Back to clinic routines.
Normally we leave for clinic at 0645, so I'm up before sunrise to make sure I can pull myself together and grab some breakfast. Today I had a few minutes to watch a glowing, muddled pink-orange sunrise over the hills behind the compound. After breakfast we ("we" being the other volunteers, several Haitian health educators, myself, and Jill, the clinic coordinator/ dear friend) pile into a van and begin the 30-minute drive to Cite Soleil slum. The first 15 minutes or so go smoothly as the road was repaved last year before the President visited this area. After 15 minutes things start to get a little rougher with potholes and increasing foot traffic-- kids on their way to school, men hauling construction materials in wheeled carts, women selling merchandise along the road, and various goats, pigs, and chickens. During the whole ride we are of course driving on whichever side of the road is the smoothest and passing all slower vehicles no matter how fast the oncoming traffic. With about 10 minutes' drive remaining we pull over to wait for our motorcycle escort-- one in front, one in back. These men help ensure that we're safe after we enter the Cite Soleil slum until we drive onto the clinic compound.
|Me with some of our amazing clinic security team; the motorcycle escort men are in the yellow vests.|
When we arrive at the clinic we unload the water jugs and any supplies we've brought, then head in to meet the rest of the staff for morning devotions. Currently the clinic employs about three doctors, three nurses, two pharmacist technicians, four triage staff, and several others to help run the clinic. Devotions involve singing several songs, either in French, Creole, or English. Afterwards one of the staff leads the devotional which is always graciously translated into English for the benefit of us volunteers. We pray to close then begin our various tasks for the day.
Since I'm a nurse practitioner this time around I've been both seeing patients and also working with David, one of the health educators. He teaches the patients about lifestyle and diet changes for diabetes and hypertension so we're working that content together. David also helps translate for me when I see patients.
|David (in yellow) and I working together to teach a gentleman about his medications.|
I'm seeing about 15-20 patients a day, mostly adults with diabetes and hypertension. I've also seen some STDs, asthma, various skin rashes aka "I-have-no-idea-what-that-is," and even a possible tuberculosis patient. Maybe you didn't know this, but chronic and lifestyle diseases (like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity) are starting to outpace infectious disease in many developing countries as the biggest health issues. And of course, the effects are always disastrous-- if someone survives a stroke or a heart attack in Haiti, how will they earn money to support themselves and their family? Who will take care of them? So although it's not as exotic as dengue fever or malaria, I'm happy to treat the chronic diseases-- you never know if you might help someone avoid being disabled.
For lunch I usually do what the clinic staff does and order either rice & beans or rice with another kind of sauce. Either way it's always delicious, but I make sure to save some as there are several local kids who come by the clinic for help with homework and to eat a bit of lunch.
|Me with one of the kids who comes by the clinic after school.|
We wrap up seeing patients at about 1530 (3:30 PM) and drive back to the SP compound. We finish early at the clinic since several of the staff commute for hours and it's safer to do so during daylight.
In the evenings we ("we" being the volunteers) have been helping Jill with any miscellaneous projects she had saved up for our arrival. We also chat with the Haitian SP base staff who work in various departments such as logistics, the kitchen, or the WASH team (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene team, aka well-drilling and community education). It's amazing to hear stories from many staff who are taking care of children orphaned in the 2010 earthquake-- some take care of as many as 19 children and work multiple jobs to do so. It's humbling, really. What do I know of sacrifice or loving others? Volunteering a few weeks of my time is vastly different from raising orphaned children as my own.
Every evening the stars and the geckos come out while the night security guards begin their rounds of the compound perimeter. We all wind down for the evening by talking with family back home, reading, or simply getting to bed early so we can get up for the next sunrise.
The beautiful sunrises and sunsets in Haiti are due in large part to the ever-present smoke from burning trash, industrial factories, and vehicle exhaust. I'm reminded again that so much of life contains both beauty and brokenness in the same breath, and it seems especially that way here in Haiti. But God is here and is at work in ways I can't even begin to imagine. And at this moment that knowledge is enough for me.