Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Beyond the mountains there are more mountains

Today I went on an incredible journey into the mountains of Haiti along with 2 of the young Rehabilitation Technicians from the Physical Therapy Dept at HAS. We walked to the homes of 5 patients that the Technicians visit through their community rehabilitation program. It is beyond my ability to really convey the entire experience. So what I will focus on is the work of these bright Haitian Techs trained at Hospital Albert Schweitzer. We found every patient sitting outside their tiny homes either on simple straw chairs or on the ground. All of them have great difficulty walking, 4 of them supposedly due to stroke, although only two had what I would call a ‘classic’ presentation. I sent an email to a few friends this morning stating that I hoped to have the creativity to help these people in their homes. I quickly found that I had little more to add beyond what the Technician had already found on previous visits. I watched as the Techs tried to gently coax these people to get up and walk, checked their blood pressure, encouraged them to take their meds, cleaned the wounds and changed the bandages on one man’s foot and reviewed the exercises that had been given to them to try to help with their problems. Some were cooperative with the concept of exercise, some were not. Some were using the equipment given to them, some were not. All were barefoot on the rocky ground and in the mud. All four stroke patients need shoes and an AFO (ankle foot orthosis). Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics is now able to provide AFO’s on the HAS campus. For these people far up in the mountains, though, that is a world away. So as we walked today, the Haitian proverb, Beyond the mountains there are more mountains, became reality. After visiting one patient, the Tech pointed to a narrow path winding up in front of us on the next mountain and asked if I could climb it to see the next patient. We did and from the lower elevation, it looked as if we would be on top of the range when we got to the next home. We were not, Beyond the mountains . . . . . . . . . Beyond the geographic truth of this proverb is the greater reality of the mountain of obstacles that these people face every day as they struggle to survive. Their endurance is far beyond mine. The children play happily with no toys as we would imagine them. We heard their voices ringing out from a school high atop one mountain as they recited in unison. Another school we passed was vacant. We came upon school age children who were not in school. One small girl cried out with fright when she saw me, probably the first ‘blan’ (foreigner) she had ever seen. She hid behind the legs of her brother, not much older than she. Looking at her to try to smile and communicate only frightened her more, so eventually her small brother carried her out of the yard. All of the children in that yard seemed to have slightly bloated bellies. We kept walking, over 6 hours in all plus time in the HAS van on roads so rocky and rutted that I am amazed that any vehicle could manage them. When I turned on my iphone to take a photo at one home, I was surprised to hear the familiar ping of arriving email. In this remote place, we had cell reception. Later we would lose it as we descended. I have a few pictures for those of you who want to see them when I return. All were taken with permission of the person or in a way that hides the identity of these vulnerable people. My iphone camera could not capture the sweeping mountain view that was often in front of us. But I will never forget this day.

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