Wade, a Red Thread volunteer, is a retired geophysicist who worked on the exploration end of the oil business for numerous years. Now his focus is on humanitarian work and he serves as a physican assistant in the states.
Last weekend he flew into Port au Prince to volunteer at a day clinic and hospital in the heart of the city. His plan is to stay there working for approximately 4 weeks. We will be sharing his experience with you through our blog.
(Author's note: some photos may be disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.)
Wade's Journal - 1st week
Saturday, May 1
Well, I made it back to Port-au-Prince. Everything is about the same as I remember from our March 2010 trip. I can't see that anything has improved in the past month and a half.
I am staying in the same hotel as before. The staff is still here and I even ran into our trusty tour guide that we hired in March. He seemed to remember me when I told him I needed to go to the hospital. We walked over to the hospital so that I could check in prior to my first day's work. When I arrived, I spoke to Marlaine and she was glad to see me. There is much work to be done here and she is looking forward to the everyone returning. She sent me over to the ER/ICU building to talk to the IMC's doctor, Rob, who appears to be running the operation. He wanted me to start on the spot!
The emergency room was absolute chaos. If it as busy every day as it was then, there is going to be plenty for everyone to do. I plan to go back tomorrow and help triage in ER. Then Monday I will be in the day clinic. Rob is looking forward to all the help he can get. He has been here 5 weeks with one to go.
Sunday, May 2
Found out that I can not work in the ER until I have signed a waiver of liability which I can't do until Monday. So it is a day of lounging at the hotel pool contemplating the ills of the world. Frustrating.
Monday, May 3
Things did not go as expected today. The IMC will not let me work with them until next weekend. I got intensely bored sitting around the hotel so I decided to walk over to the hospital this afternoon just to observe and get a feel for the ER room and operations. On the way there I saw a some local men fighting in the middle of the street with a local policeman trying to stop it. It made me very uncomfortable. There is still much discontent here and tempers run hot.
I had the opportunity to talk at length to one of the night shift ER doctors who has been here for three days. He said it is really grim in the ER. The hospital where I will be working is like the old charity hospital in New Orleans. Loosely translated, that means that whenever there is a patient no one wants or knows what to do with, they get sent here. He shared that many of the patients are heavily medicated and sent home. These same patients would have been admitted to an intensive care unit if they were being treated in the US. Grim indeed.
Well, I guess I will find out for myself tomorrow. I hope to arrange with IMC to ride in their bus. Otherwise, I will hire a local guide, the same one we used on our last trip, to walk me to and from the clinic. Staying safe is a top priority.
Also heavy on my mind is the rain. It has been raining non-stop this evening. I can not image what it is like in the tent cities.
Tuesday, May 4
My second day went better but there are still some things that need to be worked out to make this as efficient as possible. I worked in the day clinic from 8:30 until 1:00. But after the lunch break my translators dissappeared. So I went over to the ER and helped in the triage.
It was there that I realized that patients who really did not need to be admitted to the ER were being refered to the day clinic where I should have been working if the translator had stayed. So I made the decision to set up shop right there and care for these people who I would have seen anyway. Since the ER is fairly well supported by interpreters, it worked out well. I have to say that it is much more satisfying to contribute to the ER effort instead of just walking around trying to find something to do.
I treated many people with various aches and pains as well as some malaria cases. In the ER I saw a young man whose bellybutton never closed and he had been having drainage his whole live (19 years!). Unfortunatelly, he also had an abdominal cavity infection and was in bad shape. I cared for an elderly man with unrinary retention which cause unbearable pain. In the ER they inserted a catheter and change his whole outlook on life. I even saw my second scrotal filariasis—about the size of a small volleyball! I refered him to surgery for possible removal.
It was a very productive day. I feel as though I touched many lives, even if only for a moment.
To top it off, Shawn arrived today (another Red Thread volunteer / physician). It was good to see him. I know he is looking forward to his first day tomorrow.
Local ambulance bringing a woman for treatment
Wednesday, May 5