I’ve been in Haiti for nearly seven weeks now, and the time has definitely gone by very fast. At St. Camille Hospital I was keeping quite busy with plenty of driving around to transport patients; picking up blood and other medical supplies; and starting IVs, taking vital signs, and assessing patients in the hospital. In my last week at St. Camille, we even had an American team of doctors and nurses work with us, which allowed me to be involved substantially more with patient care due to the fact that there weren’t any language barriers.
I’ve now been working at St. Damien’s Children’s Hospital for nearly two weeks and have continued to enjoy the immense benefits of having no language barriers! Many of the people here speak English.
During my last week at St. Camille I developed a special attachment to one of the pediatric patients there. Pictured here, her name is Lovena and she is one year and three months old. The first time I saw her I couldn’t help but remember what my mom told me before I came to Haiti: that my purpose here, or in any healthcare setting, is not only to provide medical care but also to show the love and compassion of Christ to all of my patients. My mom, having a special place in her heart for children, repeatedly told me to play with and hold all the babies that I came by, giving them the attention and compassion that they might otherwise not receive.
Lovena was sitting in her crib all by herself the first time I saw her – not crying, but still having that look on her face that most babies have when left alone for too long of “somebody please give me attention!”. I went over to her, picked her up, and played with her. I visited her every day and made sure to tell her goodnight before going to bed. Posting her pictures on facebook, I’ve already received multiple requests from friends and family to bring her home with me. Thankfully she still has her mother who is also a patient here in the hospital.
Another little girl we were taking care of at St. Camille and are continuing to take care of her here at St. Damien’s is a three year old named Stacey. She came to St. Camille with a history of fever and seizures, and then her blood results revealed that she had sickle-cell anemia. While Stacey was at St. Camille she went into a coma for three days, and upon coming out of it she presented with symptoms of a stroke: both her arm and her leg on the right side were paralyzed. One of my primary tasks in caring for her was to drive one hour to Haitian Community Hospital to pick up blood whenever either Fr. Scott or the temporary pediatricians deemed it necessary for a blood transfusion. We were finally able to transfer her to the USNS Comfort where she got a CT scan of her brain that confirmed the clinical diagnosis of a stroke. After being back at St. Camille for a few days Stacey’s paralysis improved as she began to move both limbs and overall appeared much better. We are continuing to take care of her here at St. Damien’s where she is receiving occupational therapy.
My time at St. Damien’s has been quite the learning experience, to say the least. I’ve been taking off casts, making new casts, removing stitches, dressing wounds, and watching surgeries in my free time. There have also been some exciting emergencies to take care of: just the other day the US Army brought in a Haitian patient who had been involved in a motorcycle accident. The patient had lacerations on his head and face, a broken leg, and started to seize upon arrival. St. Damien’s is a children’s hospital so we don’t have an emergency room that can accommodate adults. We had to transport the patient to the University of Miami tent hospital. Riding in the back of a large pickup truck and using plywood as a backboard, I manually held his c-spine (we didn’t have any c-collars either) and kept his airway open with the jaw-thrust maneuver when necessary. Fr. Scott was continually assessing the patient and taking his vitals signs. As we hit very slow traffic our driver had no choice but to go on the wrong side of the road and to force other drivers to get out of the way. Upon our arrival at the University of Miami Hospital – some 45 minutes later – the patient finally started to become more responsive and do more than just scream in pain. After transferring him to their care, I took off my bloody gloves and breathed a sigh of relief knowing that our patient was now going to receive the treatment he needed.
Port au Prince, Haiti