As we waited to board the plane in Boston, I thought to myself that Americans just do not appreciate the luxury of travel these days. Others were waiting at the gate and appeared “dressed up.” We were not. We flew to JFK without trouble, then sat on the runway for more than an hour before beginning the second leg of the flight. There’s always a great sense of anticipation as we travel and look forward to beginning our work upon arrival. We used our travel time wisely and planned as much as we could. This was a new team; two of us had been to Haiti before and two had not. We had never worked together as a team. We outlined some objectives and then realized, once again, that we would have to be flexible and adjust accordingly once we were in Haiti.
We arrived midday and went over to the hospital. Things have changed a bit. Every time I return I feel that something is new, and I see that as a sign of progress. The triage area has been relocated, the clinic now has a triage of its own, space has been reallocated to physical therapy and the radiology area has grown.
We lugged two very large suitcases with us to the hospital. They were filled with supplies. We always struggle with bringing things, as there is a fine line between providing helpful donations and helping to create sustainability. Two things have helped us with the head nurse here: supplies and cookies for her staff to enjoy during our training.
We found some familiar faces, hugged it out, and introduced ourselves to anyone we didn’t already know. We began creating our plan for the next day.
We have learned, after so many trips here, that there is such a thing as being “too sick.” There are patients we can help, whose conditions can be reversed or treated, and those who are too sick. Half our team noticed immediately that there was a young boy in bed 1, bay 2, who was very sick and lay listless in the bed. They noticed that he wasn’t being tended to the way he would be in an ED in the States. The other half of our team has seen this before and didn’t notice; we’ve been desensitized. I’m not sure which is worse.
This boy was not doing well. The staff had placed him on C-PAP. He was having trouble breathing, presumably because of compensation. His eyes were tired. His body was giving out. He didn’t make it through the night.
There will be other patients whom we can help. There will be smiles on the faces of those we train. There will be other days when we can help patients and staff. We will strive to create other days for those here in Haiti.