire and security guards. We are all currently becoming real estate moguls and enjoying a game of Monopoly. We are still awaiting word of the election now. You can feel the tension in the neighborhood. There is an indescribable hustle and bustle just on the other side of our fence. Combine that with the eclectic music mix of Haitian, Shakira and Justin Timberlake and it becomes immediately obvious I am miles away from home. But more importantly, safe.