Wednesday, June 27, 2007

First post from Haiti trip

June 23, 2007

Medical mission trip to LesCayes.

We haven’t had internet so I’m writing this blog as a Word document and will continue to add to it until such time as I can post it.

Our plane trip was uneventful for the most part. We took off from JFK about an hour late after sitting on the runway for a long time. We appear to be one bag short; we thought we had 18 pieces of luggage but only ended up checking in 17. I guess that’s what happens when you get up at 2:30 in the morning/ I thought, “When we get to PAP we can see whether one magically shows up or not.” (It didn’t.) Mark, Paul, Zach and Lynne all had their carry-ons taken to be put with the checked luggage because they were too large, although we saw others on the plane with bags that seemed to be much larger.

Pastor Nadier, true to his word, met us at the airport. It took us 1.5 hours to get our luggage, although we had little problem with customs since Mark seems to have figured out the system. Amoce and Witchner were there to meet us, and we loaded into Maxime’s fantastic air-conditioned tour bus for the five hour drive to Au Cayes (Les Cayes).

It turns out that Amoce and Witchner had boarded a tap-tap at midnight the night before, arrived in PAP at 4 a.m. where they stayed on the bus and slept. Then they waited for our plane to arrive at 12:55. After that they waited 1.5 hours in the sun for us to get through customs and then rode back with us for five hours on the bus. We are so amazed that they would do something like that for us. It was certainly great to see their welcome faces at their airport!

We didn’t get to Cayes until about 7:30 p.m. but Marie was there waiting for us with hot food. We unloaded all of the duffles into the small house next to the university building. Francky and Tertu were already at Cayes, though we didn’t expect them until Sunday.

We ate, unpacked the minimal amount we needed to, and everyone was in bed very quickly.

June 24, 2007 (Sunday)

Morning arrived at about 5 a.m. with most of us starting to stir. Dr. Don played violin (how perfect is that?) and then went down to rouse Dr. Mark and Zach. Zach decided to sleep in because he’s still feeling a little under the weather. We all slept really well, and none of us were too hot. I think we were too tired.

Widger made us a great breakfast with scrambled eggs and fresh pineapple and mango. The coffee topped it off. (Surprisingly the coffee pot I brought down made it through without breaking.)

Today was a busy day with a great service in the small congregation at the university, led by Widner. Their music is contemporary praise and worship without loud amplifiers and more personal than other services we’ve been to here in Haiti.

Jean Felix Prime arrived about lunch time and we had a meeting with him. It’s a difficult situation.

At 3:00 Mustard Seed Haiti arrived for our meeting to plan the week. They began by giving us a run-down of what they have done over the past year, and what we have done together.

Mark saw 3 patients who were brought to the university. One poor woman had had a tumor removed from her forehead several years ago, then some poorly done skin grafting which failed. At this point she’s wearing a bandage over a quarter of her face and her right eyeball has slid down to her cheek since there is nothing to hold that part of her face in place. Her skull is exposed beneath the bandages.

Monday, June 25. 2007

Non St Joseph

Today was to be the most difficult clinic trip we’ve taken, just in terms of logistics. We left Cayes at 5:30 a.m. to drive 2 hours, past Port Salut, then onto a very bad dirt road for what seemed like many miles. The drive was gorgeous as we drove out to the end of the southern peninsula and headed back north along the west end of it. The ocean was calm, turquoise blue with sometimes sandy beaches and sometimes coral outcrops…so beautiful. Many people lived in huts right on the ocean.

At one point we could go no further and we had to load the meds onto mules. Several of us were offered the chance to ride mules up the mountain which was very, very steep and had some pretty sheer drop-offs in places. Greyson, Dr. Don, Jan, Ruth, Marcia, and Lynne rode the mules. My first reaction is that my butt is incredibly sore from sitting on the two wooden braces that they use for saddles – ouch! However, the animals were really sure-footed and I thought my mule was pretty intelligent because he would go on the grassy slopes instead of the rocks, but always end up in the same place as the other mules. Dr. Don had quite a difficult time with his mule which didn’t want to have a rider on it; he had a hard time staying on, and had to dismount at one point up the mountain. The view across the mountains on our way up was stunningly beautiful all the way out to the ocean.

The rest of the crew hiked up the mountain which was very strenuous; both doctors needed to sit and cool down before they could begin clinics. This was Ruth’s first medical clinic ever but she hiked up part of the mountain with the rest of the crew. She wondered if all of our clinics were like this and we assured her they weren’t.

We held the clinic in a large tiki hut that had a nightclub sign on the outside of it. It was pure thatch and quite large, but it was full of people waiting to be seen. Dr. Don was set up in a side room with Lynne scribing and Kelly translating. Mark was set up out in the open with Jan scribing and Amoce translating. Greyson, Marcia, Witchner, and Francky processed patients for intake using the new medical intake forms that MSH developed. They worked very well, and will allow MSH to return and keep up with patients.

We saw two very sick women (mother and daughter) who were septic and needed IV’s and strong antibiotics. By day’s end they seemed a little better; the daughter’s fever had broken. Nevertheless, the family carried them each home in a stretcher.

Dr. Don may have seen a patient with anthrax; it’s present in pigs here. The guy had been convinced to butcher his pig upon the death of his son by a local witchdoctor. We saw a rash on a young baby that seemed like measles but had lasted too long.

Paul, John, and Ruth ran the pharmacy in a small, crowded, hot middle room.

We saw about 150 people, not a large amount for a two-doctor team, but we didn’t get started until after 10:30 and we quit at 4:00 because the traveling took us so long.

The trip back to Cayes seemed to take much longer than the trip out to the clinic. We didn’t get home until about 9:30 p.m.

June 26, 2007

Camp Perrin – We left Cayes at 7:00 and arrived at Camp Perrin within one hour. The trip was easy over dirt/rock roads and across the riverbed. We had to leave one truck at the river and take two trips with Kelly’s 4-wheel drive Toyota.

Thinking about the bus we want to buy for a mobile medical clinic – a bus would not have made it up to Camp Perrin. Upon arrival we saw that MSH had made wonderful arrangements for us; we held our clinics in a newly built school building behind the church. The first people to greet us were Marcia’s parents (the pastor and his wife). The doctors had a large breezy back room; the pharmacy had a large breezy room for Paul, John, and Rivenson to work in. The intake took place outside and the people were very well managed.

Immediately, we saw a pregnant woman on a stretcher – turned out she wasn’t pregnant despite the large belly. She had extremely bad leg ulcers that had eaten away part of her legs, especially the right leg. Mark had to work hard to keep from gagging while he cleaned the ulcers and drained the large puss-filled infections. During the day he continued to monitor her, give her meds, and change the dressings. At the end of it all, he felt that she probably had fairly progressed cancer in her belly. He advised the family how to care for her leg wounds, sent them home with the appropriate meds and bandages. Marcia will return in one week for follow-up.

We saw a well controlled progression of patients, including a boy who had his orbital socket broken in a fall and whose eye now protruded below and out beyond his cheek. He was 15 years old and obviously very self-conscious of it. We treated him for his malnutrition but were unable to intervene for his eye.

We saw some patients with significantly high blood pressure and diabetes, a few babies with scabies, but not as many as in other places. Most of the people we saw were truly ill and most of the older folks were in pain because of the hard work they do. It always amazes us how strong their hearts are and how muscular the older men are; they work very hard physically and are in much better shape than us, in general. If they had sufficient nutrition they’d be amazingly strong and healthy.

Kelly had a rough day as she got progressively sicker during the day; by day’s end she was no longer interested in driving her truck home and she had a fever of 103 by early evening. Mark gave her antibiotics; we pray she’ll be alright soon.

An old man on crutches walked slowly into the clinic; turns out he had a broken hip. He’d been to the hospital in Cayes and had x-rays taken but no one had ever told him the result. Marcia said this is common with Haitian doctors.

Our day ended on the early side (2:30) but not before a visit from the young woman who was in sepsis in October ’06 with sickle cell anemia. We didn’t even recognize her because she was so beautiful and healthy looking. God truly blessed us with her visit. It makes the whole trip worthwhile.

Mark’s son, Zach, has been a great kid to have along on this trip. He’s truly comfortable in the surroundings and makes instant connections with the Haitian children. Mark is giving him a role in some of the medical procedures, even if it’s just to come and see what a patient presents with. He talks about how he feels changed during this trip; his eyes are wide open and he’s a pleasure to have along. I hope he’ll return again.

We stopped by Marcia and Rivenson’s home to drop off some things and were give a quick tour including her nice garden in the backyard. She’s proud of her home. They have a beautiful family. Their home has large windows with decorative metal grates on the windows, but no screens. I wonder how they manage to avoid malaria and/or dengue fever?

On the way home we had a flat tire (of course!). The spare tire was completely bald but it held air long enough to carry us home. Obed’s truck is pretty marginal; the tie rods are really loose and it’s difficult to steer correctly. Mark drives it and has pretty well gotten the feel for it. Thank goodness we didn’t have the flat last night!

The evening ended with a lasagna dinner (thank you, Widger) and a long evening of companionable relaxation sitting on the balcony watching a sky full of lightning….just chatting and sharing. The team has really come together very easily; each person continues to find a satisfying place to be working. Witchner and Amoce stopped by after their prayer meeting at church; they came to tell us that Nora was interested in accompanying us to St. Elen tomorrow. She’ll bring her van and we can all travel in that, along with Kelly’s truck. We are looking forward to meeting her.

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