Monday, October 4, 2010
Day 5- Operation Haiti
Just when I think I've seen the most poverty possible... When we went out to clinic today, we went to another remote area waaaay off the beaten path, in fact it was off any real road. We jumped into our rented tap-tap (a taxi truck with benches in the back that we ride on) with our suitcase pharmacy and headed down the paved highway, then turned off onto a cobblestone street, then onto a mud road. The road (and I use the term loosely) led us through a low lying area that must be flooded ankle deep a good part of the year, as it was today, and yet people were living there. Walking around in the ankle deep muck and carrying on their daily business. The houses were mere shacks and more pieced together tents. I couldn't imagine living under such conditions. Water from an overflowing river mixed with what ever was in the open sewers and all was carried along in a constant stream of fluid slush. The people don't drink the water but they do use it routinely for both bathing and toileting. This is a natural breeding ground for disease. We kept driving to a point where the road literally led into the river. We stopped on the side and watched as vehicles just drove right across the quickly rising river and as one enterprising entrepreneur made a quick business of carrying people back and forth from one side to another on his back. People would drop small coins into his and and then leap on his back as he shuttled them across. Others would just remove their shoes, hike up their pants or skirt, and move briskly through the swirling rising brown water. Our driver contemplated for a few minutes if his tap-tap would make it, and we contemplated if we would be safer riding across the river or walking! I thought about paying that guy to carry me! (He would have charged me double!) Finally we all got into the tap-tap, said a quick prayer, and whoosh, down a steep embankment, across the river and up a second steep embankment where the road continued on undisturbed. Undisturbed for a mud road full of deep pits (the term pothole does not apply here). Drivers in vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles, horses, ox drawn carts (whatever!) zoom quickly from one side of the road to the other avoiding the million pedestrians also crowding the road as well as the mud and water filled pits and the other drivers. Whew. I get tired just recalling that drive. The mud road continued on leading us to a little village I have dubbed, "scabiesville" (since almost every child I saw today had track marks on their arms and legs where the little critters burrow under the skin). This was the most impoverished place I've been to date. How they eek out a living in this remote mud encrusted place I don't know. As at home, rural poverty trumps city poverty, and it broke my heart to see children living this way. We set up our clinic in a 'church' really just a tin roof over a concrete slab with open sides and lots of wooden benches in it. As they came through my triage station, I made them 'balloons' from my latex gloves. Word must have got out because soon even children who weren't being seen came to the entrance of the church and looked at me slyly until I blew up a glove for them. Again, we saw lots of sick babies with fevers and lots of elderly with sky high blood pressures. I saw one elderly woman with a blood pressure of 240/120. It would not go down after even two doses of antihypertensives (prolanolol). She hobbled away with her baggie of medication after being told to return in two weeks when the clinic returns. We finished quickly seeing everyone amid reports that the river was rising. Not wanting to be stranded in scabiesville, we packed up and headed once more across that river pretending to be a road. Sure enouygh the river was moving faster and the trip back across was even worse! George, our interpreter thought it great fun and wanted to do it again. George, I said, do you want to drown me in the river, or have me float out to sea? We arrived back home safe and sound with the most exciting thing about today being the drive to and from the clinic. My colleagues are out seeking adventures but I am content to nap after our return and journal, and waiting for what I'm sure will be another delicious Haitian meal.