Saturday, April 9, 2011

Medical team in Haiti - day 2

The March team
(back) Amy, Wes, Wade, Hannah, Drew, John, Sherye
(front) Sienna, Nick, Susan, Sonya, Bheki

3/16/2011 : : The excitement was buzzing around the guesthouse on our first full day in Haiti. The team woke up very early, too enthusiastic to sleep. We gathered the mountain of duffel bags and suitcases overflowing with medical supplies, filled our water bottles, stowed granola bars in our pockets, and prepared to leave. The bags were so overstuffed that it required three vehicles to carry the team and all our gear!

A small portion of the supplies we hand-carried

As we made our way to St. Vincent’s, we noted an increased UN presence around the airport. Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier had recently returned to Haiti and Jean-Bertrand Aristede was expected to arrive during our visit. (Aristede's house was only a few miles from the guesthouse.) The elections were less than one week away and tension was elevated in Port-au-Prince, the pre-election chaos from November still fresh in everyone’s mind.

Loads of hugs, kisses and “bon jours” abounded when we arrived at St. Vincent’s big red metal gate. Students seemed to materialize out of nowhere to greet us between classes. Camera shutters began clicking in every direction. Smiles spread across the children's faces and warmed our hearts.

Sherye, our interpreter for the deaf, hanging out with some of the students

Hearing impaired students

Following “the fun stuff”, we got down to business. Smaller teams split up to accomplish various tasks in preparation to see patients:
  • setting up the well-check clinic and physical therapy room
  • organizing and setting out casting supplies for the club foot clinic
  • preparing a overflow waiting room outside the clinic in what little shade was available
  • setting up an area to take weight, measure blood pressure and perform finger prick hemoglobin tests
  • unloading meds and stocking the pharmacy (perhaps the biggest job of all!)
Wes & St. Vincent's new pharmacist emptying suitcases of meds

The clinic wasn’t scheduled to open on the first day, but word travelled fast that we were there. When patients started arriving and spilling out of the waiting room, how could we say no? A valuable lesson that we learned ages ago about working in Haiti is BE FLEXIBLE—and that’s what we did.

So, St. Vincent’s clinic officially opened for business.

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