Volunteer pharmacist adapts as she works relief efforts in Port-au-Prince
By PJ Pitts
It’s hot, I can’t sleep. You’d think it wouldn’t be an issue – I worked until almost 4 a.m., but my mind is racing a mile a minute.
We landed in Port Au Prince (PAP) yesterday, way ahead of schedule. There were no working runway lights at the PAP airport, so instead of arriving at midnight, we got in about 3 pm. Nia had joked about doing some sightseeing with our free afternoon… I had to giggle about that when I realized she and I were both still working at three this morning.
Getting from the airport to the Project Medishare and UM Global Institute Hospital “MASH” unit was an ordeal of its own – even though we’re on the airport grounds, we had to leave the airport to get to the cars to get to our complex. Wading through the crowd of locals, all begging, many with amputations and stories that bring you to tears. They took us in small groups, with security, to the vehicles to go to the complex.
Before we even go to the orientation, someone found me. The pharmacist who had been here left on a flight at noon, leaving one (amazingly talented) technician to run the pharmacy AND peds satellite, and she needed help.
I should preface this by saying things are different here – in the states, we double and triple count a narcotic prescription, here I leave the bottle of percocet on the table for nurses to grab when I’m scavenging through the supply tent. I have to trust that my aseptic technique is good, because “sterile-ish” here is, well, “-ish” is the key part of the phrase.
Needless to say, my first day was a good introduction to the chaos…
I have so much to share, but every time I sit down to type, well, there just isn’t time. The joys and sorrows are like being on a roller coaster. Imagine scrambling through random piles in a supply tent – much like looking for a needle in a haystack – at 3 a.m., trying despirately to find the calcium gluconate for the OR. You know why they need it, and lives litterally depend on you finding it in time. Tears came to my eyes when we found the vitamin K…..and again, when the doc came to me asking what to substitute for the dopamine- which we were running out of.
Almost everything for the kids has to be compounded – thank God I’ve been “playing at the apothecary” – and today we started switching all our amputees over to hypericum (homeopathic) from neurontin. Not that the homeopathic is better – we ran out of neurontin, and it will be days before we have anymore.
Once again, I have so much to share, but I’m finishing this email at 4 a.m. and am hoping to catch a few zzz’s now that my pharmacy is no longer the middle of the ER (when the ER closes for the night, triage comes here to the ward…).
*PJ Pitts is a pharmacist in Oregon and is currently volunteering in Haiti until March 13. She is sending her blog posts in via her Blackberry.