Medishare’s chief pharmacist helps out local orphanage
By P.J. Pitts
It’s funny how we sometimes end up exactly where we’re supposed to be, even if we don’t know we’re supposed to be there. The other day while sitting in the logistics office, waiting for my caffeine to set in, and started talking to a couple of University of
Chief Pharmacy Officer for Bernard Mevs Project Medishare P.J. Pitts went to a nearby ophanage to "deworm" the children there. Malnutrition and worms are the most problematic health issues for children in Haiti. Photo by P.J. Pitts.
Miami students about their project. They were here field testing a very interesting “tele-medicine” software developed by MIT. Their plan was to head out to New Life Children’s Home to shoot some video footage and talk with Miriam, the Missions Director, about how the software might be useful in Haiti. Janet (a teacher from Oregon whose “alter ego” is a warehouse pixie in Haiti) had brought a bunch of school supplies to donate, so was heading out with them. One of the UM students, Sean, seemed a little disappointed that they weren’t able to do more for the orphanage they’d been working with, so I suggested we “de-worm” all of the kids.
Miriam estimates that approximately 90 percent of the children in the tent cities have some sort of intestinal worm. The living conditions are filthy, with many people sleeping on the dirt, and there is really no way to have anything be “sanitary”. When a worm infestation isn’t treated, the worms migrate out of the intestines and into other areas. Seeing a kid cough up worms that are 6-inches long is one of those things you never forget. And in a country where so many of the children are already malnourished, parasitic worms are even more deadly. Many organizations and school will periodically de-worm all of the children as a precaution. Anti-helmintics (de-worming medicine) are worth their weight in gold in Haiti, and I’d just been gifted a few thousand mebendazole chewable tablets, and playing with orphans is always a fun way to spend half a day.
It was so sweet – the kids all filed into the classroom, and sang a song in Creole welcoming us and thanking us for coming. Then they were seated and a translator helped me explain what we were going to do. One of the hardest things for me to explain, even through a translator, is the concept of “chewing a tablet”. Remember, most people in Haiti have never even seen a doctor. So I demonstrated for them. (hey, it’s been a while since I’ve been de-wormed) Crunch, crunch, crunch, then I opened my mouth
Photo by P.J. Pitts.
and stuck out my tongue and said “aaaahhhhh” to show the white paste that was covering my tongue. All of the kids laughed. As Janet, Sean and I gave each of them their dose, they chewed it up and stuck out their tongues and said “aaahhhh”. Much much giggling, and I’m sure the teachers were less than thrilled at the new game I’d taught their students, but it got the kids to laugh and not spit the tablets out. I can tell you from experience, they taste HORRIBLE. Well, horrible with a mint aftertaste.
After “dosing” all of the orphans in the classroom, I walked around and “dosed” some of the handicapped kids – it was much easier to come to them than get their wheelchairs inside. The children from the classroom followed, clapping and laughing, continuing the game.
After the “de-worming party”, Janet gifted the teachers at the school some much appreciated school supplies for the children. From one teacher to another, even with the language barrier it was clear the gratitude for the gifts. I spoke with Miriam and her daughter about medication needs for the Home, which has clinics for quadriplegics and paraplegics under their mango tree every Wednesday. We’re all in this together, and if we can provide help, we will.