Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Wednesday, March 5:

  • 6:30 am: Breakfast.

  • 7 am: Depart for Sarazin, one team stays at HCM to run clinic and take care of our surgery patients.

  • 9 am: Set up clinic. We saw 116 patients today plus even more dental patients, and our HCM team saw about 18 patients alongside the HCM medical team.

  • 4 pm: Head to Zanmi Lasante Hospital for a tour.

  • 7 pm: Return to HCM.

  • 8:30 pm: Team time!

Thoughts for today’s blog provided by Michael C, Stacey N, and Lexi C.

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This morning at seven we set off on a two-hour drive to a small clinic outside of Mirebelais.  We drove across twisting mountain roads through banana farms and small roadside villages.  The drive went quite smoothly; aside from a few near high-speed collisions with fearless street crossing goats.  We arrived at a small church that would serve as our clinic to find a crowd of nearly one hundred people waiting to receive care.  We hurriedly unpacked our bags, set up clinic, and began seeing patients within the hour.  I spent the day triaging.  Although my knowledge of Haitian Creole is quite limited, I employed everything I had to let each patient know we cared for them.  I greeted each with a warm smile and “Kouman ou ye?”, meaning “How are you?”.  Most patients immediately begin rapidly running through their concerns, gesturing to indicate different parts of their body that were troubling them.  It was clear that many of the patients had harbored these concerns without access to treatment for some time.  It was deeply gratifying to know that we could address many of these concerns.  By the end of the clinic we’d seen about one hundred and fifteen patients.

After the clinic we drove to the famous Partners in Health Hospital in Mirebelais for a tour.  The facility was built in the past few years after the earthquake.  It was fantastically clean and well organized, and could match or surpass many hospitals in the United States in quality of care.  It was inspiring to see such a facility, and realize that it came to be through the same desire to help our fellow man that drives our own work in clinic.

Hi! We are the dental team! Wednesday may have been our most beautiful and rewarding day of the week thus far. After an amazing drive winding up the mountains, we arrive at a small rural village. The dental team we have is the outdoorsy type, and just loves working in the open air. The small church would have been really crowded with the medical and pharmacy and dental teams, so we happily set up shop outdoors. We had our dental benches (which were just wood benches) set up under the banana trees with a wonderful shade and breeze. As the patients started lining up, we fully realized the need of the area. Not only did the people have teeth that were so decayed that they no longer had crowns (the tops of teeth), and only had infected and painful root tips, but the people also had never had any extractions before, so clearly no dentist had been into the area for a long time. The patients were steady, and we were working nonstop. Although the dental treatment of extractions in a developing country is reactionary and not preventive, the reality of no electricity, no clean water, no suctioning, no compressor, no dental unit, and no dental chair makes extractions the best treatment for the amount of time it takes, that we can offer right now. The residents were thanking us for coming, and we even took some patients home to the dental clinic at HCM with us to make sure no patient was left untreated. When we got back to HCM, we reopened shop and treated the rest of the patients until 11:30pm. Needless to say, we slept like a rock tonight.

The healing nature of the human touch is something that they talk about in medical school, but it is something that you truly feel while in Haiti. Without lab tests, x-rays, or other costly technology that the medical world has come to rely upon in the United States we have come to rely upon other skills, those of listening with deep care, and examining thoughtfully while in Haiti. Our tools are simple, but our hearts are open to give and receive love, joy, faith and healing. We have offered medications, dental care, and surgeries but we have also offered hugs to children, back rubs to old women whose joints are tired from years of hard labor, and a hand to hold to women delivering beautiful children.  The healing nature of the human touch is something you feel while in Haiti, and we will all leave with hearts that are fuller because of the connections that we have made by simply reaching out a caring hand to those in need.

I love children, and it has become a running joke on the trip that I somehow always can be found with a sweet Haitian child in my arms. However, today I learned the most from the adults that I was blessed to have the opportunity to treat. Today was a day full of joy and faith, quiet prayers and boisterous celebration. While at clinic a barefooted elderly woman followed me slowly to our adult clinic corner of the small church. She had a history of diabetes and her foot was bandaged with a dusty gauze wrap. She had dropped something on her foot and due her diabetes, she now had a large ulceration on the top of her foot that was not healing. I carefully removed the bandage and slowly began to clean the large weeping wound. As I was washing her feet she raised her hands in the air, and began singing hymns, praying, and thanking our team in the beautiful Creole language. Her celebration during the wound care and watching her travel around clinic and personally thank all our team after I was finished reminded me of the importance of living with a grateful heart. I was not able to cure her diabetes, let alone treat the symptoms of the disease, but she was deeply grateful for the simple care that I was able to provide for her wound.  I am forever grateful to the people of Haiti, as well as my amazing teammates for reminding me why I chose to serve as a physician. We are not able to provide the necessary help for all of the people of Haiti, but this week I believe that we were able to make a difference in the lives of many, and in return they have made a difference in our lives.