Labor Repose

Labor Repose
LaborPayne during her 6th homebirth (9th baby) at age 44

Monday, October 4, 2010

Day 6- Opertion Haiti

Today we took the road into Fondwa. What an amazing day! It started early as our tap tap arrived from Petionville with Chris and Rebecca, and Jessie ( the rest of our little party of five, that had remained in Petionville). They were going to make the trip to Fondwa with us. We climbed into the back of the caged truck and headed up and into the mountains. It was an hour''s drive into the most spectacular mountains. The entire trip was worth the view of those mountains. However. The trip was death defying. Imagine (if you will) a two lane paved highway weaving in and out and up the mountain. On the highway are vehicles of all types and sizes going at speeds of their own discretion, ox carts, tap taps with passengers sitting on top and hanging off the side, pedestrians, bulldozers, whatever, you name it. The view was magnificent- if you didn't look down. Once we all arrived (safe and sound) we set up clinic at a 'clinic in a can' . We had 75 patients already waiting when we arrived. We had two docs, and three nurses, and two nursing students in our group, along with Rebecca and Sister Marie (who came along to visit. the orphanage at Fondwa). Two nurses went to work in the pharmacy, and I did triage with the two students. We got through about 50 patients before we had to pack up and leave. Because I was in charge of the triage, I personally had to turn away folks and say no, Madam, no doctor, after they had been waiting all morning- not a pleasant experience. I felt like a captain leaving people off the life raft.. I had to decide who of those remaining would see the doctor. I went between the rows looking at their intake sheets. I decided my criteria would be, febrile infants and children, hypertensive elderly, and obvious skin conditions. All the rest I had to turn away. One of the nurses thought it would be a good idea to pass out bottles of pedialyte as "consolation prizes". It wasn't. Mass chaos ensued. Its never a good idea to have a mass giveaway in Haiti. Crowds will swarm. The giveaway quickly ended as we finished seeing the last of the patients, and got on the truck and headed to the Orphanage for lunch. We had to be out of Fondwa by a certain time to avoid the afternoon rains which could leave the road undriveable. The sisterswho ran the orphanage were all in Port au Prince for a retreat. We didn't get to see much of the orphanage at all, but I understand that they lost all their buildings and there was loss of life among both the nuns and the orphans. I t appeared quite a dismal place from what I could see, but at least in the mountains there was clean air to breathe. Down in PaP all the kids had crappy lungs full of who knows what from breathing in very polluted air. Lunch was prepared for us anyway and served by the ladies that work at the orphanage. It was a beautiful feast. There was fried chicken, beans and rice, a corn and pea salad, fresh tomatoes and plantains, a chopped vegetable salad, and green beans. It was both beautiful and delicious. I may have made a critical misstep by drinking the water placed on the table. I didn't want to go out to the truck to get my water bottle, and I could taste the bleach in it used to purify it. Even so, I drank two glasses. Time will tell if I get Toussaint L' Ouverture's revenge! The drive out of Fondwa was marked by stopping for crews to remove dirt off the highway from frequent dirt slides (horrors to think if it had rained while we were there- mud slide anyone?) You really can see the work of deforestation in the mountains. It is still lush and green and beautiful to behold, but it is also obvious that it would be a lot more lush and green if so many trees had not been removed. I'm sure the road is out many times with fall out from mud and rock slides that without tree growth permit soil erosion. The trip back down the mountain was just as death defying. It did not rain, but the clouds moved over the landscape as if it would. You really feel like you've accomplished something if you survive the trip to Fondwa! We stopped in Leogone to get our suitcases and say goodbye to our hosts. I will miss George and Dr. Denton and the family of kittens, and the Dr.'s three little ones, and the Dr's wife's good cooking, and my big queen size comfortable bed. We get back into the truck and head for Petionville where we'll spend the rest of our time. Unfortunately we hit Port au Prince at evening rush hour coming back into town and it takes us nearly five hours to do a drive that normally takes about two hours. We move at a snail's pace through the Friday evening traffic in which the Haitian's obviously aren't in a hurry to get anywhere. Of course, it doesn't help that things such as lanes, traffic lights, rules of the road ect, don't exist here. You move along when you can, where you can. Back at the air-conditioned mansion in Petionville with almost reliable internet and almost reliable electricity seems a luxury. Back in Leogone we lost electricity on Tuesday and got by the rest of the week on Dr. Denton's generators! We kept thinking the 'state run electricity' would come back on, but it never did. The house in Petionville has its own backup generators as well. Its now nearly 11:00 and time to head to bed. We have a half day of clinic in the Port au Prince clinic and then shopping at the market and a happy hour. For me the hour will be sad, because it will mark the end to this remarkable journey. We leave for the airport at 6am on Sunday.


Unknown said...

Of historical interest -- You can see a clip of Toussaint's last moments in prison from the award-winning new short film "The Last Days of Toussaint L'Ouverture" at This film is the basis for a new feature (not with Danny Glover) that is in development.

LaborPayne said...

Thanks Martha,
I checked it out. Looks like an interesting project and good subject matter for a film.