This time we were there

A medical team lead by John Harrington, MD traveled to Haiti from February 5-12, 2008. The following is the account of the director of Hope for Haiti located in Les Cayes.

Saturday, February 10, 2008

Program Director

Saturday at 2pm Hope for Haiti received a call from an American medical student, Abbey, who is volunteering with Maison de Naissance (House of Birth) in the South of Haiti, that she had met a elderly woman who had been badly burned and who was in need of medical help. The woman had fallen into a cooking fire pit 15 days ago and had 3rd degree burns along her right ear, shoulder, and upper back. The wounds were bleeding and dripping with puss and obviously excruciating. This elderly woman, also blind and suffering from dementia, was too poor and physically incapable to travel anywhere to receive medical care. She lived in a rural area outside of Torbeck (approx. 30 minutes South of Les Cayes), living in a dirt floor and a banana leaf woven house. Abbey asked if there was anyone who Hope for Haiti could call or a place the woman could go to receive some help. If she was unable to get medical attention, her wounds would eventually become severely infected and her chances for survival would be incredibly low.

Luckily Hope for Haiti knew of a medical team from Massachusetts who was in Les Cayes for the week with the organization called Forward in Health. After talking with one of the doctors from the organization, Mike, and his sister Judy, they offered to go see the woman to offer whatever care was possible. By 3pm, Hope for Haiti’s Operation Director, had picked up the doctor and a collaborative team from Forward in Health, Hope for Haiti, and Maison de Naissance were on their way to the woman’s home with a bucket of clean water, burn cream and bandages, and medical personnel.

Upon arrival, we found a frail looking woman, naked from waist up, who was walking toward us with her burned side visible. Immediately the village community surrounded us full of curiosity and intrigue. Dr. Mike began to evaluate her wounds and her overall condition. The entire top layer of burned skin was necessary to take off in order for the layer underneath to be cleaned and properly medicated. Unfortunately, if this was to be done, the woman would be in need of continued care and it was obvious that she had no means and no one to care for her. The only facility that we could trust where she would receive adequate care without cost was for her to go to Missionaries of Charity in Les Cayes. With that as a possible option Dr. Mike decided to just clean the burned area and dress it appropriately.

We explained to the community that we would be bringing the woman to receive medical attention at the Missionaries of Charity in Les Cayes. We then searched through the woman’s clothes rolled up in a ball in the corner of her house and dressed her in her most beautiful dress. The woman’s first stop was to Hope for Haiti’s residence to receive a proper meal and a well-deserved prestige. Not knowing how to use a fork or spoon, the woman started feeling around on the plate for what she wanted to eat first. She ate as if she hadn’t eaten in days. Handful after handful she continued to eat until we feared that she might make herself sick. After 45 minutes her speed of eating had started to slow… she finished her prestige and prepared herself for her departure.

Arriving at the Missionaries of Charity, the woman received her own bed immediately where she was quick to lay her head down. The Sisters checked her in and assured us that she would receive good care. By 6pm this woman had been washed, medically consulted, well fed and now sleeping for the first time in her life on a real mattress with a real pillow. Abbey let out a sigh of relief knowing that tonight, this woman was safe and in good hands.

Today was a wonderful example of the collaborative efforts of the various organizations working on the ground in Haiti. In just hours a team was able to come together to provide care to a woman who would have otherwise have had no means to survive. Hope for Haiti thanks Abbey for making the call, Forward in Health for mobilizing so quickly, and Missionaries of Charity for making sure that this one woman was not forgotten. When all resources are available and deployed, we can truly make a difference…