By Erica Bromberg
I recently returned from my third trip to Haiti. This time, I went on a pediatric mission. There were 14 people on the trip and the group consisted of students, pediatricians, nurse practitioners, nurses, nutritionists, social workers, and a professional photographer. As with my previous two trips, this mission was nothing short of amazing. This was my first trip without my mom, but our team leader was my childhood pediatrician and Hands Up For Haiti’s president, Jill Ratner. Jill was an unbelievable team leader. There were quite a few “young” people on this trip – Jenna, a sophomore at Cornell, Chava, a nursing student at Pace who is my age, and Pete and Pat, two social workers. Not to mention the amazing Haitian translators we work with every trip. I was so excited to see them again. The pediatric mission was great for me to learn about basic medicine. I will never forget what Albendazole is used to treat! (worms).
Upon arriving in Port au Prince last Sunday, we were informed that not all of our luggage, mine included, would be able to continue with us to Cap Haitian that evening and would be sent out on the first flight the next morning. I then saw that my suitcase had been locked with the spare lock I had on one of the zippers (and I did not have the key with me!). Fortunately, we were able to take all of the luggage with us and upon arriving at Open Door we were able to break the lock open. We spent the evening setting up our bug netting and we ate Ma Pas’s amazing home cooked dinner.
We were spending the first few days seeing patients in the clinic at Open Door. The first morning we were awakened by the usual roosters at 4am. We started clinic around 8:30am and worked until the early afternoon. I helped the doctors with scribing, getting medications from the different rooms, and I got to rub Permethrin cream on a baby with scabies – my first time administering treatment to a patient by myself!
The worst case of the day was a two year old with a rectal prolapse that was so bad she couldn’t sit down. I will spare the details. The child was in such hysterics our only solution was to temporarily tape her rear end closed and advise that she returns to the clinic in two days if it does not improve. Another baby had a face covered in impetigo. In addition to medical treatment for the infection, the nebulizer was used to soothe his face as temporary relief. The team was excited to see the baby the next day and how much his face had already improved!
After clinic we went over to the orphanage. We saw the kids playing on the swingset. As usual, they were craving attention and would not let go of our hands. After the orphanage we walked down the road to see a well that had been built. A 12 year old Haitian boy walked with me the entire time, chatting in English. He told me he loved me and also asked for money to keep going to school. I told him I did not have money on me but that he should stay in school as long as he could and how important it is that he gets an education.
In the afternoon, we walked up Prayer Mountain. The view was gorgeous and it felt great to be walking around outside. We were joined by some of the village children. That night, the boys (Samson, Guindy, Sonel and Peterson) took us over to the church and played music for us. We danced around and formed a big conga line.
I gave a community lecture on why babies are born with birth defects. There are many myths and superstitions in Haiti so my goal was to dispel the myths. I spoke about a few different syndromes, gave advice on nutrition for the mother while pregnant and the consequences of drinking or smoking while pregnant. I did not receive many questions from the attendees, but I was glad when a mother said she was planning on getting pregnant again and happy to have this new information.
We joined the rest of the team in Limonade. 60 patients were seen in total, only about two of whom were healthy. The most malnourished children were seen here out of any other clinic day on the trip. I assisted Lauren, a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, with getting medications for patients. We saw a three year old who was so malnourished he weight 13 lbs and was the size of a two month old baby. He couldn’t walk and his cry was so weak it was barely audible.
After clinic, we walked down the street to the local market. It had tons of paintings, sculptures, bracelets, wooden bowls, etc. I definitely could have found something to buy, but the shop owners were very relentless and intimidating and I was not up for bargaining. Friday afternoon we went to a healthcare networking event at a nearby hotel. The hotel sat atop a mountain and we had a gorgeous view of Cap Haitien. That evening we had dinner as a team at another nearby hotel, Cristophe.
Instead of going on the site visit, Chava, Jenna and I accompanied Samson on a ride back to Open Door. We walked across the street to Deula’s home and Samson had a man climb a tree and cut down coconuts for us! We drank the coconut water. On the way back to Cap Haitien Chava went on a short motorcycle ride with Samson.