As we just finished another mission, I am sitting here thinking of these past few days!! Too much to say, too many pictures to post, videos…. just to try to give you an idea of what this week has been…. The team was here talking about our experiences… what medicine we REALLY need, the ones that we don’t need, how to make the pharmacy more effective, how to improve the medicine closet here in the orphanage….. all the ideas, suggestions and concerns….. After 5 LONGGGGGGGG days, with a heat that is unbelievable is soooooooooo good to hear their experience…. to see that, eventhough we had moments of stress, frustrations, etc…. everyone is leaving with the hope to continue to improve our medical missions…. and to see their excitement talking about what can we do for the “next trip”…. makes all the hard work, worth it!!! It has been very difficult to post pictures from here… but tomorrow, I promise to post some here in the blog… and in few days, will have albums ready for everyone to see it!!
I am going to bed…. good night everyone! I will leave you with something from Dr. Shaw… a guys that never stop caring for people… he is smiling all the time, willing to always see “one more” people at the clinic, back in the orphanage…… it has been a pleasure getting to know Dr. Shaw…. and guess what… today he surprise the team with a delicious “pineapple cake”….a guys with 1000 talents… Thanks Shaw for being part of our team!
As the medical missionary trip in Haiti is approaching the conclusion, I cannot help to look back and reflect. To me this trip is an eye opening experience. Our first day in Haiti, we had a glance of the devastating destruction of the recent earthquake in Port Au Prince. Side by side with collapsed buildings, tent cities and freshly covered mass graves, I saw crowded markets and new construction everywhere. Our next several days were devoted to community medical clinics. However, our clinics were nothing like an ordinary doctor’s office. They were set up on a church construction site, on the slope of a hill, under the tree of a town center, in a vacant house in the village or in the tent donated by the red cross of Taiwan. Our physician’s offices were simply three simple chairs usually without a place to write on. Our pharmacy was just a flat surface with many plastic boxes of medicines. Our triage was done either outside or under the roof. The clinics were so hot and humid, each of us had no functioning renal system during the day because none of us had desire to urinate despite gallons of water we drank. Luckily our sweat glands took over the normal renal function because there were no toilets available at our clinics. All patient interviews were via a local translator. I thought I was used to see a waiting roomful patients in our urgent care centers, I wasn’t expecting crowds of patients building up everywhere we went. I thought an average rate of seeing a patient in 10 minutes is an absolute minimal duration, now we were seeing a patient in 5 minutes. The patients complaints were so different from what we usually hear. Almost everyone has malnutrition, fever, abdominal pain and headache. More than a half patients had fungal infections of their scalp or skin; more than 70% females had some sort of vaginal infection. All of the patients with fever, had fever at night only. Instead seeing patients for new wounds or infections, we see disproportional infected wounds from remote injuries.
This trip also makes me to rethink about the role of medical missions. Because the public health situation is so primitive in Haiti, I feel my role as a physician is quite limited in both temporal and global senses. We may have seen about 950 patients in three days, but there are thousands more in need that we have not reached just in nearby towns. We may have treated many children with intestinal worms this week; they may become reinfected next week. We may have given someone blood pressure medicine for next three months; she or he will stop taking medication when the medicine runs out. We may have taken care of some infected wounds today; more wounds will be infected tomorrow. As much as I believe our medical mission trip has made difference for many people, I equally believe our impact is quite temporary. The larger and more important impact will come in combination with significant improvement of public health, such as clean water sources, better living/working conditions and basic medical knowledge.
The trip is rewarding as well. Through interactions with patients and interpreters, I was strongly impressed by the resilience of Haitian people. If anyone can survive and thrive under this conditions, they will. Of course many factors are involved in the favorable outcome of Haitian’s health conditions in the future, and with the combined efforts of many groups and organizations, like People for Haiti, and even more supporters in the world, such a change may come sooner.
X. Shawn Wan, M.D., Ph.D.