Sunday, March 2, 2014
Sunday, March 2:
8 am: Breakfast and free morning on campus; some team members went to church at HCM.
9:30 am: Supplies unpacking on the porch. Dental clinic also begins after church.
12 pm: Lunch, then team trip to two orphanages: CAD (government-run) and Wholehearted (supported by HCM). We set up a general pediatric clinic and also treated all of the children with fluoride varnish to prevent dental caries.
5 pm: Back from trips off campus for dinner and clinic prep.
7 pm: Dinner then a team meeting with a presentation from Dr. Harman on Project Haiti’s history and common clinical findings.
9 – 11 pm: Clinic prep (especially our pharmacy team!) and organizing before our first full day at clinic on Monday!
Thoughts from the team for today provided by Anouchka D and Jonathan K.
Today I had the opportunity to meet many precious and beautiful children. They were between the ages of 1 and 16. I got to practice my french and creole as I did much translating. I felt like a doctor as a touched many of them in places where they hurt. As I communicated with them, I thought about how I may be the first and only person they’ve said this to. I felt that this moment was so important and I wanted to make it worthwhile for them. I wanted them to feel cared for, loved, and heard. I will always remember one boy in particular. He said his ears were hurting him and after examining him, we decided to give him some Tylenol for a few days. About 30 minutes after my encounter with him, he came over to me and tugged at my arm. I was shocked because he had been very reserved and shy the whole time before. I leaned down to hear him as he signaled to me that he had something to tell me. He said, “sometimes I see double.” I asked him, “what do you mean?” He said, “you see that boy over there? I see two of him.” I got very worried. I checked his eyes and the attending ran him through a neuro exam. It was clear that there was a problem in his vision. I was so scared. I can’t really describe in words how I was feeling. It was like, I didn’t want to leave his side until the problem was fixed. Finally another doctor asked me to give him my glasses to try on—An idea I hadn’t thought of. And he could see! I gave him the same exam I had given him before, and he had no more double vision! I felt so relieved that it was something benign, and that the problem was resolved. We had plenty of glasses back at the place we were staying (HCM). When we went back, I tried a bunch of them on because none of them had their prescription on them. I found several that I could sort of see in and we gave them to someone who was going back to the orphanage to have the little boy try them on. I know that it sounds like no big deal, but it was a wonderful experience for me as I love to love, and these are the experiences that I live for. These are the experiences that make me happy to be alive—not because I’ve done something good. I don’t feel that I really did anything. I am just grateful for the opportunity to have had such an interaction with another human being.
Later on in the day, we went to another orphanage! My favorite part was at the end. As we were leaving, the head of the orphanage told us that she wanted to pray with us before she left. We stood in a circle and held hands. As we stood there, she asked one of the boys to sing. He started to sing a beautiful Christian song and those of us who knew the song (not me haha), joined in. It was a song about hope, faith, and gratefulness. In the song, we thanked God for being there for us; we thanked God for our lives and we asked Him to bless each other. It was a moment when we were not doing anything medical, nothing physical to help one another. There was nothing but words floating around. But it was beautiful. It was peaceful. It was thoughtful, and it was my favorite part actually of the whole day. It was a time when I felt that we were all truly together, brother and sister in this world together and on this journey called life together. I just felt really happy like I could have stayed there forever holding hands and if I died I right then, I’d be ok.
A Busy Beginning: Choirs, cleaning, children, and tooth extractions
My alarm was set for 6:15am. I’d given myself just the right amount of time to shower, read my Bible, and eat breakfast before the day’s activities began. But I didn’t wake up to my iPod’s marimba alarm; I woke up to a different sound. It was still dark when I heard a choir of voices singing outside my window. I was still disoriented with sleep and forgot where I was, and wondered why I was in an unfamiliar bed. After a few seconds, a flood of realization hit me, and I thought I must have overslept my alarm because there was already a bunch of activity outside when I had expected to get up in the quietness of the morning. I quickly fumbled for my iPod to check the time: 5:30am. I tried to roll over to get a bit more sleep since I hadn’t gotten much the past few days, but I was too excited. Haiti. The entire team has been preparing for this trip for months, and we were finally here! I eventually found out that the choir of beautiful voices was from the sunrise service in the church nearby. I couldn’t sleep so I got up and started my day earlier than scheduled.
After showering, I had some time for prayer on the roof of our compound, enjoying the scenic view of mountains surrounding the area. It was an unfamiliar thing to me since I’ve been born and raised in the flat landscape of Florida, so it was a great backdrop to start my morning. We had driven in to the compound in the dark of night, so I hadn’t really gotten to see what the place looked like until this morning.
After breakfast, a group from the team went to the church next door and got to hear many of the familiar hymns sung in Creole by about 200 Haitian people, all singing in harmony. That is one thing I particularly loved! They all sang in harmony and often without accompaniment. That is a skill that we Americans have partially lost. It was beautiful and so genuine. They had a special welcome for us near the end of the service and they were very welcoming.
We got straight to work afterwards and began organizing and cleaning out the surgical and emergency areas of the clinic in the compound. This compound is much better equipped than I was expecting. They have been building up their facilities over the years and it is neat that UF gets to help contribute.
We ate a quick lunch and headed out for our first visit to an orphanage. We split up into different teams and screened 83 children. I was on the team that painted fluoride varnish on each of the children’s teeth. Unfortunately, there were 15 children who had serious cavities and required tooth extractions. The dental team didn’t want to operate on them in the middle of the orphanage, so we piled these children, the dental team, and 4 of the med students into one of our vans and drove them back to clinic. It was incredible to see our dental team work! They are caring people and fantastic teachers. The med students helped stabilize the children as they were operated on. We also had an adventure setting up the autoclave/pressure cooker to sterilize our equipment.
I’ll share a story of one of the little girls who had a tooth extracted. Most of the children were troopers and cried very little as they were operated on by complete strangers. The ages ranged from 7-15 years old, and even the young children remained strong. One of these resilient children was an 8-year-old girl who, for the first 20-30 minutes of her tooth extraction, complained and whimpered very little. Most of the operations were complete by that amount of time, but her tooth had grown in such a way that it was not easily coming out. I got to assist one of the 4th year dental students, Rob. He was very patient, but the tooth was a challenge. I tried to help stabilize her jaw as he switched back and forth between tools, trying to loosen the tooth. It became a struggle near the end and she was getting more and more scared. Finally, Rob’s patience paid off and the rotten tooth popped out. My heart felt for the little girl though. She was crying after the operation and we on the team got to put our arms around her and hug her. However, she was then sent back to the other children in the waiting area. But she went out of the operating room without a mother or father waiting for her. No family was there to comfort her after the operation. I can’t imagine what her life is like. I am so grateful that the leaders at the orphanage have the heart to care for those children, but I’m sure it is not the same as going home to the love and hugs of your parents and family. She doesn’t have one.
Can you imagine going through a tooth extraction alone, with strangers poking around in your mouth and no parent to give you support afterwards? I can’t. But that is why I am so grateful to be here with this team. It is impressive to see already that everyone on this trip is here to go beyond giving physical care. They genuinely show love to our patients. There is so much encouragement and so many acts of service. That little girl is going back to live in her orphanage and I expect that the leaders there are wonderful. But one thing I know. That girl was shown a lot of love and compassion by the dental team today. She went through a scary and traumatic experience, but I got to witness how one dentist, 2 fourth year dental students, and my fellow med students selflessly loved on that girl today. I know it made a huge impact on her dental health. I’m excited to see what the rest of the week holds!