Teachings from the field: UM students work with Project Medishare’s Haitian medical team
By Ami Panara
Today we served as clinicians at the mobile clinics in the central plateau of Haiti. Our day started off with a nice surprise by the short, but still very scenic, ride to Elin. It’s true, in Haiti there are mountains after mountains. I feel as if the countryside is like a hidden secret of Haiti that is buried under the darkness that is usually associated with the nation.
When we reached there we were also surprised, and frankly I was a little disappointed, by the small number of patients. Still they were very excited to see us and were so close that they were standing up against each other in a single file line to register. I was on the pre-natal team and the pregnant women in the crowd were sparse, but we saw seven women and luckily were able to report that they were all in good health. As a team we worked very well and we all got a chance to learn how to examine the soon-to-be mothers. Dr. Fournier is a great teacher and with his guidance I was able to feel the head of a fetus for the first time. It was great. Since there weren’t enough patients we piggy-backed on each other and taught each other how to do the exams and write the prescriptions.
For our last patient, it was my job to take care of the mother’s first child, a 14 month old baby, while the mother was getting examined. The baby was a cute girl dressed in a white dress. At first she stayed calm but then she saw her mom she kept crying. It was frustrating to have to keep her away from her mom for a long time but at the same time I didn’t want to give her back to her mom when she was done. Even though she cried so much, being in charge of her was more touching than seeing any normal patient.
By this time we had realized that our initial assumptions about the day were wrong because the number of patients kept increasing and so we quickly set up a station in the pediatric room and started seeing children.
At first I was a little hesitant but after seeing the other students take charge and actively start seeing the patients I realized that even with the language barrier there is so much that we can do. Even the smallest thing such as the de-worming or putting lotion on a child can make the biggest difference. Even though there isn’t much that I can say to them I felt like there were always a hundred thoughts going on in my head, from wondering how the patient feels, to the chemistry of the drugs we were prescribing, to the long list of things I felt like I needed to improve on and wanted to learn. I can’t believe that less than a week ago I was staying up cramming for tests and now I was seeing the conditions we learned about and either could not remember or did not learn about the important clinical issues. This was very frustrating and made me a little angry but I know I will not forget the things that I saw while here and will remember these conditions and at the same time will remember Haiti.