Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Haiti Day 5: The Slums

Another 228 children seen today. Another image of poverty that took our breath away. The clinic itself was not that unusual. The road was bad enough that we had to park the bus several blocks away and walk, due to the ruts, the water and the poor condition. The 2 security police that were with us, called for back up support due to the area that we were in. Once you see the pictures you'll have a better idea of what I'm talking about. That aside, what we saw should never be. No one should have to live in the filth that we saw. No child should have to play in the garbage. But then again, who are we to judge. When I look back at the week, I saw some definite changes in the team. We realized how fortunate and yet vulnerable we are. We realized that life passes us too fast and if we don't slow down, we'll run out of time to experience all that is given to us. We believe we made a difference...for others, but also for ourselves. We're different becasue of what we did and who we've become. The hard taskmaster is to stay that way and not go back to who we were. As for where we go next, we'll see. For now I'm thiniking of today and wondering if I could ever live in a place like that. I'm not really sure. But then again, the children that we saw, had smiles on their faces, as they played barefoot in piles of garbage. Maybe they know something about life that I don't know. I'd sure like to find out. I'll let you know when it do.

In all things give thanks,

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Haiti Day 4: Oaunaminthe

About 350 children seen, one emergency, and a long ride back and forth. The day went well, with a lot of children seen. We had 3 Haitian pediatric residents with us and a local doctor as well.

Here's the story of the day: a woman comes to the clinic carrying a limp child, about 1 and a half years old, large head and with cerebral palsy. She says she found the child yesterday in the street in a pile of garbage. We take the child, rush him to the back room, start an IV, give fluids, antibiotics and he looks better. The local doctor takes off to find an orphanage that is willing to take the child. He and I both suspect something is not right. From the way she was holding the child, the way she looked at him, the way she got him to eat, said a lot. I get an interpreter to help understand the events of yesterday. Where did she find the child? Had she ever seen the child before? Did she have any idea who the mother could be? I did find out that she has 10 children and that she lives in the street. The local doctor returns and says that the orphanage is full and that the child with cerebral palsy would be too difficult to care for. We both talk about our suspicion and go talk to the mother. We tell her that "we will help her and her child." She says thank you. We all know now what the real story is. We gave her the opportunity to say what she couldn't say. We didn't shame her, nor humiliate her. We didn't judge. By telling her that we would help her and "her child" we told her we knew he was hers. She had tired to find a way to find care for him, beyond what she could provide herself. She was willing to give up her child, but could not bring it on herself to openly tell us that she was giving him up. The story was made up. We got the local pastor, got her tied in to the church, set up continuing medical care for her with the local doctor, got the child started on a nutrition program, gave the child needed medicines, and she left with the child as she had come. As a mother.

In a world such as ours, with poverty and hardship beyond description, people will do desperate things. We helped her without taking away her dignity. She had the best interest of her child at heart. She was not abandoning him. She was trying to find someone who could care for him and give him what he needed with his disabilities. We gave her a sense of dignity, and the child a chance to have a life. How good of one, is yet to be seen.

I ask the question over and over again: for what purpose are we here? And after today, it becomes clearer. To serve those who have nothing, who out of desperation will give up their own children to insure their children will have a better life. To realize our own short comings and our inadequacies. But above, all to give those who have not, a chance to have their dignity and to be recognized as persons, not forgotten, but embraced for who they are. It makes me wonder why it is sometimes so hard to do. It wasn't today. Let's hope it's not that hard tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after that...

In all things give thanks,

Monday, November 02, 2009

Haiti Day 3: Limbe

23 miles and a 1 hour and 45 minute drive to get to where we were going today. To say the road was less than perfect is an understatement. We saw a little over 300 patients today, in a very small building, little light, a generator that had a mind of its own, and people everywhere. We saw patients, played with the children, and did the "chicken dance".

I brought with me a small water filtration system that is amazing. Using a 5 gallon bucket, I hand drill a hole in to the side, attach a pipe connector, attach a small filter and let the dirty water (and I mean dirty: drain wter with dirt from the ground mixed in) drain through the filter by gravity. (I'll post pictures when I get back). The water came out crystal clear, and with a crowd around me, I drank it. Quite the experience. With a $45 filter kit, we now have pure drinking water for a village.

We had a local doctor meet us there today as well, and he saw patients with us. I'm hoping that he will continue to care for the children when we are gone. I'll be taking 3 Haitian pediatric residents with us tomorrow from the pediatric hospital.

We saw the usual types of patients. A lot of rashes, stomach aches, abscesses, generalized malaise, and parasitic disease. One of our doctor's saw an 80 year old woman (after all the MoM children are seen, we see adults) who had had a stroke a year ago, and had one side of her body paralyzed as a result. One side of her face was also paralyzed. When asked what we could do for her, she said "can you help me smile again." No much more I can say to that.

Haiti is a torn country, devasted by war, revolts, corruption and poverty. It is said that "your lucky to be alive in Haiti." The poorest country in the western hemisphere. But the smiles on the children that we saw today, as they danced and played with the team seemed to make up for that. The smile of a child is richer than all of the gold in world. We smiled all the back to the hotel tonight and I'll fall asleep with a smile on my face knowing that we made this day, one that they may never forget.

In all things give thanks,

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Haiti Day 2: Trou de Nord

Early start, late arrival, bad roads, pot holes, people, animals, narrow streets, garbage everywhere, and hot and humid. Hello Haiti. We get to the site where we are going to have the clinic, and start to set up. A few glitches, rearranging, reassigning, and we're off. We saw 110 patients in the morning and 110 in the afternoon. 220 total patients seen in about 6 hours. A slow start but thorough and complete. We didn't see anything out of the ordianary: rashes, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, etc. 2 semi emergencies: 1 woman with heat exhaustion and a lethargic child. Both did fine after we cared for them.

The pastor of the church where we were, gave a very touching speech of thanks at the end, which gave all of us a mirror to look at: what we do, and what we are can be seen by others, and yes, by ourselves, as noble and humanitarian...for the week that we are here. The pastor's work is everyday, without rest, without question: caring for the forgotten children. Noble and humanitarian. It made me at least look in the mirror and see who I am, not what I am. A servant to those who came to us, the ill, the suffering, the hungry and the poor, their hands out stretched. I wonder if I will still see that "who" in the mirror when I get home. I can only hope.

In all things give thanks,