First Impressions

Today began like most Mondays that I’ve come to know – I woke up at 0400 and got dressed so quickly that I hope everything’s on the right way! Today was different, though, because instead of heading to a shift at Emerson Hospital, I was heading to the airport to fly to Haiti. To save time, I stayed with my travel partner last night and his fiance very nicely laid out our itinerary and snack packs for the trip. As we headed into Boston, we complained about the usual – cold weather here, hot temps there – but eventually we delved into a deeper conversation about the reality I would face upon arrival. Although I’ve traveled extensively within the United States, I have not been to Haiti before and did not know what to expect about the healthcare situation and environment there.

After 6 hours of flying and two layovers, we landed in Port-au-Prince. My initial impression was that the airport looks more like an elementary school, with many teal ceramic tiles decorating the hallways. As we exited the airport, I must have politely refused dozens of people offering to carry my bags to our shuttle van.

I grew up racing motorsports and I can honestly say that riding in Haiti is a pure adrenaline rush! I can only think of one way to describe the roads in Haiti – legalized demolition derby. There is no speed limit. The roads aren’t divided into lanes. They are dirt surface with holes and jumps. Passing occurs on the left and the right, depending on driver’s preference! It’s utter chaos. The weirdest part is that I didn’t see a single accident! There were many near-misses but no actual collisions.

We arrived safely at our villa, which is actually quite beautiful. It’s guarded 24/7 by men with 12-gauge shotguns, which is strangely comforting, and has enough amenities to keep us very comfortable. Other healthcare professionals from around the world also stay at Villa Francesca, so we had a great time socializing with them. We enjoyed having dinner with Nicole, a nurse at the Cambridge Hospital and a native of Haiti. Hearing stories about the difference in healthcare between US and Haiti was jaw dropping, and we were fortunate enough to befriend an emergency nurse from Ohio who also weighed in on the light/comical/meaningful topic over dinner. We were fortunate enough to befriend an emergency nurse from Ohio who also weighed in on the light/comical/meaningful topic over dinner.

Earlier in the day Carl and I were able to visit St. Luke’s hospital for a few hours. To be completely honest, I was in shock and completely out of my element. The gymnasium was filled with critically ill patients separated by just a cloth divider. There were too few staff members with too little training and not enough equipment. While we can’t fix their staffing issues or their financial status, but we can provide training. That’s why we – the METI Project – are here.

Tomorrow we will participate in rounds at St. Luke’s Hospital, then we’ll visit the orphanage to teach the older children some BLS skills.

Posted in 2014 December, Culture, St. Luke's Hospital, Villa Francesca