Friday, May 4, 2012

The Work Begins

Tuesday, April 24th

Huh. I actually slept pretty well last night. Maybe I'll consider Benadryl more often. We woke up to the hustling and bustling of about 100 villagers who were waiting for us to get up and get moving at about 6.

We were able to display our educational canvases in the front of the church for the villagers to look at while they were waiting to be seen.  Not exactly what we had in mind for an educational clinic, but better than nothing.  Hopefully they helped some people, just a little bit.

We set up clinic very quickly and were about to get started when Tony and Katya found a woman the villagers had laid in the back of the church. She was severely dehydrated and breathing really fast. Tony and Katya took her into our procedure room (a part of the room partitioned off by a tarp where we placed two pews together to make a bench) and started IV fluids on her.

The rest of us followed their lead and started taking patients. My first patient stated she had a cyst on her back. I took a look at it and was surprised to find a 2 inch fluid filled mass below her neck. It was rather disgusting and glorifying to feel. Katya and Tony came over to consult and we felt that trying to drain it was the best option. I grabbed a bunch of gauze hoping to squeeze out something of YouTube proportions.

Tony (who loves this gory poking stuff) poked the with a large gauge needle with Katya's guidance, while I stood anxiously by with my gauze. Nothing. Nothing came out! We weren't sure how far we should extend our scope at these clinics, so we asked Pastor Ron what he wanted to do. He thought the patient should make the decision, so we asked her. She said it was very painful and kept her from sleeping at night and asked us to fix her. We explained that would involved cutting it open and sewing it back together, but she was eager to get it taken care of.

Once our dehydrated patient was finished with her fluids, Matt swooped her fireman like style and moved her to an area where we could continue to monitor her. We moved the cyst patient back to the procedure room and got started. We laid her on her stomach and injected her with lidocaine. Tony and Katya sliced open the top of the cyst while I again stood anxiously by with the gauze. As they dug a little deeper, we realized that this was not fluid, despite it's squishiness. It was a tumor of some sort and it had to stay. We couldn't risk cutting any further and hitting vasculature. So we stitched it up and wallowed in pity. But this woman handled it like a champ. She never budged, winced or complained throughout the ordeal. The day was certainly off to a jump start.

We had quite the clinic going, with three stations seeing patients, and the extra medical people helping out with advice and supplies as needed. The team members without a medical background supported us by doing triage, crowd control and making sure the rest of us had everything we needed. Our pharmacy was stock full of antibiotics, ointments, vitamins and of course the Hatian standard, Ibuprofen and Tums. We were also blessed with a plethora of medical kits (a bag of amazing things such as band aids, alcohol pads, toothpaste, gauze, soap, etc) so were able to give every family one. We also had a decent supply of eyeglasses, so we could help out those with a tough time seeing.

One of the thing I love about these villages is all the babies. They come to us in these beautiful, elaborate dresses and are as adorable as can be. It was extra exciting to see the little patients because we had an extra goodie bag for them. Tony set up baby bags through a great organization and it was so much fun to give them to these beautiful tiny human beings. Inside the ziploc bag were cloth diaper with safety pins, a baby blanket, baby soap, Prenatal Vitamins and Baby Vitamins. I hope next time I go, I see a blanket I recognize!

We ran through as many patients as possible and treated more headaches, stomachaches and rashes than I can count. Before I knew it, it was time to pack up and go, my least favorite time of these trips. We could see the rain coming over the mountains and wanted to stay ahead of it. It's always hard to leave when there are more people not seen than seen. It makes it impossible to feel that you have accomplished anything at all. It doesn't matter how many generous smiles were directed at me, the disappointment I see erases any sense of accomplishment I have.
Enjoying one of the views before heading out

We backpacked to our vehicles, while the villagers balanced our packs on their heads and loaded up our truck for us. We loaded in the cars clown style and headed up the road to our next destination. We didn't stay ahead of the rain. The problem with rain in the mountains is it makes the roads extra extremely difficult to pass, if passable at all. Our lead vehicle, the truck with all our supplies, got buried in mud. It took about 20 villagers and our men pushing for a good amount of time before we were able to keep moving forward. Once freed, we were told that the truck wouldn't make it any further and that the church was right around the corner.

The surviving trucks (barely) made it around a couple more turns and up a few more hills when we were told we were there. By this time, we had climbed in and out of our Land Cruiser numerous times to help get it out of tough spots. We had bounced until our heads hit the roof. So were kind of confused to stop in the middle of nowhere. The closest church looking building was a good hike away. And not just a hike, but a hike down a hillside and up another. And it was down pouring. We discovered that we weren't going to that closest building. We were going to the one further away. And another hillside away.

We strapped on our packs, ponchos and can- do-attitude and started our trek. It actually wasn't that horrible, as we just followed the well worn path. We got to the church and unloaded out stuff. I went out to see if anyone needed help and met a girl of about 9 years old. With one of our bags on her head. A big green bag full of supplies. Supplies from the truck that we could barely see- probably a good 2 miles away. 2 miles of mountain trail climbing. With our bag on her head. In the pouring rain. I couldn't believe my eyes. I don't feel that I have ever done anything to deserve that treatment.

And she wasn't the only one. She was just the one leading the way. All of our bags were following behind her. Villagers of all sizes could be seen with large green bags on their heads throughout the mountainside. The only way I can think of describing it is to compare it to ants marching through a maze. It was yet another phenomenal sight.

Yep, those are chickens
We are about 20 minutes away from the Dominican Republic. You can see a marked change too. There are more trees and flora in these parts. We passed many women carrying chickens on their heads and many other villagers taking their goods to the market. One of the oddest things (and that's saying something when you are talking about Haiti mountains) we saw involved piglets.  We would see donkeys carrying numerous items to market, sometimes wearing saddle like apparatuses. But when we saw little piglets in the pockets of these saddles, we couldn't believe our eyes! And of course, I couldn't get a picture!  It's almost a different culture from the earlier part of the mountains. Things seem to be thriving here with all the hustle and bustle on the side of the road. I want to contribute it to the intact forest.

There's not a lot of areas to sneak away in this quaint village, so we are forced to make friends with the local latrine. Latrines are actually very valued in these areas. A well dug latrine will prevent many illnesses and the villagers are very proud of these structures. But that doesn't mean it's an easy adjustment for us to make.

Although, the experience is more pleasant than a Port-A-Potty, it's a bit of a feat to use. Once you step into the grass hut, you have to to get the flimsy piece of corrugated metal door shut. Depending on your luck, you may have to ask your partner to help hold the door shut. Then you will find a concrete stump with a hole over it. But this stump isn't small enough to fit legs around, so you have to somewhat gracefully step UP onto the stump. I don't really want to go into much more detail, but you can only imagine.
I had this jacket (and the matching pants) in 8th grade.  It was weird seeing it again...

The other adjustment I am having to make includes bugs. I am relieved for the mosquito break, but less than thrilled about their fist size replacements. Ok, maybe fist size is an exaggeration, but only a small one. Whatever these flying creatures are, they seem to have an infinity for our hair. One girl reached up to pull a "crunchy bug barrette" out of her hair. When one landed on the back of my neck, I calmly flicked it off and wished it a merry life. Or I smashed it, screamed like a sissy and jumped on top of the roof. You can chose. (Chose the 2nd option if you want to be right).

We got our supplies settled and our fill of rice and beans and goat and were led to our accommodations for the evening. Our hosts had removed all of their furniture and gathered all the finest mattresses in town. They took 3 Queen size mattresses and laid them wall to wall for us to sleep on. Not only that, they had tacked white sheets to the ceiling and the walls to make cover up the cinder block.

And of course, they slept on the dirt floor of the church. Again, I don't deserve this treatment.

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