First Post June 28th, 2016:
Pure joy! I forgot how much I love Mussotte…the crisp air, the dark green vegetables growing in the rust colored dirt, the cows and the goats and the mules and the smiling Haitians greeting each and every one of us as we march by. Not to say we didn’t have a few bumps in the road so far such as a 6 hr delay in my flight, thus not being able to sleep Saturday night, Elaine having to go to got to the state dept in Philly the day before leaving hoping to get her kids’ passports renewed, Joel’s plane being delayed and serendipitously our bus being delayed…so having to wait several hours in the airport parking lot…but I eventually got to Haiti, Joel got in and the bus arrived. We were transported to a nice outdoor café where we continued our “wait” with ice cold water, cokes, sour-sop smoothies and beer! Eventually we left around 5:30 pm from Port-au-Prince toward Mussotte. We passed through the grimy part of the city where mounds of garbage spew into the streets and into the river and a large outdoor market where huge pigs roam amongst the various kinds of food rubbage. Soon we were on the road to Mussotte where the road is lined by tall mango and short banana trees. People burn garbage along the road, but as you leave the city, there is less and less random street trash. I yelled twice tonot hit a dog and once to swerve out of the way of a calf. No animals will die in Haiti on my account! The road is paved but peppered with potholes and at times completely washed out. There are no side-walks, just dirt and gravel. I was in the Dominican Republic (on the same island as Haiti) one month ago for Joel’s wedding (Joel is my unofficially adopted son whom I met after the 2010 earthquake and we’ve been family ever since). The roads in the DR where nicely paved…like in the U.S….with traffic lights and lines painted on. Also, it was much more lush and greener. In Haiti many of the mountains are brown due to deforestation decades ago. Mussotte however is green as ever and actually feels like it’s own country! Gladys greeted us at the gate of her home, which becomes the hostel for 10 students, 4 attendings, 8 translators, 2 teenagers (Elaine’s kids got their passports), Gladys and Trina (her best friends daughter who grew up in the states). Marquis, the head house mom, squealed with delight when she saw me and gave wet neck kisses! I was home! I slept well last night, woke up refreshed and started my day with Haitian coffee. I have Haitian coffee at home, but for some reason, Haitian coffee in Haiti is just better, and followed by mangoes for breakfast was the beginning of my day of pure joy. We collected our upteen luggage of medications and supplies and piled them in Gladys’ car and brought them to the church. We walked to the church throughour skinny path between carrot tops and cabbage patches and began our first work-day.
This year we decided to dedicate the first day to set up all the stations, get organized, label things and and orient the students to each station and all the meds. I realized that this orientation day may just be the secret of a very successful clinic week. Usually the first day, we would maybe take an hour to set up and then start seeing patients. Then I would start organizing everything. This way the students got to participate and contribute to setting things up. It was pure genius! Dr. Ballagh is our recent addition to the team. She’s a gynecologist at a county clinic and jumped on board with full gusto. A huge relief and blessing. It was a full day of setting things up, labeling w neon pink duct tape, organizing the medications, handing out hand sanitizer to every station, writing up the protocols for: dosing the iron elixir for anemic kids, what antihypertensive to give as first line, 2nd line, 3rd line, when to give Tums vs an acid reducer pill vs 3 medicines that treat the infection that causes ulcers. It was a very successful day with lots of enthusiasm, suggestions, and taking initiative. The student leaders, Jasmine and Erica have been phenomenal…really taking charge, super organizing, addressing problematic areas and brain storming resolutions and just making everyone’s experience less stressful and more enjoyable. They are future leaders for sure! We came home to an amazing home cooked meal, hung out on the roof to watch the sunset over the ocean, played board games, created an assembly line to add water to the bottles of clarithromycin powder to make the ulcer treatment kits and added labels to them with the new picture instructions to taking meds (the student leaders addition to this years’ inventions).
Thanks to all our donors, packers, well-wishers, shoulders, dog/cat sitters (more for me!), emotional supporters, students’ parents and friends! Stayed tuned for more from Haiti Medical Voyage 2016….