Monday, March 22, 2010
We had a fantastic first day. Our team consisted of a physician, two nurses, a pharmacy tech, a team leader, 3 Haitian translators, 1 Hatian driver, and an American documentary maker. Our translators were adorable. They were all 21-24 years old and translater for us throughout the day. There was one translator for every healthcare provider. My translator was Ki-Ki. I could have pinched his cheeks he was so adorable and reminded me of my own 21 year old. We started the day with a death-defying 40 minute drive to the slums of Port au Prince. There is nothing quite clearly defined as a 'lane' on the Haitian rodeways. There was some paved road, but a lot of the side streets could only loosely be termed 'streets'. There are no such thing as 'speed limits', you go as fast as you possibly can given the circumstances. Not only do you have to avoid the other vehicles, there are all the people (no distinction between sidewalk and street), and livestock, such as hogs, chickens, goats, sows. Having arrived safely (barely) we set up our clinic in a church. The pastor greeted us warmly and had a small army of helpers to assist us in any way. We unpacked our two large suitcases of medicines and supplies. We set up a makeshift pharmacy on the alter, manned by the pharmacy tech and the team leader. The physician and us two nurses each had a small table with three chairs, one for us, one for the patient, and one for the interpreter. There was a draped pulled across one room with a bed behind it for examining patients in private. The three of us each saw patients simulataneously, stopping to ask the other questions if we needed a 'consult'. I asked the physician to give an opinion on an umbilical hernia, and was asked by the physician to do a pelvic exam on a young woman. The cardiac nurse asked me to assist her with a breast exam. Otherwise, we all assessed, diagnosed, and treated our own patients. Between the three of us we saw 106 patients. I saw many babies, almost all of whom were suffering from fevers and diarrhea (a deadly combination in such a hot climate). We treated them with antibiotics, except one that had a temp so high (104) and was so lethargic she couldn't keep anything down. We told her family to take her to the hospital immediately. In the adults we saw, fungal infections, headaches, body aches, back pain, various infections. I also saw what I thought was a possible abdominal aortic aneurism, a potentially life threatening disorder. She came in insisting she was pregnant (at age 52) because her belly was getting bigger. Sure enough, a pulsing mass could be felt in her abdomen proximal to her umbilicus. We insisted she go to the hospital immediately, but she probably won't. After we saw every patient, we held hands with the pastor and his team, sang songs, and prayed and then packed up the pick up truck and made another death defying ride 'home'. I'm looking forward to my dinner of beans and rice, and a walk through the neighborhood to the local patisserrie for a croissant and ice cream! Today has been wonderful. I can't wait to do it again.