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Saturday, March 2, 2013


Most of our blogs are about activities at Visitation Clinic    This one is different.   Its about something we want to do and are trying to figure out how.   First some background.   Groups like the World Health Organization collect healthcare data from around the world.  They track statistics like mortality rates among mothers (MMR) and infants (IMR) and also the fraction of births at home without professional assistance.   Not surprisingly, these are all related.   For Haiti, the news is both good and bad.  The good news is that Haiti's MMR and IMR has dropped by about half over the past forty years.   The bad news is that Haiti's is still highest in the Western Hemisphere.  Plus, there are big differences between income levels and between urban and rural areas.   Our patients are both poor and rural and we estimate over 98% of births occur at home without proper assistance. 
Attendees of Visitation Clinic's first meeting of  midwives.   (Dr. JF was taking the photo.)
So we are trying to reach out and help.   Earlier this week we organized a rare meeting among some nearby midwives.   They reported numerous challenges including minimal training, lack of certifications, no supplies, no ambulances to call upon, ... the list went on and on.   The challenge, for us, is that the group  estimated that there were about fifty other midwives just in their commune, and there are 37 communes just in the Department we serve.   So, this meeting will likely be one of many as we try to get our arms around this problem.  We've got some ideas on how to proceed, and we've got a prospective volunteer who is interested in spending a month or so this summer trying to help devise a program.   So this is just a first step and we've got work to do.   You can help, of course, by donating here.                 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Not Everyday


Dr. JF, Nathaelle, her parents and family.  
It's not everyday at Visitation Clinic that as you finish breakfast you're told some people are waiting to see you.   The people turn out to be Nathaelle and her parents and family.  Nathaelle is a friendly15-year old who was in our clinic for two days with acute gastritus.  Her parents had sent her to us from a distant town on a motorcycle, even though there were closer hospitals and clinics.  Dr. JF had already told me the story of how Nathaelle was unresponsive to the normal antibiotic regimine and how, as her conditioned worsened, he had conferred with a surgeon in Port-au-Prince who advised us to rush her there. 

SUV to ambulance

As we converted our SUV to an ambulance, Dr. JF had tried a last-ditch IV of a new and potent antibiotic.  Everyone piled in for the long, late night ride with a risky outcome.   We were surprised when the vehicle returned early in the morning with promising news.   The antibiotic seemed to be working and the pain had subsided.  So  Dr. JF had detoured to Dr. Delva's (our former resident) clinic in Port-au-Prince where Nathaelle would be close to surgical help, if needed, but in good hands otherwise.  She was so improved the next day that we were able to bring her home. 
But why did her family want to talk to me?  With great formality, they said through an interpreter what was on their mind.  It was simple enough, "We want to thank you for saving our daughter's life."   Astonished, I tried to tell them I had nothing to do with it, that Dr. JF was the healer.   They agreed, but were not to be disuaded.  "We know", they replied, "but the clinic would not be here if it weren't for VHF.  So we want to thank you, so that you will tell everyone that they saved our daughter."   They still weren't finished.   Hesitantly they went on, "We could only send  Nathaelle to you, but we could not come until now.   She told us that everyone here was her mother and father while she was so sick."  I remembered how even our cooks were spending time with Nathaelle, comforting her and holding her hand in her distress. 
I could only promise to do my best to relay their gratitude.  That is the purpose of this message.  Would that every reader could have been there to see their faces.  You wouldn't soon forget them.        
Perhaps you would like to help future Nathaelle's.   You can do so here    


Friday, February 15, 2013

This past week Visitation Clinic was gifted with the a pediatric delegation organized by Sr. Karen Schneider, MD who is an Assistant Professor of Emergency Pediatric Medicine at Johns Hopkins University.   It was a big group consisting of six residents, three RN students, a pediatric surgeon from California, another sister who has a PhD in nursing from New York.  Some helped out at the clinic, some participated in mobile clinics, and the pediatric surgical team worked at a government hospital in nearby Miragoane.
Pediatric exams an a rural school in the Nippes Department of Haiti
The week began somewhat leisurely as it coincided with Carnival - Haiti's exuberant celebration of the beginning of Lent.   Still the mobile teams visited several nearby villages and screened children for a wide variety of diseases.  Healthcare needs don't take vacations, though, and when the clinic opened on Thursday, an all time high of 156 patients were at our doors.   Our staff was most grateful for the help from the states.