CIR Haiti Watch: Day 2

A team of CIR physicians is volunteering in Haiti this week and CIR Communications Coordinator Erin Malone will be reporting back, sharing photos and reflections. Check here daily through August 24 for updates. Day 1  Day 2  Day 3  Day 4  Day 5 

Entry 1: Starting the day

Entry 2: Shadowing the residents

Entry 3: Life at Bernard Mavs

I strike out at 9am to begin the first full day at Bernard Mevs Hospital.  I’m rooming with two of the CIR volunteers, Patty and Kristen.  I knew that Patty started her shift in Med Surg B at 7am so she would have been long gone.  As a family medicine physician, Kristen will be covering multiple services and she too had already gone when I left our room.

First stop was the cafeteria, an area that—at least in all the hospitals I’ve visited–has always proven a good location to catch people when they have a moment of down time.  My assumption proves correct.  In the cafeteria is a small kitchen, one table, one weathered futon and a few computers for volunteers; Haitian staff (EMTs, translators and maintenance staff) check email and eat breakfast as a staticky music video channel plays on the flat panel TV in the background.

I strike up a conversation with Kenzie—an EMT and translator at the hospital.  He started working in healthcare during the aftermath of the earthquake and it was there he felt the sense of fulfillment that comes with helping people in need. That’s when he decided to become an EMT.  He has since continued his training at Bernard Mevs/Project Medishare.

Kenzie says that Bernard Mevs differs from other hospitals in Port-Au-Prince; the care is second to none.  He contrasted HBMPM (L’hopital Bernard Mevs/Project Medishare) with the general hospital.  He confesses that he wouldn’t take his family members there, because patients are often sitting for hours before anyone comes to check on them.  But he says he can’t blame the doctors or nurses or other staff, in fact he doesn’t know who to blame (the providers? The government?). He says it’s like that with every aspect of the country.

As we wrap up our interview, volunteers start to trickle in for their late morning meal.  Patty enters with Dr. Ben  from Med Surg.  I ask how their

first day went, the consensus is that it’s been overwhelming. I conduct a short video interview with Ben and one of the nurses. A common thread through their interviews (and the ones to follow) was adjusting to the lack of resources. [Check back for a multimedia discussion with visiting Dr. Ben and other volunteers.]

Shadowing the residents

Nathalie enters the cafeteria well before her shift starts at 3pm.  (She’ll be working nights in the ER from 3-11 pm.) During our conversation she tells me that she’s of Haitian descent and has longed for the opportunity to support her people.  She was perusing the CIR webpage and saw that there were scholarships available to volunteer for one week.  As a single mother living on a resident’s salary, it would not have been feasible for her to do this work until much later in her career so she jumped on the opportunity to visit on a CIR grant. She speaks Creole and hasn’t had to face some of the language barriers that other volunteers face but she is struggling to acclimate to the diminished resources.  Still,  like the other volunteers, she’s finding the experience so far to be strengthening her clinical skills.

Later Chris, the respiratory therapist volunteer, enters. He’s waiting on a phone call from his seven-year-old daughter.  The phone in the cafeteria uses a Miami line and volunteers are able to receive calls from anywhere in the US. Chris is the only respiratory therapist on this deployment–a rare position to have filled.  He works 24/7 training staff on respiratory equipment.  He paints a picture of how resource-poor the hospital is.  At his hospital in Phoenix they have a respiratory therapist on each floor and 40 ventilators.  At Bernard Mevs there is no respiratory therapist and there only 4 ventilators in the entire country—all of them here.

Chris tells me that Peds would be a good service to visit now because they have received some interesting cases, so I head over the Pediatric ward where I find Kristen.  She gives me a tour of NICU and PICU.  I meet some of the families of patients there.  The hospital is very sensitive to the rights of patients in respect to photography and video so I ask two of the parents if I may take their photos.

Kristen tells me of another small baby in the ward who came in that morning severely dehydrated and with pneumonia.  They discovered the baby was HIV positive and the mother was unaware. We leave her to grieve as we head into the NICU. Here are the tiny miracle babies of 1.5 kg surviving against all odds. Babies are allowed to go home at around 3 lbs.–as long as the mother feels comfortable caring for them.  I think of my friend who recently gave birth to a premature baby—her baby gets to stay in the hospital until she reaches 6 lbs.

Life at Bernard Mavs

After drafting notes from the previous day, I head back to the cafeteria where I find a large crowd of Haitian staff watching a soccer match. When I arrived, I’d told the volunteers that if there was any non-medical work they needed assistance with I was available to help and so I find myself tasked with collecting money for our next meal.

The time I spend making the rounds, asking who wants to chip in, provides a clear snapshot of what volunteering could look like at any given moment.  Triage was abuzz with activity as a car accident victim arrives. I find several volunteers rushing from labs, the pharmacy or X-ray, stopping just long enough to that want in on the pizza.  I tiptoe past dorm room 2, where all the volunteers on the night shift sleep, to ask volunteers relaxing in other rooms after their shift if they want to join us for pizza.

When the pizza arrives, volunteers trickle in to share experiences of the day.  I head back out to the ER to find Dr. Nathalie Mathieu. I find her in the triage tent—a tent with one bed, one chair and always too many people.  With her are several medical students. I strike up a conversation with two of them and they later give me an interview about the medical education system in Haiti.

Afterward, I return to the triage tent and find both Nathalie and Kristen working there.  A small baby is laying on the bed and Nathalie is explaining something to the med students while Kristen attends to the child.  The good news is the baby is well enough to stay with the mother; the bad news is that the child was not well enough to return home. After snapping a few photos of the work in the triage tent and the ER, I head to the dorm, back up my footage and turn in for the night.


Erin Malone, CIR Communications Coordinator

Did you like this? Share it:

Comments are closed.