Haiti 

In a country with no infrastructure you realize how much we have. In Haiti there is no library system. There is no educational system.  There is no fire department. There is no sewer system, or water treatment. There is no electricity unless you run a gas driven generator…..I have traveled and volunteered in multiple countries. I have been in many where none of the infrastructure worked very well, and a number of countries where it was extremely marginal, but, never before where there was none.  Or, at least, save for the UN……..So, my expectations were out the window from the moment I got off the plane. I suppose, there is also the expectation that these people will be bitter, with cause, and angry.  I found them to be almost to an individual generous, gracious, and pleased we were there.  They are proud of their country where they can be, and, full of hope.  I would not have expected that…..We get such feeling of entitlement in this country. I would have to say that my experience from this trip that has the most application for health care providers in the US would be a sense that there is an enormous amount of very good health care that can be provided with a minimal of resources, and that resources are finite…..We feel in this country that we can cure or fix anything if we throw more Haitiand more money at it.  I learned there to hone skills I hadn't really exercised in years, older skills that are still valid, both observational and technical, wonders that can be accomplished with just a microscope and a slide.  Also, the medical value of caring.  To a person with AIDS in Haiti, who isn't going to get the full range of possible medical care, knowing that someone in the larger would cares is a comfort and a vindication.

Barbara Cole RN, Providence Milwaukie Hospital
Sponsored by: Northwest Medical Teams
Haiti, February 17-March 24, 2006

It is difficult to say what my expectations were for a trip such as this.  This was my first trip on such a mission and my life could never be the same.  Upon returning I think I experienced a bit of a culture shock.  I think it was mainly due to my observations of the excesses within our society.  Overabundance and inequality of our society was staring me in the face as I remembered the children who stole my heart and the people who gained my respect and inspired me.  I am not sure how to describe the feeling of knowing that just holding a child or offering love and physical nurturing can make a difference.  While the need for food, education and medical care were there, the children thrived on the human contact and attention more than any of the materialistic things we brought with us…..Just as the children were enriched with the playtime and the one-to-one care I was able to provide, so was I.

Angelina Stupey, Providence Portland Medical Center
Sponsored by: Healing Hands for Haiti
February 9-19, 2006, Haiti

Haiti…When I returned I was asked if I thought I had made a difference.  I can wholeheartedly answer yes.  When you are able to help one person, you are helping one person that would not have been (otherwise) helped.  One simple bottle of Tylenol saves one child’s life…Having use of a new arm or a leg can be the difference between survival or death….Antibiotics can make the difference between life and death.  Our bringing supplies to orphanages helped the caretakers to buy food instead of bedding and clothing.  Our donations of wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches can enable someone to hopefully become self-sufficient and contribute to their society.  Our teaching Haitians how to administer health care and educate their own can only help to improve their living conditions.  So, thank you again for enabling me to be a part of reaching out to other countries, because we are all part of one world and together many things are possible.

Pat Drusky, RN, Providence Milwaukie Hospital
Sponsored by: Healing Hands for Haiti Foundation, Inc.
February 2-10, 2006, Haiti

 

I worked in the Healing Hands clinic triaging patients and taking medical histories.  I also spent three days up in the mountains at an orphanage doing medical assessments and staff training.  All the children at this particular orphanage are disabled…..We are so lucky here to have access to a wide range of treatments and medicines.  Almost every child I assessed at the orphanage had spasticity which could have been greatly reduced with antispasmotic medication, but we had none!  The same was true in the clinic.  A high percentage of patients had high blood pressure.  We had some meds to give them but no way to sustain them on a month-to-month basis…..

Nancy Heston, RN, Providence Portland Medical Center
Sponsored by: Healing Hands for Haiti Foundation, Inc.
February 9-19, 2006, Haiti 

 

I exceeded my personal expectations/goals.  I learned tremendously more than I dreamed.  I felt our team cohesiveness was superb.  We take so much for granted!  We overuse our resources dramatically.  I met a 39 year-old woman with advanced, untreated breast cancer…..she has seven kids at home.  I know she’ll probably die in 3-5 years, but here (in the States) she probably could be treated and put into remission for a long time…..I’m thankful daily for what we can accomplish here…...

Dr. Corie Coe, DO, Medical Resident, Providence Portland Medical Center
Sponsored by: NW Medical Teams
February 17-26, 2006, Haiti

 

My goal was to lead a team consisting of mostly first time volunteers—I feel I was successful in doing this.  As we also joined forces with a Canadian team we had an opportunity make a bigger impact in several areas of medical care as well as teaching.  This also allowed me further learning experience with leadership as well as international healthcare….Despite increasing healthcare costs in our country, nearly all its citizens have access.  Unfortunately, in Haiti, as in most third world countries, the majority of people don’t have this access…….

Gail Buck, RN, Providence Portland Medical Center
Sponsored by: Healing Hands for Haiti Foundation, Inc.
February 8-19, 2006, Haiti 

 

I work in the ICU, “kingdom of the million dollar work-up,” where # seems to flow endlessly and is not always spent so wisely.  The culture of waste is not just restricted to the ICU or even the hospital.  (We are poor stewards of the earth in so many ways).  But going to some place like Haiti will instill a great respect for resources in anyone.  In the face of unprecedented wealth in an ever more unified world, “globalized” is a buzz word we all use.  “Globalized” seems to apply to production of greater wealth without protection of better health.  Two hours from the shores of Miami, the Plastic Surgery Capital of the riches nation on earth, Haitians die of completely preventable and curable disease.  This has particular meaning to me in my work there and here.

Levi Cole, RN, Providence Portland Medical Center
Sponsored by: NW Medical Teams
February 17-26, 2006, Haiti

 

…..I saw patients all day long with the urgency to keep moving as there would always be more people left outside who wanted to be seen.  I rarely stopped and looked around at the plain sadness of the whole situation, until I met one woman who was my age.  I had heard her story in church the previous Sunday, as she was one of the members of the first graduating sewing class in this area (as part of the bigger public health issues we are working on in Terra Blanche).  She told me her story, through an interpreter, how five weeks ago while she was 8 months pregnant she started bleeding. S he was taken to pastor Delamy (our dear friend and organizer of all the projects in this area) who brought her to the hospital.  She was taken care of in the hospital, and despite living through this deadly event, she lost her baby.  She told me the story with a complete lack of energy, interest, or sense of meaning.  She didn’t cry, but I did.  Her sadness was something I could understand, something I’ve seen and dealt with in my practice in the United States.  She was depressed and there was nothing I could do.  But somehow I felt a connection with her and her despair.  With her I felt how deeply the Haitians suffer, but also realized how similar we all are.  We live in entirely different worlds, where they worry about finding food and we worry about checking our email.  However, we are connected and she taught me how to see past the extraneous debris and see the person.

Dr. Janan Markee, Providence Portland Medical Center
Sponsored by: NW Medical Teams
February 18-25, 2006, Haiti

...There were so many experiences from this mission that were meaningful, but two that particularly stand out was when we rushed a child to the local hospital (and I use that term loosely).  Not one person would lift a finger until they were paid cash.  It turned out that our patient was suffering from acute appendicitis and needed surgery now.  After receiving the American equivalent of $50 our patient was admitted, but surgery was delayed while they sent us to a local pharmacy to buy supplies that would be used in the surgery.  As we returned we were told that the general surgeon was not available.  I volunteered to “scrub in” and guide the surgeon that was available.  This offer was accepted and the surgery was successful.  The other thing that stuck out in my mind was that of the respect the Haitians have for medical people.  This is the poorest country in the western hemisphere and the country looks devastated, however, when the people come to clinic they wear their very best clothes to see us, and even though our exam table was an old bench with many sheets for padding, they refused to put their shoes on it.  I was blown away by the genuine gratitude these people showed toward us…..

Scott Roberts CST, Providence Newberg Surgical Services
Trip Sponsored by: Amer-Haitian Bon Zami Inc
June 18-25, 2005, Haiti

I know that we made a positive difference for many.  We could see the difference we were making on a daily basis.  My expectations were to contribute, but I didn’t realize just how much I would be helped in exchange.  I received more than I ever was able to give.  I wasn’t ready for the impact this experience would make on me and my attitude towards what is essential in life…..…The message is if you ever have a chance to do this type of work, go.  The personal rewards are amazing.  As one person told me, be careful because the patients will “walk all over your heart.”  It is so true.

Jane Wilson RN, PPMC
Sponsored by: Faith in Practice
Haiti, May 7 – 14, 2005

 

….If anything, it makes me reflect upon the level of waste in our system.  I do not anticipate this changing, but when the main hospital of the country is asking us if they can have our water bottles when we leave to use to mix medication, it makes one really gain a new perspective…..

Paula Wade, MSW,  Providence Portland Medical Center
Sponsored by: Healing Hands for Haiti Foundation
Haiti, November 3-13, 2004

 

…I always wanted to go on a medical mission.  I felt like I was satisfied and life meant a lot more when I realized how spoiled I am.  I was so encouraged by these people’s morals and values.  If only we lived as they did, so rich in life and not money.  I felt so blessed I am planning on going again!

Katie Monahan, Phlebotomist, Providence Portland Medical Center
Sponsored by: Healing Hands for Haiti Foundation
bHaiti, November 3-13, 2004