Back home again

From Untitled Album

By Michelson Dorime, EMT/ Pre-Med
Photograph by Tamara Fitzpatrick

Day 1 is in the books…
I arrived in Haiti Sunday, July 18, to very little change in the country. Words cannot express the disappointment I felt when I saw that so little rubble has been removed, the number of tents have not decreased, and ownership/initiative on the part of the government and the people have not taken place. (Deep sigh). On the other hand, the flow of patients at Hopital Adventiste has decreased significantly. Every square inch of the hospital yard used to be covered with tents in which patients with severe maladies and in different stages of recovery took refuge. Now, the yard is clear enough for young boys to run around and play soccer. Today, the Emergency Department staff saw a total of 80 patients whose case severity ranged from pediatric cold and flu complaints to adult hernia complaints and a rare hydrocephalus case. Once I got past the excitement of seeing a rare case, it was sad to realize the mother must have an incredibly difficult time to care for her two-year-old child with this horrible condition. Ultimately, there was little any of the hospital staff could do for the child, but luckily we are not the only show in town. The child was referred to Medishare, another medical NGO, where he will have a shunt placed in his brain so that his CSF can drain down to his stomach. Needless to say, I was excited to learn this!

At the morning meeting for the hospital staff, a young man from the Loma Linda University team lead the meeting with a sermon, which tackled the question: What exactly compels a person to leave the comforts of his home, support of his friends and family, and security of his country to come to Haiti to serve people to whom he has never met, never mind not obligated to?

His message particularly resonated with me because it was a question that I was already wrestling with. I spent the last of my money on tickets to Haiti even though my mountain of bills grows everyday. My mother, sisters, and brother have a growing list of needs with which I would like to help. And I would like to take some time to finish up medical school applications and enjoy the last bit of my summer. Why am I here? Even though I was born here, it goes beyond a patriotic sense of duty because I often send clothes, goods and money to friends and family in Haiti. So, what am I doing here?

The young man from Loma Linda made a really good point: In the states a day that is filled with tough cases and tasks, which leaves you frustrated and physically taxed, is generally considered a bad day. However, the same day in Haiti is universally considered a good day. I suspect that the reason for the difference is, you are desperately trying to match lives with resources in impossible situations where there is a considerable disparity in education and communication. After reflecting on that point, I have decided that I am here not necessarily here to save lives. Far from it, I am here to plant the seed that Haitians are capable of fantastic feats. So they can solve the problems that afflict their country themselves.

Day 2 was crazy in all sort of ways….
We started an administering the MVF, Mirror Visual Feedback therapy, which helps amputee patients alleviate pain in their missing limb. Sounds crazy, right? You should see it in action. I will try my best to explain it. Conceptually, the idea is to use the power of seeing a limb, via a mirror, juxtapose to the phantom limbs as a means of mentally manipulating, for the purpose of providing relief to, the phantom limb. For example, patients often complain about pain/discomfort in their phantom limb. With this therapy, a patient can look at the reflection of their actual limb in order to manipulate their phantom limb. Sounds hokey? Well, I was skeptical too, even though one of the top MVF specialists in the country is sharing a room with me and told me all about it. But today I became a believer. Read More

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