Monday, July 13 at 3:30 PM
Today begins the second half of my work with the students. As I said at the end of my last post, time is flying by! After finding my student here with his elderly Mother on a stretcher Saturday morning, I returned later with Shaun to get the full story. His Mother apparently had a change in level of consciousness around 1:00 AM. My student had been up with her since that time, most of it sitting and uncomfortably waiting at the hospital. He had not had anything to eat. I broke the rules. I went back to the house and gathered a small snack for him. His reply in beautiful clear English was “Thank you for your support.” His Mother remains in the “Overnight Ward”, a gray zone for those who are not necessarily in need of admission, but still too uncertain to go home. My student just told me he will spend the night here, probably sleeping under her stretcher on the concrete floor. Maybe she will be discharged home; the main problem appears to be a fever. We can hope.
On Saturday afternoon, Shaun and I took a tap tap to the market in Verette. A tap tap is an open pick up with passengers riding in the back. When you want the truck to stop, you pound on the side--tap tap--to alert the driver. Riding one is a classic Haiti experience!
The market was, as in Vera Dowell’s original description to me, a complex almost overwhelming sensory experience---crowds, activity, sights, sounds, potent smells mix with dust and the ever present heat. I took a picture or two, but there is no way to capture the experience except to be there. Vision alone is not enough. A video would add sound, but still leave out the dust, the heat, the smell, and the touch on your skin of people pressing against you as you pass in the crowd.
Sunday morning at 4:00 AM brought Duane’s departure, and a last minute save. In the front pouch of his carry-on bag, Duane found the cookies that I had requested and that we thought had been lost in a mix up when he arrived. So yesterday and today, I have been enjoying a little sweet taste from home. I miss Duane, but we had a wonderful visit here.
Some things change--
At 6:30 AM Sunday morning, I decided to try one more time to get on the internet in the guest house where we stayed. From midnight to 7:00 AM, the “sonic wall” is lifted and internet access is available in a number of places. The remainder of the time, short term visitors must come to the library and use a code for access. (This procedure is to limit use of a system that has little bandwidth available.)
Lo and behold, it worked! I immediately pulled up the NY Times on line and quickly began downloading as many articles as I could before the sonic wall shut me down at 7:00. Despite the lack of coffee, I got over a dozen articles on my laptop and spent breakfast looking over the NY Times, a treat that has only become possible in the last few years.
Some things stay the same--
Later Sunday morning, Shaun and I went down to the PT Department at the hospital to do some cleaning, to inventory supplies and to organize handouts left here by many different people. I had taken a brief look earlier in the week and was concerned that some usable materials were buried, unused in a closet. We found lots of supplies in the closet, some that I recognized from 3 or more years ago. In this place of so much deprivation, it is extremely difficult to convince the Haitian staff to GIVE AWAY the supplies that we bring, with the assurance that more will come. This has been a problem the entire time I have been here. My only guess is that when you have so little, it is extremely difficult to make the decision to let some of it go, and to decide who will and will not receive the supplies. In one conversation with my students, she referred to these supplies intended for patients as a potential “gift” for the patient. I tried to convince her that these supplies were not a gift to the patient, but a means to accomplish the rehabilitation goals. Only time will tell if that helped.
Among the supplies and papers that we uncovered were handouts written by my students for my first trip here in 2000. There was a large box of toys intended to be given away for use with children who need motivation and stimulation to move. The box had rat droppings in the bottom. We took the toys back to our house to be washed.
This morning on Surgery Rounds, we found that a small boy with extensive burns to both legs had gone home AMA--against medical advice--his Mother simply took him and left. While this sounds terrible to us, from his Mother’s point of view she could do what the hospital was doing. He was receiving “cream” and bandages that she probably felt she could do at home, having no idea how crucial the correct topical medicine is for a burn. The boy could walk with only a little help to get up on his stiff legs. She did not understand that the Doctors were prudently waiting a few days to determine the full extent of the burn that is third degree before doing a surgical skin graft. There is little chance that the child will survive without medical care. He will become infected very soon. Our hope is that he will become increasingly ill, his parents will realize that they cannot manage the problem and will bring him here or somewhere for help. There is no Child Protective Services hotline in Haiti.
Despite this sad start to the day, it has overall felt optimistic to me. The students are slowly learning to be more independent. They are treating their patients. With any luck and the dedication of many people who have worked on this program they will bring rehabilitation services that were not here before to at least a few people.
Off to my Kreyol lesson--if it stops raining! Judy