Saturday, January 16, 2010

Haiti - Day 6

Today has been spectacular and busy. I thought it would be a slow day. Saturday, with school and clinic shut down, it was suggested I take a nap in the middle of the day. Little did I know what was in store for me!

We are starting our official "Disaster Relief" today. We get 1 ton of food (no joke) -- rice, beans, cooking oil, corn -- from the next town over, and we spend the afternoon divvying up the 100 lb bags into smaller rations. We must travel to The Dominican Republic in order to get diesel fuel to make the trip to PAP. How tremendous to help out with this effort, knowing that the food would be in the hands of earthquake victims in PAP in 24 hours. Plus, to see Haitians willing to help their fellow countrymen is such a great thing.

Before we were done packing the food, someone came and said we need to make a house call. Someone has returned from PAP and is injured -- could we come to her home, please? The clinic is closed. Yes, we will come.

We drive through town. Me, the clinic director, and 2 translators who know where she lives. We get there and go into her small hut. She's a girl of 13. In the earthquake, her foot was damaged. She was fixed up by the Red Cross. Afterwards, in an aftershock, a wall fell on her and she was injured some more. She is in terrible pain. Her foot hurts, she can't sit up or feel her leg, really. Her back hurts tremendously. She has a high fever and is dehydrated. She is lying down on all sorts of pillows, towels, etc. Anything to try and make her comfortable. Her back hurts, and later we find out it might be her pelvis. Either one of these is very serious.

We impress upon the family that this is a true emergency. How did she travel all the way from PAP to here in such pain? I can't imagine!

We leave her house and tell her we will return with medicine for her. We rummage through everything we have. Who has pain medication? She needs morphine, but nobody has any of that laying around. We find something for her in the clinic's pharmacy. We make a chart for her, so that she has a record should she return for a follow-up visit. We also take something special to drink for her so she can get quickly re-hydrated. It is hot in her hut, and she has a fever.

We explain very, very carefully, more than once, how to take the medicine. When, which one, how often, etc. The translator translates. We make up some of the special drink, showing her family exactly how to mix it. She must sip on it slowly. We give her a sip. Then rest. Talk with the family some more and explain what needs to happen. She takes another sip of the drink.

We say that she needs to go to the hospital as soon as possible. We need to figure out which one is open. How will she get there? There is one close, but the road is too bumpy. She will be in too much pain, so we think about the other options. We make her take another sip of the drink.

We tell the family what we think is wrong. We impress on her that it is a real emergency. The clinic director takes me aside and wonders if she will live through the night. I really hope so. I tell the girl to take another sip of the drink. We impress upon them the importance of drinking fluid. It only makes things worse if she is in pain with something broken AND she has a high fever AND is dehydrated. They can manage the dehydration.

She becomes incredibly restless, moaning from the pain. We hope she makes it through the night. And then we leave. She must rest now. And the medicine will kick in and help her sleep.

We know that we will see more cases like hers. People coming out of Port au Prince. They are distressed from the earthquake, maybe injured. We will need to treat them. We know they are coming. Thank goodness there is a clinic in the area that can provide care for them, and they know where to go.

The priest goes to visit her after dinner, later that night. Her fever has broken. Obviously the family took our advice seriously and fed her lots of fluids. And we see that they will take her in the morning to the hospital. We will hear tomorrow about her progress.

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