Monday, September 28, 2009

MEDRETE - Medical Readiness Training Exercise

For 5 days, we treated patients in Marigot. After that, we treated patients for another 5 days in Cayes-Jacmel, a town 30 minutes outside Jacmel. Sometimes we treated our own men too. It was hot, especially at the second site, and in their ACUs, those men sweated a lot. Even I was drinking 4 or 5 bottles of water every day and only peeing twice during the work day. It was easy to get busy, forget to drink, and suddenly start feeling very woozy.

The soldiers delivered food donations to the Marigot school.

In addition to the work inside our treatment sites, every day, groups would go out on Operation TapTap to deworm and distribute vitamins. Sometimes they went to the market or a busy street; other times they went to schools. On our last day, the team dewormed over 600 children at the local elementary school.

It rained almost every afternoon at 2:30 in Marigot. In seconds the courtyard would be soaked and the rooms would be too dark to work in. We would gather up boxes of meds and go into the tent where the remaining patients were gathered and do simple treatments there. Everyone else was in Army boots; I was in sandals. When the mud and rain got too bad, I would just take them off and work barefoot. The men had already been giving me a hard time about my blue toe nails, but the bare feet were just too much. I will never live that down.

Word spread about the clinic. Each day, the line outside the school in Marigot and the clinic in Cayes-Jacmel got longer and longer. Fortunately, we had an excellent crew of US Force Protection, Haitian police, Haitian coast guard, and Haitian CIMO (like SWAT) who kept the crowd well managed and riot-free.

I got to do a little of everything: translating, treating patients myself, firing 3 translators who could not speak English (why did we let them come in the first place I wonder?), arranging to get new volunteers, and finding a way to get a shipment of surgical materials and additional drugs from Dr Pitman's office in Virginia to Jacmel. I was given a mulitude of surgical referrals every day, mostly cataracts and glaucoma, but also one baby with spina bifida and a teenage girl with a burn contracture. Many patients needed treatment for hypertension but we didn't have the drugs in our pharmacy; I taught the soldiers how to write prescriptions for patients to get the drugs in local pharmacies. The drugs were labeled in Spanish instead of French or Creole; I showed the soldiers the dot system of explaining how to take a medication. A little girl was brought in who had been seizing for 3 hours; I got the drugs we needed to stop the seizure and arranged for transport to the hospital. A family with several children suffering from kwashiokor arrived; I sent a driver out to buy a tray of eggs for them. We started to run out of gloves and scalpel blades; I sent a Force Protection officer and a driver to the hospital in Jacmel to get us more. The docs liked to keep candy on hand for the little children; when they ran out, I went down the street and bought more. A mother was asked to bring her son back in two days for follow-up on his pickaxe wound; the docs brought me in to speak to her and to give her the funds she would need to make sure they could come back. It seemed like every day, I was sticking my hand in Colonel Hershey's wallet and taking out more Haitian cash.

In the late afternoons, we would finish and my volunteers would head back to their hotel while the troops went to theirs. By the second day, I was being invited back with them. So most evenings, I went in their bus, ate TRats with them (not the most delicious food I've ever had, but the company was better than eating alone at my hotel or in a dank restaurant with the volunteers), and helped out with pill party, where we counted and bagged meds for the following day of clinic. On days when we got done early, we would swim in bay below the hotel or in the pool. One of the drivers would take me home around 8 or 9pm and I would instantly fall asleep.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!