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Tuesday, November 9, 2010


We often find children standing outside our gate, hoping for food, sandals, or a band-aid. Last week Alicia found a young girl seeking help for her mom. A few weeks ago, when we had our board member doctor visiting, Dr. Eddie, I'd gone with him to visit this same woman. She was unable to walk for some unknown reason and had difficulty speaking. Dr. Eddie suspected botulism poisoning due to her symptoms, but without being able to do tests, we weren't able to help her very much. We did give her money to go to a hospital and a couple of friends or family members promised to take her. Since then I'd seen her daughters multiple times at our feeding program and they'd said she was better (although I don't know what her diagnosis was).

I recruited Erta to translate and Matt, who is working with our transition program for a few months, to drive to her home, which is a tent not too far from us. Normally we'd have walked, but we've been on a hurricane watch (more on that later), it was raining, and it was getting later in the day. I also anticipated that we might need to drive her to a hospital. We also brought along Dana, a nurse visiting us for the week, and an elderly neighbor of the woman. Upon arriving at her home we found the woman laying on a piece of wood covered by a rug which served as her bed. She shared that 10 days ago she'd had an operation to remove an ovarian cyst by a "blan" at a church. Instead of doing it laparoscopically (with a small abdominal incision using a video camera) it had been done vaginally. She described it like they'd ripped the cyst out of her. Reminds me of hack-job abortions. The day before she'd started bleeding vaginally and experiencing extreme pain. Her respiratory rate was 60, where normal is 12-20. Matt and her family helped her hobble to the truck and we took off, looking for a hospital where this woman (Tascha) had previously received care for another condition. What we didn't realize was what getting to this hospital would take.

The person directing us to the hospital doesn't exactly know the difference between their left and right. So, she pointed each direction with her finger at the exact time we had passed where she wanted us to go. Finally it was decided that I would verbalize the pointing finger's direction in the hopes that Matt would make the correct turn in time. The side roads were muddy from the light rain falling all afternoon. We pulled up to a densely populated tent city but couldn't drive far in due to our tires getting stuck in the mud. We decided to climb up to the hospital. After walking about a foot, we realized that we should check to make sure this hospital was actually open as some people standing outside their tents claimed it was closed and others, of course, claimed it was open. Erta and I began the hike, with the elderly woman, Mari, sometimes trailing behind and other times passing us by, as well as her fourteen year old son. Matt and Dana waited at the bottom with Tascha. We walked through the sticky mud that clung to my tennis shoes and created a second sole underneath Erta's sandals. The hill was lined with tents and sandbags that were used as stairs. At one point we looked back to find Matt, along with two Haitian men (unknown to us) carrying Tascha. These men were strong and motivated and whisked the woman away from Matt. Meanwhile, Erta clung to Dana and I to not get stuck or to fall in the mud. At the top of the hill, we found a small hospital in the process of shutting down. A Haitian woman speaking English explained that the hospital was closing due to the pending Hurricane Tomas. She suggested we try another hospital downtown that treats women with gynecologic problems. The men swept up Tascha in their arms and preceded down the hill. Erta's feet were so caked in mud that it seemed better to just walk without them, as grandma did and made it down with no problems. As we walked, Erta and Dana questioned why a hospital would close during a hurricane. Aren't they necessary during a crisis? They would run now? To me, it seemed like a better idea to pack up and leave if they couldn't handle the disaster and the patient load. During the earthquake, sometimes I wished that someone would tell me to pack up and leave. I felt like a fraud.

Tascha directed us out of the tent cities and through downtown to get to the second hospital. All the while, Matt drove with his head out of the car because the windows had difficulty defrosting. Upon arrival at the hospital, Erta and I took the lady inside, where they had a wash station for washing hands at the entrance (Cholera precaution). She was only able to bring one person past the entrance with her, her son. She insisted that we head back as it was dark. We gave her some money and wished her well, promising to contact her daughter to find out news about her.

The next day I saw her daughter at the feeding program, where she said that her mom wasn't able to stay at the hospital that night. They'd sent her home because that hospital only saw pregnant women. When we'd dropped her off, Erta had told them her problem. Why didn't they explain that they only saw pregnant woman? The daughter said her mom was going to try another hospital. Yesterday I saw her daughter again and she said her mom was feeling better after being seen at the first hospital we had traveled to that night. Sometimes it takes a story like this to get the medical care you need here.

Hurricane update: After much talk about Hurricane Tomas blowing through Haiti and preparing here at MdL as much as possible for its arrival, all we received was a little rain over a few days. This shouldn't minimize the fact that people in tents and inadequate housing are suffering much in this season. Out in the countryside, in cities like Jeremie, Gonaives, and Jacmel homes were flooded and a handful of people died. Please continue to pray for Haiti and its people. Pray that they will drawer nearer to God in the midst of their suffering and that God would provide for their needs.