Haiti Trip-May, 2015
by Dr. Janet Schairer
This was my first trip to Haiti as well as my first international health experience. Nothing can really prepare you for what to expect. I think the first thing I noticed on the ride from the airport to our compound was the incredible poverty. The second thing was how friendly and joyful the children were when they learned we had arrived. We had a great time playing and dancing with the kids our first evening in Haiti. The kids truly touched my heart with their warm smiles and laughter.
Providing healthcare to these children and their families was definitely a learning experience as well. One had to become comfortable with doing the best that you could, for as many as possible, with what supplies and resources were available.
One also had to depend on history and physical exams to make clinical decisions in the field as there are no X Rays, labs, or echo machines easily available.
Transporting a child to a local hospital, I saw pediatric units with old iron beds and cribs lined up in rows. There was no real place for families to visit comfortably so they could support their loved one. The grim reality also revealed itself in that if the patient can’t pay for his or her hospitalization or treatment, the care is not given. There is no obligation for the hospital to treat anyone who comes through the door.
To me, living in the US where anyone can be seen at a hospital at anytime and many hospitals are becoming like 4 star hotels with administrators looking at patient surveys to improve the hospital experience to draw more patients in, this was shocking.
Fortunately, we were generally able to arrange for hospital care of our patients who needed it, but it left me wondering what would have happened if our team had not been there that week. Often the care could not happen as quickly as we are used to as well.
For example, we sent a patient in heart failure to Haiti Hospital Appeal, one of the hospitals that partner with Hands Up for Haiti. They were able to stabilize her but she would need to be transported to another hospital in another town to actually get an echo. Although not every hospital in the US has every service either, transporting a child to another town for a medical service is a bigger problem in Haiti. Most families don’t have transportation or money for food or any lodging if they are away from home.
The days were long but the week short in Haiti. I think we made a difference in the lives of the children that we saw, if nothing more than to show them that we care.
Would I go again? Absolutely! The smiles on their faces are so worth it!