Sunday, August 8, 2010

A few journal entries: Jean Peteet Two week volunteer in July

7/8 A 22 young man came for bilat knee pain. Plays basketball- had a PA Strikers jersey on- had gotten hit in both knees. Looked at least like bilat medial strain to his knees. His passion was playing ball. Able to find an elbow elastic support that we turned into a knee support! He was so pleased. He told us how much Haiti needed volunteers from around the world and how grateful he was that we had come. Made me tearful. I told him how beautiful and courageous I thought Haitians were. He seemed surprised to hear that. That’s all I needed to make my day.

7/9 Seeing lots of generalized pain as well as job specific pain. 22 yo taxi driver came with acute low back spasms. Drives a manual transmission all day, old cars, poor support in the car seats. Another young girl, about 18 came in with neck/shoulder, knee, foot pain. Had bilateral flat feet. Has been unable to work. Her job was carrying heavy goods on her head- footwear in Haiti is so inadequate for the work they do. She really needs orthotics or at the least shoes with some arch support. I had brought a pair of crocs; we asked our Haitian speech therapist if crocs were considered fashionable in Haiti and she said no. Not surprisingly, the girl did not like them. No solution for her. A 60 yo woman can in with an old symes’ amputation. She had beat up high top shoes filled with rags to fill the space of her foot. Put her on the orthotics list but it will be a long time before they get to her. Diana Cherry from Mission of Hope came by to pick up some supplies left by Keith, the CPO who volunteered the previous week. She said MH is only able to make 3 prostheses a week. Given that there seem to be only 3 places in the area that are geared up to make prostheses, it’s going to take a long time to get everyone fitted. Many of the amputees are kids, too, and will need ongoing revisions to their limbs.

7/10 Glad that we had the clinic open on Saturday morning; no other clinics in the hospital are open on Saturdays. Two families came in and one woman who cannot come during the week. Henri, the host at the guest house invited us to go up to a high point where there is a wonderful view of the city and we spent the rest of the day into the evening with him and Vincent, his son. His cousin has a beautiful art shop in Petionville where we shopped. From there we went up the mountain and the view was striking. We could see many of the tents, and the density and lack of trees or anything green around port-au- prince was striking. He then took us through the worst of the earthquake. It was hard to look at it. It was like a bombed out city; block after block of collapsed or partially collapsed buildings. It looked like pictures of Germany and London in WWII. Street life has returned and people have set up stands outside the rubble selling bed frames, mattresses, used clothing, candy, used shoes, new shoes, new suits in plastic bags, as well as prescription drugs that Henri said have expired dates. We saw the partially collapsed palace and immediately in front of it is a huge tent city that stank of urine, so much so that we raised the windows. The tents are packed in with no room between and only a narrow path going down the rows of tents. People able to buy charcoal and have a means of cooking apparently cook just inside their tents. In the midst of this chaos, we passed by two wedding parties with people immaculately dressed and it was incredible to see with most of the people, how clean and neat their clothing was, despite the awful conditions in which they live. Henri says that the government wants to tear down the inner city that has been damaged and start over, creating an area for businesses and markets. He is pessimistic that this will happen; often the government starts such projects but never finishes them. Stopped in a grocery store; food and non food items are much more expensive than in the U.S. because the Haitian government has no way of collecting income tax, thus they tax things people buy in the stores. Also, everyone has to buy water and a ½ liter costs $1. There have got to be a lot of people who are chronically dehydrated.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Donna - I want a magic wand to make all that we need just appear!

Julien, a dynamic man with an amazing smile, came to our clinic with a friend earlier in the week who had a badly infected finger. We referred her to another hospital for care. When he learned what we were doing, he told us his story. He has created an orphanage near the hospital for children who were orphaned after the earthquake, or simply had families who could no longer care for them. He has a two room concrete structure he found, and has set up 2 tents outside for sleeping. He is caring for 100 children from babies up to about 12 years. He said he only has room for 100 to sleep, but wishes he could fit more. He has another 50 children who he feeds when he is able to get provisions but they are on a “waiting list” so to speak to stay full time. He asked if we could come by and see some of the children as many have infected cuts and foot wounds. We gathered a bag of supplies today and walked down several dirt roads, over an abandoned truck, up a steep hill and arrived to the sound of children singing. Julien had the children practice a program of several songs for us, and they announced in their best English, “Welcome Global Therapy Group!!!” We created an assembly line to dress wounds and take note of children who needed to be taken to the free community clinic at the hospital as they were beyond our scope of help. One of the adult helpers had what at first appeared to be an infected pimple on his cheek, but after examination I think it may be a parasite infection. I had no clue how to address that and honestly did not want to try! We handed out vitamins, peanuts and M&M’s, and inflated blue rubber gloves as balloons. The children were all so appreciative and sweet. Julien told us he is able to find money to buy them bread most days, and occasionally rice, but he is struggling. JoAnn and Jane are looking into how to connect him with an aide organization. He is doing this all on his own and said he could not simply walk away from all these children in need. We wonder how many others are doing the same and how many children there are now alone in Haiti.
We discovered several of the “Lost Boys” that come to the clinic are on his waiting list. We have tried to make sure all the boys who visit us each day have a decent pair of shoes and eat at least one meal with us. And we try to “play” each day. Frisbee, volleyball with beach balls, Keep away, dancing. Anything to elicit a smile and make your troubles evaporate for a short time. I think we need it more than they do most days.
When my family comes next week, I will have my daughter visit the orphanage several days to sing and play with them. They are all so pleased to just receive the attention. We hope to come up with some food options at least for the short term. So much need here. We do the best we can and sometimes find we do not ask the questions as the answers are too heartbreaking. The children’s smiles are what keep us going daily.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Donna - Wednesday 8/4/10

Clifford came to the clinic today!!! He received his prosthetic leg yesterday and today was walking all over our clinic with it and his little crutches. Best of all he had a big smile on his face. The sad and traumatized little boy we first met seems to be recovering.
Judeline walked with the assist of only one hand today, without her crutch. She did not do this to impress us as therapists, but because a handsome 20 year old man who was assisting us asked her to try. She just turned 16 and we have learned what motivates her best. We will enlist my 20 year old son next week!
We have had several new patients this week both in the clinic and in-patients at the hospital. They have arrived with various complaints, but asking for exercises to help make them better. Before we arrived, “physio therapy” in Haiti meant massage. Our first week patients arrived asking for massage and we tried our best to educate them about our version of therapy. The word seems to have gotten out now that exercise is what will make you better. Yeah!!!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Donna - Tuesday 8/3

We are back in a rhythm at the clinic after just two days. It is so wonderful to see some of the patients we cared for back in April and May again and celebrate with them all the progress they have made. The hospital doctors welcomed us back and thanked us for continuing to run the clinic. An orthopedic surgeon sent us a referral today on a complex patient and when I stopped by to thank him he said,” I knew I could count on your group to help her. You are all so wonderful.” Encouraging words like that from one of the doctors makes all the hard work worth it. We also received big hugs from the nurses we had become friends with. Marie Nichole, one of the head nurses, still wears the scrub top I gave her every day. Another great moment yesterday was receiving a referral from one of the doctors for a woman who had a new stroke. She had come to the hospital the day before we arrived. When we asked the family if they were moving her at all in bed they responded, “The nurses told us we have to roll her over every hour.” Hooray!!!!!! JoAnn’s inservice teaching about preventing bed sores was effective if the nurses are now instructing the families themselves.

We spent time this afternoon with all the young boys who hang around the hospital. Anyone with shoes that were worn was given new ones. Little David who I wrote about before, was thrilled with his new sandals and had a smaller pair of pants on today so could run better. He asked me often today for water and I poured many drinks into his mouth. We marveled at how children that young run free in Haiti. He appears to be about four. Does he have a family? Where does he sleep at night? He was so grateful for the attention and shoes today that he wanted to help us put all the clinic supplies away. He insisted on carrying big items, one in each arm, and would not allow us to refuse his help. He seems to have already learned at four that if you make yourself useful to others, you may find a way to receive what you need. We brought out a Frisbee and taught everyone the game. Little David was the best of all of them! Jane, another OT volunteer, blew up blue surgical gloves and made volleyballs for everyone to play with. We shared a box of Fruit Loops which no one had ever heard of. Even the translators enjoyed those.

We had a meeting with the main hospital administrators Monday afternoon and are working out details for a partnership to ensure the clinic can continue long term and eventually without us. I am encouraged, but know much work is still ahead.

We bought some sugarcane from a sidewalk vendor today to enjoy for dessert. We are finding the mangos and avocados delicious and found a new fruit of white banana tasty. It is still rather hot and humid, but I guess Kansas City was 105 today so I feel better! Granted you all have a/c, but we are managing fine with just our fans.
We have decided the Haitian beer Prestige is far superior to the Dominican beer Presidente and will now move on to rum tastings.

Bon Nuit!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Donna - Haiti in the summer? Not as hot as I expected!

I am back in Haiti for the third time in four months. I feel a calm this time that I know is partly because things have become familiar and easy, but also seems to come from the city of Port au Prince itself. The chaos that existed after the earthquake has been replaced by the even rhythm of everyday life. The airport is more organized. Some of the rubble is starting to be removed. More sidewalk space is open for people to sit everywhere again and sell their wares. The hospital is quieter with fewer patients and no foreign medical volunteers in sight today. Except for us that is. What a welcome we received! Our translators were so happy to see us and the children full of smiles. Judeline is still staying at the hospital, but will be traveling soon with her mother to the US for follow-up surgery on her hand and rehab. She giggled when she saw us, and then looked nervous when she realized we would make her begin working hard again! She was happy to show us the progress she had made with her left arm and hand as long as we did not want to touch it and stretch those tight joints and tendons ourselves. She is able to walk with only one crutch now with assistance, but still tries to get her mom to put her prosthesis on for her. JoAnn did not let her get away with that today!

The previous teams have done a great job of organizing the clinic and our supplies. We have several rows of chairs now for the waiting area and a few chairs for the therapists as well. We have a new metal “check-in” table and a set of parallel bars created for us by college students from Canada from what appears to have once been a red iron door frame. We have two treatment tables and neither of them wobbles when a patient climbs up on them! We have a new supply of wheelchairs to give out as needed and found many supplies today we thought had been lost, but only misplaced. It was like coming back to your house after a vacation and finding someone had cleaned, redecorated and added great things. Unfortunately, the rains continue to take a toll on our tarp roof. There is a large hole in the center again, but it’s still standing.

Our new guest house, in the home of Caroline and Henri, is just lovely. It is 3 rooms of beds and a bath, with a large outdoor patio and eating area surrounded by tropical plants and flowers. It is less than a mile from the hospital in a dense, wooded, park-like setting. It reminds me of Central Park in New York. An oasis of nature and calm in the midst of a busy urban area. Tina and Oreo their sweet dogs greet us in the evenings and Cassie the kitten chases the lizards. We have learned the lizards in the morning are dark green, and the ones that come out at night look almost albino they are such a pale green. And there are no tree frogs here to keep us awake with their mating calls all night!

We visited the JP-HRO camp to speak with their medical director today. JoAnn was very disappointed that Sean Penn was not around. She is still kicking herself for not going with me the last time and missing his great smile. What a marvel of organization they have created in a small area serving over 50,000 people. They are in this for the long haul and it’s obvious how hard everyone is working. We also visited with the heads of Healing Hands for Haiti and learned the Red Cross has awarded them funding to build a major rehabilitation and prosthetics center over the next 18 months. We are so excited for them. They were serving the people of Haiti for years before the earthquake and I know this will enable them to provide the services in a way they had only dreamed about before.

Best Haiti moment today: The hugs and smiles from the translators and children at the clinic. It was like seeing family again.

Saddest Haiti moment: A new little boy of about four I had not met before was wandering around outside the hospital. He is wearing pants too large for him, so he must hold them up while he runs. He has a pair or sandals with the front piece torn off one foot that he carries most of the time and occasionally is able to re-attach. After tripping over the broken piece for about the 10th time today he stopped in front of me, looked so frustrated, and simply pointed at them as if to say “I could really use another pair of shoes lady!” In my feeble creole I said “lundi” meaning Monday. He shrugged his shoulders, picked up the broken rubber front flap, grabbed his pants and moved on. One of our previous volunteers Mary, had sent many pairs of sandals with me for the children, so we decided Monday will be “New Shoe Day.” I will also use one of our Velcro straps to create a belt for him. With new shoes and a belt, walking or running can be effortless for him again. Isn’t that how it should be when you are four?