Heavy rains make a bad situation worse
Second-year Faculty of Medicine student Dave Campbell is doing a six-week medical elective in Haiti. He wanted to write a blog about his time spent in the wounded nation. We were happy to offer him the forum; this is his story.
Saturday was busy as we had a whole bunch of new patients come in from the Partners In Health facility in Cange and I was able to interview several of them. Sunday afternoon I had visitors come from Handicap International in Port-au-Prince who wanted to see the operation here and what I do as an anthropologist.
I got back to the village just before the deluge arrived – there was a huge rainstorm, which is not uncommon for this time of year, but what is uncommon is how long it lasted. It poured for hours on end, the canals and even the major drainage river in the area overflowed. I tried to leave when it slowed up a little but everyone out in the streets told me to go back because I wouldn’t be able to cross the river since the bridges were washed out.
This morning on my way down to the clinic I was shocked at the destruction from the water. Many houses beside the river were washed right out and the houses beside the canals were all flooded.
Many people lost their goats, cows and chickens – which is tragic for these people since in many cases, these animals are the biggest investment they will make in their lives. As destructive as the rain was here in Deschapelles, I sure hope that Port-au-Prince didn’t get it this badly because it would be absolutely devastating, particularly for the many hundreds of thousands living in tents and makeshift tents made of bedsheets, still scattered throughout the city.
Monday is our big discharge/intake day for patients from Port-au-Prince.
Seeing patients come and go so frequently is definitely the worst part of this job! It is always so sad to see many of my friends leave – people that I have come to know really well over the past couple of weeks. It is particularly hard because of my internal conflict of being sad to see them go, but being elated for them for their progress on their new limb and for being able to go home to their new lives.
Five patients went home today, the smallest discharge group that we’ve had since I’ve been here, and they were all excited to show their kids and families their new limbs and to experience a life where they don’t have to hobble through the rough streets on crutches.
I had an interview this morning with a woman named Michelle (pseudonym) and it was a great experience. She is a 40-year-old lady from the mountains who is a bilateral amputee from poor control of her type 2 diabetes. She has such poor control of her blood sugars largely because it costs 30 Haitian dollars OR $4 U.S. each time she wants to get her sugars checked at the hospital or dispensaries. That’s quite a steep price in a place where the average income is $1 U.S. a day, so she struggles to check her sugars even on a monthly basis, and prays everyday that someone will give her a blood glucose monitor. Not to mention the costs of her oral hypoglycemic medications, and the fact that it is pretty difficult to make lifestyle changes in a place where the only affordable foods are very high in sugars and starches and it’s tough to get a lot of exercise when you’re a bilateral amputee.
The generalization of mountain-dwellers is that they are uneducated and therefore unintelligent. My interview with this woman was a great example of someone who was completely uneducated but far from being unintelligent. She had many very insightful things to say about being disabled in Haiti and was very astute in talking about the perceptions of people like her by the rich and powerful in the country. She also had a lot of great suggestions for how amputees and other disabled persons could be better cared for in the country.
Unfortunately due to a non-healing wound on her stump, thanks to her diabetes, she was sent home without being able to be fitted for her prosthetic limbs and told to return in several weeks if it heals which is easier said than done when paying the money to return is a costly endeavour.
So today has been another day full of tragedy for some and joy and excitement for others, which seems to be quite typical here in the L’Artibonite.