Skip to main content

Haiti Remembered

This is the 2nd anniversary of the terrible Haiti Earthquake that measured 7.0 on the scale. The disaster killed 316,000 people and displaced 1.5 million more.  Even now more than 500,000 people are still in makeshift shelters and only half of the aid pledged for reconstruction has been spent. 

My organization sent medical teams and supplies to the disaster zone and our doctors and nurses continue to support a hospital with teaching and supplies.  I led a team of dedicated caregivers to Port-Au-Prince where we served under the most austere conditions.  Supplies were non existent.  There was no running water in the hospital and the magnitude of the health problems required infrastructure that was not there...and still is not there.  

The following is a reprint of a blog I did on 3/20/2010.


I can't get the stories of Haiti out of my mind.

A patient showed up at the Port Au Prince hospital ward with a massive left sided paralysis, an obvious stroke. This 48 year old woman had collapsed the day before and was now accompanied by her three grown daughters, who were most attentive and worried. I examined her in the bed with other patients and families gathered around. (There is no sense of privacy and even an exam seems to be everyone's business in Haiti). One daughter spoke broken English but I had a good translator that helped me get the information I needed.

It was a sad story. They had been on the 5th floor when the Earthquake hit. They fell straight down and dad was killed. One of the children had a crush injury to his leg and the entire remaining family was now "on the street". Just surviving must have been such a strain. Then...mom has a massive stroke.

As I was examining the patient further, one daughter handed me a quickly scrawled note. It read. "I have a problem She have a AIDS" In this private way, the daughter wanted me to know her mom had AIDS.

In a country with such poverty, lack of health care and lack of education, it is not a surprise that HIV and AIDS remains a significant problem and Haiti is the Caribbean island most affected by AIDS. There also remains a stigma and HIV infection is a big secret. Once I asked my Haitian interpreter to ask an emaciated patient if he was HIV positive and the interpreter couldn't even ask the question. It is just not done. It was a real act of bravery for that daughter to pass me the secret note.

Needless to say, AIDS will be the least of this family's problem. I can't begin to imagine how a woman with a stroke, who will likely not receive any rehabilitation, can live on the street. By the time I left, she needed 2 people to assist her out of bed into a chair...where she could not sit straight. 

This is the continued tragedy of the Earthquake and the aftermath of human misery it left.

Comments

gradydoctor said…
Wow. Wow, wow, wow. That story is riveting. Thank you for this reminder.
Haiti...when I hear the name I start shivering with tears in my eyes. Still can't believe how this happened and how bravely Haitians fought this aftermath.
This is a good common sense article. Very helpful to one who is just finding the resources about this part. It will certainly help educate me.

Popular posts from this blog

scintillating scotoma

Nothing like experiencing a medical condition first-hand to really help a doctor understand it from the patient's point of view.  After all these years, I had my first (and hopefully last) scintillating scotoma while sitting on the couch playing "words with friends" on my ipad and watching TV.  A scotoma is a partial loss of vision in a normal visual field.  Scintillate is flashing, sparkles.  Put them together and you have moving, flashing sparkles with a blind spot in your eyes.

This visual aura was first described in the 19th century  by a Dr. Hubert Airy who had migraine headaches.  The visual sparks and flashes are in a zig-zag pattern and they can precede a migraine headache or occur without any pain.   The scotoma affects both eyes and closing one or the other does not make it go away.  Sometimes the term "ocular migraine" or "retinal migraine"  are used to describe this phenomenon but these involve only one eye, not both.  The terms are often …

Do Doctors Make Too Much Money?

An article in theNew York Times says the reason health care costs are so high in the United States is because doctors are paid too much. I saw that and my eyes bugged out. I just came home from a meeting with physicians and hospital administrators and the entire meeting was spent discussing the financial challenges physicians face in keeping their doors open to see patients. The goal of this meeting was to keep health services in that community so patients will have someone to care for them. Not a person in the room would agree that the doctors earn too much.

Physicians paid too much? Lets break that down. A doctor spends a minimum of 11 years in education and training after the age of 18. Many are in training for 15 or more years. They are living on student loans and contributing zero to their family's income until the residency years. At that time they earn less than minimum wage if you factor in the 80-100 hour workweek. When a doctor emerges from training (and believe me…