7/4/17:  Medical clinic day 2

Good evening friends!  I am homesick for my family tonight.  Still, we had a successful second day at our medical clinic.  We worked with another local children’s home and set up our clinic in the same location as yesterday.  We were able to do well-child checks on about 40 kids today!  Everything flowed very smoothly after working out some minor kinks from yesterday, which was great to see!

I had the privilege of visiting this particular children’s home last year on my previous trip.  We were asked not to take pictures of the kids, so let me paint you a verbal picture.

What wonderful kids.  Polite with sweet smiles and straight white teeth, they told me about what they liked to do and what they enjoyed in school.  Most of them were so well-mannered that when I asked them how the albendazole tasted (this is a deworming medicine that tastes super yucky and smells even worse!), they would politely tell me it was “good”.   Most of the children were very healthy, with only a few minor illnesses to treat.  Overall I have been encouraged by the fact that most of the children we have seen have been pretty healthy.  That’s how it should be.  That’s how we want to keep it.

I had a great conversation on the bus today with one of the coordinators from CHI Haiti who is working with us for the week.  We talked about how the health care system in Haiti works.  There really is no primary care system currently in place in Haiti.  People do not have a doctor that knows them and follows them with the goal of keeping them healthy.  When people are sick (and often people wait until they are very sick), they go to the hospital.  When children need vaccines, the parent brings them to one of the public hospitals and stand in line to be seen.   There is also a strong vodou presence in Haiti and many people visit a witch doctor instead of, or in addition to, a physician.

In order to address the need for primary care, Community Health Workers (CHW’s) are often trained to stand in the gap.  CHW’s are lay-people who are trained by various organizations to be a resource in their community for health care needs.  They do things like teach pregnant moms about breastfeeding, or make sure that patients with tuberculosis take their medications.  Our friends at CHI train CHW’s and we look forward to learning more about this from them.

After our clinic, we had some free time to visit the tin market, which is a must-see if you are ever in PAP.  You can watch the artisans at work also.  Here are a few tin market creations:

 

We then went to Haiti Design Co for a little shopping and browsing.  HDC is a sweet little boutique that is also passionate about creating opportunities for jobs and job training in Haiti through beautiful design.  They sell jewelry, handbags, clothing, and other hand-made items.  Such gorgeous stuff, but not in my budget for today.  I’m holding out for another place we are going later this week!

Haiti Design Co

There is so much beauty in Haiti.  I think because it is a third-world country, we focus on the things that are not so beautiful, like the trash overflowing in the streets, the crime, and the corruption.  Indeed, there are some ugly things.  However, I also see beauty.  Today I saw beauty in the trees, some overflowing with mangoes, and others dripping with pink and red flowers.  I saw beauty in the sweet smiles of the children I met today.  I saw beauty in their house mother, who loves those kids and protects them fiercely.

Tomorrow is our last day of clinic, then a free day to see some things and wrap a few things up before we leave.

 

7/3/17: Medical clinic day 1

My feet are swollen.  I have full-on cankles. My legs are several shades darker than usual even though I haven’t really been in the sun.  It won’t wash off, so I’m pretty sure I have a semi-permanent dirt tan that has leached into my dermis.  Even so, totally worth it.  

We had a great day.  We set out early but not early enough to dodge the PAP traffic.  There was a vendor carrying bananas on his head that was way faster than the post-apocalyptic school bus during rush hour.  But we made it to the HAC eventually and got to work setting up the clinic while the bus went to pick up the kids from the orphanage.


We had to wait quite a while for our guests of honor to arrive, because again, traffic.  Plus, 27 kids and their caretakers on a school bus.  You do the math.  We cheered when they arrived!  


They don’t leave the orphanage much so it was quite an adventure for them to get on the bus and come spend the day with us.  We had some of our team playing downstairs while we cycled the kids through the clinic upstairs.  


Our purpose was to perform well checks but also be able to treat any simple illnesses, and identity anyone needing a referral for a more chronic issue.  This little baby (above) came in looking pretty sick.  His house mom said he had been having diarrhea for a week.  He was lethargic, dehydrated, and pretty much had the “wet dishrag” look about him.  Thankfully he was not vomiting and was able to be rehydrated orally.  By the end of the day…


…totally new kid.  Playing, peeing, the whole nine.  Thankful that we didn’t need a higher level of care for this little guy. 
The rest of the kids looked really good!  Everyone got deworming medicine (parasites are very common in close living quarters and can cause nutritional deficiencies), vitamins, and a few got prescriptions for some minor things.  

We had some wonderful people join us from Community Health Initiative (CHI) Haiti.  CHI is helping us as we learn to do this work in a culturally sensitive, efficient, safe, and sustainable manner.  


On the left is Dr. Ben, who is a Haitian physician and was a great asset to our team today!  On the right is a coordinator from CHI.  His last name is Danger so he is affectionately nicknamed Dr. Danger by the CHI team.  We had a moment of confusion this morning after I met him and thought he was an actual doctor, and almost got him set up with a stethoscope and exam table! 😆

Everything is packed up for the night and we return tomorrow to do it again.   Here are a few more pictures from our day!

In the play yard at FREM

Pharmacy set up

Oral rehydration!

Little buddy

Kids playing with Debbie

7/2/17: Church and prepping for medical clinic

Good evening friends and family!  It’s been a long tiring day, so I’m going to hit the high notes for you and then get some sleep.

We set out for church at the Valley of Hope in Chambon early this morning in our chariot for the week, which happens to be a post-apocalyptic school bus.

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I don’t know where this school bus came from originally or how it got to Haiti, but it is one serious piece of machinery.  They don’t make them like this anymore, folks.  Pretty sure something is going to give way in there sometime soon, and hopefully I will not be in it when it happens.  Anyhow, we pretty much have the biggest vehicle on the road, and everyone knows the biggest vehicle wins in Haiti.  So don’t worry mom, I’m 100% safe(ish).

We drove down the main highway out of PAP toward Chambon, and turned onto the rocky path leading to the village.  I remember it from last time we were here, but I learned today that this “road” used to be a river bed that has long ago run dry.  The trees lining the road are coated in white dust from top to bottom.   It’s a bumpy, motion-sickness inducing ride by bus but easier to navigate by moto, I’m told (minus the dust factor).

We attended church and I recognized some of the kids from last year, though I am sure I was just an unrecognizable “blan” to them (“blan” being the Haitian term for “white”, of course).  The service was in Kreyole so I did not understand what was being said, but I have this sneaky feeling they were talking about God.  Just a guess.  They are a lovely, welcoming church and greeted us at the end with smiles, handshakes, and hugs.  We then had some time to play and interact with the kids and teens.  Some of the boys got a game of soccer going, and the girls got their nails done.

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After our goodbyes, we loaded back up on the PASB (post-apocalyptic school bus) to our next destination, which was the Haitian-American Caucus (HAC), a school about 20 minutes from Chambon.  We are using the space at the HAC for our medical clinic starting tomorrow and needed to check out the space and figure out how to best use it for our needs.

After some discussion and trouble-shooting, we were able to come up with a reasonable plan and partition off some areas for triage, exam “rooms”, and an area for our pharmacy.

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Nice big space.  The far side is curtained off for examining areas, the area closest to the camera will be triage.

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Gotta do something to keep those curtains from flapping in the wind!

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Resourcefulness is key.

 

We are expecting about 35 kids from an orphanage tomorrow that our organization has a long-standing relationship with.  I had the privilege of visiting this particular orphanage last year.   We expect a learning curve with our process but we are excited to see our little friends from FREM.

The evening was spent having dinner, planning and assigning roles for tomorrow, and sorting medical supplies so we are ready to go bright and early.  Can’t wait to share more with you tomorrow!

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Do not let Frank provide you with medical care of any kind.

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Hmmm, what’s this for again?

 

Haiti, take 2!

Today is the day!  I set out for Port-au-Prince early this morning, waking my bleary-eyed family at 3:15 am so they could take me to the airport.  I felt bad about dragging the kids out of their beds for a hot second, until I remembered all of the times they have woken me up in the middle of the night and I realized–PAYBACK TIME, BABY!

This trip has been about a year in the making in terms of planning, although most of the details have just started coming together in the last 2 months.  I am working with the International Mission Foundation, and this will be the first of hopefully many trips to work on a community development project in Chambon, which is a rural village about 1.5 hours east of Port-au-Prince.  The long-term goal is to help them establish a free-standing medical clinic to be staffed by a Haitian doctor.  In the short-term, we will be doing some mobile medical clinics, needs assessment, as well as identifying and training some local lay people to become community health workers (CHW’s).

We have very recently started an exciting collaboration with Community Health Initiative (CHI) Haiti.  This is a really solid organization that has been doing similar work in Arcahaie, Haiti.  They have graciously agreed to allow us to partner with them and learn their model, with the hope that we can replicate it in Chambon.  We are so grateful for their experience, resources, and influence.  Several of their experienced staff members will meet us in Port-au-Prince on Monday and help us with the mobile clinic next week.

In the past week I have been frantically packing and pondering all the details, in addition to trying to keep the kids amused and supervised on their first week of summer vacation.  I did fit in another really great “field trip” to Intervol, where I was able to pick up a motherlode of medical supplies.  Our pharmacy order arrived last week, just in the nick of time.  A little too close for comfort for me, but that’s how it goes sometimes.

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Got my supplies on!

The kids helped me pack.  They are actually at an age where it was genuinely useful to have them helping!

 

 

So here is what I like to do when I am stressed about something big.  I like to choose something minute to obsess over.  It works for me, I think.  So last night I started fretting about the liquid restrictions for carry-on baggage.  Can I tell you, I just hate airports and all of their RULES.  It’s all so confusing.  I am the worst at airports.  I always make a fool of myself at security and I was totally determined not to do it again.  I had to text my friend Keri for a liquid consult.  I feel so befuddled by it all.  I get that shampoo and conditioner and body wash are liquids.  But what about face creams?  Because those aren’t really liquids.  Technically I would call them semi-solids.  So do they get pulled out for security check or not?  Also I have this ointment, which is really just a little thicker than a cream, so is that allowed?  Actually, it’s more the consistency of peanut butter.  And last time I went to Haiti, peanut butter was OK with the TSA state-side, but going back from Haiti to the USA the peanut butter got confiscated because it was considered a liquid.  What?  HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW WHAT TO DO?  

Airports are hard for me.

Anyhoo, I met up with some of the team at the connection in Atlanta:

We have a really big team this time, compared to the small team I was on last year.  There are 12 from a church in Alabama (most with some kind of medical/nursing/EMT training), in addition to me and another woman from North Carolina.  We also have a group of ladies from New Brunswick (Oh, Canada!) who met us down here around dinner time and will help us with the administrative and logistical parts of the medical clinic.

That’s it for tonight!  For those of you who are following, I will try to post a little something every day!

Revenge of the school bus driver

Last week was the last day of school.  Both kids came home with a mix of emotions, and ran off the school bus eager to tell me all the sad and tragic and happy things.  My oldest is starting middle school in the fall so he is dealing with the excitement of moving up, combined with sadness at leaving his elementary school and a healthy amount of fear of the unknown.   We talked and hugged, checked out their report cards, had a snack, and I sent them out to play.

About a half-hour after later, Leah came running inside to tell me that their bus driver had driven by our house on his motorcycle to give them a present!  She promptly checked with the kids next door and down the street and confirmed that she and her brother were the only lucky recipients of a special gift from the bus driver.  Why  this matters to her, I don’t know.  Everything’s a competition when you’re eight, even winning favor from your school bus driver.

Then I saw what the bus driver got them.  HE GAVE EACH OF THEM AN AIR HORN.


You guys, what do you think my kids DID to the bus driver this year, exactly?  And why is he punishing ME for it?  I am guessing he holds me responsible in some way.  I swear, I knew nothing of any misbehavior on the bus this year.  If they did something to tick him off, he could have just talked to me about it and I would have nipped it in the bud.  That’s the kind of parent I am.  I am a bud-nipper.

But no.  Instead, he bided his time.  Waiting.  For just the right moment.  For the first day of summer vacation, when they were returned fully to our care for two whole months.  When he KNEW there was no way they could bring those devil’s instruments on the bus.  He’s no fool.

On the bright side, they have learned a few musical tunes.  See “Jaws on the air horn” below.