Haiti 2012 - Day 6
Day 6: The internet was not working last night so I could not get my nightly email off but all is well. We got up and had our usual breakfast of some very fresh eggs and a bit of bread. And we began to get dressed to go work at the hospital. The students had been off most of the week for Karnival but were back in action today so I was looking forward working with them and teaching today. The mobile clinic midwives were here at the house and were taking 2 students with them to go to Dele Grande. The mobile clinic (the pink jeep loaded with midwives and supplies) travels four days a week to four different villages on a set schedule. So they provide prenatal care to 16 villages a month that would have no other access to care. Pam (the other volunteer CNM from the states) and I went with the mobile clinic to be primary care doctors for the day. So not my area of expertise but it seems our worse level of care is better than their best.
The road was rough to Dele Grande. All dirt roads with boulders and rivers and streams to cross. Uphill and downhill rarely coming out of 1st or 2nd gear. Thank God I took a Zofran or I would have been car sick for sure! We arrived after an hour and a half to a small church which served as a school. The children that could afford uniforms were all in class and the community was waiting for us. They had walked for afar to come see the "doctor". There were about 35 pregnant patients and over 50 others waiting to be seen. It was already hot by 930am. The midwives set up clinic in the back of the jeep. The day started with a public health lecture. They taught about nutrition, hygiene and having some emergency money to transport to a hospital in case of emergency "hide it from your husband if you must, you must protect your life, if you die he will just get a new wife"... some feminism in rural Haiti! Then it was clinic time. Pam and I set up clinic in a small room attached to the church. There was a desk and a few chairs that we let the patients sit on. We saw over 50 patients! Babies to the elderly. We saw measles, typhoid, malaria, RSV pneumonia, high blood pressure that would have put someone in the ICU in the states, parasites, worms, fungus, STDS... you name it, we saw it. We treated everything we could but we had very limited medications and supplies. The people have no other health care option than the witch doctor. Transportation to the nearest town with a hospital is just too expensive. 12% of the babies do not make it to their 5th birthdays. It is accepted as part of life here. The elderly are actually in their 50s and 60s - they look like they are in their 80s.
The midwives were down long before we were so we took two of the students and had them set up a triage table getting blood pressures, weights and chief complaints so Pam and I could get through the patients faster. When it was over we still had our long return trip home. We had to stop once for a funeral procession and once to put air in the tire - the jeep has its own air compressor. The scenery is tragic and beautiful all at the same time. Shacks for homes, animals all around, young children working in their yards or carrying jugs of water on their heads walking alongside the road. Women doing laundry in the rivers. People suffering with poverty, starvation, disease. I have not witnessed an area of relief yet. I will never recover from all that I have seen, nor should I. I have such an appreciation for my life and my family and will continue to find ways to try and change the disparity between life in places like Haiti and the US. When you look in their eyes it is like looking in our own and when they hold their sick children in their arms, it is like looking in a mirror.