Medical Mission Report From Sue Ogle

Sue Ogle, a board member of the Haitian Pilgrims visited Haiti to participate in a NOVA Medical Mission in Cavaillon, Haiti, and to oversee the transition of management of the Haitian Pilgrims clinic in Boileau to NOVA. Following are her daily reflections of her experience.

Monday, January 28
Helped facilitate the processing of 195 patients through the medical clinic today in Cavaillon, Haiti. Many many sick babies. NOVA, Hope for Haiti is the organization I’m working with this week. What an outstanding group of Doctors, nurses and volunteers.

Tuesday, January 29
Second day the Nova, Hope for Haiti medical mission clinic was open for business in Caviallon was decidely different from the first. We saw 218 patients, a little boy with a burned leg was given priority. Another boy had severe asama and spent the whole day under the watchful eye of a peds doctor. A little boy threw up in triage (my work area) and I loved cleaning that up … three minutes later his mother was feeding him cheetos again! I held a baby girl that was born with a partial brain, she wil not survive as she is seizing multiple times a day. I also held a 4 week old infant, as beautiful as could be … and that was followed by a 3 year old that bit me in the leg (no skin broke).

Ive also picked up a number of Creole phrases that instruct people to “sit there” “come with me” “stay there” “go over to the church” “thank you” more than I’ve learned in 12 years of trips – ya gotta love it! Can’t wait to see  what’s in store for tomorow!

Wednesday, January 30
Hi everyone, writing from St. Therese in Boileau, dogs are barking, roosters crowing and bugs biting – don’t they know it’s bedtime!

I spent another full day a the NOVA, Hope for Haiti Medical Mission Clinic in Cavaillon today. Everyday there has been a young man (22) who is obviously mentally challenged; he speaks loudly at me trying to explain in Creole what is physically wrong (there is nothing physically wrong with him). This goes on for hours and at times all I really want is for him to go away. Today our area was puddled from the night’s rain and it looked as if we were going to get very muddy. They young man immediately picked up a hand-made broom and swept the water away until there was no more. Later an eldery blind woman (very late seventies) came to the clinic. The young man gently took her by the arm and guided her through the 3 hour process of waiting to be triaged, wait in queue to go into the clinic and then into another queue to see the physician and then wait again to have prescriptions filled. I learned that the woman “adopted” the boy and they care for each other. God’s plan is so much better than any we would prepare for these two gentle souls. I know he will be back tomorrow and I will welcome him.

Today I also saw two patients with Cerebal Palsy; one is 16 and the other is 3. The 16 year old is carried by her mother everywhere, the child has never been able to walk, and now is about as tall as her mother. The 3 year old will never walk and has almost no ability to hold her head up. Both children are so very loved and cared for by their mothers and extended family. What both mother’s could use is one of those three wheelers that joggers use to push their young children with … they would be so much better on the rough streets of Cavaillon than any wheel chair (which are rarely affordable). If anyone knows of one that is no longer in use, but in good shape, and would be willing to donate to these children I will find a way to get them to the mothers. It would change their lives beyond our immagination.

Thursday, January 31
Another inspiring day in Cavaillon, Haiti …. On Tuesday I saw a 4 month old boy who weighed 7 lbs. His mother died of breast cancer one month after he was born. While quite small, he is essentially healthy. We needed to find formula for this baby as there was no wet nurse available. A quick text message to a friend resulted in two large packages of Infamil w/iron, bottles and nipples and a $200 donation for the family to continue to be able to feed the child. Our challenge was that the child did not show up to the clinic this morning as expected! However, a good friend of the Haitian Pilgrims, Yvani did come to the clinic for treatment and knew where the small hamlet was that the records said the boy lived. We walked to the village and through neighbors found the house at the top of a steep rock trail. We presented the boy’s aunt with the gifts and took pictures (which I can’t load up here in Boileau, i will when I get home). As we left, it was comforting knowing that this baby boy will survive long enough to be able to eat solid food and thrive. More amazing to me was that this little boy is named Dave (David), the name of my youngest brother who died at 6 years of age …. this was truly a God Thing.

Friday, February 1
I can’t tell you all how much your comments on my postings have meant to me, they are so kind. I have received two donations of the three wheel jogging strollers and am humbled by your generousity and care for my friends in Haiti.

On Friday of the NOVA Medical Mission we treated another 200 patients. Our biggest challenge was that all the medicine that was shipped from the states was still being held up in customs in Port-au-Prince! We had close to 200 people coming back to the clinic for their medication and we didn’t have it. A sign was posted outside the building, but again, many Hatians cannot read or write. It was very painful to have to tell them to come back the next day as many of them hav to walk a long way just to go home empty handed and still sick. Fortunately, customs released the medicine around 4:00PM and it reached us around 11:00 PM that evening. Now the scramble begins to get this large shipment open, sorted and ready for distribution. The NOVA volunteers work with such precision, focus and speed that any organization would be envious.

Saturday, February 2
I spent Saturday afternoon handling patient flow once again; because of a heated argument from one of the mother’s in the pediatric line I ‘policed’ the pediatric waiting section. The entire afternoon was spent entertaining the children, playing paddy cake, choo choo train, dancing with the children and sparking their curiousity with my bright blue nail polish with flowers on the pinky fingers. One little girl pulled on my pinky finger and then pulled my arm until I was close enough and she gave me kisses, she then pulled me forward closer so I could kiss her mother. What a fun afternoon!

Saturday also brought a unique experience … I had played with a little brother and sister while they were waiting to see a pediatrition. Once they were through with their visit, the mother brought them by to say thank you and kiss me goodbye. This happened many times throughout the week, but this time the litle girl caught me off guard and her saliva fluid got in my mouth. While I would normally not be concerned, this is Haiti, and one must be cautious. The nurses advised that I needed to rinse my mouth with bleach water (YIKES!). A very few drops of bleach in a small cup of water, rinse and spit. I could taste that bleach for hours! But I would not change this experience for anything. The afternoon was spent tearing the clinic down, again an amazing tacticle effort by NOVA volunters. Most of the unused medical supplies were driven to the Haitian Pilgrims clinic in Boileau and locked in the new pharmacy. This was such an amazing gift to our clinic the shelves will be filled with many medicines and supplies that they’ve never had in the past.

Saturday evening was time to put my business hat back on. Representing Haitian Pilgrims and working with Joe, the NOVA business representative, we presented the staff of the Boileau clinic with a small salary increase in recognition of their exceptional work ethic and dedication since we lost our physician 18 months ago. Joe and I then extended an offer to a physician that we had been observing and evaluating all week to be the full-time physician at our Boileau clinic. To our delight and after negotiating his salary, he accepted the position and we all celebrated with an appropriate Haitian rum toast! What a successful and rewarding week this has been! I thank all of you for your thoughts, prayers and support. You keep me going!

Sunday, February 3
On Sunday, we board the bus at 7:00 AM to drive to Port-au-Prince. We arrive in a record 3 hours (remember, we’re on a big yellow school bus!), and I say a fond farewell to my new 36 friends with hugs and kisses (Christians, Muslims and Jews all working together to bring health care to the poorest of the poor). I am now sitting by the pool under the palm trees sharing my thoughts with you. And while this sounds wonderful, I dare not walk out of this hotel as it is in a very dangerous neighborhod. I will regroup my body and mind today and tomorow in preparation to meet the Haitian Pilgrims coming to Port-au-Prince Tuesday morning where I will greet them with our Food For The Poor pilgrimage guides with open arms. I have to wait about another 3.5 hours until my hotel room is ready, but what the heck, I have a good book (no it’s not 50 Shades of Grey …) and the shade of the palm trees. Please continue to pray for safe travels for my friends who go home today, the ones
traveling on Monday and Tuesday and me.

God Bless you all, Sue Ogle

Living With Cholera

The good news is the biggest fear was averted: the epidemic spread of cholera across the crowded slums has not yet happened.  It still could, but steps toward prevention are possible.  The bad news is that cholera is now in Haiti.  A year ago, with all the problems Haitian villagers faced each day, the cholera bacteria was not present.  Now it is. The doctor in Boileau says matter-of-factly, “Cholera is here.  We have to learn to live with it.”  We are working with the doctor at our clinic in Boileau to expand cholera prevention.

The fear, of course, is that they really do not have the basic tools to protect against the threat of rapid transmission.  The school in Boileau is a perfect example.  Every day, more than 800 students and teachers from different households gather at school.  If any of them bring the bacteria with them, the risk of spreading is very high since there are no hand-washing facilities.  In turn, if a student or teacher carries the bacteria home, the risk of contagion within the household is very high since limited access to water reduces the possibility of hand washing at homes.

We are working with the doctor at our clinic in Boileau to expand cholera prevention.  Education about the risks has been our first priority.

Prevention: steps to reduce exposure starts with awareness of potential spreading of the bacteria.  The biggest risk is contaminated water supplies.  The villagers in Boileau have been blessed by your generosity – you have provided a total of 15 wells with hand pumps, so clean water is within walking distance of all the villagers.  For many, it still requires an hour or more to walk to and from the pump with 50 lbs of water, but they can have confidence the water is clean.  Fortunately, personal hygiene and cleanliness have been high priorities within Haitian culture, so the risk of person-to-person is not so strong.  Nevertheless, that risk is still there and must be recognized.  For example, the doctor emphasizes that people who do not have strong symptoms, can still be carriers.  Hand-washing remains the most important part of reducing spread of numerous diseases including cholera.

Recognizing the symptoms: recognizing the symptoms is another part of the education we’ve been providing.  The doctor noted that this is important since the early symptoms are similar to many other intestinal problems that Haitians
have trained themselves to “get through” without seeking medical help.  Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting – the earliest symptoms are typically treated at home.  Only when the symptoms become severe do they consider medical treatment.  Unfortunately, cholera can kill within hours, so not waiting until symptoms progress can be a life-or-death difference.

Education is an important first step toward prevention.  We are also seeking cost-effective methods to increase facilities for hand washing.  The school is our focus, but the early estimates of cost are beyond our means.  We’re looking for help from larger organizations.  We will continue to do what we can.

Meanwhile, we continue supporting the school, student-nutrition (school lunches), the medicine for the clinic, staff and equipment for the clinic, and the agriculture/livestock programs.  Each has challenges, but with the help of dedicated villagers to provide local management of these programs, all are doing well.

Four Additional Cases of Cholera Reported

Four additional cases of cholera have been diagnosed at the Boileau clinic. The clinic provided some emergency treatment with IV hydration and electrolyte balancing, then forwarded the patients to the hospital about 30 miles distance. All four are recovering. Also, all of the cholera cases have been adults.

As noted in the earlier report, there is acute concern about the school children getting the cholera bacteria. It could spread quickly in the crowded environment of the school. We are exploring feasibility and impact of extra precautions such as adding hand-washing capability for large numbers of students to encourage more frequent hand washing. In addition to some form of building and washbasins, this will probably require drilling a well specifically for the school. Of course, what additional we can do and how quickly will depend on donations.