Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Cramming it all in...

Friday, April 27th 2012

I just got sung to by one of my favorite Haitians, Phinton. He has such a smooth embracing voice we (all the women at least) were in tears by the end. I can't imagine a better way to end my week in Haiti.

Today wasn't as tough as I feared. The clinic in Port Au Prince ran the smoothest yet. Tony started more IV's for dehydration, Katya bounced around helping us diagnose and treat the various ailments and the support team ran amazingly.

Curing dehydration one IV at a time..

We were set up in in a half church/ half house like structure. The team was pleasantly surprised because on the last trip the entire area was nothing but tents. The tents had been replaced by tool shed like structures. In fact, I'm pretty sure I could buy the same exact thing at Home Depot. But it works well for it's owners and worked well for us.

Triage in a tool shed

We were able to triage in the house, then swing the patients through the house into the church. And of course, we still had a healthy supply of all of our medications and assorted kits.

I saw one boy who had what looked like a yellow fungus growing on his head. But his mom said that had gotten red and yellow pills from the drug store and crushed them up on his head. Huh. I tried to take him to outside to scrub it off, but the poor boy jumped a mile in the air when I just poured water over it. Not to mention, the crowd was pretty excited to see a "blan". I was drawing a large crowd rather quickly. I had to make the tough decision to stop my attempt at shampooing. I handed his mother the bottle of shampoo and told her to wash it off and treat it with the medicated ointments we had on hand. I am really curious as to what was under the crushed pills though....

There was a beautiful little girl in a white dress that stands out in my memory.  She stood out because she had the slightest tinge of auburn in her hair.  Her mother told Russanna at triage that she wanted us to cure her red hair- as red heads are seen as cursed.  It's true that malnourished children will often exhibit red hair.  And while we saw some of that, it wasn't this case in this beauty.  In this culture, red hair is so unique, it's really a shame that it is frowned upon.

There was also a boy who had an extremely high fever and we feared he had meningitis. When we told him we would like to start an IV for fluids and IV antibiotics he left AMA (minus the paperwork). Tony told him he must go to the hospital, but I'm not sure he was eager to take our advice. We can only hope our advice was followed.

This trip is teaching me how important it is to have faith. I have to trust what the patients and translators are telling me, I have to believe my instructions will be followed and most importantly, I have to trust that it will all work out in the end. We have encountered both big and small hurdles and have graced over them with relative ease. As a team, we are unstoppable and that it is an amazing blessing.

We used almost all of our remaining supplies and medicine by the time we needed to pack up and go. Our departure was the way I prefer: uneventful. We simply left the random items we had left with the Pastor of the tiny church we inhabited and walked to the van like vehicle we were riding in.

I think this vehicle deserves it's own paragraph. It was a high profile mini-van meant to hold 12 people snugly. It even had "jump seats" that folded down for those unfortunate enough to be seated there. We crammed 19 people, personal bags and water in it. We even had our green bags of supplies strapped to the roof.  When you factor in the sweltering heat and humidity, it's not a pleasant memory. When you add in Haiti traffic, it becomes borderline miserable. I know I thought yesterday was stifling, but that was nothing compared to today's travels. After already being hot, dehydrated and tired from working a clinic, getting back into this mode of transportation was less than appealing.

My disbelief at cramming 19 people in here...

We handed out a quick lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, beef jerky and trail mix to keep our energy level up for the rest of the day. I have never really eaten while sitting in someone else's lap after caring for some of the world's poorest people in a 100+ degree van before. As usual in Haiti, I guess there is a first time for everything!

We were on our way to Mother Teresa's Hospital and needed to essentially just go to the other side of town. Of course, nothing is just a short drive in Haiti. We stopped at a plumbing store (more on that later) which took about an hour I'm guessing. Since I had actually been a good girl and drank my entire liter of water during the clinic, I was in dire need of a restroom.

You think that I would learn that bathrooms aren't easily marked, clean or even within reasonable walking distance in Haiti. We were led up three flights of stairs, walked across planks of sheet metal deep into the bowels of this plumbing store to a bathroom that didn't included running water or toilet paper. Of course, out of habit, I had grabbed a handful of trash to throw away. A trash can was also missing. Oh, Haiti.

Hardware Store

While we were waiting for the boys to finish up, we took the chance to spread out and some of us spilled out of the van.  This little lady came up and reached inside our van; causing a little bit of panic among us.  We thought she was reaching for one of our water bottles and we didn't want her to be successful.  As harsh as that sounds, giving out water or food to the locals is dangerous.  If you give one child or woman something, a crowd will appear very quickly.  And since there is no way you can feed or provide water to all of Haiti, it is likely not to end well.

But she didn't want our precious water, she just wanted the empty bottle.  Much to our delight, Haiti has started a recycling program! In a city that is notorious for being overrun by trash, it was a welcome sight!  We had noticed a bright green wall advertising the new system and were happy to see in it work.  And this lady just wanted to contribute to the cause.  How admirable! We also noted that most of the tent cities had piles and piles of recyclables on corners.  More evidence of improvement!  Maybe we should not have thrown away our empty water bottles this last week...

Once we were on the road again, the fun continued. I noticed I am seeing the police officers with more men in the back of pickups with their face covered. Phinton said this was due to the large amount of gangs in Port Au Prince. They have to cover the arrested face to keep from alerting the gangs to the event. We also got stuck behind an accident. That, in itself, is not unusual, but sitting within arm's reach of a hogtied goat probably could qualify as unusual. It reminded me of being next to a semi load of hogs back home. Only we were at lot closer to said vehicle, the semi was replaced with a beat up S-10 truck and the pigs were goats tied by their hooves hanging upside down.  Maybe not so weird after all. Nah, still weird.

We also drove by a new type of market.  It had all the components of the usual markets, but with a twist.  There were these little pens full of chickens for sale.  Sometimes we were even lucky enough to see one get butchered, right there in the middle of the street.

Once we pulled up to Mother Teresa's excitement set in for me. I don't know why. I knew what I was walking in to, and I couldn't wait to see it. Maybe I had been away from work too long. I all but ran into the place.

I think it was because I was just relieved it was there. After seeing Cousonal in the mountains, I was even more appreciative of it. Yes, children still die of starvation in Haiti. That is the ugly truth. But, because of Mother Teresa's, not as many. And that is the beautiful truth.

Of course, I was immediately drawn to the smallest baby. I picked her up and looked at her ID band that said she was four months old. She was the size of a 34 weeker at work. I held her until she fell asleep, then put her down to nap. Instinctively, I made her a little nest and felt at home for the first time since I landed in Port Au Prince.

I went to the next smallest baby, an 8 month old. This child was about the size of a preemie when they are getting ready to go home. She had an IV and glazed over eyes. I caught her attention and played peek a boo with her behind her blanket. I didn't get a smile, but I did notice a small change in her expression. I seriously don't think she had enough energy to even smile. I longed to hold her, but the employees don't like visitors to hold babies with IV's. Knowing how hard it is to get IV's on babies, let alone dehydrated babies, I can appreciate that.

By now, most of the team had taken a couple of kids outside to hold. I picked up another tiny 8 month old that was in better health and joined them. Tina had a 2 year old with a fantastic personality. She laughed every time she saw a new pale face. Her contagious laughter continued any time our fingers even got close enough to tickle her.

She was the poster child for Mother Teresa's. This little girl represented the hope that a place like this provides. She came in a deathly sick child and will soon be going back to her parents a healthy, vibrant toddler. God Bless.

At one point, Dan and I went upstairs were the older children were. He wanted to see if a girl he saw 6 months ago was still there. She wasn't; she went home! Another glorious moment!

However, one tragic moment did happen upstairs. As soon as the children saw Dan and I, the ones who managed to break free of the cribs scrambled to wrap themselves around our legs. The ones who couldn't muster up the strength to break free of their cribs screamed for us with their arms outstretched. All of sudden I was surrounded by children desperate to be held. I knew once I looked at Dan that he wanted to hold them as much as I did. But we knew that holding one child would break the other 20 children's heart. We pried sick children off our legs and walked downstairs, feeling like crud. We had hindered more than helped, always my biggest fear.

When we all piled into our clown car for the trip back to the orphanage, I knew that I should probably feel sad. But I couldn't. I was at peace knowing it was there. I could only smile when I found out they had room for Cousonal. We provided money for his transportation down the mountain. I hope to keep in touch with Pastor Ron to follow his progress...

By the time we reached our house at the orphanage, we were hot, tired and mentally exhausted. But our work wasn't over. Katya set up an impromptu clinic for the children and workers at the orphanage.  Katya had noticed a growth on a small boy's chin. With Pastor Ron's blessing, she removed the growth and stitched it up.  That was just the beginning, as soon we were giving away almost the rest of our meds. We ended the clinic by popping blisters that had erupted on Phinton's arm.  Earlier in the week, Phinton had been hospitalized with a fever and had since developed these blisters.  We loaded him up with antibiotics, as Katya feared it was MRSA.

As a plumber, I don't think Tyson knew how much he would be needed around the orphanage. Not only did he fix the girls' toilet, he had major work outside that held exponential pay outs.

A while back, a tractor ran over the pipe that provides water to the orphanage. That meant the orphanage and all 56 kids and 12 staff were doing dishes, bathing, using the restroom etc. all without water. When we stopped at the hardware store, Tyson was picking up supplies to fix this monumental inconvenience. So with the mosquitoes swarming their headlamps, Dan and Tyson fixed the water line. As much medical care and supplies that were provided, I don't know if anything could have meant more than those two providing water to an orphanage. How many people can say they have done something as big as that?

It was actually pitch black; this light was only the flash.

As you can tell by this lengthy entry, today was busy. It was also enlightening and gratifying. I ended the day with the children singing and couldn't thing of a better last day in Haiti.

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