Yesterday was an eventful day Haiti and probably one of my favorite experiences in Haiti so far. I was able to sit down with our doctor at one of the Guillame’s orphanage and play “nurse.” Even though I went to school to be a psychologist and a dietitian, I had some knowledge of nursing behaviors from science and research experiences.
Dr. Sem, Shelley, and I set up the doctor “clinic” in the middle of the court-yard full of rocks and dirt. We put a few chairs, tables, garbage bags and a cleaning basin around the area where we would run our session. I almost felt like I was a small child playing a game of doctor in their backyard. The reality of my experience, however, was that my patients weren’t kids with made-up conditions, but these were actually sick kids with real infections and illness.
Our first patient came up to us with a big open wound in-between his toes. The wound was so infected that puss and inflammation composed the open sore. “Como se relije?” I asked him. With help from some of the orphanage staff, we were able to find his files in our binder. I handed it over to the doctor, and he asked me if I wanted to put gloves on and help, so I did. I put my gloves on and held the boys foot as the doctor cleaned between the toes and scrubbed the boys foot clean. He cleaned out the wound, which appeared to be painful. I grabbed the little guys hand. His face looked as though the cleaning hurt, and he moved his body squearmishly as he tried to resist the pain. I could tell he was trying not to cry. The doctor finished cleaning, putting ointment on his toe, and prescribing medications, the boy was let go. Shelley found the prescribed medications and wrote his name on the bottles. The little boy put his crocks on and limped back toward where his friends were playing. It’s an interesting thing here being sick and not having always having any available resources, enough money to visit the doctor, or money to afford medications to treat curable diseases. It’s hard to watch the kids with open sores go back to play in the dirt and the scum and not have anywhere clean to play.
The next few cases of kids were infected with erythrocytes, which are scars on their skin. According to Dr. Sem, these scars are typically an indication of a parasitic infection and that the kids will probably need a feces sample to verify the indication. There was only one girl that Dr. Sem prescribed parasitic medication to because she had abdominal pain and other signs of parasitic infection. The kids that needed to be tested where prescribed medication for their wounds and the doctor asked to have parasitic sampling kits sent down next time so that he could check the kids that had signs of the infection. Being a nutrition person and having just done a research paper on parasitic infections, I was very interested in these patients and was able to understand the impact parasite have on nutritional intake. The problem with many third world countries is that parasitic infections exacerbate the malnutrition and further impact the immunity of many small children, which in turn causes things such as delayed growth, accessibility to other diseases, and can potentially end in death for those that have no treatment.
Dr. Sem and I also saw a few other cases of disease during our visit at the orphanage. One small girl had a hernia on her umbilical cord. According to one of our teammates, this could potentially lead to death if she does not get it treated. The doctor said that the only thing he could do at this time was prescribe a medication and hope that her mother can afford surgery. My heart ached to think of how many kids in Haiti walk around sick and infected with diseases, parasites, AIDs, bronchitis, and other treatable diseases, and to not realize how sick they really are. My respect for Dr. Sem and the significance of what he does for this kids at the orphanges Healing Haiti sponsors was heightened during this experience. I really started to see the importance of medical donations rather than donations of toys and candy. A sick kid is not a healthy, happy kid. They may pretend that everything is jolly and happy when you bring toys to play with them, but this experience is short lived. I started to see the importance and value of a regular physical and check-up.
Dr. Sem was awesome with the kids! You should have seen him! I couldn't imagine an American doctor sitting one-on-one with the kids and giving them the comfort and care that Dr. Sem provides during his consultations. I realized how important it is to have someone being able to speak the same language, to understand the diseases most common to the culture, and to be able to adequately identify signs and symptoms of the diseases.
The day was not just filled with sick kids and playing nurse. It was also Jean's birthday, so we had a party for him at the house and he brought over a few friends! It was probably my favorite meal at the house thus far-- lots of vegetables! Jean's friends were really nice, but I think we may have overwhelmed them a bit. After a fiesta, Jean took us salsa dancing to show us Haitian's "dancing with the stars." It was a blast!