Today we went to our furthest clinic location up in the mountains of Leogane. It took us approximately 40 minutes to get to the base of the mountain from Hospital Ste Croix, and another hour to make our way up the unpaved, rocky, narrow mountain roads to a village at the top. The scenery was unlike anything we had ever seen before, and we enjoyed our journey when we didn’t get too close to the steep ledges on the side of the road.
On the way up, a few of us were discussing our expectations for the day. We couldn’t decide if we would see patients who were incredibly sick because they had severely limited access to healthcare on the mountain, or if we would see healthier people enjoying the natural resources of the area. As it turns out, we did in fact see both ends of the spectrum at our mobile clinic.
Once we finally arrived at our site, patients were already in line to receive medical care. Because of the long drive, we were behind our usual clinic schedule and we knew that we would have to leave an hour earlier in order to make it home by dark. Therefore, we quickly made decisions about the physical layout of each station and began seeing patients.
Every patient that comes to our clinic is unique and has their own story to tell, and the following will stay with us through our nursing careers. Somewhere around lunchtime, a mom with her four children came into the clinic. At first they all appeared to be here for another well child check up. Minutes into the exam, it was clear that this was not the case. One of the children was an adopted six-year-old boy who lost both of his parents in the earthquake three years ago. He presented as the ‘classic’ malnourished child although his beautiful brown eyes, long eyelashes, and apparent need for love and affection were so much more memorable. Liz, our videographer and a mother of one of our NPs, said it best: “I have three kids. I never worried about feeding them”. Similarly, we all shared the same sentiment, which allowed the entire team to come together. We opened our fanny packs, and gave them whatever we had to help. The family walked away with thirty dollars, granola bars, peanut butter sandwiches, and their prescribed medication. The language barrier was replaced by tears, smiles, and mutual gratitude.
Because everyone has spent the last two days getting accustomed to our clinic routine, many of us felt that today was the most emotionally draining for a number of reasons. It’s easy to get caught up in the logistics of triaging, assessing, and diagnosing over 150 patients a day. Day 3 in the clinic was the first day we were able to step back from the process itself and take a look at the patient or family as a whole. We are just getting used to the logistics of our clinical day, yet we also realized tonight that we are over halfway through our journey. We have each begun thinking about our transition home and the difficulty that will come with trying to apply our experience in Haiti to life in Boston. This transition will not be easy, but we will have each other for support and we are so thankful to the people of Haiti for entrusting their lives with us. We look forward to sharing these lessons with our friends and family back home.
Erin & Lindsay