Saturday, February 13, 2010

More Long Days in Haiti

It rained again last night, another sign of what is to come.I had to go and clean up our old friend known by most around the hospital as "Papa Poo Poo". He came in on my first day there, passed out in a wheelchair. Everyone thought he was drunk and put him to the side. Turns out he may have suffered a stroke or something and was definitely dehydrated and malnourished. He's at the back of the compound and not really assigned to any one nurse, but we all go visit him and take care of him throughout the day. Papa Poo Poo was covered in feces and flies. I went over to him with some soap, water, a fresh diaper and gown. I bathed him, got him some fluids, and fed him some rice. As I was leaving, this young guy came over to me and was saying something in French. I asked the translator what he was saying and found out he was saying, "You are so gracious... I love you." I nearly started to cry. I think about people like Papa Poo Poo and the elderly lady who sits beside him in the corner. They have no family. Where will they go when they leave the hospital? They have no home to return to, there are no homeless shelters, board n lodges here. There is no medicare, medicaid and no such thing as public nursing homes. If you can't pay to go into a nursing home and don't have any family, then you are destined to die on the streets alone. While there are plenty of orphanages here, the elderly seem to have been forgotten about. Aren't their lives just as valuable as the young ones being saved? This leads me to the other issue of discharging patients in general. It's a very difficult thing to do here under the circumstances. There are patients with amputations and external fixators who are just a few days post-op, but well enough to leave at the cost of freeing up another valuable bed for the next person who's post-op that would have to go without. These people don't want to leave. At the hospital they are being cared for, fed, given water, medication, shelter, safety, and plenty of love. The only thing they have to look forward to once they leave the compound is a makeshift tent, the rainy season, and trying to now provide food and water for themselves while healing. It's really heartbreaking to have to tell a patient, "I'm sorry but you have to leave now." Many of them don't even have the transportation to get picked up. It's hard to balance where the patient care shifts into patient housing, and at what price one bed should be abandoned to make room for another. Because the severity of cases is diminishing, that urgency is changing as well.

The day was a pretty uneventful one until it came time to leave. Just as we were walking out and passing the ER, a baby wrapped in a sheet being hung like a hammock passed by. It was a 3 year old that had come in earlier for failure to thrive. He was malnurished, had that protein deficiency condition where the belly swells, and was dehydrated. His little body just gave up and died on the table. We followed the body out. I laid my hand on his little chest and said a little prayer, wishing him peace on his journey to heaven. It's just so sad to see first hand, children who are flat out dying because they don't have the resources to keep their bodies running. After the baby died, there was a different mood around the hospital. Everyone was rather somber. It was like a kick to the gut.

On our walk in today we passed kids who had made kites out of plastic trash bags and string. They actually flew in the air and looked like kites. Really sweet to see how they can make something out of nothing. On our way in, we stopped at the Church to do our little prayer and ended up having this Haitian woman and her child come and join us. We all prayed together and it was very sweet.

The clouds were rolling in again today by about 4pm. Fortunately, the rains never came though... but that's going to change very soon. This was a great day, it started with a good laugh as I looked over and noticed my roommate Kim's sheet had two holes in the middle of it. We figured out the two holes were placed perfectly in line with your eyes. We laughed because we realized the creativity and resourcefulness of the Haitian people to make a Halloween costume out of a sheet. It was a ghost! On our way out today, we had to say goodbye to some of our new friends New Jersey cop George, California nurse Debbie, and Haitian native Margaret. It's hard to see you're new friends leave, especially in such a lonely place.

At the hospital today, I met a nice lady at the hospital today who was so sweet and took my pile of dirty sweaty clothes and did a load of laundry for me. It is so nice to have clean clothes! The day was one of the best ones yet. I'm really getting to know and care for my patients. I look forward to seeing them and taking care of them. One of my girls was turning 23 today. It was her birthday and I was determined to make it special for her. I rounded up nurses and docs from around the hospital to find little trinkets that we could give her for her b-day. We ended up with a box of kleenex, hand lotion, deoderant, body wash, and crocheted little teddy bear that was handmade by our nurse Susie. She made it on her flight here and has been waiting for the right person to give it to. I found some sterile drapes that we wrapped the presents in with medical tape. We got a protein bar for a cake, took a cutip, dipped it in alcohol, and lit it for the candle. Also, we made a card for her that an interpreter helped us write in French, "Happy Birthday, Feel Better Soon, We Love You." Lots of us signed the card, huddled up, and then started walking to her tent singing "Happy Birthday" in French. She looked up and got the biggest smile from ear to ear. She and her family and everyone else in that tent was so excited. This patient had her left leg amputated a few days ago and still might lose her right leg before it's all said and done. Just for a moment, she forgot about her legs and was counting her blessings. We all watched her open her presents which she was so grateful for. When she got to the teddy bear she held it up and hugged it and pulled it close to her. She was so happy! It was the highlight of the day for all of us and such a reminder that joy can still be found in the midst of tragedy and loss. Later in the day we got another happy moment. A group of about a dozen Haitian Boy Scouts showed up to pay their friend a birthday visit. The leader of the troop was waiting for me to be the one to crack open her bottle of Champaign for the "party". They even brought cups and ice. I wasn't strong enough to pop the cork out and we were all laughing and smiling. Finally, the troop leader helped me out and champaign went flying through the air. Everyone cheered and was poured a little portion into a cup. I then joined the scouts as they circled around their friend and started to sing for her and pray for her. It was really beautiful.

On a break today, we walked back down to the Church to go inside what was left. It was hauntingly beautiful. All the pews were covered in dust, the Nativity scene and Christmas decorations scattered amid the rubble, the heads of wise men and angels separated from their plaster forms, and broken stained glass. I tried doing some search and rescue for the little baby Jesus, but had no luck. We even found pairs of shoes in the pew aisles, as though people shook right out of their shoes. The whole thing was amazing! On our way back, we passed the woman who had prayed with us earlier. She was holding her baby who didn't look very healthy and was very weak. Another woman came up to us then with her baby who was as limp as a wet noodle. The baby was totally unresponsive. She was breathing shallow and had an irregular pulse. We told the woman we needed to take the child to the hospital right away. They whole crew of us walked back to the hospital with the baby and tried to assess what was going on. Suddenly the baby was responsive and looking around, appearing fine. We brought him into the urgencies room and kept for monitoring for a couple of hours while we fed her pedialyte out of a syringe. After getting some nourishment and hydration, the baby was appearing much more responsive and content.

A couple of other exciting things today... I got a Haitian cell phone. I added some minutes to it and have about 50 minutes of local calling for making connections, etc. It's already been very useful. Other interesting stuff is that the Mexicans finally joined the team today. Their crew came in and started at the hospital today. They are super friendly and much easier to communicate with because I know a little Spanish. Although, it will be a bit more confusing to now have Spanish, French, and English in the already messy writing in the charts. Lastly, I got to call home to both sets of parents tonight. It was nice to update them on what has been going on and get some nice encouragement to keep moving.


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