Tuesday, May 18, 2010

and Haiti....again

I have been back from my second trip to Haiti for 2 weeks and am already planning another one in June. To say that Haiti has a strong hold on me is an understatement and yet a hold I cannot explain. Haiti is not a place I would have ever chosen for myself to spend time. It is so incredibly hot and humid and I am not a hot and humid kind of girl. I live at 7000 ft and when it gets in the upper 80's we think we are having a heat wave of monumental porportions. So melting in the moist furnace of Haiti is not somethng I relish. However, I did notice this last time that I did better than the first...either that or I have short memory:)
Be that as it may my last trip was eventful, beyond anything I could have imagined.
We arrived late in Haiti...around 9 pm and we had figured out who was working the night shift while we waited at the airport in Miami. I won! Actually it made sense for me to work it having done so on the last trip.
The first night went pretty well, Some of the translators remembered me and gave me big hugs...yeah, pretty wonderful feeling. I worked in the adult tent and we all got a row of patients. Our charge nurse had been there for a few days and did a great job of orienting everyone and helping. Things are the same but different. A little more attempt at organization, but the execution still is tough and you have to be realistic in what you are able to accomplish. I ONLY had 15 patients this time!
Sleeping the next day was a challenge...a very HOT day even with AC in the tent and I actual sequestered a bed in the day sleeper section. I woke up at one point and felt like my skin was burning. Quickly remedied that with a shower in my clothes and went back to sleep. The second night really started out nicely everyone with their same patients and feeling very comfortable we actually thought we would have a smooth night. Boy were we wrong. The evening started out with a torrential rainstorm, thunder and lightening right on top of us. The rain was blowing sideways and flooding in the tents, ankle deep in the sleeping tent. Apparently we got a direct strike that shorted out the contol panel at the back of the pediatric tent. We evacuated the whole tent outside amidst billowing smoke. Then just after we moved all the ICU patients into the wound area of the adult tent the adult tent also had an electrical fire and we hauled cots w/patient s outside as well. This sounds much more controlled and orderly than it actually was...people were ripping out the sides of the tent exiting into the mud. Eventually all patients and family and staff out, shut the power got some sleeping volunteers up to help out and we settled outside. We were outside for several hours. The adult tent was put back together (floor even got washed!!!!) and we ALL moved back in peds, and adults...yep, interesting but we all fit, plus, of course, families. I have respect for the Haitians, I can't even begin to explain....At one point the army showed up and helped make the move. Our goal was to get everyone in by dawn and we succeeded.
All are still in the adult tent but making progress with the return to normalcy...whatever that is.
Then no AC in the sleeping tent so most of the day sleepers moved to peds tent (still no patients in it) to sleep because it did have AC and there were several volunteers dropping like flies, getting IVS etc.
A small group of us did manage to go into PAP the next day. We rented a tap-tap. We visited a tent city...again humbling. I don't think I could live in those conditions and be as gracious and smiling as the people we met and shared a little bit of time with. In fact I am doubtful I would even survive.Try living in a “home” made of, if you are lucky, a blue tarp for a roof held up by sticks with pieces of plastic and sheets, dirt for a floor, jammed right next to another of similar construction, shitting in a filthy portapotty, limited water, limited food, no money to buy food, no job to earn money, injured in the quake, some if not all family dead, friends dead, dealing with unbearable heat and stifling humidity…I could go on and on and I only just got started that would be just one of….get this…… 1.3 million Haitians. Yes, that’s “million”
Being in Haiti is sad and challenging and yet feels so right.