Google+ WTN Haiti Partnership: Out of Aspirin

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Out of Aspirin

It's 9 PM and we are winding down at the end of a very busy day. Sitting on the rooftop of the guesthouse, we traded stories and were grateful for a cool breeze, starlight and someone playing the trumpet nearby. Very Haiti. The power went out about 8 PM, so inside the guest house is very stuffy with no fans working. All stumbling around with flashlights, trying not to bang our shins on the furniture. John was actually in the shower when the lights went out. Another Haitian adventure.
Stories of today included Vickie improving her sign language, with help from the deaf teachers. One of them corrected her when she tried to sign "Good Morning" and kept on correcting her until she got it right. Barbara and Yolanda from CBU held a diabetes and hypertension teaching session with two different groups, about 22 teachers in all. They prepared brochures in Kreyol explaining proper diet, common questions about these diseases and even diagrams of the body organs that are involved. I was very impressed, even stunned, at the professional presentation and the materials in Kreyol. We actually diagnosed a new onset diabetic today among one of the school's staff. I hope to use these materials for future trips since it is difficult to find such educational medical material in Kreyol.

Brittany (the pharmacist) and I walked with Jean Robert to the pharmacy this morning. We ordered all our medication from a local Haitian pharmacy. This has the advantage of having the medicine delivered directly to the school, rather than us hauling so many suitcases from the US. Also it puts money into the Haitian economy. Unfortunately, this pharmacy did not deliver half the medicine I ordered. So yesterday while we were working in the clinic, Brittany kept telling me we were out of amoxicillin (and other antibiotics), out of blood pressure medicine, and did not have any aspirin! SERIOUSLY?

A one mile walk through the streets of Port au Prince is an experience in itself. It's like walking through Walmart in the sense that anything and everything is for sale on the street Car stereos, mattresses, books, dresses and jeans, coconuts and mangoes. We walk in the street because the sidewalks are occupied by the vendors. We squeeze as close as possible to the cars parked on the street, because other cars are honking as they drive past us, motorcycles whiz by and trucks blare their horn to make us jump. Jean Robert takes us both by the hand when we cross the street, just like a father.

Arriving at the pharmacy, we were ushered into a back office, grateful for the air conditioning. Through Jean Robert, I tried to ask the clerk why my many emails had gone unanswered, why the medicines they promised had not been delivered, why I had to waste a morning coming to their pharmacy, a morning I could have been seeing patients in the clinic. I suppose it was no surprise that he denied everything, gave no explanation, and made no apologies. What did I expect?

He did promise to deliver the remaining medications to the school tomorrow. The only item he had in stock for me today was enalapril (a blood pressure medicine). So we left with 1000 tablets of enalapril. A mixed victory at best.

This afternoon I saw a few familiar faces in the clinic, but the nursing team did most of the work. They have done check ups on 120 kids in the past 2 days. Ashley did the hemoglobin sticks on many of the younger children, so John was happy not to be the only bad guy for once. He told me tonight that he shared his lunch with Clauricianne. Of course his lunch consisted of peanut butter crackers and water, but shared it was. Clauricianne has no hands, and we have always been amazed to see her do things like write, use a phone, or make jewelry. Still, John was surprised to see Clauricianne drink from a plastic cup of water without spilling a drop.

Tomorrow we travel to Mirebelais, to see the University Hospital built by Partners in Health, Paul Farmer's organization. Afterwards we will see Saut'd Eau Waterfalls, a scenic site where I am told you pay $5 to get in and $1 to the boy who helps you climb the falls. Sounds just like Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica. What a treat that will be. Our guest house manager, Gail, encouraged me to take the team there. She made a remark that surprised me. She said our teams always come to Haiti and do only work, never taking time to see the countryside. I suppose she's right. I feel compelled to spend as much time as we have with the kids at St Vincent's. But in the last few trips we have started taking a "beach day". Seeing the beauty of Haiti is important, especially for first timers. I find all of it exhilarating, And hopefully after climbing the falls tomorrow I won't need to take an aspirin.

Susan Nelson

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